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Sugoi Con - Author's Notes - 2003

Notes more or less finished in the first-come first-serve artist's alley:

Sugoi Con took a big upscale step when the convention moved from Erlanger, Kentucky to Covington, but that's been a pattern with this event since it began in a garage. At the entrance to the dealers' room, the author bumped into the "con mother," the woman in whose house Sugoi Con began as a gathering of a few dozen fans. She recalled the days when she'd fix food for those events, which seemed big because they filled her house...then she looked at the dealers' room, which was big enough to have held her entire house. The 2003 dealers' room had more space than the entire convention had when it was in Erlanger.

Fandom grows from generation to generation, and younger friends and relatives of Sugoi Con's founders were in the 2003 costume contest.

Conventions have to grow to survive, and Sugoi Con had outgrown the Holiday Inn near the airport. For 2003, they moved to the Northern Kentucky Convention Center in Covington, which is a much larger facility, better suited to an anime convention. Sugoi Con had to share the center with a group of mundane business types, but there was still more than enough room for everyone to stretch out and hang out. And as the convention gets larger, there's lots of space to grow.

Also, the new location puts Sugoi Con on the Kentucky side of the Cincinnati riverfront, which has seen amazing growth in recent years. This site previously noted the amazing Newport on the Levee shopping mall, a couple of miles east of the convention site. Along with those attractions, there's the twin hotels next to the convention center, and the Ohio River barge a block away with a night club and two restaurants.

The convention remains small and comfortable when compared to other events, but the number of new faces shows that there's a bright future for Sugoi Con. Some of the most interesting new faces were veteran congoers who came from the Chicago area who made an Urusei Yatsura cosplay group, featuring rare apperances by Lum's parents and Shinobu.

Even with the extra room, Sugoi Con kept to their practice of not havng a costume contest stage show. Instead, they sent entrants to a room where judges examined their costumes, while the rest of the convention had a karaoke party. One group might not have gotten the message and started a skit in front of the judges.

Depending on how you count things, Sugoi Con was this author's 21st or 22nd convention of 2003. Much of the time was spent in the artist's alley, selling pictures and copies of the cosplay book. The author brings demo pictures of cosplayers from previous conventions, and those pictures attract an astonishing amount of attention. The "A Fan's View" table seemed to have the biggest artist's alley crowd of the weekend, with a constant flow of people who stopped to shuffle through the pictures. Their expressions of delight never seemed to end when they saw a favorite image.

One of the big reasons the author went to the Kentucky convention was to see director and actor Taliesin Jaffe. This writer really enjoyed the Hellsing dub, and wanted to ask Jaffe about the work and artistic decisions that went into the finished product. Jaffe said it was a rough process, but it paid off in a successful show. The author hopes Jaffe gets a chance to reunite the original English-language cast if and when there's a Hellsing sequel.

In the meantime, conventions would be advised that if you want to get Jaffe as a guest, they should make sure that he gets the run of the dealers' room, and ensure that the room has stuff that isn't available in California. You'd think that California stores would have every anime item known to exist in North America, but Jaffe said he had to come to Kentucky to find one figurine that he'd wanted for years. He also came out of the dealers' room with a recent copy of the Replicant model and figure magazine from Japan.

The author got an amazing vote of confidence in his site at the end of his convention trip. Before rushing home through interstate traffic, he managed to slip back into the artist's alley for a couple of  hours. As he started to break down his equipment, a young woman rushed over with a sketch of her version of the Fan's View catgirl mascot. The woman was another artist's alley resident who had spent the weekend looking at the promotional posters at the author's table, and looking at the original mascot sketch inspired her to draw her own version. So, watch for another version of the mascot to appear on the site - thanks!

Usually, anime fans are so wrapped up in a convention that they're not interested in the outside world, but Sugoi Con had an unique distraction, the Michigan-Ohio State football game. The convention was in Kentucky, but it might as well have been in football mad Ohio, such was the importance of that red-hot rivalry.

When the author conspired to have the final score (Michigan 35, Ohio State 21) read at a Saturday afternoon convention game show, some members of the audience were heard to say "Oh no!" And when the author posted the score at his table, one female Ohio State fan was so upset that the author thought she was going to collapse on the floor.

