Sakura-Con is probably Fansubbing’s favorite convention - every year, it brings us together for a long weekend and provides us an opportunity to reconnect and just have fun. Our history with the convention runs deep - years back, many of us met there for the first time. In 2018, Fansubbing was founded in the halls of Sakura-Con and saved anime. Every year since, we return and try to pull similar stunts.

What did we do this year? Well, we’ll get to that!

The highlight of 2023 was without question the new Seattle Convention Center. In large part, the convention this year was probably a learning experience for organizers on how to utilize the new space effectively. In most aspects, it was a massive success. In several areas, though, clear opportunities for improvement arose.

The new Seattle Convention Center

The major criticism, one shared widely via viral Twitter posts, was the distance between the Expo Hall and the Artist Alley.

Located in the old Washington State Convention Center, attendees had to walk several blocks in order to switch between the locations. The areas felt very isolated and separate; there was no unifying sense of convention between the two. It also created a bit of a schism between the convention - attendees were far more spread out than in prior years, which had a dampening effect on the perceived attendance of the convention.

The other aspect that felt a little off was the Expo Hall density. This is something that is far more subjective and abstract, but bear with us. The new Expo Hall is massive. It provided the opportunity to spread things out and help decrease the crowd size walking between booths significantly. What we found, though, was a feeling of emptiness. In some ways, the layout felt too open.

An overheard shot of the Expo Hall

It was an interesting feeling, and one that surprised us. Many of us are veterans of Anime Expo, which falls on the other end of the spectrum. If you’ve ever attended the Los Angeles convention, or followed along via Twitter, you know its reputation for being so overcrowded that it borders on hazardous. You come away from attending Anime Expo wanting an experience like Sakura-Con in 2023. Open areas between booths, personal space while walking around. Except, when you actually find yourself present in that environment... it lacks something.

Quiet hallways in the Seattle Convention Center, with anime banners hanging overhead

A crowd adds to the excitement, adds to the ambiance. It’s the difference between attending a Mariners game and an Athletics game. It’s the difference between being a pedestrian in an American city and walking the streets of Tokyo. There is an energy in more confined areas, as long as you don’t push things too far (e.g., Anime Expo). I think this year, in the new space, that excitement was missing.

On the other hand, there were parts of the new convention center that worked phenomenally well. One notable improvement was the location and layout for panels. The old convention center was a bit of a maze at times, and rooms were wildly varied in their capacity. The new Seattle convention center has a much easier layout that makes quickly finding the panel you’re looking for a breeze. Or, if you want to drift between a few, you won’t have to wander far. The floors above the Expo Hall, easily reached via a massive, single stairwell complete with escalators and seating areas, had identical layouts with clearly labeled rooms with panel schedules visible outside the doors. Having the same layout per floor helped immensely in navigating the convention throughout the day. It’s probably the cleanest setup I’ve seen in any convention.

An open staircase in the new Seattle Convention Center, with lots of natural light

This leads us to what made Sakura-Con special for Fansubbing in 2023 - it was the first year Fansubbing held a panel at a convention! We put on a game show and were pleasantly surprised to see it was a hit. We had near perfect retention among our watchers, with around 50 people in attendance. Both metrics exceeded what we set out for, and we are considering holding another panel in 2024. This was the first time that Fansubbing has been Industry at a convention instead of just being Press - hopefully it won’t be the last!

The Gang Does A Panel

Overall, 2023 felt like a transition year. The organizers had to learn how to utilize the new space and facilities effectively, and from our viewpoint they mostly succeeded. There are some areas for improvement that we’ll be looking closely at in 2024, but the only big miss was the distance between the Expo Hall and the Artist Alley. That feedback was broadcasted pretty loud and clear by attendees, and we expect that to be addressed next year.

If you’ve never been to Sakura-Con, consider going in 2024. And if you do, come say hi!

Editors Note: Due to a CMS glitch, this post was unintentionally marked as private for several months. We regret the error.