A Game Never Really Over: San Japan 8-Bit
Well it’s been an action-packed, crazy, exciting weekend for most of us here in San Antonio, at least it was for me for the past couple of weeks. This past weekend was the 8th Annual San Japan, San Antonio’s premier anime convention, which this year celebrates video games with its theme, 8-Bit. This San Japan seemed to come out of no where for me as this seemed early in the summer months compared to the event falling in August as it did for most of its history. I’ve had a lot going on and wanted to do a lot of an upcoming San Japan but for those that haven’t been following, I have been busy learning at Berklee, managing an event company, and most recently, undergone shoulder surgery (Finally!). However, next year’s San Japan is different as with what everyone has spent their time and energy reminding me all weekend, I will not let my dreams just be dreams and to “JUST DO IT”!. Ok that’s enough of that….BRRR APPLEDOUGH!!!
San Japan has been a tradition for me since I first moved to San Antonio in 2011. Each San Japan has left some kind of amazing experience from meeting new musician friends, performing in front of thousands of people at the dance, taking part in cosplay photoshoots, and meeting celebrity guests from multiple fandoms around the world. As this year has been my 5th San Japan, this is my family’s first, and wow it’s been quite a journey, some rough, some enjoyable, but it was all worth it. We showed up to the convention Friday afternoon as I had to go see my orthopedist to check on my healing progress. Although I’ve been healing very well, I still had to be on the sling for three more weeks, which may make it difficult for me to DJ the after-party as well as my headlining set at Geekfest but it’s not going to stop me from DJing nor having fun at San Japan. I went pretty casual Friday while Ame wore the TARDIS dress we bought at a Sci-Fi con at the Wonderland of the Americas Mall and our daughter was cosplaying Pikachu. Most of our mutual friends were Fairy Tail cosplayers so we hung out with them for most of the early Friday while dealing with San Antonio’s famous hot sun. Shopping was mostly on the girl’s minds so one of the first things we did after the photoshoot was traverse the Artist Alley and Dealer’s Room; and this is indeed one of the most massive otaku shopping center’s I’ve ever seen.
Ame had a really awesome tip when it came to shopping at the convention. Most of us have an issue where we splurge on the first few things we see, later resulting in not having money for what we really want in the last 2 1/2 days of the con, or leaving the event with a huge debt. Of course our daughter Sakura is still learning the value of money and my wife’s suggestion to her was revolutionary that the artist’s were impressed. Ame recommended that she take a notebook and write down everything she’s purchasing, the vendor, and the cost; over time, comparing her budget with what she can buy and narrowing down her favorites. I don’t really do a lot of shopping a conventions, usually I know what I want but for those that aren’t sure or looking for some awesome souvenir or gift ideas, making a list and checking it to the point it’s narrowed within your budget is an awesome idea. Sunday is usually the ideal time to shop as most vendor’s are selling at discounts to clear their inventory; however, be aware there are some vendor’s that will actually discount in the beginning of the show and then sell full price at the end. You may be tempted by other discount deals but it is a big shopping center, take your time and navigate the entire floor. We actually looked every nook and cranny in the Artist Alley, but I had to go catch my good friend Kieran Strange perform.
I have to say, one of my favorite events of San Japan is watching Kieran Strange perform. I was lucky to meet her back at San Japan 4TW while I was supporting SHEawase in the Maid Cafe during the Sushicrowd days and was given a CD. Back then, I knew that she was a very compelling artist and I knew more now than ever that her records are in my opinion, the definitive standard of music after I took Music Production Analysis at Berklee. This girl, just like many other musicians and producers I’ve met in my journey in anime, have the most solid hearts filled with integrity of their talent and passion and just as the quote from a Sprite can I drank at a hotel party that night “On a mission tryna shift the culture”. The concert amazement didn’t stop there as her #megadrivetour companion, Professor Shyguy, crashed her set and showcased incredible samples of what’s to come on his concert Saturday. Of course I got to meet Shyguy and he is nothing but cool. His concert on Saturday was also very compelling and he didn’t just kill it, he had fun with all of us. My friends in Orlando are going to have an amazing show coming up. Speaking of concerts, I got the chance to see Mega Ran and Richie Branson put on the most soulful hip-hop show I have ever seen in my life. These guys really speak to us as these performers grew up in our era within our genres and grew up with our joy and struggles. Much love to these guys as their tunes speak to us. After the concerts, the Hau5 of Hakubi had to make an appearance at a party hosted at the Mariott Rivercenter by Jared Dark of Fairy Tail Texas Guild, which gave me the much needed time to relax and nurse my shoulder from any shock during the event. Unfortunately I didn’t seem to have the stamina that I used to have at past cons and I wanted to spend time with my family and friends who I don’t get the chance to but we still had fun regardless of any panels or events we had to miss; however, I deeply regret missing the legendary Taylor Davis concert, I’m just glad I got to talk to her at the VIP autograph session.
