Where can you speak to avid fans of cartoon shows in between a ramen-eating contest and a Japanese rock concert? Where else but Sabaku Con?
Last weekend, Sabaku Con (Sabaku is Japanese for “desert”) brought anime and video game fans together for a three-day celebration of nerd-dom. The convention drew in more than 900 attendees for its inaugural event. Convention Chairman Greg Fennell, who has directed similar conventions in Arizona for the last five years, said the local reception was better than expected.
“The excitement factor of a new con really stood out,” Fennell said. “Since we have well-established anime cons here in Arizona, it was nice to see a crowd so energetic for a new convention.”
Sabaku Con, held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, featured guests Troy Baker and Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, voice-over actors with credits in “Naruto” and “Ghost in the Shell,” respectively.
Sabaku Con featured nonstop programming Friday and Saturday between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 a.m. On Sunday, the convention closed at 6 p.m. The convention’s events included a costume contest, a Japanese fashion show, a rock concert, a rave dance, an exhibitor’s hall of artist and retail booths, a maid café and dozens of fan-hosted panels. Panel topics ranged from educational (“Breaking into the Industry,” “Know your Japanese Meme”) to competitive (“Amateur Voice Acting Competition,” “Anime Jeopardy”) to ridiculous (“Ramen Warrior,” “Whose Line is it Anime?”)
Costumed attendees crowded the hallways during convention hours, stopping every so often to pose for photographs. K’Dawn Butler, one such attendee, made — from scratch — a different costume to wear for each day. Butler said cosplay, short for “costume play,” where fans dress up to represent fictional characters, makes the convention that much more fun.
“You can just prance around in your costume that you worked so hard on and someone will say, ‘Oh that’s my favorite character,’” Butler said. “And you can just talk with them about that character or series for God knows how long.”
The exhibitor’s hall featured several local and out-of-state vendors offering anime-themed merchandise. In addition, dozens of artists in all different styles had their art and craftwork available for purchase.
James Perry II, a former Albuquerque denizen, was at Sabaku Con this weekend to sell his artwork and promote his original manga “Orange Crows.” Perry also had a collection of prints for sale featuring fan art inspired by anime shows “Cowboy Bebop” and “Adventure Time.” Perry has been attending conventions for the past two years.
“You get to meet a lot of people with similar interests,” Perry said. “It’s a nice escape from the outside world.”
UNM student Kenya Musegades spent most of Sabaku Con as a host in the Tsuki Mochi Maid Café. The café offered patrons coffee, tea, and desserts. The maids also performed choreographed dance routines and skits each session. Musegades said there was never a dull moment at the convention.
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“I go to cons because I love cosplaying and getting into character,” she said. “I also enjoy all the awesome people I meet. I’ve met lifelong friends from going to cons.”
During the closing ceremonies, Fennell announced that Sabaku Con will be returning next year around the same time. Attendees were ecstatic at the news.
“On our way out, I was stopped about a dozen times by people thanking me for putting on the show and showing their excitement for coming back next year,” Fennell said.