Hello. This is my first blog/thread posted onto the Giant Bomb forums. I apologize in advance for any typos or grammatical errors written in this blog, which I'll summarize my experience in attending this year's Otakon (Otaku Convention) held at the Baltimore Convention Center in Baltimore, Maryland on August 10 & 11. I thought it might be interesting to share since there's a group of anime fans here in Giant Bomb.
Overall, I had an enjoyable experience at Otakon, even if I have not watched an anime nor read much manga the past couple of years. Though my brother and I missed out on the first day of the convention due to work, going through the entire day on Saturday was pretty overwhelming and exhausting. Here's a quick list on what I liked and didn't like at Otakon 2013.
Lots of Activities: There were plenty of events offered at Otakon, whether it's watching anime, attending panels, getting autographs from special guests, participating in workshops, playing video games, or browsing and buying stuff from artists/vendors, there's always something going on around the clock.
Energetic Atmosphere: There was a constant aurora of enthusiasm with I felt emitting from the Otakon attendees. A lot of them walking around with a smile, offering random high-fives and fist-bumps, and chatting with each other. All of the cosplayers that I asked to take picture for were friendly and didn't hesitate to stick around and pose for me.
Quality Cosplay: I was bracing myself to see some terrible cosplay, but that didn't occur at all. In fact, I came away impressed with the high quality of cosplay I came across at Otakon.
Lot of Non-Anime Cosplay: There were plenty of video game cosplay on display at Otakon, which makes sense on how much anime and video games blend in with each other. The majority of cosplay pictures I took were from video games, as I recognized those characters quickly. There was plenty of comic book (a lot of Deadpools) and other random cosplay on display.
Hard to Navigate Halls: I feel for the organizers overseeing this event as they were doing the best the can with the allotted space of the Baltimore Convention Center. Terrible logjams on the hallways and generally not a lot of open space to breathe. At the closing ceremonies, the organizers recognized the lack of space from the large amount of attendees and announced that Otakon will be moving to a much bigger center at Washington DC in 2017, after their current contract with Baltimore ends.
Volunteer Staff: I was in agreement with Zac from Anime News Network that the majority of the volunteer staff... was a bit "high on themselves." Some of them acted pretty crude while they could have handled some petty matters more politely.
Baltimore?: I apologize to those who live and love Baltimore, but there doesn't seem to be a lot of other options for those who want to see what else Baltimore offers. The inner harbor is beautiful, Camden Yards is right by the convention center, and there's a visitor nearby too. But... that's all I found from what I gathered from the Otakon guidebook on Baltimore. [Luckily, my brother did a bit of research and found some neat food places in Baltimore, though they were quite the distance away from the Convention Center.]
NOT TAKING MORE PICTURES!: I probably should have took pictures of the panelists, Artist's Alley, Dealer's Room, and Video Game Room to at least show something about them. I also wanted to take more pictures of some cosplayers, but either they were heading the other way or were occupied with something and didn't want to bother them from what they were doing at the moment.
Would I Attend Again?
I don't mind attending again, knowing what I know now. It was fun walking through the halls and looking at all the cosplay. The panels I attended were interesting and the Dealer's Room was tempting me to spend more. If I do go next time, I'll do my best to catch more of the anime viewings and industry panels. However, dealing with the overcrowding of the narrow halls and the lack of other areas to visit in Baltimore are definitely drawbacks that would make me second guess on going again.
Funimation acquired a majority of the Sunrise anime titles from Bandai and will plan to reprint and distribute in North America.
World Premieres of the final three episodes of Oreimo 2 and the English dub to Wolf's Children.
Vertical, Inc. (Manga Publisher)
I attended the Vertical, Inc. panel because I really loved the two manga I purchased from them (Sakuran and Utsubora) and love the more mature and out of the ordinary offering from their manga catalog. The panel was ran by Vertical's marketing direct Ed Chavez. He allowed some fellow Gundam cosplayers pose with him and I took a picture of the group. Ed also regretted that he didn't have a lot of time to talk about what he wanted to discuss, so he primarily focused on the current and upcoming releases and then provided a quick run through on how a manga gets from Japan to North America.
