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Sakura-Con 2011
Day 3

by Carlo Santos,
Stand close enough to Dark Horse Manga editor Carl Horn, and you might feel your body starting to absorb pure otaku knowledge. But even one of the brightest minds in the business can be off his game during Hangover Hours on the final day of a convention.

The last industry panel of Sakura-Con 2011 was a neighborhood visit from Portland-based publisher Dark Horse, but given the unattractive timeslot of 10:00 a.m. on Sunday, most attendees were too wiped out from the previous night to attend or were driven off by morning rain. This downbeat attitude seemed to inform the tone of the panel, which began with a mechanical recitation of upcoming titles and release dates. (Horn's trademark pop-culture tangents eventually came into play, although much of his spiel was delivered in a subdued mumble.)

Among the highlights of the next few months include comebacks for Ghost Talker's Daydream (Vol. 6 on May 18th) and Eden: It's an Endless World! (Vol. 13 on August 31st), which had gone on hiatus before being brought back by reader demand. Also of note are the Oh My Goddess! 2nd Edition reprints, which with the release of Volumes 19 and 20 will finally catch up to the rest of the unflipped editions by the end of the year. This July looks to be the Summer of CLAMP, with the Magic Knight Rayearth omnibus on July 6th and the Cardcaptor Sakura second omnibus on July 27th, while Trigun fans can look forward to more sci-fi gunslinging with Trigun: Bloodline Blockade Battlefront on September 14th.

Other future manga offerings include more CLAMP indulgence with Angelic Layer and Tokyo Babylon omnibuses, a re-release of FLCL, and in April 2012, at long last, the second volume of Katsuya Terada's lavishly illustrated The Monkey King.

A typical question-and-answer session followed, although some folks seemed to think they were there for something else: one attendee asked about the status of Black Lagoon, while another wanted to know when the next Claymore was coming out, not realizing that—while these series do fit into Dark Horse's manly-man-manga aesthetic—they are in fact Viz Media titles.

So goes the fate of morning panels on Day 3.

Although the weather improved and the mood picked up during the day, it was still a more mellow affair than Friday or Saturday. The last few cosplay snapshots were taken, shoppers haggled over the last few bargains at the Exhibit Hall, and for avid celebrity chasers, the last few autographs were signed.

What is striking about Sakura-Con is that, as one of the nation's Top 5 anime conventions by size, it is handling its burgeoning growth well. The logistics of running a con always starts to get a little hairy once you enter solid five-digit territory, but the crowd management and traffic control were able to maintain the peace without being jerks about it. (Except for that panicked staffer who mistook my paper fan for a "paddle," but eventually he came to see reason.) While there could have been the risk of mad dashes into concerts, autograph lines, and other high-demand events, the watchfulness of security staff—and their strictness without rudeness—helped make the con a fun event without the attached stigma of "kids running around like idiots." Well, you still get your idiots, but at a slower, non-hazard-causing pace.

Overall, Sakura-Con 2011 was a smoothly-run event offering many avenues of entertainment for fans of Japanese pop culture. Smaller cons can study it as a model on how to expand to big-name guests while keeping a fan-friendly atmosphere, and even the industry's top conventions can look at this and see how the right attitude and right discipline create a lively, enjoyable experience for all. Whether you came for the artists, the actors, the cosplayers, the designers, the music acts, or (always the best reason) to meet with friends and make new ones, Seattle was certainly the place to be on Easter weekend in 2011 ... and who knows what 2012 will bring?

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