Last year I got to attend Saboten for the first time ever. Prior to that convention, I had heard wonderful tales about how much fun everyone always had and when I went myself, the stories rang true! You can read last year’s review of Saboten here! While I did have a great time, my biggest complaints were in regards to food and vendor hall size. Had they fixed just one of those two issues even just a tad but I would have been over the moon. Despite those issues it was still a life changing weekend for me in 2015, so I was excited to check how 2016’s Saboten was going to be.
However, Saboten seems to be a wild stallion that you can just never predict and that is what makes it majestic!
How did they do this year? Let’s dive right in!
Focusing on one of my biggest complaints from last year was the lack of food options. For Saboten, they used the Sheraton Grand Hotel located in Down Town Phoenix and offered a cafe bar that served basic food and drink options at a reasonable price as far as conventions go.
Outside of the convention were various other food options such as Hooters, Corner Bakery, Starbucks, etc. While these are good options, you still need to walk away from the convention in order to get food. What I did not know last year was that the Sheraton Grand Hotel actually had both a bar and a restaurant attached to it. During happy hour the food and drink at the bar was incredibly cheap!
This year they stepped up their game by not only informing everyone of the food options but also offering special deals to save their attendees a few bucks during Saboten! It was a wonderful addition to their event and was well appreciated by con goers such as myself!
Last year at Saboten the staff were fantastic in every single way as far as assisting with directions or any issue big or small. This year, I had legitimate concerns from my side as press and had mini heart attacks but they were short lived as the staff went above and beyond to assist, even the owner himself came to help me and my staff out.
I honestly can not thank them enough for their hard work and dedication! They could have simply let us struggle with our issues during the weekend but they did everything they could to make things right. Even going beyond press activity, I’ve had friends upon friends who told me stories of how pieces of their costume would fall off and staff would help either put it back on or ensure all pieces were found so the cosplayer could take care of it later.
Vendors informed me that the staff did their best to ensure everyone was comfortable and all around they were fantastic!
Parking in down town Phoenix is always a nightmare with it’s one way streets and various parking garages with odd prices. It’s the major pain point for conventions in down town. However Saboten bent over backwards to help their attendees once again by offering full on free parking! They gave details to the location, which was only a short walk away from the convention itself and saved a great deal of money for a lot of con goers so they could spend their hard earned cash on what they really wanted!
Saboten did not have to do this at all and convention goers would have never once complained and yet they still went through with it because they wanted to ensure their fans had a great experience. Let that just sink in for a moment!
The guests for Saboten were incredible. We are talking international cosplayers Reika and Giada Robin to Lady Beard and a whole list of bands from Slants to Kazha Band! I was absolutely blown away by the guest list this year, especially since last year they brought the fantastic David Hayter! I was able to attend a number of panels for the guests, my personal favorite was of Giada Robin, where she discussed being an international cosplayer and experiencing conventions from all over the world. She showed videos of conventions that take place completely out doors or on beaches, she was excited and so welcoming to all of her fans, it was a delight.
I can not forget to mention Lady Beard! This Australian pro wrestler lives in Japan and performs as a five year old Japanese girl. I know, I know, if you are not familiar with this majestic creature, you might be confused and weirded out but I can assure you he s awesome incarnate. He waltzed on stage and gave an incredible singing performance which turned into wrestling his enemies! What other convention can you say you experienced that at?! It was awesome!
The Arizona Cosplay Community was alive and vibrant at Saboten. Obviously, the Anime themed costumes were the most dominant, in fact a Madoka Magica group actually won best in show for the cosplay masquerade. The gems outside of anime were Heartless Aquarius’ Ariel costume, a Mass Effect Group and also an Overwatch group. Everywhere you looked you could see incredible costumes worn by beloved fans, we tried to capture a number of great costumes but we just could not snag them all!
Saboten 2016 was a blast, I already knew it was going to be great but my mind was just wrecked by what I experienced. Personally, I enjoyed Saboten more than Anime Expo or Phoenix Comicon. While the big daddy conventions are wonderful, there is something so intimate and personal about medium sized conventions. I would also like to add that in addition to the free parking, Saboten also offered con goers the chance to upgrade their pass and simply pay the difference. Again, it’s something they did not need to do at all but just did because they love their fans so much! It’s the perfect blend of entertainment and events without the mind numbing lines. Whoever organized Saboten this year deserves all the praise because them truly have out done themselves!