SacAnime Winter 2014 (Friday-Saturday Jan 3rd-4th)

This was my first time really getting to enjoy SacAnime to it's fullest, though I still missed a lot of stuff. My boyfriend and I arrived on Friday, January 3rd and stayed one night, leaving on Saturday, January 4th. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express down the street, which was a little farther of a walk than I personally would have liked, but we made due. We also hosted our panel, Magikarp: A History on Friday evening.

We weren't given much instruction (actually we weren't given any instruction) on how panelists were supposed to go about checking in. All we were told was that there was a partial badge refund available for panelists after their panel was completed. We had roughly an hour until our panel, so we figured the best place to check first was the panel room itself. I asked the volunteers out front if we needed to have a badge/wristband in order to get into our own panel. They told us, yes. Kind of a minor annoyance, but okay. The volunteers directed us to registration, and off we went.

The registration room was more of a big empty room with some desks (and volunteers). There was tape on the floor to indicate a line, but since it was later in the afternoon, there was no line. There were volunteers walking around, but no one offered us assistance, and we kind of didn't know who to ask. We vaguely followed the tape lines until we found the front. Now for the age-old question: Do panelists go to at-con registration or pre-registration? Every convention seems to do it differently. Since we hadn't paid anything in advanced, we went to the at-con registration, this is usually the safest bet.

We bought full-weekend passes, even though we weren't staying for Sunday, because we planned to go to a panel on Saturday morning, and full-weekend was $5 cheaper (each) than buying Friday and Saturday passes separately. Then we went back to the panel room.

By this time, there was an impressive-looking line forming in the hallway. And around the corner. And partway down some stairs. We sat in the hall for a while, not really wanting to start setting up too early, because we don't want to have to start the panel too early, and we only have about ten minutes of pre-panel fillers. About fifteen minutes before our time slot, we asked if we could start setting up. The previous panel had been cancelled, so there were no other panelists to wait for or anything.

Shortly after we started setting up, one of the volunteers asked us if they could start letting people in. "There was never really a line," She said, "We told them they could come in before you got here, but they've convinced themselves there's a line." We had a good laugh at that, it kind of shows the hive-mind of people. We had some minor technical difficulties when setting up, so I had to run back and forth between the stage and the door, which were on opposite sides of a rather big room, to talk to the volunteers. Eventually we got everything sorted out though, and our panel began on time!

During the panel.
Also the only picture that exists of me at this con.
It was a pretty good panel, ran ten minutes under our allotted time, which is fine because we had an hour and a half, and that's a lot of Magikarp! I had recently revamped a huge chunk of the panel, and hadn't made notecards for that chunk (still haven't), so I had to wing it. Winging it actually went better than reading from the cards! Most of what I had to talk about was on the slideshow anyway, I only had to narrate and elaborate, and we've done this panel so many times, it wasn't all that difficult. I'm probably not going to re-make notecards for that part, and I might even ditch some others, doing it from memory was actually easier, I'm just no good at remembering the number-y parts.

After the panel, we trekked our way back to the hotel room to drop off the laptop that the panel is on and grab some food. We're always sure to book a hotel with a mini-fridge so that we can bring ingredients for sandwiches! This time I just pre-made sandwiches the night before, which only works for short con trips. For three days or more, it's easier to just bring ingredients. Sandwiches are great con foods because they're cheap if you buy the ingredients yourself, even the cheapest ingredients are tasty, they're pretty filling without making you feel sluggish, and you can put whatever you want in them! My boyfriend and I are pretty simple and just do turkey and cheese on whole wheat bread with condiments. (A note about turkey: We prefer the taste of ham, but ham can trigger migraines, which I get frequently, so turkey is best! A helpful tip if you're prone to migraines.)

We ate and then headed back to the convention center to meet up with some of my friends to play together on our 3DS's! It wasn't until we got there that Ed realized he had forgotten his 3DS back in the hotel room. We took turns playing Mario Kart on my 3DS, but then eventually decided to trek all the way back to the hotel again to get his. We played a few more rounds of Mario Kart before heading off to the Swap Meet.