Friday’s party was really chill although we had an incident we needed to take care of with a friend towards the end of it; during the rush, I ended up running my injured shoulder into the elevator so that was no fun at all. We still managed to make it to the
rave dance Friday to catch the first bit of it and then some karaoke but had to head back home around 2AM. I will say, that dance was the most mind-blowing experience I’ve ever had in a long time. Luckily I missed the Trap bits until DJ Cutman trolled us with some during the end of my time there, but Shroo, DJ Cutman, and Elevon gave me a real reminder of what a real rave is suppose to feel like; at least, how I believe it was suppose to feel. See, back when I started DJing in 2006 in Hawaii, I made it known that my focus was really fast and happy beats and tunes with a heavy influence from J-pop, thus why I became sort of the crowned prince of a style I dubbed AnimEDM, and performed these rave tunes at anime events across the country. Over time, I started taking interest in Progressive House and Trance as that was my first taste of Electronic Dance Music growing up in South Florida and listening to a lot more Progressive Dance Music from my mentor on Northwest Florida radio, Totally Patrick. Moving to San Antonio in 2011, I desperately looked for a rave scene but it seemed that it was non-existent, or at least called a rave via Progressive club and Dubstep music, which later became saturated trap and cheesy festival house and turned whatever’s left of the San Antonio rave scene tits-up. My wife has heard my legacy as an AnimEDM musician and often asks why I haven’t played that way again, which I thought I haven’t changed my style but I realized that I’ve been more of a club DJ than a rave DJ and I just forgot how to rave. I got booked two weeks before San Japan to DJ an after-party at the Korova and then got booked to headline GeekFest as a guest of honor some time before that so I knew my audience was not going to be the same as the nightclubs here. Ame and I worked to put a crate together to make the stellar performance I made at San Japan Mach 5 and other conventions before that but haven’t got the chance to practice it until the night after Friday’s dance. Making a long story short, Friday’s dance was the “JUST DO IT” for me to be the rave DJ that I should have been for a while and go forward to rave everyone’s world. With that being said, I’ll still DJ Progressive Dance Music as Progressive House and Trance are still two of my favorite EDM genres, but I now I carry the soul of the rave with me, and it’s thanks to San Japan’s performers. Only sad thing is that I didn’t get to see Mixtress BB and JenJunBao perform but I have worked with these girls in the past and I know they killed it at San Japan as well.
Despite not making it much of a variety on Saturday, my family did go make it a fun-filled day. The hightlight, another Fairy Tail photoshoot. Fairy Tail has recently become one of my most favorite anime shows and is probably the only anime I’m watching in near-real time (catching the latest episode on Crunchyroll). My wife and I cosplayed as Lucy Heartfilia and Loke from Fairy Tail respectively while Sakura still cosplayed one of her favorite pokemon, Pikachu. It’s hasn’t been often that I cosplay due to my other obligations but when I did it that day, it was the most fun I ever had in a long time. Another friend in music, Gilbert Carrizales, has felt the same joy cosplaying for the first time as he showcased his Marauder from Starcraft 2. It was definitely an experience very profound and nostalgic as we remembered how it was like when total strangers outside the convention center radius wanted pictures of us. Although getting photos felt like the best thing ever, it was very uncomfortable for me and I was wearing a suit in close to 100 degree F weather; I felt that I was a slow-baked potato. Although I’m sure there are massive shoots around the convention, the Fairy Tail shoot was the biggest photoshoot I ever got to be a part of, and all the members of the Texas guild and friends are the most amazing group of cosplayers I ever hung out with. After the shoot, we did some more surveying of the artist alley and dealer’s room as well as checking out the video game room, featuring a wide assortment of Japanese arcade games; unfortunately, I couldn’t take part in many of them because of “le shoulder”; in any case, I had to catch the Professor Shyguy concert. After the concert, we decided to walk to the courthouse area downtown and ate at Willy B’s pizza. I couldn’t believe I haven’t ate at this joint after passing it so many times (due to divorce proceedings from my first marriage, that’s all). Very rare I find an amazing pizza and so far my favorite pizza in the world is Pasquale’s in Coral Springs, FL, but Willy B’s in San Antonio definitely became my new local spot for that New York style. Even more amazing, the clerk/cook and a couple of the patrons there were anime fans, but weren’t attending or didn’t know about San Japan until Ame I gave the good word. After sharing a large pepperoni, pineapple, and black olive pizza with my girls, we walked back to the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center to catch what I believe is the main event of San Japan, the Cosplay Show.
