Well its 2018 and that means another Saboten Con in the books, if your into anime and Japanese culture then this is the place for you. It’s held in sunny Phoenix, AZ at the Grand Sheraton Hotel downtown which is a great venue. The hotel itself is convenient to all kinds of restaurants and bars which I’ll get into a bit later. The convention itself takes up almost the entire hotel and is filled with vendors and exhibitors as well as panels and cafes. There is a little something there for everyone including the kids, with arts and crafts rooms and other activities geared towards the young ones. Every year they fly in guests from American and Japanese animation studios as well as voice actors from anime and video games. This year they had some of the voice actors from the popular Overwatch game and the band Kazha who have been on tour in the US for the past year.
Lets dive into the venue a little more before we get to the convention itself. I’ve gotta preface this by saying that I’ve stayed at the Grand Sheraton quite a few times over the years and I have never had a bad experience so take what I say with a grain of salt. The staff are great and very accommodating to both the convention staff and guests which makes your stay there as smooth as possible. The hotel itself is beautiful yet not too expensive and usually has a block of rooms at a special rate for guests attending the Convention which is a nice touch. Now the military part of me has to mention all the great drinking establishments in the area… (gotta feed the stereotype). Directly across the street from the hotel is a Hooters which makes a good place to start the night off. Then just a few blocks from the hotel is a little pub called Kettle Black which has great food and drinks. Less than a mile from the hotel is the Cobra Arcade which is a bar that has all the classic games like space invaders and OG fighting games just like back in the day. Another .5 miles from there is a little Ramen shop/bar called SoSoBa which has some of the best Japanese style Ramen I’ve ever had. Ten out of ten would recommend to anyone who’s looking for some great Ramen. All the places I just mentioned are easily within walking distance of the hotel.
Now for the Convention and activities, understand this is just some of the highlights as there is almost too much going on for me to cover in a single article. Of course one of the biggest attractions at the con is the Vendor Hall which has vendors from all across the industry selling merchandise from your favorite anime and games. Something Saboten Con has always done well is including and showcasing local artist in the vendor hall and this year they expanded that to include a separate area for some of the bigger name groups. Some of the items to be found in the Vendor hall include figures of your favorite anime and video game characters as well as posters and plushies and even some original artwork. This year they also had a game room which had everything from a Street Fighter tournament to card games and even a table for the ever popular Cards Against Humanity game, which is always good for a few laughs. Outside the game room there were panels covering everything from the newest anime to model building and gaming. A favorite of mine was a model display room for creators to show off their skills in kit building and painting. This included Gundam models and Warhammer 40K figures as well as poplar anime characters. Some of the activities for kids included an arts and crafts room as well as an area for them to meet their favorite anime characters. They had stuff going on from 8am to 2am so there no lack of activities to check out.
Now for the Special Guests and events that Saboten hosted. One of the bigger draws were the voice actors from the popular video game series Overwatch. Some of them include Feodor Chin who voices the character Zenyatta from Overwatch as well as Paul Nakauchi who voices Hanzo from the same game. They also had several famous Cosplayers at the convention who were wearing some fantastic costumes such as Leon Chiro who is sponsored by some large video game companies such as Ubisoft and Square Enix. Another recurring guest of the convention was the Japanese band Kazha which is a fusion of Classical and Heavy Metal. For the last few years Sabo has flown them in for a few concerts and I’ve gotta say they give a pretty dam good performance. There were plenty of other VIPs in attendance including some comic and animation artist including Masami Suda who is well known for his work as one of the founders of the anime genre as a whole. Some of the more well known guests also hosted their own panels and discussion groups in addition to regular appearances.
The event itself wrapped up on Monday the 3rd of September in the afternoon with panels and activities continuing into the evening. I closed out my Convention experience on Sunday as the real world called me back but I didn’t leave before grabbing a few drinks and some food by the hotel. All in all I had a great time at Saboten Con this year and I will continue to recommend the event to my friends and fellow nerdy veterans. If you are looking for someplace to hangout and get your fill of anime and Japanese pop culture in general then I would recommend checking the event out next year. I’m also toying with the idea of doing a Nerdy Veterans meet up/ drinking party so be sure to check next years schedule for that. As always stay safe out there, I am looking forward to seeing how Saboten Con will top themselves next year.