The Swap Meet was so crowded. Easily the most crowded swap meet I've ever been in. I don't go to a lot of swap meets, but daaaaaang. I honestly mostly blame the con's organization of the thing. All of the sellers were around the edge of the room with none in the middle, and they were all sitting on the floor. I can understand that they couldn't afford to provide everyone with tables, so I can give them a pass on that, but the layout was just bad. There was a wall of people, three bodies deep around the entire room. I'm a really tiny person, which is a massive double-edged sword. On the one hand, I can weave between people pretty easy, but on the other hand, and I could get crushed pretty easy! I sort of just hung back and played on my 3DS, streetpassing people, until the crowd thinned out. I was lucky enough to find a cheap copy of "Katamari Damacy" (I had never played any Katamari games before, but love "Noby Noby Boy", a game by the same creators) and a small Koffing plush to go with my Koffing cosplay!

I played just a little bit more 3DS with a friend before wrapping up the day and heading back to the hotel. Not a super eventful day, but super fun.

The next day, I woke up feeling pretty sick. I had a sore throat, a fever, and just general body aches. We were supposed to get up early for free breakfast, but I told Ed to go without me so that I could rest more and maybe bring me back juice if he could. (He brought me back oranje juice and a bagel and cream cheese!) We had mostly packed up everything the night before, but we double-checked to be sure, grabbed our stuff, checked out of the hotel, and drove to a parking garage closer to the convention center.

We really only wanted to see the "Avatar" panel, probably mostly for Dante Basco, since his panel was at the same time as ours the night before. Why anyone went to our panel instead of his, I'll never know. We got in line super early so that we could get good seats, and the panel was a blast!

Afterward, we went to the Dealer's Hall and I found a copy of "Orb 3D" for the NES! Excuse me while I become a hipster for a second. "Orb 3D" was super hard for me to find for some reason. I've been looking for two years. It's this really cool game, similar to a one-player "Pong" with a 3D element and different goals for each level. I played it as a kid and have really fond memories of it, and it was the first game I wanted to get when I bought an NEW again. Unfortunately, like I said, it's super hard to find, so when I finally came across it, at an animal convention of all places, I snapped it up so fast, I'm surprised it didn't catch on fire.

We went to lunch at a Japanese place around the corner, and during lunch we suddenly remembered that we never got our panelist refunds, so we went back. We went to registration and asked the first person we saw. He directed us to another woman, who made a phone call. She told us that the Head of Panels would know and asked us who that was. I'm still a little confused as to why she didn't know who staff was, but maybe she was just a volunteer, not an actual staff member, I can never tell. I told her that we couldn't remember his name (I'm so bad at names), but we hadn't seen him all weekend. She repeated this into the phone and told us that someone was going to go find him.

We didn't wait for very long, I was just grateful we didn't have to go find him. I hate getting the runaround from staff, so even though we were both tired and wanted to go home, we waited patiently, hoping that the refund would be worth it. We ended up getting a cash refund in the amount of a the badge for the day our panel was on. It turned out to be more than half of what we paid for our badges! Definitely worth it.

I had a really great time at SacAnime Winter, just hanging out and seeing things and whatever! The swap met could have been a lot better, but it's okay, I'll get over it. We've already booked our hotel room for SacAnime Summer, staying two nights this time, and we get a VIP badge for each night that we booked because we booked so early! The convention discount for the hotel was really nice too, and I'm so excited to have a VIP badge for the first time ever! And we don't even have to do a panel to get a discount, so we can spend the entire convention doing whatever with no obligations! Though we are considering entering the cosplay contest... (Actually, I'm 100% sure I will, it's just a matter of details and whether or not Ed's going to enter with me.) So yeah! Obviously this convention was good enough that we're going back!

Animation on Display 2014 (Saturday, Jan 25th)

I had a blast at AoD this year. I went with my boyfriend, Ed, on Saturday only to do our panel (Magikarp: A History) and so I could enter the cosplay contest. I cosplayed as the Pokemon Ho-Oh, which I worked on on and off for over a year. We arrived some time after noon and made our way to the registration line, which was more or less nonexistent by that time, there were only two or three small groups of people in front of us. As usual, we had no idea whether we were supposed to go to the at-con registration or the preregistered line, so we went to at-con. Turns out we needed prereg, whoops. At least there was no one in the prereg line.

