Hale, Riegel and O’Brien take center stage at Bak-Anime

Graham C Wheat, Editor-in- Chief

Brightly colored hair or wigs and labor-intensive costumes – from the ingenuously designed to the downright funny – completed the repertoire of characters that descended on downtown Bakersfield for this year’s Bak-Anime on Nov. 2-3.

The convening of all this videogame, manga (Japanese comics), and anime took place in the west wing of the Marriot Hotel on Truxtun Ave. for this year’s convention. The patrons of the convention prompted the move, and convention director Steve Wyatt, who also staged this year’s Bakersfield Comic-Con, heard their voices.

“We just really needed a bigger place to hold the event,” said Wyatt regarding the move to the new location.

This year’s convention had costumed fans spilling out into the lobby of the hotel, including an Ezio Auditore from the Assassin’s Creed games who posed for photo-ops by sitting, seemingly relaxed, in the main entrance lounge chairs, not speaking a word and stoically peering into the distance. Some attendees took a seat and snapped a picture, giggling heartily as they exclaimed, “I got a picture, he looks so cool,” and running away.

The convention touted quite the display of big names.  Voice actress Jennifer Hale, of Mass Effect fame, headlined. She had many people wrapped around the hotel waiting to get an autograph.

Hale was accompanied by two big-name voices and writers in the video game and anime world:  Liam O’brien, whose list of director/voice-actor work reads like a phone book, and Sam Reigel, who also has a stake in the voice-acting world as Donatello in the recent Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot from 2003. O’brien and Reigel also hosted an edition of their podcast “All Work No Play” while at the convention for an adults only audience. The general consensus from numerous cosplayers questioned was that Bakersfield had big convention names, with a small convention feel.

Friendships and community were the order of the day for Bak-Anime.

At one point barter being hashed out at a merchandise table was overheard for a special edition Mass Effect 3 with Hale’s signature. In exchange for some really nice anime collectibles, the young man dressed as “Vash the Stampede” from the popular Trigun series eventually decided it had too much sentimental value and called it off.

This community of nerd-dom was represented in full effect by some known entities in Bakersfield. While there were many table-top card games to play, Pro Lab Gaming was hosting friendly fighting game tournaments, with their most popular being a 32-man Super Smash Brothers tournament. Head of PLG Chris Guillen was happy with the representation that was brought to the outing.

Numerous vendors also had a friendly vibe and a local connection.

The Iron Goblin, brainchild of part-time Bakersfield College graphics department employee Erick Main, was represented with their many faces. Main, who sculpts and designs monster and character masks, was pleased with the turnout of the convention, although he said he wished he would have catered more to the crowd at hand.

“We sold a lot of the small pieces, as opposed to the full masks. Next time I know to make more creepy jawbones.” Main elaborated that the making of the masks takes at least a day, even for the small pieces due to setting time.

The two days of fun built many friendships and solidified old ones. Cosplayer James Marquez, who was dressed as Ein, the Corgie from Cowboy Bebop, remarked, “I made like three new friends here this year, and they weren’t even in costumes. I hope next year it is bigger and lasts the whole weekend.”