This past weekend (August 29th – September 1st) was the 7th annual Saboten Convention hosted at the Glendale Renaissance Hotel in Glendale, Arizona. Online forums masterfully describe this convention as the premier anime event in the southwest and with guests such as Chris Tang, D.C. Douglas and Giada Robin it’s quite easy to build high expectations for this event. Upon my arrival at Saboten I noted two things: one – this convention was MUCH smaller than any other convention I had EVER attended (probably in the range of 3-4,000 unique attendees) and two – this convention was very much focused on teenagers. As a well-adjusted convention goer, this was easily overlooked. My goals for this event remained the same: run a panel, attend a panel, attend the masquerade, attend the World Cosplay Summit Regional Qualifier and visit the vendor hall.
Proceeding with step one, I went to acquire my panelist pass (I was excited as I had managed to talk the talented Allen Amis Creations founder into joining me in a cosplay panel) only to discover that my panel was not on the docket. I explained the convention director himself emailed me the panel room and time (I had requested an adjustment to my schedule due to conflicts) and that he assured me the panel would be presented in the schedule. To my dismay, the panel was neither in the schedule NOR was it on the volunteer’s list. Despite these complications, I was given my passes and directed to the ballroom where my panel was to be held. Since the panel was not on the schedule Allen and I opened the doors in an attempt to welcome people in. This worked and we had a couple one on one session with some curious cosplay enthusiasts.
Saturday morning I began the day with a panel that ended in me leaving due to the extremely depressing verbal tone of the presenter. Determined to get a brighter perspective on this event, I started taking cosplay pictures (you will see these in another article I am releasing this week – Saboten had some FANTASTIC costumes). This gave me a chance to interact with the crowd and discover that the misgivings of programming were outmatched by the lit up faces of excited geeks, nerds and fans. The people at this convention were incredible: from staff to guests it was a pleasant recovery from my first day at the convention. I also spent A LOT of Saturday at the vendor hall reviewing artists’ illustrations and fabrications. Cayci Phillips and Anabel Martinez, two very accomplished artists, explained that business was good. Many of the attendees brought cash to spare and the convention had enough lull time to allow artists to complete commissions regularly (generating more revenue and interest in their work). There were vendors selling costumes, accessories, drawn art, painted art, printed art, candles and even little Lego earrings! The vendor hall gave me the boost I needed at this convention and left me looking forward to Sunday.
On Sunday I prepared for a first person perspective of the convention’s annual Masquerade contest. Pre-Judging started at 12PM and ran a little late so the Masquerade was pushed to a little past 8 pm. Other than getting anxious over such a long wait time, I found fellow cosplayers to be helpful and pleasant. As my second contest ever, they gave great advice and helped ease my nerves. The staff was also really friendly and offered help with everything from holding belongings to getting refreshments while we waited for the masquerade to begin. Once the contest started we were guided out to the stage in groups and given the opportunity to see our fellow competition perform. It was a humbling experience – the crowd was immense and they cheered for every contestant: experienced and inexperienced. The judging was also very entertaining – Saboten brought out Kazha (a popular J-Pop band) to perform as the judges deliberated. Overall, the masquerade was the most exciting experience at this convention.
My final task, attending the World Cosplay Summit, was not achieved due to confusion amongst staff and organizers as to which day it was on. I finally discovered the Summit SouthWest Regionals were scheduled for Monday (the convention director announced this at the masquerade) – the single day of the convention where I had other commitments. Despite some difficulty with panels, programming and rambunctious teenagers this convention was enjoyable! It is certainly a good place for inexperienced/new convention goers to start. Small crowds make for great wiggle room (anyone who has been to a 50K plus convention understands the grace that is arm room) and a relaxing experience. Though I do not plan on attending this event in the future (I have discovered I am more of a comic girl than an anime girl) I would recommend it to others.