Once again, AoD had my boyfriend's name listed as Ricardo instead of Eduardo. It happened last year too, and we have no idea how, since we submitted our panel online, not over the phone or anything, so there's no way it could have been misheard or misread. They must have copy+pasted the list over from last year because it happened again. It wouldn't be so much of a bother if we didn't need to show ID, with matching name of course, to get our badges. The weirdest part was that his name was printed correctly in the program book.

We meandered around, getting our bearings and scoping out where our panel was going to be. We were a little disappointed to find the panel room we were scheduled for in the back, around the corner, down the hall, and kind of tiny. Also it was in an area that didn't require a badge to get into. To be fair, this was our fourth year there, the con probably figured people were getting tired of us, but at the same time, it was our fourth year, and people still aren't tired of us! We've been too spoiled doing this panel, we always get big rooms and long lines waiting for us. AoD was much more low-key, though a small line started to form for like a minute, and we had control over the lights in the room. Seriously, lighting makes a huge difference in a panel.

Anyway, I wasn't feeling very well, and my back hurt a lot, so all I really wanted to do was sit. We managed to wander through the Dealer's Hall/Artist Alley, though we didn't buy anything, and we ended up in the arcade room watching a speed run of "Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker". "Wind Waker" was probably my favorite LoZ game, and it was the first one that I completed on my own, so it has a lot of sentimental value to me. I enjoyed watching, even though I couldn't hear a word of the commentary because the room was so loud from all of the other games being played.

Photo by WinterWish Cosplay Photography
At some point, I went to check-in to the cosplay contest. The organizers, judges, and other contestants were all very, very nice! I waited for judging (there was a large group ahead of me), I briefly chatted with a couple of other cosplayers, a Pit (Kid Icarus) that I had seen getting into costume in the parking garage earlier, and her friend, Tooth (Rise of the Guardians). My judging went pretty well. I felt like I had a lot to say, but when it came right down to it, it went by pretty quickly. It would have been a lot easier if I could have said, "I made this stuff. Ask my questions about this stuff and I will tell you!" because that's more or less what ended up happening anyway. I tried to talk about everything piece by piece, but apparently if I can't see it, it doesn't exist, because i forgot about my headpiece, necklace, and phone pouch. The judges asked about the headpiece and necklace, but since the phone pouch was hidden, they had no way of knowing it as there. It's a shame, because I worked hard on it, it has a really clean zipper in it, and I even made it detachable for the sole purpose of being able to show it to the judges! Ah well.

Photo by Michael Tang
Panel time! As I mentioned earlier, we could control the lights! We really prefer to keep the lights off during our panel. At first, it was because we both have horrid, crippling stage fright, despite us both being heavily involved in theater for years. Scripted lines and choreographed pieces are one thing, talking to a hundred or so people for an hour and a half is a whole other ballgame. However, the more we did our panel, we learned, very quickly actually, that the audience behaves better when the lights are off. It creates a theater environment, which people are conditioned to be quiet in. We get a lot all people trying to heckle or argue with us mid-panel, and we get a lot fewer mind-panel questions, though that's a double-edged sword, I think. On the one hand, we answer 99% of questions in the panel, on the other hand, if there is something we don't explain well enough, we don't know until the end. Either way, it makes the panel go smoother to have the lights off, and it lets people see the projector screen better!

During the panel, I started to feel really sick and actually had to leave for a while when Ed was talking. I came back and finished out the panel, but I just got sicker and sicker. Ed and I left the convention to go find the nearest WalGreens and some painkillers. Then I took a nap in the car until I was supposed to check in for the cosplay contest. The painkillers and nap helped a lot, but I was still in a fair bit of pain until the end of the night, and "tired" doesn't even begin to describe the fatigue I felt. Luckily, my adrenaline for the contest kept be going long enough to make it through.

