This year my first anime con was literally the very first weekend of the year, down in the sunny Phoenix ‘burb of Mesa. This was the 10th Taiyou Con and very much like usual it was a low-key affair with a few guests that drew a small crowd, albeit some guests of great interest to me. Taiyou Con remained a small con, by most con standards, and that is to say I was able to take advantage of the size and laid-back nature of it all.
Somehow, Miyake Marie (Marietti) and Matsuzaki Rei (Reichama) came as a combo of sorts, from Pro-fit and Mausu, respectively. Each of them had their solo panels, an autograph session, and on Saturday they had a combined panel and combined autograph session. I mean, I guess this is because the con is run by a P, and I mean guess.
The rest of the con guests round out with two Japanese illustrators (courtesy of Sekai Project) Yukie and AmetoYuki; ProZD (who had to cancel half way into Friday due to a family emergency), and some VAs and cosers I don’t know. It all seems quite suitable for a con this size, other than somehow the seiyuu guests. Fact is far most cons of this type don’t get seiyuu guests, if even JP guests.
As far as Taiyou Con’s nuts and bolts go, it hasn’t changed much since I last attended in 2017. I’ll cover the main difference this year and go straight to the guest content and travelogue stuff.
The biggest difference is they are doing more merch, part of it comes in the form of a limited-count (16) VIP badge. It gives you front-line access to basically every event, including autographs. I’m not too sure what the limits were because it was basically not worth it–all the events I attended had relatively few people. Maybe Saturday’s autograph session for the seiyuu had over 40 people, but other than that I didn’t see over 20 people for any of the other signing sessions nor were the panels anywhere near full. Plus, since it’s not like there were much at all in terms of programming conflicts, I was always near the front of the line every time, VIP or not.
The VIP badge also gave you some free loot, none which I particularly care for even if they were neat to have. Buying the VIP badge doesn’t give you badge mailing or priority pickup, so I still waited in line to pick up my badge. This is something Taiyou Con has to remedy IMO, especially since there was no pre-con badge pickup and badge pickup on Friday started just 30 minutes before the con started.
This year, Taiyou Con partnered with Sekai Project’s artists to create a 10th Anniversary illustration book. It’s basically a full-colored and expensive doujinshi (16 pages for $30 is very expensive by most metric), including some pretty nice artworks of the con mascot character. There is even a local artist in there and the artwork blends right in with the other Japanese pro-level stuff. I was lucky enough to even run into the artist later at the con, LOL.
I attended the live drawing panels for the two illustrators, and they were kind of cute, especially Yukie? I mean it in the fuwa-fuwa kind of way. It was also kind of interesting during Yukie’s panel when she went full speed ahead at shading and coloring; it was like watching a pro gamer doing Terran. The illustrators give the vibes of their illustrations pretty much.
On twitter, I took notes of the three seiyuu panels. In summary, basically during Reichama’s panel, we talked about baseball a lot. This is a bit reminiscent of when I went to see Kawano Marina at ANext a couple years ago. It turns out a lot of people have a lot to say about baseball, and it is one of those things that connects USA with Japan.
I made an effort to congratulate Reichama on her recent marriage. Her solo panel at Taiyou Con was her first event since the announcement. It was quite a short time between the con and the announcement, so we couldn’t prepare a proper wedding gift, but alas. She was surprised that we knew about her marriage, and commented that she’s surprised two of the recent ones married baseball players.
It was pretty clear that when you put Reichama and Marietti, as they are, next to each other, you have this more social, riajuu-y baseball nerd and the other person is just an otaku. It’s almost a bit of a female jock versus geek thing, except, well, they are voices for otaku works.
For Marietti’s solo panel, most of the questions were pretty much on Nana and the usual topics you hear at VA panels, like about anime and games. It is pretty charming how she got her comeuppance and her seiyuu story is one of the more interesting one with her mom being a big influence. It’s also a great opportunity to remember how good the first half of Penguindrum was, LOL. She came across as a very legit nerd with a focus on gaming, and a voracious consumer of anime. There is some kind of levelness with her being a part of the fandom she likes that I find immediately appreciative, and the legitimacy of her lifestyle is a solid backstop.
It wasn’t clear from the panel who knew, but a large chunk of Marietti’s roles are from galge and similar, so it was extra interesting to see Chris from Sekai Project stumble into her trap. It went like this during the crowd Q&A for her solo panel:
Chris: Are there any game projects or creators you would like to work with?
Marie: Oh, I was talking to people from Sekai Project in the Green Room, so it would be great if I can work on a project with them. Maybe galges or otome games, I can even play their games.
Me and some others: ROFL and pointing and laughing
Sujay (MC): Marie, this guy is the US head of Sekai Project.
Marie: I am in you care! My manager is in the back of the room, please talk to him.
Chris: O…oh…OK maybe later…
Marie: I am from Pro-fit, remember, Pro-fit.
The joint panel on Saturday was slightly more humorous than the solo panels. In the beginning, Sujay asked some basic questions like how they met, and what was their impressions of each other. It then came the obligatory guarded praising of each other. It seemed that they met at Penguindrum, so Etti had the lead role and Reichama praised her there “oh, that is the Pro-fit’s Miyake.” Etti sort of smoothly bounced the complement back right after, which was a bit funny. It was also amusing seeing Reichan recalling how they met early on in 2013-2014, with Marie totally not remembering it.
Outside of the panel, the guests basically were lead around the wilds of Arizona, which you can see on their twitter and Instagram. The autograph times were intimate and slow. Other than Saturday, we had easily 1 minute each per person and you could even loop. It was great. It was also weird knowing half the staff while trying to broke my nihongo and trying to convey something. Can’t really complain about more talk time though. I mean I looped two out of 3 times, that was great.
I think as far as guest-time goes, Taiyoucon was really, really good this year. It is definitely right up there at the best face-time con (much like the good o’ days of ANorth 2014) and since it is a tiny con relatively, laid back and no problems basically. If anything, the only problem I had was buying the VIP badge and realizing they still made you wait in line to pick up your badge like a pleb. I guess generally the con was pretty sweet too. But why even have a VIP badge though…
PS. On her stream show Home Run Radio with Hanshin-san, Reichama detailed a lot of her impressions of the trip, both at the con and at Arizona’s minor league/spring training complex.
PPS. Food-wise, I tried to grab texmex while I’m down there, but I ended up more Mex than Tex. The one taco place we went (which the guests also went) was pretty legit texmex. Then I independently went to this Mexican place which was great but my tummy dissents (not pictured). I also just ate too much trying to fit all the food in. The first day we went to the game, we also had some funky texmex at this Asian food place. Yeah, it’s surprisingly good? Monday night I was able to share a meal with some guys running the con and they took us to an even better Mexican place and it was really good. (Pics below in order).
Aside from Mexican-type(?) food, we went to Waffle House and I had a side trip to an In-and-Out. Sup I be tourist I guess.
There was also some neat cajun/creole food truck at the con, dishing out beignets and coffee, which is 1000% my thing on an afternoon at a con. If sweet fried choux pastry isn’t your deal, they also sold hot wings and tendies.
PPPS. It was also my first time at the Talking Stick Arena, thanks to bottom-tier NBA teams making this a fun weekend at the games with friends. Why? Because I can get tier-1 seats at $50 or less, which is some sweet jam.
At the second game that we went to (second!) they gave out freebies. Like what is this? We don’t have Takis on the East Coast.
PPPPS. There is one major complain after all: due to agency reasons, none of the guests could sign character goods. Maybe this is because of ANorth spillover from all those years ago, but it is a big bummer.