Michigan fans just looked at the final score and smiled. And it turned out that some of the Michiganders at the Kentucky event were Michigan State fans who didn't care about the Ohio State game.

The weekend before Thanksgiving 2003 was one of the year's many weekends with more than one anime convention. For those who wondered why the author went to Kentucky, rather than heading further east to Virginia and Anime USA, the reason is that the Sugoi Con trip cost a lot less for the author than going to Anime USA. As has happened a lot in recent convention trips, the author cut back on his expenses by staying at the nearest cheap motel instead of at the convention hotel.

The author wasn't the only person who had to make that choice. Months earlier, a fan artist had agreed to draw program book for Anime USA, then found that the two conventions would be on the same weekend. Since that artist also serves as the living mascot for Sugoi Con, and since she has relatives nearby to baby-sit her two children, she decided to go to the Kentucky event.

The author wanted to go to Anime USA to see if the mood had improved from the previous year's event. In October 2002, the series of Virginia and Maryland sniper shootings was still underway, and that was as bad a time as you could imagine to have an anime convention. With John Allen Muhammad having been convicted of murder a few days before Anime USA began, and the trial of Lee Boyd Malvo underway, the atmosphere of fear from 2002 seemed likely to be gone for 2003.

But another sniper story involving a "Lee" came into play on the convention weekend. 1:30 p.m. on Saturday was the exact moment, 40 years earlier, that John F. Kennedy had been assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald.

The author chatted with some vendors in the dealers' room who were old enough to recall where they were when Kennedy was shot. One was a high school football player whose Friday night game was called off because of the assassination; they were playing a Catholic high school, and there was no way that school was going to play after the president had been killed.

Why would the author bring up such a sad memory? Because it affected the U.S. in a manner that wasn't seen again until Sept. 11, 2001. Even the deaths of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King in 1968 didn't bring the nation to a halt as John Kennedy's death.

And then there was one of those strange ironies that always seems to happen to the author. He booked a room in a cheap motel a few miles east of the convention center, and when he finally got settled in a room, it was room in PT 109, the serial number of the Navy patrol torpedo boat on which Kennedy served in the Pacific during World War II.

Besides, on the convention weekend, more Americans were obsessed with Michael Jackson's legal problems than were looking back at the Kennedy assassination. On the day before Sugoi Con began, it was hard to watch cable TV without seeing all-Jackson, all-the-time coverage. How long did viewers have to watch those airport shots of planes that might have been carrying Jackson back to California?

Those charges led a parade of stern-faced commentators on those cable channels to predict that the charges would end Jackson's career, but the author has seen evidence to the contrary. A few months before Sugoi Con, the author found himself in a shopping mall when he saw an oddly agitated crowd hanging around a store front, some of who were jumping up and down and yelling "Michael! Michael!" Turned out that Jackson was in town to give a deposition in a lawsuit and decided to go shopping, which drew the crowd.

So why would someone who is rich enough to afford anything decide to shop at a mall? Maybe to get some good publicity from the deal. Most people don't shop with a video camera watching their every move, but that's how Jackson handled it. He arranged for the stores to be closed when he shopped, but he also let a few fans in at a time to join him while he shopped, the camera always nearby.

That lawsuit claimed that Jackson had stolen material from former friends in Gary, Ind., a claim that would have been the sort of charge that might have discouraged the fans of some performers, but not Jackson's. They loved getting a chance to see their hero, despite what anyone else had said. That'll probably be true with the most recent charges. The people who went to the mall to see Jackson probably knew that he had previously been accused of child molestation, but they didn't care.

Another death had an ironic connection to this convention, at least as seen by this writer. In 2002, with Masao Maruyama of Mad House and dub actor Rebecca Forstadt at Sugoi Con, this author linked their involvement in the Metropolis animated feature film with the use of the Ray Charles recording of "I Can't Stop Loving You" in that film. To this writer, it was amazing that a country song written by a white composer and performed by a blind, black bluesman would be used in a Japanese movie.

Don Gibson wrote "I Can't Stop Loving You," and it helped put him in the Country Music Hall of Fame. Four days before Sugoi Con began in 2003, Gibson passed away in Nashville.

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