Sakura-Con 2014

by Bamboo Dong & Lynzee Lamb,


This year's Sakura-con took place over Easter weekend from April 18-20 at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle, WA. Organized by the Asia-Northwest Cultural Education Association (ANCEA), the convention is the oldest and largest anime convention in the Pacific Northwest, drawing over 20,000 attendees.

Guests for Sakura-con 2014 included American voice actors Todd Haberkorn (Soul Eater's Death the Kid, Fairy Tail's Natsu), Leah Clark (Negima!'s Nodoka, Suzuka's Suzuka), Patrick Seitz (One Piece's Franky, Redline's JP), Erica Mendez (Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic's Aladdin), Erik Scott Kimerer (Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic's Alibaba), Matthew Mercer (Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic's Sinbad), Christopher Smith (One Piece's Spandam), and Chuck Huber (Hetalia's Austria, Blue Gender's Han); as well as Japanese voice actors Yui Ishikawa (Attack on Titan's Mikasa Ackerman, Gundam Build Fighters' China Kousaka) and Mami Koyama (Akira's Kei, Millenium Actress' Chiyoko Fujiwara).

The convention also brought over plenty of lauded Japanese industry guests as well, including director and mecha designer Koichi Ohata (M.D. Geist, Genocyber), director and designer Hiroshi Nagahama (Mushi-Shi, Flowers of Evil), director Tomohiko Ito (Sword Art Online, Silver Spoon), character designer and animator Shingo Adachi (Sword Art Online), director and scriptwriter Koji Masunari (Magi, Read or Die), animator and character designer Toshifumi Akai (Kokoro Connect, Magi), character designer and key animator Kyoji Asano (Attack on Titan, Psycho-Pass), producer Tetsuya Kinoshita (Attack on Titan, From the New World), producer and licensor Shigehiko Sato, and noted artist and designer Range Murata (Last Exile, Blue Submarine No. 6).

For those with an eye for fashion, the convention also featured designer MINT and Angelic Pretty's maki. This year's musical guest of honor was ELISA, a singer whose work can be heard in Valvrave the Liberator, Hayate the Combat Butler, The irregular at magic high school, and more.

While the weather wasn't on the convention's side on Saturday, with heavy rains and dreary skies, the sun was out on the first and third days, giving cosplayers a chance to show off their handiwork in the convention center's lush outdoor space.

Guests and Other Programming

Festivities kicked off with the Opening Ceremonies early Friday morning. While the event followed the trajectory of past similar events, with introductions from the various guests of honor, attendees were also treated to a performance by a group of shamisen players led by Kabuki Academy founder Mary Mariko Ohno. The group started off with a traditional piece, but excited crowds with their rendition of the Super Mario theme song, and their cover of Attack on Titan's "Guren no Yumiya."

The rest of the convention offered plenty of opportunities for fans to attend Q&As from the convention guests, both American and Japanese. For those interested in the production side, Sakura-con brought over several fan-favorite industry guests, old and new. The staff of Sword Art Online, including director Tomohiko Ito and animator Shingo Adachi were in tow with Magi director Koji Masunari and character designer Toshifumi Akai, courtesy of Aniplex of America. Sakura-Con regular and Mushi-Shi/Flowers of Evil director Hiroshi Nagahama was also present as well as Last Exile character designer Range Murata and singer ELISA.

Nagahama gave detailed panels on his current work and also hinted to fans to keep an eye on the last chapter of Shūzō Oshimi's Flowers of Evil manga:

"Very soon, next month actually, the last chapter of the manga will be published. The ending chapter of the manga was drawn by Oshimi with the anime in mind and answering our bet that the anime was supposed to happen. The manga will confirm our decision to create the anime the way we did. I think if you get a chance to look at the ending chapter of Flowers of Evil, you'll be able to see what I'm talking about."