During the contest, I was briefly seated near both the Pit and Tooth that I had chatted with earlier before Pit had to move to a different seat to make room for her wings. I was also near a Yuuko (xxxHolic) who was very sweet. I had a pretty good time talking with Yuuko and Tooth while things were getting set up for the contest. It was a nice contrast to the last time I entered a contest and had no one to talk to since my friends that entered were seated pretty far from me and I was too shy to talk to anyone. I also had a couple of friends cosplaying from Princess Jellyfish sitting behind me that I briefly chatted with, and my friend as Elsa (Frozen) was also in the contest, but several rows behind me, so we could only hang out before we were assigned seats.

Competition was really intimidating, surprisingly so even. There was a cosplayer that goes by the name Slifer (or Sleifer? I don't know how to spell it) cosplaying as Raiden (Metal Gear) that I recognized from winning the cosplay contest at Kin-Yoobi Con. Also my friends cosplaying from Princess Jellyfish had ridiculously detailed costumes, my goodness, I could see the amount of work from across the room. There was an Attack on Titan group with a really well-choreographed and cleanly-performed dance, as well as a few other group dances from things I couldn't recognize. I had to follow the AoT group, and thank goodness I choreographed something because a walk-on would have embarrassingly paled in comparison.

I danced a combination of ballet and bellydance, which is an odd combination, but I think it came across okay. I mostly used ballet for foot movements and traveling, and bellydance was added for a graceful flourish. A couple of other contestants and friends told me it looked nice at least, but who knows what other dancers, thought haha. It might have looked awful to them. Ah well, I'll live. For music, I used a violin/dubstep remix of the Pokemon theme song. I almost used the Jhoto Journeys theme, but I really wanted to use the original since it's more recognized, and this version fit the graceful feeling I was aiming for.

After the contest was over and the judges were choosing winners, I didn't really know whether I was supposed to stay in my assigned seat or if I could leave. Staying in my seat seemed pointless, but it made sense to me at the time. Plus I didn't want to just leave the people I had been talking to like, "Oh I was only talking to you while I had no one else to talk to, bye." That would have been really rude. While I was sitting there though, I felt something on the back of my costume pop. I didn't know what or exactly where it was other than maybe it was on my belt, so I texted Ed to tell him that I needed my pants (he had them in a backpack), and then I found him in the audience and put pants on. I took off the bottom half of my costume and gently put it in the backpack. Sure enough, it was the hook on the belt that was basically holding it together that had popped off. It would have stayed up anyway, but I decided that it was Pants Time, it's more comfortable.

While waiting for judging, we were shown something called "Poyo Cat" (I think?). They were short episodes about a little round cat. Adorable. The short episodes made it seem like time was going slower though, each episode was between 3 and 5 mintues long, so maybe that wasn't the best choice. Also I couldn't read the captions from where I was sitting, people's heads were in the way, and since I was still fatigued and in pain, I didn't feel like stretching my neck and back and body to try to see over and around people. I missed a lot, but it was cute to look at at least. I tried to find a video of at least the opening to post here, but it's hard to come by. You can watch it on Crunchyroll, and since they sponsored AoD this year, AoD showed us. They later switched to another cat anime that I have no idea the name of, and it was then that I realized we were being shown cat videos as a distraction. Well then.

Listening to awards announcements is always hard because I don't know whether to hope my name is called or not. Since they start with the smallest awards and work upward, I kind of don't want my name called at first, but then as awards are given out, I start to worry that I haven't won anything, so I want my name called for anything just so that I get something. Good news though, I won Best Construction, which came with a cash prize and a pretty trophy! So exciting! I feel like I redeemed myself, since the last time I won anything at AoD, it was Runner-Up Best Construction. Pretty exciting stuff! Later someone I had met during the contest said that when I went on stage to accept my award, she said, "Oh my god, she's wearing pants!" Haha! My friends as Princess Jellyfish won Best in Show since their construction was amazing and they had an adorable skit. I have to wonder if I had put more effort into my performance, would I have won Best in Show? Or if I had felt better, would I have performed better and placed higher? I'm trying not to dwell on it though, it's just things that I have to think of for the next time I compete!

We went home immediately after the contest so that I could go to bed. All things considered, I still had a really, really good time at AoD 2014. The venue change wasn't ideal, mostly since there's no food nearby, and I don't think we ate all day, but we lived, and there was more space. Wish I wasn't so sick but ah well. I got a shiny trophy and made new friends!