Sierra Nevada Anime Fans Unite is Reno’s very own anime convention, an event created for the lovers of the genre to dress-up as their favorite characters, read manga, watch anime and enjoy other activities. The convention held at the Grand Sierra Resort ran from Oct. 29 to Oct. 31 and raked in over 2,000 attendees.
The convention is owned and run by three individuals, Meghan “Beta” Doyle, Thomas Kelly and Sam Haynes, two of them being University of Nevada, Reno alumni. The convention’s inception was started at the UNR Anime and Manga Society, a club Beta and Kelly were a part of.
“We always did an annual Halloween party, and our last annual Halloween party that we did in 2009, we ran it as like a little mini convention,” said Beta. “That really got us all psyched up to do something bigger.”
SNAFU was put on as an official convention in 2010, with them celebrating their eleventh year in 2021.
“None of us really had run any of this stuff. We just were fans, and we went into it with enthusiasm,” said Beta. “And there was a lot of charm to that. It was poorly run, but everyone had fun anyway. And that’s all that matters.”
Since then, the team has learned a lot about convention life, but COVID-19 was something they had never planned for. In response to the ongoing pandemic, the convention announced a vaccine and mask mandate for all attendees.
“[I]t’s been just heartbreaking to me personally to tell people that ‘no, you can’t come because you’re not vaccinated,’” said Beta. “But we’re trying to be as safe as we possibly can.”
The convention was, still, focused on making the event accessible to all, with larger events, like their rave, being streamed through their Discord.
The convention has a very consistent fan base, with many being repeat attendees. One of them being Ven, a cosplayer dressed as Yumemi Yumemite from “Kakegurui”, a popular gambling anime. The attendee did not give The Nevada Sagebrush their full name due to personal reasoning.They have been attending for six years.
“I heard about SNAFU from my friend who wanted to go … I’m still friends today with the friends that I met at that convention that year,” said Ven. “It’s just an overall great experience, a very nice environment, especially like it just feels like a very safe place.”
Throughout the convention, there were many different kinds of programming available for attendees. Those activities include panels, an artists’ alley, a manga library, a Japanese gaming area, vendors, tabletop gaming and a video room for attendees to sit down and enjoy their favorite anime.
The convention also has nine guests of honor for everyone to interact with and mingle about their careers and favorite anime. The guests all have very diverse skills ranging from voice acting, music production, art and sewing.
Lady Staba, one of the guests of honor and Reno native, specializes in cosplay and intricate sewing skills. Like many other attendees, Lady Staba has been attending the con since its inception in 2010 as an attendee, eventually moving her way up in the ranks.
“I have some panels throughout the weekend where I teach how to sew because my biggest strength as a cosplayer is sewing,” said Lady Staba. “I also am going to be judging the Cosplay Masquerade contest.”
The Cosplay Masquerade is one of the event’s most popular programs where cosplayers get to strut their stuff in the hopes of winning some goodies. According to the SNAFU website, winners get “prize baskets that include a physical trophy award, gift cards, and of course, bragging rights.”
“It’s a big event where cosplayers will get up on stage and they’ll do skits and they’ll show off their cosplay and everyone can take pictures,” said Beta. “That’s a big deal. We put a lot of effort into it and it’s always really great programming there.”
Amongst one of the largest areas was the vendor and artists’ alley where companies and artists could come to promote their work.
Not only was there plenty of anime and Japanese merchandise to choose from, but vendors were also selling diverse assortments of jewelry, clothing and accessories.
For attendees to wind down, they could go enjoy the manga library run by Matthew Miner, a longtime manga collector. The majority of the collection is owned by Miner himself with over 200 books just belonging to him. Miner is also a UNR alumnus and has been attending the convention since before it was called SNAFU.
“…[W]hat I basically do is I bring collections of manga that people have requested or that I own personally. And then I bring it so that people can read and enjoy them,” said Miner. “I also carry American comics like DC Marvel, Dark Horse, or I’m even bringing in some light novels.”
SNAFU convention is run as a for-profit enterprise, although all of the money from the current convention gets put right back in to fund the next one.
“I could talk for hours about this. This is really my favorite thing in the world,” said Beta. “But, you know, shout out to the staff who work really hard to make this thing happen.”
Emerson Drewes can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NevadaSagebrush.