Ed gushed over two Vertical licenses that have been their highlights as of late, Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin (hence Ed cosplaying as a Gundam character) and Chi's Sweet Home. He discussed the struggle on how Vertical's plan on publishing MSG: The Origin manga against Sunrise's demands. He notes that Sunrise liked every volume to show a character, but Vertical somehow convinced Sunrise in using alternative covers for the North American release. In regards to Chi's Sweet Home, the tenth volume, which is going to be released this month, was going to be the final volume for the manga. However, when Konata heard how successful her manga has been doing in North America, she decided to write three more volumes of the mange before officially ending it.
One of Vertical's upcoming releases that I look forward to is Insufficient Direction, a silly autobiographical story of how Moyocco Anno fell in love with her husband, Hidaeki Anno. If Hidaeki Anno's name sounds familiar, he's the guy who directed the Neon Genesis Evangelion anime. Ed also revealed that Hidaeki is a huge sci-fi geek and is a vegan. It'll be interesting to see Moyocco's side on how she fell in love with Hidaeki and whatever personal peeves that have.
Another upcoming Vertical release that got me excited was Tropic of the Sea. I was excited to hear this release because this manga was written by the late Satoshi Kon, the famed director of many noteworthy anime such as Perfect Blue, Tokyo Godfathers, Millennium Actress, Paranoia Agent, and Paprika. Before he went full time as an anime director, he was a manga author. Ed did say that his trademark psychology is prevalent here in this manga, and showed a page of how well he can draw.
I was intrigued and applauded Vertial's lone new acquisition revealed to the panel, What Did You Eat Yesterday? The manga is a story of a gay couple, one of the a lawyer, the other a hairdresser, as they discuss how their days are going over dinner. Ed stated that this story revolves around a true gay couple and touches on the challenges each face concerning their relationship. They are scheduled to release the first volume in March 2014 and spans through ten volumes.
In the second half of the panel, Ed quickly ran through the process on how a manga gets from Japan to North America. He didn't have time to go through the details, but listening to him explain the process, I certainly had much respect for all companies, especially the smaller ones, on how tough it is to license a title to here. One interesting fact that was first touch on was royalty payments. In the western territories, the amount of the royalty payment results on how many copies of the manga were sold. In Japan, royalty payments are dependent on how many copies of the manga were printed. There was also a distinct difference on how much of a cut of the sales the different parties make with printed copies versus digital copies.
How to Build an Arcade Stick 201
This panel was presented by a group called Destruction XIII, led by Shoryuken editor MyLifeIsAnRPG. This is a continuation of their panel from last year. This year, they primarily focused on crafting a new stick called the "Stick-Box", dual-modding, and touched on a few other aspects of stick building. It was interesting to see a fight stick that has both a joystick and hitbox buttons on a box. It looks weird, but the panel explain on the many advantages and shortcuts that players can use with a combination of the joystick and hitbox in a fighting game. One example on how this stick-box is advantageous over conventional fight sticks is the use of charge characters. Stick-box users can simply hold back on the stick, then press the forward hitbox button to perform the charge special attack, instead of having to hold back the stick, then pushing the stick. It was also interesting to note how folks figured out how to use the PCP wiring with the X-Box 360 and Playstation 3 controllers and a whole bunch of other jazz to construct an arcade stick. Though only a small group of people attended the panel, the folks who did attend seemed to have some experience in modifying joysticks, asked some technical questions, and were interested for a third panel in next year's Otakon.
I regret not taking a picture of the "stick-box" before leaving the room. Shame on me.
The Weirdest Video Games 3
A panel ran by some internet gaming group that I cannot recall where they discuss a number of weird games. This is their third year at Otakon and it seemed like they had a big following from their first two panels. The group wanted to showcase a lot of games, but due to time constraints, they quickly buzzed through the games they wanted to discuss. Though the majority of the crowd seemed to enjoy the panel, I came away from it less than impressed. I was hoping they were going to pull some deep weird games that no one's heard of, but most of the crowd and I recognized the majority of the titles the group discussed. Some titles that I can recall that were mentioned were Octodad, I Want to Be the Guy Gaiden, SD Snatcher, Street Fighter II: Koryu Edition, and Arm Joe.
