Saboten Con is an American anime convention held in Phoenix, Arizona and organized by Monkey Paw Entertainment. The convention is held on Labor Day weekend and lasts for 4 days (Fri-Mon). It is currently hosted at the Sheraton Downtown Phoenix. Saboten Con is the largest anime convention in Arizona with attendance reaching 5,137 for the 2014 event. via Sabotencon.com
Ahhh Saboten. The convention all Anime fans living in the valley love and adore. I had heard about it’s greatness in previous years but had never gone myself due to financial reasons. This year was different, however, due to the fact that our humble blog has reached enough traffic to qualify for media passes! I quickly applied to Saboten and they granted our request, I have to take a moment and thank Saboten for allowing us to have media passes to their event because it was a life saver. If anyone from Saboten is reading this, know that you have our eternal gratitude and you should have an awesome day because you deserve it!
Alright, enough with the praises, let’s review this!
This year Saboten was held at the Sheraton in Downtown Phoenix. Because this is my first Saboten, I have nothing else to compare it to and will review it accordingly. There were two floors that contained convention goodness, one consisting of panels and a gaming area while the floor above it contained the vendor hall and more panels. Starting with panels, I was able to attend a few and every experience was good. They had adequate seating, proper equipment for the panelists and things ran quite smoothly.
When it comes to guests, there were quite a few big names who came to Saboten, the most noteworthy being David Hayter who is most popular for his voice acting on the Metal Gear series. Although I was unable to attend his panel, I know of others who attended and said he was incredibly kind and had an overall good time. Friends went to the maid cafe, concerts and other events and enjoyed themselves. I honestly did not expect to be blown away by the guests but I have to say, I was impressed! I’ll admit that this aspect did make up a bit for the next two items.
The vendor hall is one of the two aspects that were main issues with Saboten in my humble opinion. When it came to the vendors themselves, they are very kind and wonderful people who were selling their wares at fair prices, I had no issue with them. However, they crammed a number of vendors into the ballroom and then let the doors open for con goers and the place became humid and hot incredibly fast. By the time you walked from one end of the hall to the next, you were sweating. This surprised me because I was under the impression that Saboten was one of Arizona’s largest conventions besides Phoenix Comicon and Fanfest. To have such a small area for so many people made the experience uncomfortable. I felt as though I could not properly browse all of the items because I was blocking the walk way. I will say that the con staff did a great job of supplying water stations all around the vendor hall floor to counter the heat, it saved me multiple times during the weekend.
The second concern I had was the lack of food vendors at the convention. I’ve been to quite a few conventions this year and every single one of them had their own food vendors to feed hungry geeks but Saboten did not. When con goers grew hungry they were forced to drop to the lobby and partake in the limited supply of food and drink the hotel food vendor had. Unfortunately, the vendor was very small and the lines grew extremely long. Other options were leaving the convention entirely to walk across the street and eat at a few other establishments which left you with two options: either go for cheap food and wait in line or get food right away but it would be a pricey tab. I would like to add two notes about this subject, one being that we chose to eat at Hooters and had a great time as we devoured burgers and drank beer. The other is that we discovered another food vendor on the outskirts of the plaza who sold hot dogs, chips and drinks for a very low price which made our day. If they were to add a food vendor or allow for food vendors to come closer this issue would be resolved no problem. (EDIT: A member of the Saboten Con team informed me that the food situation was completely out of their hands. Per the hotel, the only food vendor was their own.)
Now that we have the two issues out of the way, I would like to add that the con staff themselves were very kind and helpful throughout the weekend. The badge pick up process was fast, when we got lost members were able to direct us accordingly, any questions we had were answered, and they were just plain great all around. One feature of the convention that I loved was actually their Cosplay Emergency station where they had a number iof craft supplies to help cosplayers fix their costumes whenever they needed to. I think that other convention should take note and implement a station of their own since cosplay is incredibly mainstream and shows no sign of decay anywhere in the near future. Good going, Saboten!
I loved the gaming area that was set up for both board/card gaming and video gaming alike. They had a wealth of seating and consoles to play on that made jump in and game situations much easier. Although there were two to three vendors in the gaming area, I felt that there was so much room in the gaming area that more vendors could have been added to lessen the load on the vendor hall. I personally would have had no issues with playing Street Fighter then turning around and having a Street Fighter plushie vendor only a few steps away. (I’ve searched for years to find a Dan Hibiki plushie, one day. One day.)
Overall, I have to say that I enjoyed my time at Saboten and look forward to attending next year to see how they handle their ever growing fan base. They had a great staff this year, great guests, great events, and so many other wonderful things about the convention and I completely understand why everyone raves about it so much!
All photos were taken by Photo Arcade Photography