When an individual or group considers going to a convention, many questions come to mind while trying to determine if the convention is right for them. Will the convention feature like-minded people? Do I want to dress up in any certain way to celebrate the occasion? Are there any activities that I/we would like to take part in? With just those three questions alone, a person or group may decide whether or not they want to attend a convention. For Pittsburghers and those living close to Pittsburgh, the Sangawa Project tends to be an escape from the stress of everyday life, and a time when Anime and video game lovers alike can share in their mutual interests.
The Sangawa Project was first established in 2011 by the Pittsburgh Japanese Cultural Society. Unlike its counterpart, Tekko, the Sangawa Project 2017 welcomed a smaller crowd at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Green Tree, Pennsylvania where guest could escape from the cold and warm up with each other, fueled by their burning love for anime, video games, and pop-culture. In order to attend The Sangawa Project 2017, Con-goers had to be at least 18 years old due to the Adult content discussed in a variety of different panels. For those who were over the age of 21 could sample a variety of Japanese libations with the purchase of a Sangawa Project 2017 tumbler.
Although it was our first time covering the Sangawa Project, there were some key differences that we noticed that differentiated it from its counterparts: as mentioned before, the Sangawa Project was limited to adults over the age of 18; the age restriction allowed for con-goers to be themselves and express their ideas in a friendly non-censored environment; throughout the weekend, con-goers had the ability to use the DoubleTree’s indoor pool. Spacing was barely ever an issue with each panel having more than enough room to host a variety of guests; the only problem that emerged with spacing was due to the amount of socializing outside of the room and the 21 and over drink tasting.
The Sangawa Project 2017 offered congers a variety of different activates to satiate their pop cultural needs, like a variety of panels ranging from how to be an anime journalist to Yuri Bingo. Like many other anime conventions, The Sangawa Project welcomed voice actors, Colleen Clinkenbeard and Rob McCollum, to take part in the festivities.
Colleen Clinkenbeard is best known for her roles of Riza Hawkeye (FMA), Monkey D. Luffy (One Piece), Angela Blanc (Black Butler), Erza Scarlet (Fairy Tail) Vamp Moka (Rosario + Vampire), Momo Yayoyorozu (My Hero Academia) and Lilith (Borderlands). Some of Rob McCollum’s best known roles are: Seijuro Mikoshiba (Free), Red Eye (Assassination Classroom), Arata Kirishima (Tokyo Ghoul), Reiner Braun (Attack on Titan), Jellal Fernandes (Fairy Tail), Mifune (Soul Eater), Donquixote Doflamingo (One Piece), War Mage (Orcs Must Die), and Axton (Borderlands 2).
During our time at The Sangawa Project, we had the opportunity to take part in the Cosplay Battle Royal. Although we were able to make it to the quarterfinals, we suffered a quick defeat to the hands of a Skull grunt and her Mimikyu. For attendees who were less interested in panels, The Sangawa Project offered game rooms so that con-goers could fight to their heart’s content in a variety of fighting games including Super Smash Brothers, Tekken, Street Fighter, Guilty Gear, BlazBlue, and Soul Caliber. Other gamers had the option to play board or card games against their peers.
Even though the DoubleTree’s rooms offered a lot of space for attendees, The Pittsburgh Japanese Cultural Society may have to consider relocating The Sangawa Project due to incidents that arose during the convention. Throughout the event, attendees faced multiple circumstances that tarnished the weekend festivities. The first and most severe incident involved hotel guests from out-of-town for a hockey tournament. Throughout the weekend, Con-goers were verbally demeaned and physically harassed by the hockey guests, and when confronted about the situation, con-goers were told they were to blame for either “being too loud or dressing too provocatively.” During the weekend, the hockey guests were responsible for pulling the fire alarm, breaking a glass bottle and going into the pool, knocking on doors in order to potentially steal other visitors’ possessions, sexually harassing cosplayers and convention goers, assaulting hotel security, and attempting to sneak into panels without purchasing a ticket.
Although the hockey families were probably the worst part of The Sangawa Project, the poor attention to details from the hotel’s Starbucks staff left con-goers and visitors alike infuriated at the multitude of screwed up orders. The final straw was when an altercation between con-goers, security, and the hockey families took place in the hotel’s pool. This altercation was caused when hotel security attempted to enforce local curfew which would require the children to be in their rooms or out of pool grounds. Enraged, one hockey dad laid hands on the security guard, which resulted in all pool goers being required to leave the pool grounds. Con-goers were then forced to stay in the convention rooms or their hotel rooms.
Despite the unfortunate circumstances that occurred between the hotel staff, hockey families, and con-goers, this would not dissuade attendees from having fun. What do you get when you combine frustrated con-goers and DnD? You get a tentacle monster that is actually Ron Jeremy, Always Sunny in Philadelphia quotes, an adventure to find Pokemon cards, and a Rogue that is afraid of the dark. In an improve adventure of DnD, guests were able to choose the weakness of each character while helping to decide how the journey unfolded. What’s worse than an army of the undead? A giant tentacle monster called the Herpatesticles that is hiding in the school’s basement. In order to access the basement, the party used a unicorn’s horn to pay the troll toll and unlock the secret door hidden in the boy’s locker room.
Although the Sangawa Project 2017 provided con-goers with a variety of events to attend, many attendees decided not to return Sunday morning after the events that had transpired the previous two days. We are thankful that we were able to attend such a recluse and friendly convention that welcomed a variety of participants even if other guests from the hotel did make the weekend less hospitable. Hopefully, next year’s Sangawa Project will be less controversial than 2017’s. With growing attendance, the Pittsburgh Japanese Cultural Society will need to decide whether or not they need to move The Sangawa Project from The DoubleTree in Green Tree to a different venue.