Arts & Entertainment

Sakura-Con 2023 Recap

The pros and cons from my first conning experience.

Photo by Cole Martin

Sakura-Con 2023 took Seattle by storm only a few weeks ago; the event was larger than ever before, spanning across the two Seattle Convention Center buildings. The streets were filled with cosplay, even on the rainier days. The event spanned three days total, two of which I personally made it to. 

For those of you who are unfamiliar, Sakura-Con is an annual anime convention held at the Seattle Convention Center, with plenty of new releases, merchandise and so much more for anime fans to enjoy. Cosplay is huge at these events, with people this year dressed as characters from “Demon Slayer,” “TRIGUN: STAMPEDE” and many more shows and niches.

The panels and main exhibitor hall that held a large portion of the convention space were definitely the staples of the con, but for someone like me, the main event was definitely the artist alley. Hundreds of independent artists from across the country were selling their unique handcrafted merchandise. Last year’s artist alley had only about 80 artists; this year saw that number grow up to a whopping 300.

I got the full artist alley experience, being there for more than half of the time I was at Sakura-Con; I visited friends, met new people and healthily stocked up on stickers. I also had the chance to talk to some of the artists there a little deeper about how their experience at Sakura-Con was from a lot of different angles.

“The crowd was also really nice here compared to other cons… [Sakura-Con was a] great experience and space for artists,” said @davanchiart, an artist who draws cute anime-inspired artwork. 

Photo by Cole Martin

“Great turnout, lots of space, and an audience that’s excited to support artists making fan works,” said @fancy_plantsy, an artist specializing in colorful anime-style illustrations. “It ended up being reasonably successful financially and definitely rewarding to see that people were willing to spend money on the things I made.”

There were definitely some negatives of the con experience though. The Wi-Fi was terrible in the artist building, costing $80 per device to have any half-decent internet connection. This led to some big trouble with card scanners, getting in the way of a lot of transactions. The separate buildings weren’t fantastic either. 

“I kind of wish we were in the same building as the big events. I had someone tell me they ran to buy a print here to get signed far away and I imagine what it could have been like if we were in the same building,” said @tsaiberpunk, an artist who makes stylized manga-inspired portraits.

All in all though, everyone I talked to did have a really good time at Sakura-Con.

“Sakura-Con was an outstanding first tabling experience, primarily because of the artists who helped me through it, but also thanks to a fantastic gathering of attendees who shared many of the same passions for anime and manga as myself,” said @darkcore2943, an artist specializing in high-detail digital paintings.

The atmosphere was amazing; everyone I talked to was super friendly and enthusiastic about their work, passionate about their interests and made me feel super welcome regardless of my own interests. The people alone have cemented my Sakura-Con experience as something wholly positive and I would definitely come back next year; a sentiment reflected by the artists above as well.