Today I checked out AD Sabakon, a small convention here in Las Vegas. It was the event's first year as a full weekend convention (the past two years it was a simple one-day fan get-together), so I wasn't expecting much; the result was somewhat of a hodgepodge.
When I say small, I mean it, and not just in comparison to some of the monsters I've been to like Otakon and Anime Boston. This entire event took place in a casino convention hall consisting of six rooms and an L-shaped walkway around the outside. The attendance was fairly small, as well, but more than enough to keep the spaces full, which says good things about the organization's advertising and ability to bring people in. Also in the con's favor was the ability to bring in some pretty decent guests - Saturday alone featured three big-name English-dub voice actors and a talented musician, along with a few well-educated panelists.
Seeing that much going for it, I was a bit disappointed at how flat the actual execution fell: The much-hyped Dragon Ball hunt turned out to be seven cheaply printed paper circles cut out and taped to various surfaces around the area and the 'Name That Pokemon' event simply consisted of black silhouettes printed on white paper laying on a table all afternoon with a box to leave guesses in; the voice actors didn't have enough audience members to keep their Q & A sessions going; worst, at the end of the evening, Richie Branson rapped his cleverly-worded otaku lyrics to a crowd of under a dozen, instead of the hundreds he's used to. I'm not going to be able to make the Sunday half of the convention, but I hope it goes better.
In the end, as often happens, the people made the con. I met a few really cool new friends, had a great evening, and spent too much money on merchandise - the vendors' area was understandably limited in scale, but offered surprisingly good fare. Richie Branson was unbelievably cool about the situation he found himself in, treated everyone in the room almost like family, finished his set list, and even threw in a few bonus requests. Anyone reading this should check out his anime-themed tracks on youtube, and consider purchasing his next album - he's donating ALL profits to childrens' charities. Any convention is going to have some difficulties when just starting up, but AD Sabakon obviously has a hard-working staff and dedicated core fan-base, so there's a lot of potential for its future.
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