Sakura-Con brings anime to life

Thousands of anime fans attended Sakura-Con, Seattle’s largest anime convention, from April 19-21 at the Washington State Convention Center. Guests met celebrities, attended panels, played games and showed off their cosplays at the yearly event.

Sakura-Con is an annual anime convention hosted by the Asia-Northwest Cultural Education Association (ANCEA). It has traditionally been held on Easter weekend since its first appearance in 1998. Sakura-Con’s attendance has grown from 313 attendees in its first year to over 20,000, making it the fifth largest anime convention in the United States, according to their 2018 press release. The event doesn’t just rely on local support; anime fans come from all over the country to attend Sakura-Con.

“It’s kind of traditional at this point. I’ve been here the last two Sakura-Cons,” said Gavin Miller, a cosplayer from Salt Lake City, Utah. Miller flew in with several friends to take part in the weekend’s festivities. For Gavin and others like him, the gathering of such a large number of people who share an interest in anime can feel like “coming home.”

Programming was available 24 hours a day during the convention, and panel discussions with a wide variety of topics filled the majority of the schedule. Fans could join celebrity guests as they hosted question-and-answer groups, while those interested in Japanese culture could learn through panels such as “Samurai Undressed with the Consulate General of Japan.” Cosplay panels were popular, featuring rookie and veteran cosplayers alike, coming together to share costuming knowledge. Presentations also included dissections of anime tropes, discussions about tabletop role-playing games, and, of course, viewings of new and popular anime.

Several attendees showed up just to play video games or tabletop games. The top floor of the convention center was composed of “Wired Rooms.” The Sakura-Con website claims that the “Wired Rooms” “provide the largest free gaming suite of any anime convention on the west coast.” Tournaments were also played for several games such as Street Fighter V and the newly released Super Smash Bros Ultimate. Small crowds of spectators would gather to cheer as players skillfully dueled on large projection screens.

Many guests came to show off their latest cosplay. Cosplay is the act of wearing a costume of a character from a movie, book, or video game, and is normally associated with the anime community. Cosplayers can buy their costumes online, and it is also popular to make the costumes from scratch.

One cosplayer, who goes by the name Hardboiled Pompadour, recounted his first cosplay. “There was a character…I thought he was really cool, it was like ‘I wanna dress up as that guy.’ And then there was a convention at the same time and it was like, ‘I’m gonna dress up as that guy!’” Conventions give cosplayers the opportunity to have a safe place where they can be open around fellow fans and enjoy immersing themselves in anime culture.

“I personally really like feeling the sense of togetherness that comes with being in the anime fandom,” said Miller. Sakura-Con continues to be an event for anime fans of all types to join each other in celebrating the anime they love.