It’s not just big eyes and little mouths at this fantasy fest

She was just another little girl hesitant to uproot herself when her family packed up their belongings and moved. But then they stopped at the side of the road and wandered into a rural fair. Her parents were transformed to pigs and she, along with a formerly human hamster sidekick, sassy bathhouse workers, and a coterie of mysterious spirits, had to rescue them from a bird-woman witch. Got that? The crazy array of characters and subplots of anime masterpieces like Spirited Away can be a little much for the uninitiated. But embrace the hypersexualized schoolgirls and brooding, violent, and oddly hot male leads, and you open the door to the crazy, emotive, beautiful, and often crass world of Japanese fantasy. The whole mad, mad thing comes to Seattle this weekend as Sakura-Con offers up karaoke, anime premieres, and more traditional arts like kabuki, the stylized theater of ancient Japan. This is where modern excess—complete with pink Hello Kitty electric guitars—meets a devotion to introspection, honor, and tradition. In addition to panel discussions and anime competitions, there will be memorabilia swaps, video-game previews, and seminars on setting up your own anime fan site. Some of the subject matter is very adult, so unaccompanied minors aren’t allowed in and the events schedule includes a rating system. Imagine doing tai chi in a miniskirt, platform go-go boots, and bright pink rouge and you’ve got Sakura-Con—don’t forget your Pokémon trading cards. Washington State Convention and Trade Center, 800 Convention Place, 718-2525, $60 convention/$30-$40 day. Events start as early as 7 a.m. Fri., March 28-Sun., March 30. LAURA ONSTOT

March 28-30, 2008