Hello everyone, I’m Boter. In lieu of today’s Boter Reviews Something, we’re doing something a bit different – a sort of recap for Otakon 2016. (I told Chuck I’d be out of town and couldn’t write, but he cracked the whip, so I wrote this from the passenger seat on the way home. Ahh, living in the future.) Don’t worry, BRS will be back next week! But for now here’s my piece on…
Otakon has been a part of my life since 2010, when I went with my then-girlfriend to accompany her to the east coast’s largest anime convention. I was only just getting introduced into this whole “anime” thing over the past couple years of dating her and I was excited to join her on the big event she’d go to with all her friends.
I proposed to her outside of a hotel the next year, we’ve assisted a friend in the artist alley for the past two years, we’ve made many memories and friends, bringing us now to this year’s Otakon – the last one on Baltimore, Maryland after having been hosted there for over two decades.
Let me be clear: This is not a requiem for Otakon. It still lives. Next year the con moves to Washington, DC and while we will be skipping it then in favor of some smaller conventions and events, we look forward to perhaps the following year. This is instead an informal recap of my time at the final Otakon in the Inner Harbor.
On the Inner Harbor in Mid-August
Last year we were lucky with the weather. With so many big and complicated cosplays, with layers and armor and all that stuff, it was comfortably mild. This year we had no such luck. Temperatures flirted with 100°F and heat index hovered near 115 on Saturday and Sunday. It put a major cramp on plans to go walking the area for Pokémon GO, but we still managed to eat at a few restaurants on the Harbor. Hey, I caught a few tons of Magikarp and evolved a Gyrados, plus some others I’ve had trouble finding back home, so it wasn’t all bad. We also found a few places we’d never tried before (the Cuban Burger from Frank and Nic’s Bar and Grille is one of my top ten burgers ever, easy). Still, with the air thick enough to justify Goldeen swimming in midair, we spent the vast majority of time indoors.
Any convention nowadays will have attendees in costume, but an anime convention is still where you’ll generally see it at its apex. I’ll be totally transparent here and tell you that I don’t watch a ton of different anime, so I’m sure that a lot of good ones passed by me. Still, it’s great to see the attention to detail in a lot of the costumes. My own was a rather last-minute number as a Team Instinct member from Pokémon GO; somewhat embarrassingly, it’s probably also the one I’ve worn that’s gotten the most attention. I saw plenty of other trainers and even some of the team leaders. Other properties represented ranged from Sword Art Online and One Punch Man to rebooted classics like Sailor Moon and Voltron: Legendary Defender. I took pictures of a few of the more unique ones I found.
Panels at Otakon are generally, though not always, run by fans. (I attended exactly one industry panel and it was pretty much the only one I’ve ever been to. But when it’s Funimation showing off their various upcoming 18+ releases, it was a very amusing one to go to. Um, apologies to all of my Twitter followers for the #FunimationPeepShow spam from my account on Friday night.) Fan panels are hit-or-miss; at their worst they’re a bunch of people reading straight from the PowerPoint slides or mumbling among themselves instead of presenting as a team, or too open to Q&A and allowing the crowd to dictate the direction of the panel instead of the structure that would fit the presentation best.
At its best, though – wow okay. So my friend behind me just sang, “Yaaa-maaa- tooo!” I’m writing this on the way back, we crossed a bridge, he saw a boat and thought of the panel I was just about to reference. So obviously, it stuck with us – “Nautical Nonsense: A Look into Japanese Naval History and the Anime it Spawned”. Starting with a historical overview of the significance of the Navy to Japanese culture, they continued on to classics like Battleship Yamato (showing the opening theme/credits) to newer series like Arpeggio of Blue Steel and… whatever Kancolle was, I’m not sure and have to look it up when I get home.
In fact I have a lot to check out – a good panel leaves you with a viewing list, and mine is nearly a dozen series long now. Nautical Nonsense did that, and they also succeeded in their stated mission to get the Yamato theme stuck in everyone’s heads by dubbing it over any scene in subsequent anime that the Yamato showed up in. Turns out it’s a lot; who knew.
I also went to a few 18+ panels. I’ll leave the subject matter of “Funimation Peep Show” and +2 Comedy’s “Beyond the Tentacle” to the imagination of the reader, but I will say that my wife drew a phallus on my face in front of eight hundred people, so it was a good time.
On Money Quickly Spent
Artist Alley and the Industry/Dealer’s Room are as they always were; smaller independent artists in the Alley selling prints and crafts, and bigger vendors in the Dealer’s Room. I splurged on a fair amount on Friday (did you know they made a Portal board game?! Expect a review soon!), and had to wearily agree with a shirt I saw on Sunday: “I am poor because of ANIME”. Though I didn’t take part, the live auction of pieces in the art show sounded intense. “125, do I hear – 200! 250! 400!”
I heard a staff member talking excitedly about the prospects for the two rooms at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, but there were no issues in the final year at the BCC.
On Workshops, Concerts, and The Rest
I attended my first workshop this year, Book Binding 101. With construction paper covers and some thread, we bound “books” in a traditional stab-bound style, and got a handout for how to do what we did so I can choose to try it out with higher quality materials. With such a positive first experience with workshops, I look forward to more.
I have never been to a concert at Otakon, though this year a friend of mine went to one by a voice actor that she said she really enjoyed, so there’s that. There are plenty of voice actors and other industry names available to get autographs from if that’s your thing. There’s a manga library, a talent show, I’ve gone for six years or so now and there are still things I haven’t tried.
On Planning Ahead
The date for the next Otakon is August 11-13, 2017. Keep an eye on their Facebook and Twitter pages in the coming weeks for hotel block announcements. If you want to go, you need to be ready to jump on hotel reservations immediately, or else you’ll be paying top dollar, be located too far from the convention, or both. Though it’ll be in a new location, I expect this to be the same for next year. Plan ahead, reserve your rooms, save up and as long as you keep the long view in the lead-up you’ll have a great con.
Just, be careful if your partner gets near your face with a magic marker while a comedian points a webcam at you connected to a couple of twenty foot high screens.
Banner image by Otakon. All other photos were taken by me unless otherwise noted.