The Cosplay Show was a bit different for me than previous San Japan’s (I didn’t go to last year’s Cosplay Show). This main event was usually filled with attendees in the main event ballroom up to max capacity; however, with San Japan being 18,000+ attendees, the new venue would be set at the Lila Cockrell Theater with first-come first-serve tickets serving as entry control. This was a shaky new way to accommodate and somehow the theater wasn’t as packed as it should be but it is possible that many other big events were running at the same time; after all, it was hard for us to choose where to go during all the happenings at the con. This year, we saw 4 walk-on categories (Youth, Novice, Journeyman, Master), a hall contest, and a skit competition. Memorable cosplays for me this year was the DJ Soma from League of Legends who had a working LED workstation, following with a marriage proposal to his manager. I joked with my wife that it was a publicity stunt but seriously I thought it was a very genuine and creative proposal and I wish the best for them. Another is Laura Manuel who cosplayed as Diva Plavalaguna and gave a stunning singing performance. The half-time show was entertaining, sweet, and to the point as Peace Keeper Martial Arts and the Jedi group (someone comment below the group name please), gave an amazing showcase with lightsabers. The sweet thing about these sabers is that they are built for combat so their practice is a realistic simulation. I just wish I would have got to talk to Master Pierce while they were there, with all the questions and comments about my shoulder, I wanted to say hi and let him know that I had surgery on it. Master Pierce was the referee that officiated the fight that I got injured at during the 33rd Texas State Championships, show him and his school love when you see him around town. After the cosplay contest was done, we went back and turned in for the night as we have an early start Sunday with the Gold Pas VIP Brunch with the guests and one final Fairy Tail photoshoot, closing the San Japan weekend with my AnimEDM set at the Korova.
Sunday was a pretty simple day as we started with my wife and mine’s first VIP guest brunch (at least the first one we’ve paid for). This gave us a chance to speak with the guests personally, away from the hustle and bustle that get in the way during a convention’s normal routine. We chose to sit with Kieran to do a lot of catching up and got a chance to make friends with her tour manager Ant as well as other attendees at our table. It was a mix of letting loose and talking shop though I tried not to talk shop as much but when you’re a Berklee student, you learn things that give you a transformation like a Super Saiyan and you get excited about the things you learn at school. The food was amazing and it really helped with my loopiness from my pain meds but it was definitely worth it to get a Gold Pass and sit among fellow superstars, some I have never met and others I haven’t seen in a long time; for example, last time I saw Steve Blum was 2007 at Kawaii Kon. I was suppose to see Steve again earlier this year as a fellow guest but apparently we both (along with several other guests) got screwed by a fake event that was suppose to happen at the beach back in January. We caught up some, had him and a bunch of others sign my sling, and we were on our way. Ame got to meet her favorite actress of the con, Mary Elizabeth McGlynn and had her sign all 4 .hack games and her cosplay (oh yea, Ame was cosplaying Wendy Marvel). Actually, the entire line signed her shirt while my sling was signed. Following the brunch, we managed to catch the last bit of the Fairy Tail photoshoot, snapped photos, and took videos. That event was so fun and hilarious at some points that I should have used Vine. Following that, we relaxed at the Manga Library until it was time to get some dinner and then Closing Ceremonies; however, I needed to get back home to retrieve a charger for my DJ gear so we headed back home, unfortunately missing Closing Ceremonies.
We did get back downtown early enough to be at the Korova for the 8-Bit Moshpit after-party hosted by Lazarus Blackfire. I don’t know why but my mind was made up to play AnimEDM, although for a metal show, I probably should have been playing Industrial/EBM; it was one of those “you’re in the wrong neighborhood” moments. The bands however were incredible, major shoutout to Guilty Verdikt. When it came time for me to go on, I gave my introduction as their “45-min piss break” and started playing my tunes. Friends that have attended San Japan knew that I was playing at the time that I was and made it into my set, mixing with the rest of the crowd who seemed to be chilling; however, by the time that I got done, I had a massively positive ovation and my heart never got warmer at any event as it did at The Korova that night. I actually made some more friends after the show and talked a lot more about the San Antonio rave scene, or at least the dream of it, but from all the Shia Labeouf stuff going on over the weekend, we should stop letting dreams stay dreams.
All’s well that ends well, another San Japan done, another San Anotonio anime celebration accomplished. Got to party with a lot of great friends from many corners of the world and spend my first full-length anime convention with my wife and daughter. The next San Japan is September so we have a long way to go before that celebration, but that will give us enough time to figure out cosplays, activities, and anything that we as Hau5 of Hakubi may want to contribute to the con given the opportunity. Until then, catch Ame and I at CTC Geekfest in Killeen, Texas as we put on a spectacular AnimEDM dance as well as host a few panels and follow us on this site and social media to see where we’ll end up. As always, #LIVE SMASHING!!!