Another great panel was the Q&A with artist and designer Range Murata, whose work can be seen in properties like Last Exile, Blue Submarine No. 6, Shangri-La, and others. During the panel, he revealed that much of his design inspiration comes from his love for "old, industrial things, especially American things like old cars, old trains, old planes, and stuff." His current hobby is buying old American typewriters and taking them apart, and using the part shapes for inspiration.

As for his work on Last Exile, the airships were modeled after Zeppelins. Murata added, "I went to Germany recently and they have a museum of Zeppelins. I went there, and it was the best. If you get me talking about Zeppelins, I could talk for a whole hour."

When an audience member asked why the character designs were so different between the first and second Last Exile series, Murata answered that, "unfortunately, it's mostly because the director wanted to." He said that the colors were a little lighter and the characters cuter. "I find it unfortunate," he said, "but that's what happens when you're doing it for a job."

Attack on Titan fans who attended the Wit Studio panel with Kyoji Asano and Tetsuya Kinoshita were treated to a unique, behind-the-scenes look at episode 21 from the series. The episode showed off different examples of the various stages of the animation process, including storyboarding, early CG work, key animation, background rendering, and more.

Fashion lovers had an opportunity Saturday afternoon to attend a runway show featuring two popular, but very different, designers. Showing off his latest collection was MINT, who first debuted with Sixh., a collaboration with IBI under h.NAOTO. The MINT NeKO collection treated audiences to his brand of edgy, punk-inspired streetwear, with bold, cat-patterned graphics and pops of mint and yellow. Also featured at the show was the latest pieces from lolita fashion company Angelic Pretty, which dressed up its traditional silhouettes with a variety of graphic prints.

Industry Panels

Funimation unveiled two dub casts at their panel on Saturday, starting with A Certain Scientific Railgun. The dub will be directed by Jerry Jewell, with the following cast:

Part One of the series will be released on DVD on July 1.

Funimation also revealed the cast for the series, Ben-To, an action comedy about members of the Half-Priced Food Lovers Club, who battle for half-priced Ben-To boxes.

For the supporting cast, check out the full article here. The series will be released on BD/DVD on July 8.

Earlier this weekend, Funimation also revealed the dub cast for Code:Breaker, which will be released in a BD/DVD combo set on June 24.

Yen Press
Manga publisher Yen Press surprised fans with the announcement of its Yen On light novel line. The company has published light novels for a number of years, but plans to officially launch a separate line with the long-running A Certain Magical Index light novels as well as its previously licensed Sword Art Online, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya and Accel World series.

The company also licensed:

Dark Horse
Not to be outdone, Dark Horse also made an impressive number of announcements over the weekend, including manga by fan-favorite group, CLAMP. The company will re-release Legal Drug in omnibus format and also added:

Aniplex of America
Aniplex USA took the opportunity to go over its current streaming titles and upcoming releases. The company is also working with dubbing studio Bang Zoom! Entertainment to host open auditions for the Magi: The Kingdom of Magic English dub at Anime Expo in July. The company will hold three days of auditions at the Bang Zoom! booth with more information to be revealed on the Bang Zoom! Facebook page.

Aniplex held similar auditions last year with a huge turnout of 400 hopeful participants. Only three contestants made the cut and got to voice characters in the first season of Magi.


Fuji TV's cutting-edge animation block is celebrating 10 years this year. Fuji Creative's own Shigehiko Sato chronicled the block's transformation from a 30-minute timeslot that premiered with Honey and Clover and Paradise Kiss in 2005 to its current hour-long incarnation and upcoming movie line. Sato spoke excitedly about the upcoming Psycho-Pass 2 television anime and following film this winter.

The panel also showed footage for some of its upcoming shows, including Shinichiro Watanabe's (Cowboy Bebop, Space Dandy) Terror in Resonance series, Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso (April is Your Lie), Saenai Heroine no Sodate-kata, and the Project Itoh films.

Cosplay photos by Jamie Carr

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