I’ve been going to conventions for a while now; starting with New York Comic Con back when I was still young enough to get in free under Kids Day, it culminated this year when I started going away to conventions with some of my friends. Namely, anime conventions. A couple of weeks ago, I was in Baltimore for one of the biggest anime conventions on the East Coast — Otakon.
For its twentieth anniversary, Otakon was in the same place; the Baltimore Convention Center by the Harbor. Lines wrapped around inside of the convention center, through many roped off areas and down the side of the convention center — and back, making it so there were two lines running parallel in two different directions. It was a gathering of people from all over the place. I had someone who had flown in from Canada in my own room and she makes this trip every year. It was pretty exciting, needless to say, coming into the Baltimore Harbor in a taxi on Thursday night, watching people already beginning to cosplay and start in the festivities.
In fact, it didn’t calm down after the convention center closed either (though, if you asked me, I couldn’t tell you when exactly the convention center closed; everyone claimed it closed at some point, but there was no one forcing us to leave the premises even when it got quite early in the morning). On Friday night, the first night after Otakon had officially begun, some people actually put detergent into the outdoor fountains, causing it to bubble and froth up so you could no longer see that clear water, simply massive amounts of white bubbles that were vaguely reminiscent of snow. No charges were filed, and the people who dropped the detergent into the water were never found. But for the entire weekend, that now-white fountain was almost a staple of the twentieth anniversary of Otakon.
Of course, the convention had a lot of things going for it besides the people attending it. There were many panels and screenings, including a screening for Evangelion 3.0: You Can (Not) Redo, which has yet to be released in America on DVD. They also aired episodes from shows like Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 (based on the DS game), Fate/Zero, while premiering the Rurouni Kenshin movie on Saturday, while still showing classics like Howl’s Moving Castle. There were panels that ranged from one about the Abridged videos, presented by the creator of Yugioh: the Abridged Series (the series that spawned the rest), LittleKuriboh, and went all the way to Amateur Voice Acting. There were panels that talked about Pokemon as a mythic narrative, and others that taught their audience how to talk dirty in Japanese. One of my personal favorites was a workshop entitled Jojo’s Posing School, where they taught the people who attended how to do the posing that Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure inspired, which made it seem like most of the characters lacked a spine. Yet, while there were panels like that in which they were just trying to have fun, there were also panels that genuinely sought to educate the audience, such as a workshop entitled Who Wants To Be A Voice Actor? where they answered fan questions about getting a leg-up in the voice acting industry.
All in all, Otakon 2013 was a hell of an experience. The attendees, the people running the event, all of it made it an amazing time for someone who was fairly new at going to conventions away from home. It made the twelve-hour journey to get there seem worth it, simply for the relaxation and sense of community. I was surrounded by people who were into the same things as I was, and who appreciated anime and manga the same way. It was an experience that I wouldn’t have traded away for anything in the world.