A few blocks past Pike Place Market, thousands of anime and manga fans from across the country gathered at the Washington State Convention Center this past weekend to show off their cosplays and indulge in the endless aisles of merchandise.
After a two-year pandemic hiatus, Sakura-Con — Washington state’s biggest anime convention — returned at full capacity.
The 10,000 square-foot convention center space was full of fans gathering to fill the artist alley, exhibitor’s hall, and panel rooms eager to experience the convention for the first time since 2019.
Vendors from around the world gathered in the expansive exhibit hall to sell everything from anime character statues to fashion brands such as Peachiie.
Sakura-Con required attendees to wear a mask and provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test at badge pickup. Many attendees used the requirement to further compliment their intricate costumes. Princess Peach and Rosalina cosplayers brought out their character’s vibrant pink and blue with their masks.
Cosplayers were excited to share their work with other attendees. Some even brought professional business cards with their social media info.
Many cosplayers traveled across the country to socialize and meet international guests. Terry Hall (ManaKnight cosplay), known for their depiction of Kingdom Hearts and Final Fantasy characters, traveled from the East Coast to attend Sakura.
The convention was more than anime and Japanese characters. Cosplayers sported full armor as characters such as Master Chief from Halo or the protagonist from Doom.
I joined in the fun, wearing cosplay for the first time in more than three years. There were more attendee compliments than I could count, which speaks to the welcoming anime community. While I my costume, other cosplayers crafted and styled their costume by hand.
Fans of RWBY, an animated series produced by Austin, Texas-based Rooster Teeth, have a range of complex weapons for each character. Ruby Rose, the titular character, uses a large scythe that transforms into a gun (Crescent Rose). Pathfinder Cosplay (above) drew the attention of other attendees for her meticulously crafted Crescent Rose.
The dedication of Sakura-Con fans went beyond intricate cosplay. At the Gundam building competition, several competitors said their projects took more than 50 hours of work. Some even hand-painted their Gundam model kits. Attendees were welcome to purchase a kit from the exhibit hall and spend time building in the company of others.
The event also featured a number of high-profile speakers, including Steve Blum, who shared his experience as a voice actor in the anime community before it was widely circulated among the public.
Blum, who is known for his roles as Sub-Zero in Mortal Kombat and Spike Spiegel in Cowboy Bebop, won the Guiness World Record for number of roles in video games in 2017. Through his extensive career, Blum reflected on the moments that made him realize he was in the right community.
“I’ve been doing this for over 30 years, so I try to find something interesting about every role if I can,” Blum said.
Although his work has changed as a direct result of the pandemic, Blum still interacts with fans and hosts a voice acting class with guests from the entertainment industry. Sakura-Con was one of the first opportunities Blum had to connect with colleagues in the industry he had not seen since before the pandemic.
Check out our photo gallery for more cosplayers and images of the convention.