Last year I didn’t hit a proper anime con in the States until Anime Boston over Easter, but this year I started off with Taiyoucon on the very first weekend of 2017. Taiyoucon is a little anime convention out in Phoenix, Arizona, boasting about 3000 warm bodies in its 2016 iteration. The 2017 version is its 7th ever and 3rd at the Mesa Convention Center, which is this little sleepy mess of ballroom and conference halls in the same complex as the nearby Marriott.
How do I explain this con? It’s one of the smallest con I have attended–about the same size as the first Animazement I attended in 2005 (~2700 warm bodies). The complex is broken up by curvy walkways and walls, so it was kind of hard to get a crowd shot. I didn’t go into the dealer’s room and that might be the single largest open area at the con. There were some large outdoor areas for gatherings but none of them were in a central area so most people didn’t stick to any one of them for lounging or cosplay shoots. The event setup is pretty cozy, as I can go from my hotel room on the 11th floor to anywhere in the con in less than 3 minutes basically. There weren’t that many people and the venue is all pretty small-like.
Not unlike the 2005 Animazement convention, Taiyoucon drew me there partly because it featured Kanda Akemi and Sanpei Yuko as guests this year, along with Lotus Juice, Hirata Shihoko, and Teddyloid. Did I ever mention how small Shihoko is?
Anyways, my goal at the con was just to pester the two seiyuu guests as much as possible by attending all their events, and to hang out with both con friends and some local friends who recently moved out there, plus getting a first person view of the AZ Ps working that con. It was pretty chill and laid back, more so because there aren’t that many people there and when we weren’t getting autographs or attending the seiyuu panels, we were either eating, lounging in the live viewing panels, or at a concert or a party of some sort.
The entertainment for Saturday at Taiyoucon is either the cosplay lounge (this year they have a monster girl theme) or at the VIP party with Teddyloid (invariably also including LJ and Shihoko). It was a good time at the VIP party but we didn’t do that much. I was there more for goofy photo OPs and listening to some Panty & Stocking musics, and trying the themed alcoholic drinks.
The drinks were not expensive but watered down like how the actual Characro IM@S cafe drinks were. And there was also this…
— omo@Taiyoucon'17 (@omonomono) January 8, 2017
I also had the Rin, and that one is pretty good. It’s also a little more alcoholic…and blue. So I renamed it the Rin Shibuya.
The Animazement comparison continues to be apt in that Mesa is technically a suburb of Phoenix proper, about 30 minutes away from PHX airport. That’s similar to how AZ used to be in this corporate park outside of Raleigh proper, between 3 hotels. I guess if the con continues to be successful it will draw a larger crowd and move towards Phoenix proper.
The guest calibur is pretty good for a small convention like this, which is a big reason I went. It almost begs the question if it could sustain this kind of guest-ing at this size. There is precedent for it at other cons so I’m not too worried, and it’s not like Teddy or the P4 duo needed that much pampering as hardy producer types. I do think the likes of Sanpei attending the con has to do with the hard work of some mindful Ps on the con staff, but I guess that too is a change on their part, trying to do something different this year.
— 三瓶由布子 (@3paypaypay) January 6, 2017
Kanda was at the con on Friday and Saturday. I pretty much missed out on her panel because I was working remotely for most of Friday. In fact I was on a work bridge until halfway through Sanpei’s panel on Friday, so I missed a lot of what went on then.
Unlike most IM@S seiyuu, Sanpei has voiced a lot of different roles, some pretty high profile such as her Precure or other kiddy shows. She’s also the voice of Boruto, and that’s getting a TV series now. Oddly enough during autographs I only saw a couple Naruto fans. I suppose it’s not really a surprise. It’s a little bit of a surprise to see that Sanpei drew a lot more fans on Saturday than Kanda, who probably voice as many titles as Sanpei, maybe just fewer mainstream ones.
I asked a question about Xam’d ending on Friday’s panel. Then I asked about what Sanpei would like to do for a stage even after she talked about seeing CG 4th. There was a lot of repeat attendees, of course, so there were some follow up questions to previous factoids over the weekend. To just highlight the CG4th answer, which was in response to her opinion on the live events in general, she did go see at least day 1. Her favorite song was Miina no Kimochi who she forgot exactly who (or what the song was, she just said how everyone dressed up as animals). She also mentioned Makino Yui who is a friend, and how the stage was like a castle and that you can go up in it, and that she guessed anything is possible with enough money. Earlier on someone had asked if she had a part about the seiyuu work she disliked. For that question she mentioned that seiyuu has to do more than just voice acting these days, and have to do radio shows and live events. And sometimes they have to do a punishment game, and she disliked eating mixed up foods as a punishment. She also mentioned she didn’t like scary stuff, such as a haunted house. She then asked the questioner what he didn’t like, and he responded heights. She responded that she’s OK with heights. This turned out to be a thing she kept on doing because the questions didn’t always come quickly, in that she’d ask the questioner something in exchange.
I followed up with the CG4th answer with what she’d like to do if she got to work for a property with money to do what CG 4th did, and she said she would be okay with flying over the castle, since she’s okay with heights. Such is one example of what happened this weekend… We didn’t pelt her with IM@S questions the whole time, maybe just a quarter of the time. A lot of people did rep IM@S so she did pick it up from the various signings, and talked about it a bit more than if we didn’t rep it so hard, I imagine.
— 神田朱未 (@akemikanda) January 8, 2017
Kanda’s panel was sort of similar, except she hosted more like a fan meeting, and kind of tried to get some kind of handle on the overall Q&A. I only asked about Aice5 and how it was doing the reunion, and how they were different now versus before. She basically said that they can behave like adults now, facing a major challenge such as Chiaking getting injured a week before the event with the right attitudes. I don’t know, I’m not that into Kanda. She does give out that showa era idol vibe though, even if she might not quite qualify?
During the autograph sessions, I don’t think there were more than 40 people at any given time. Sanpei had 3 sessions, once each day, and Kanda once each day when she was there. We ambushed Kanda with Aice5 CD to get autographed, in a row, and some of the harder Negima nerds were able to show off their rare loot. There was even one guy with Drops goods, and her solo CD. Sanpei was more difficult, since I ran out of stuff to get signed by Saturday I ended up just getting boards for friends, while talking about them to her. Simple communication about how big America is and there are producers, I guess.
I never got to ask her about Seikon no Qwaser, but she did plug a show she will be in this coming Spring when I showed this to her…
Anyway, at the end, this was a laid back, small con. I had a lot of guest interactions (not to mention the concert and the VIP party). I did some live viewing. It was pretty top tier despite the relatively loltastic nature of a small con that was not the most organized…
PS. I had burritos, some pretty authentic northern Chinese, and Chicago-style beef sandy with nice sauce. Not much for photos because none looked any good for photos. I got hooked up with some Marriott perks so got free/cheap breakfasts all weekend, and that was much welcomed if just for the coffee hits. It was a little tough to work on East Coast time after checking into the hotel at 1am local time the night before!