Update: I just noticed the article title was spelled wrong >_<
Arizona has grown quite a bit in the world of pop culture conventions. You can find a con just about every month of the year somewhere in the state. We have a few conventions that are similar but don’t directly compete with one another because of location or focus of the show. There are two cons that fight for the same attendees, vendors, and guests in the same city with the same focus: Saboten and Taiyou.
You might mention that Amazing Arizona Comic Con and Phoenix Comicon are directly in competition with each other, heck, they share the same building practically but the focus of Amazing and the focus of Phoenix are two different things. Sure, they have a lot of crossover but they are not directly in competition with each other. Which makes the battle for anime supremacy in Arizona all that more interesting, Saboten and Taiyou are in direct competition and it is only going to benefit you, the attendee.
Saboten Con is a yearly anime convention that takes place in September, which just made the move from Glendale to Phoenix this past summer. The show is put together but Monkey Paw Entertainment, who also runs Con-Nichiwa in Tucson, Furry Con in Phoenix, and Kikori Con in Flagstaff (not to mention Sabaku Con in Albuquerque). They have their “paws” (pun intended) into the major cities of Arizona and have the state on near lock down in the anime community. Because of when those cons happen, it would be rough for any other anime con to happen in AZ, especially if it was an up start. It’s only three cons but here’s the thing with conventions, even though you might be a completely different con compared to another one, you don’t want multiple cons in the same month, you’ll split your market. Exhibitors and attendees in most cases will pick one or the other, not both, which puts a ceiling on any potential success.
That’s where Taiyou Con comes in, the lone anime convention in the state that isn’t part of Monkey Paw and is keeping the company from total anime domination in Arizona. Taiyou started out a few years back at the Hilton in Mesa, just recently moving the con to the Mesa Convention Center and also part of the adjacent Marriott hotel. Funny thing is, I’ve never attended Taiyou before, it’s probably the last major con in Phoenix I haven’t attended and I plan on changing that next month.
I attended Saboten this past year as it changed venues from Glendale to downtown Phoenix, I wanted to see it what had changed, if anything. The guest line up was decent, the two main draws being David Hayter from the Metal Gear Solid series and a reunion of the Robotech voice acting cast. On paper it looked good but as I mentioned in my recap of the show, the Robotech cast was billed as the headlining guests and it just missed the mark, that’s not the demographic Saboten has. It’s kids, kids who are into Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, Love Live, Naruto, and newer “classics” like Dragon Ball Z and One Piece.
Taiyou Con is going to force Saboten, in my opinion, to reevaluate the guests they are bringing in because Taiyou has nailed it for its show next month by bringing in the voice actors for the characters of Goku and Vegeta from Dragon Ball Z, arguably two of the most popular anime characters. Elitests may scoff at that but the series has had their two previous films in theaters nation wide which did big numbers. The series is as popular as ever, no better way to make your mark in the con scene by bringing in what’s hot. On top of that, they recently announced Kappei Yamaguchi, a Japanese voice actor who has been involved in some of the most popular animes in the past two decades. If you’re comparing those guests to a comic book line up, that’s like getting Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo from Batman and then adding in Jim Lee for good measure.
Monkey Paw has invested a ton of time, money, and resources into the Arizona market so expect them to return in September with a better line up compared to last year. “Allegedly” one of the two conventions has been playing a little dirty but that’s a story for another time. The point of this is that if you’re in Phoenix and an anime fan or a cosplayer, expect the next two or three years to be really special, I think we’re going to be in for a treat.
I can’t say which anime con is better but you can! If you’ve attended both, which do you prefer and why? What would change your mindset about the other convention? I wanna hear your thoughts in the comments below.