Kraken Con 2016 (Spring) - Convention Review
by Bryan Mero
As portrayed in the banner above, Kraken Con welcomes everyone! The convention held in the Oakland Convention Center always has it's arms wide for everyone to join in whether you are a cosplayer, a gamer, a fan or just a parent. There was always something to see, a panel to be attended or someone interesting to talk to.
Being an experienced Con attendee, including all the Bay Area anime cons, Sacramento and Comicon in San Diego, I'm always evaluating how each con is layed out and how it could improve. Kraken Con has this arranged perfectly. The dealer floor is a very large area. This gives a chance for wider aisles and a chance to stop and talk to a vender while searching for goodies or stop and talk to an artist showing off their work. You never feel too cramped even with cosplayers walking behind or in front from large faux swords, etc. The vendors always come very prepared with convenient layouts of product and the artist alley never ceases to amaze at the amount of talent that is out there.
In the same hall is the gaming area. One large screen was great for anime during most of the day but when the tournaments started they would show them on the big screen instead. The crowds were a bit sparse watching some of the video tournaments but it was still a fun time had by all. It seemed like most of the gamer fun was being had at the provided tables with retro and newer game systems and games for anyone to play. Bring your own joystick or gaming system. It also had a dance game, a few standard arcade games and air hockey (which proved to be very popular).
In the past I've been critical of cons where the panels are uninsteresting or no-shows. With all but one exception (a late arrival for karaoke), every panel I attended was on time and great. I want to give a shout out to AlienMatt for his great Cosplay on a Budget panel. If you ever ran into the Xenomorph Alien at a con, Matt was inside surrounded by tons of cardboard and paint. You can find him at his youtube channel here. Other panels were just a interesting but some were also fun. The improv workshop panel was so fun for the kids. Fully Unscripted presented the panel and showed everyone how to improvise and overall just have a really fun time. Karaoke has always been a favorite and people sing (good or badly) and those watching either sing along or encourage those that do. I met some great people and got to sing along.
I say it almost every time, but the cosplay just keeps getting better and better. Those that entered the cosplay contest and those who just came to the con were incredible. Daleks, clocks, elves, oh my! You name it, that character was there. I was also cosplaying on Saturday, and even though I was a less-known character, I still had someone stop me, say "Oh my god your Jerry from Rick and Morty" and wanted to take my picture. I think the most satisfying part of cosplay is bringing a smile to someone else's face.
Alright, anime fans sometimes get a bad rap of being some kind of subculture of nerds, geeks, etc. Like any group, club or organization, anime fans have a passion for their favorite story, game or character. This coincides with other people with the same likes or dislikes and a bonding occurs. Who could have thought a 40+ male like myself could bond with a 20 something artist over a cosplay? People are constantly searching for acceptance and love. Anime gives this in many ways, in a sense this is their sanctuary of ideas, dreams and hope. I was able to make friends with a couple of 'moms' who brought their daughters (as the Powerpuff Girls) and they seemed to have just as much fun as their daughters. They were overjoyed to see them have so much fun at their first con. Everyone should have just as much fun...I sure did...thank you Kraken Con, well done.
There was an animation contest setup by Kraken Con this year. The entries were incredible! They all looked so professional and the stories concentrated on friendship, family and heroes. My only wish is if they could have been shown on the big screen in the main hall...more people should have been able to stop and watch these amazing short animations.
The charity auction had some incredible items with some great deals. Unfortunately it was not well attended. Somehow this needs to be promoted more. I'm not exactly sure how, either an announcement on the main floor or just word of mouth from volunteers to attendees. Most people I talked to didn't even know about it.
Other unforgettable scenes:
You never know what your going to see at Kraken Con - Mandalarion vs Powerpuff
My son being interviewed by a media outlet from Pleasant Hill, CA.
Lightsaber workshop for everyone. It's not everyday Darth Vader gives you pinters.