Tournament Recap: Japonawa 2014

Last weekend, I headed down to Tijuana for Japonawa 2014. This was my second trip south of the border to attend this event. Check out my article from last year to get yourself familiar with the history of the tournament, and click below to see more!

The crowd at Japonawa 2014

The crowd at Japonawa 2014

A Growing Event

What is there for me to say about Japonawa 2014? In many of the essential ways, it was the same as last year. The convention was very well organized, there were lots of colorful people and vendors, and the brackets were all full of killers.

The one very conspicuous difference, however, was the size. The attendance at Japonawa grew immensely this year, to the point where the massive outdoor venue got packed to the brim.

The biggest anime convention in Mexico

The biggest anime convention in Mexico

Everything about this year was slightly bigger and better than last year. There was more food, more cosplay, more Kpop dancing, and of course, more players in all the tournaments. As Japonawa is becoming more well known among the US FGC, big names in games besides KoF are starting to make the trip down to TJ to compete and enjoy the city’s nightlife and culture.

Clockwork, Hiro, and F Champ on finals day at Japonawa 2014

Clockwork, Hiro, and F Champ on finals day at Japonawa 2014

Mexico, Revisited

This year I was graciously hosted by the Japonawa staff, who took me around the city and gave me an inside, behind the scenes look at the organization of the biggest anime convention in Mexico. I spent the majority of my time hanging out with my old buddy Kira Yagami and Nightwalker, a member of the staff who knows the streets of TJ like the back of his hand.

From left to right: Myself, Nightwalker, and Kira Yagami at a dope taco stand.

From left to right: Myself, Nightwalker, and Kira Yagami at a dope taco stand.

I spent quite a bit of time chatting with the mastermind behind Japonawa, Edgar Vera. I found out that similar to playing KoF south of the border, running anime conventions in Mexico is a very competitive and cutthroat industry. Since 2006, Edgar has built his brand into the most recognizable anime convention around; not a simple task in a city that has literally dozens of would-be conventions every year. Through coordinating efforts with key local organizations (like Team Lago) and gritty determination, Edgar and Japonawa are at the top of the heap when it comes to conventions like this.

With Edgar Vera

With Edgar Vera

The Joy of Tacos

Oh Tijuana tacos, how I missed you! It’s no secret that the street food in Tijuana is plentiful, amazing and incredibly affordable. This year I finally managed to get my hands on some birria tacos, which are made with a stewed beef and served with a cup of the spicy stew’s broth. Birria is the go to hangover cure in Mexican street food. I can attest from first hand experience that it works. ;)

Birria tacos, a thing of beauty. $1.25 each.

Birria tacos, a thing of beauty. $1.25 each.

I am So Free

Whenever I play KoF in Mexico, I question if I even know how to play this game at all. The tournament was obviously stacked with killers from various parts of Mexico, playing unique teams with nuanced styles. One pleasant surprise I encountered was that there is a budding new generation of players currently on the come up. Scenes in nearby cities like Ensenada and Rosarito are growing out of nowhere, and the players are surprisingly young. The two players I lost to in pools were 18 and 22 years old. Even though I’m only 25, I felt like a senile old man compared to these talented kids. Shoutouts to Luisillo from Mexicali and Hollywood (aka Lan) from TJ for beating me.

Pool play on day 1 of KoF

Pool play on day 1 of KoF

The Finals

If you haven’t seen the top 8 archive yet, I highly recommend you check it out. Spoiler Alert: Violent Kain puts on an impressive showing, possibly laying claim to the title of having the most consistent Iori rekka loops in the world. In match after match, Violent Kain does literally DOZENS of loops without making a single mistake, OCV’ing noted players such as Huevo along the way. It was only appropriate, however, that he lose the final game of tournament to Luis Cha, after finally dropping a crucial tournament winning rekka infinite.

Violent Kain (Left) vs. Luis Cha in Grand Finals

Violent Kain (Left) vs. Luis Cha in Grand Finals

Twice Upon a Time in Mexico

What was most significant for me this time around at Japonawa is that it has stayed consistent. Consistency is, IMO, the most crucial factor for any tournament, and my experience this year has simply made me more confident in recommending this event to anyone who can make it. It’s pretty much guaranteed to keep on getting bigger and better.

Seriously guys, just go to Japonawa. It’s awesome!

Special thanks to Edgar Vera, Kira Yagami, Nightwalker, Chris Santoso, and Candy Bomber!

Check out Japonawa on facebook.

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