This weekend will mark the sixth annual San Japan, San Antonio's largest Japanese animation and cultural convention. From the 16th through the 18th, anime, comic book, and video game enthusiasts will flock to the Henry B. Gonzales convention center and the surrounding downtown area, many decked out in costumes they've spent all year preparing.
Now one of the largest conventions in Texas, San Japan has come a long way from its humble beginnings as a volunteer organized event based out of Our Lady of the Lake University. In 2007, San Japan: Zero Day Anime ran as a one-day event, both to work out the kinks in the process as well as to gauge interest in the idea, and drew roughly 800 attendees. Now, six years since, with word of mouth spreading about this unique event, San Japan has grown both in size and intensity, having moved in 2012 to the Henry B. Gonzales convention center for a more spacious venue and almost achieving 10,000 attendees.
"San Japan has grown tremendously," said Ariel Sanchez, who has attended the convention annually since 2009. "This year, and the last, San Japan really started to branch away from just anime and has become more diverse."
The convention boasts a massive dealer room, where guests can purchase everything from box sets, posters, and action figures to real weapons and clothing. Odds are, if you've found yourself on the internet, coveting something cool related to anime or geek culture, the dealer room at San Japan will have it.
Alternatively, if you're looking for something a little bit more unique, have a gander at the Artist's Alley, where artists from San Antonio and surrounding areas will be selling high quality prints of their work in various sizes, as well as crafts and handmade jewelry.
Aside from purchasing swag, guests enjoy a variety of events, panels and workshops. For the more creative, there are several writing and art workshops run by professional authors and artists for improving upon your craft. Contests and game show-type events are also available for those looking for a something a little bit more fun, or simply hoping to win some awesome prizes, such as Cosplay Chess and the Anime Olympics. For the party animals, there will be live musical performances and midnight raves on both Friday and Saturday, along with a Formal Masquerade ball on Friday night.
Several well known voice actors and internet personalities will also be in attendance, holding signing events and Q&A panels for fans. Guests who are 18+ with a valid photo I.D. also have the option of attending some of the more adult oriented panels, including Voice Actor's Unplugged, where celebrity guests will be able to say everything they weren't allowed to in the regular panels.
Whether you can only make it for one day, or can attend all three, San Japan is a safe and fun environment for embracing your inner geek. "People should come to San Japan with an open mind," said Sanchez, "You see so many different kinds of people. From parents who were dragged there by their kids to kids who were dragged there by their parents, this con is really for everybody."