14,686 anime fans descended on the Henry B. Gonzales Center last weekend for a three-day nerd binge at San Japan 7, a celebration wholly dedicated to Japanese pop culture.
This convention was massive. Every hour, con goers could attend between three to seven panels around the clock. Make shift game shows, cosplay panels, and anime premieres played at Grand Hyatt and the convention center from morning until after hours. It also had a full-fledged arcade with import games to play, and an area for trading card tournaments.
Downtown San Antonio looked like one giant anime cartoon.
Overall, San Japan 7 definitely had a “for fans, by fans” feel and what it lacked in polish, it made up for in enthusiasm.
The con’s opening ceremony set the tone for the convention. It was plagued by technical difficulties, yet audiences still wildly cheered the panelists and special guests. The trend continued at Pokébattle, a live-action, high-energy, reenactment of Pokémon duels, where early sound issues were eclipsed by their audiences’ hyperactive energy. The interactive murder mystery panel Super High School Level (Danganronpa) suffered from sound issues as well, but that didn’t dampen fan support. But, not all panels gushed with silly, overjoyed energy.
Several panels featured more informative topics. Cosplay costuming, sewing, modeling, and photography were a big focus of talks all weekend. Lolita fashion came out in full force with how-to panels, a maid café – a niche dining experiencing where staff dress in outrageously frilly dresses – and an entire fashion show celebrating the Japanese street clothes movement.
Some panels addressed more serious aspects anime fandom. One panel discussed the unique problems people living with disability face when they cosplay. Special guests Mary Elizabeth McGlynn (Naruto, Digimon Fusion), and Lisa Ortiz (Pokémon, The Slayers) briefly discussed the struggles of women in the voice talent industry. Of course, no amount of seriousness killed the nerd buzz.
In fact, the most entertaining part of the convention were the fans. While waiting in line, people played video games together and chatted loudly. In one line, fans started a mariachi sing-a-along version of the Pokémon theme song complete with guitar accompaniment. Everywhere I went, I saw people snapping photos, and nerding out over seeing their favorite cosplay characters.
That’s the power of San Japan. Hanging out with almost 15,000 people, all nerding at the same time is not only a ginormously fun experience - it’s a privilege.
For those who can't wait for next year, say hello to San Japan 8. Pre-registration is already open.