ANNCast (Anime News Network's Podcast)
I was getting pretty tired and was hesitant on attending the Anime News Network panel, but I was interested in seeing the ANN personnel in person. I didn't know that they were recording the panel as a podcast. Unfortunately, the panel was not recorded, so those who attended the panel got themselves into a "lost episode" of the ANN podcast. They started off with the cast briefly giving their impressions of Otakon, as this was their first time attending this anime convention. All four (Zac, Justin, Bamboo, and Hope) were generally pretty impressed with Otakon, especially Bamboo. She summarized the atmosphere at Otakon to be passionate and energetic, while Anime Expo's (held in Los Angeles) attendees were more tame and lax. I was surprised to hear her flat out saying that she's enjoyed Otakon much more based on her lone attendance here over Anime Expo.
The majority of the panel consisted of the ANNCast fielding questions from the fans. They had some guests from the industry join in and they took a few questions as well. Zac and Justin answered most the questions while Bamboo, Hope, and the guests pitched in when they can. There was a funny moment regarding a fan asking a question to one of the guests, and the guest promptly danced off the stage. Some other highlight moments was Zac calling out on Vic Mignogna (voice actor), Sentai's English dubs (shitty), and the Otakon staff, and Justin defending Wolf's Rain and providing some anime industry insight.
Dealer's Room / Artist's Alley / Video Game Hall
My brother and I spent a good chunk at Otakon roaming through the Dealer's Room. He was focusing on purchasing some items for his friends for the occasion, since no one that he asked was willing to go. I went after the items that interested me. I was tempted to buy some more items, but I kept my expenditures to a modest amount. The lines leading up to the opening of the Dealer's Room was long on Saturday and Sunday and it was a pain walking through the crowded narrow halls in between where all the vendors are settled. I accidentally bumped into a lot of people in the hall. There were a ton on vendors in the hall selling a variety of items: manga, anime DVDs, figurines, plushies, wall scrolls, wigs, video games, etc. It was pretty overwhelming. Here's my haul.
- Valkyria Chronicles Art Book $50
- Chie Persona 4 Arena Figurine $42
- Naoto Persona 4 Arena Figurine $42
- Madoka Magica Wall Scroll $17
- Mitsuru Persona 4 Arena Keychain $12
We only spend a short time walking around Artist's Alley. I was admiring all of the work the artist were providing, but was not intent on purchasing any of their works. The video game hall had plenty of games and stations, but neither my brother or I played a lot of games in the hall. In fact, I didn't play any games at all! My brother resorted to playing a few sessions of Beatmania and Pop 'n Music. They were running tournaments for the bigger fighting games (SF IV AE 2012, UMvC3, TTT2, and Injustice). Otherwise, it was a casual place where folks can go in and play. There was also a section for trading card fans with tables setup to play card games. Unlike the Dealer's Room, not a lot of folks ventured into Artist's Alley and the Video Game Hall, so it was nice to walk around, enjoy the sights, and rest up the legs.
Yoko Kanno Concert
Yoko Kanno closed out Otakon with a wonderful concert. I couldn't get tickets to see her with my own eyes as there was already a long line to get Yoko Kanno tickets when we arrived at Otakon Saturday morning. So my brother and I had to settle in watching her performance through a simulcast broadcasted to of the video rooms. She played a mixture of anime songs and jazzy originals. Kanno requested that no shots or camera recordings as she had a visuals complimenting her performance. Her piano was covered in some sort of foam so that it can capture the projection of the visuals on the piano. I recognized the three Cowboy Bebop songs she played ("Tank" [twice!], "See You Space Cowboy", and "Wo Qui Non Coin." She was pretty energetic herself throughout the set, bopping constantly on her seat as she played and constantly thanking the audience. One interesting song she played in her set was the United States national anthem. Once folks figured out that she was playing the US anthem, the entire audience sang the lyrics.
Alright, probably what folks are looking forward to. Here are the pictures I took of the cosplayers I asked to take a picture of. I'm sure most of you will know what character each person is cosplaying as. [I apologize for a few blurry pictures.]
Enjoy the pictures and thanks for reading.