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Animation convention draws fans from Auburn, Roseville and beyond

By: Don Chaddock/Gold Country News Service
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SACRAMENTO – Some popular Japanese contributions to society include sushi, video games and origami. But to those attending a Sacramento convention that drew more than 2,500 in one day, the most important is probably that of a stylized animation known as anime. Motorists passing the Scottish Rite Masonic Center would have been treated to a parking lot full of colorfully costumed convention attendees, many of them dancing, chasing each other or waiting in line to get autographs of some of their favorite voice actors. The SacAnime Convention is held twice each year, once in the summer and again in January. Robert Bisjup, the convention’s program director, said attendance seemed to be bouncing back over the previous year. “Friday was bigger than we expected,” he said. “Usually our Fridays are just average, but not this year. It’s good news, especially with the economy and all.” Scott Sampson, sans a costume, waited patiently on the steps of the center with a sign seeking other members of his fledgling anime fan organization. “It’s called The Auburn/Sacramento Area Anime Meet Up,” Sampson said. “But maybe I should shorten it so it isn’t such a mouthful.” He said his group meets once each month to watch anime and “just hang out.” Those who are interested in his group should visit meetup.com and type in the organization’s name. His Web site username is “Shirow.M,” he said, and meetings are posted on the site. “I’ve been doing this since last March,” he said. “We have four or five core members and others come and go. A couple of guys from Grass Valley are supposed to be here today.” There was no shortage of Auburn residents in attendance as well as many from the Roseville area. Alec Satterlee, 13, of Auburn, said he enjoys dressing in costume, having fun and learning the ropes of the artistic style he loves so much. “I come to SacAnime because I like it,” he said. “I like the art and I’m trying to learn how to draw it.” He came dressed as Sasuke from the “Naruto” TV series. Chelsea Mascari, 18, of Auburn, donned a wolf’s head and pelt as her costume. “I’ve never been to a convention and it’s awesome,” she said. “I love to see all the cosplayers.” “Cosplay” is what the attendees refer to as those who come in costume and play as their character. Marlyn Arancibia, of Roseville, watched from the sidelines as her 13-year-old daughter, Alexis, attended her first convention. “The costumes are so creative,” she said. “They’ve having fun. It looks like some of them you can make with regular clothing and just alter them a bit. Maybe next time I’ll come in costume.” Saturday’s convention opened at 10 a.m. and was slated to go until midnight. Some of the evening activities included a ball. “I’m looking forward to the cosplay masquerade ball,” Alexis said. Saturday’s featured guest speaker, actor Chris Sarandon, was forced to cancel due to a “family emergency,” according to event organizers. Sarandon voiced the character of Jack Skellington in Tim Burton’s “Nightmare Before Christmas” animated feature film. Anime show voice actors such as Tom Kane, Vic Mignogna, Laura Bailey, Travis Willingham and Ben Roman still drew a large crowd to their panel at 2 p.m. Another room at the center featured video games and tournaments. Kelley Gallaway, 13, of Roseville, was pleased with her first convention. “It’s awesome,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to go to one.” Some drove hours to reach the convention. Nicole Stevenson, of Vacaville, spent an hour behind the wheel to show off her Marvel Comics’ Black Widow costume that she made by hand. “This is probably the third of fourth time I’ve been to SacAnime,” she said. “I like being able to express creativity and be recognized for my hard work.” Other attendees, armed with cameras, asked to take photos of Stevenson as they bumped into her outside the convention center. Troy Dove, of Newman, drove a carload of four kids about two hours to attend. “I drove from the middle of cow country near Modesto,” he said. “I’m here with my son, daughter and their two friends. We flipped a coin and my wife got to stay home.” Rebecca Hicks, an author and artist, drove from San Diego to have a booth in the vendor room. “We love to come up here to the smaller conventions where we get to talk to people,” she said. “But, we’re missing our San Diego weather.” Her book is titled “Little Vampires.” “The anime crowd is very receptive to vampires. It’s just like when we were kids with ‘Star Wars.’ I wore those buns on the sides of my head (like Princess Leia) when I was young,” she said. “This is the same thing. Look at this. It’s OK to be a fan.” Kelsey Kraus, of Orangevale, penciled anime characters at a booth in artists’ alley. “I come to every convention,” she said. “This year I’m selling artwork for the first time. I’ve been doing this style of artwork for about 10 years.” Sacramento resident Nikki Plesha donned a handmade Batman villain outfit for the convention. “I’ve been to six conventions,” she said. “I like getting in costume and entertaining people.” Plesha was dressed as “Harle Quinn.” Mike Martin, of Citrus Heights, decided that it was time to clean out some storage closets and rooms. He purchased a table at the convention so he could sell some of what he’s collected for more than 30 years. “Being my personal collection rather than a store means I get to chat,” he said. “I’ve been collecting since 1977 and collecting anime since about ’80.” He said since he’s hit his 50s, it was probably time to get rid of some of possessions, including lots of “Star Trek” memorabilia. “My wife said, ‘How long are you going to hold on to some of this stuff?’ I looked and it and said, ‘Well, you’re right,’” he confessed. He immediately began researching the going rate on his collectibles and found some priced as high as $150 for a Star Trek starship model kit. Other vendors sold Japanese candy, kimonos, t-shirts, manga (comic books), videos, toys, stuffed plushie dolls and buttons. The convention’s Web site may be found at www.sacanime.com. Don Chaddock may be reached at donc@goldcountrymedia.com.