Otakon is the largest anime and Eastern pop culture (mainly Japanese) convention held in the East Coast. If anime, manga, video games interest you, this three day event is a must-attend. For seventeen years, Otakorp, Inc. has catered to this niche market and has seen growth of fan attendance from 379 heads since 1994 to 29,274 attendees. So I decided to finally make it out to what I call the “Winter Music Conference” of anime conventions.
Friday July 30th: The biggest challenge personally for me was figuring out what to do at Otakon 2010. With numerous panels, movie screenings, fan made AMV (anime music videos), guest speakers, a solid game plan was needed. For those that didn’t attend this year, but are looking forward to 2011, my best advice is to first go to Otakon’s site and register on the bbs. Tools like the event schedule online also are a great asset. However, at the same time, winging it like a free spirit can also yield a great weekend.
After registration in the Frederick Douglass room, I took a few minutes out to evaluate Otakon’s ‘Awesome Sheet of Awesomeness’ to gather where events were held. Fortunately, the very first panel I wanted to attend was one level down and around the corner in the Hilton. My first pit stop was voice actor, Todd Haberkorn’s panel. The voice actor/script writer/ADR(automated dialogue replacement) director gave an overview of his career at FUNimation, projects he’s provided vocals for and finally opening up the panel for fan questions. While there were many birthday wishes for Haberkorn to perform in different personas, one of the questions I liked most was about how to break into the voice acting market. Haberkorn gave some really sound advice to the audience and alluded perserverance is the key.
Afterwards, I met up with my friend, Bryan Johns who provided camera work this past weekend. As this was my first time at Otakon and his first time shooting cosplayers and convention crowds, we had to go over our agendas. We discovered this weekend the best way to make things seamless was to constantly go over schedules and keep up with the Twitter updates provided by Otakon and Otakon Press. A quick briefing over at the Starbucks inside the convention center lead to a few cosplay shots (see below gallery and Flickr) prior to watching four episodes of Funimation’s screening of Bamboo Blade. Although I tend to stay away from moe and/or kawaii (cute styled) animation, I do enjoy ‘slice of life’ anime series. And after four episodes, I’ve developed a need to finish the series to see if the luckless economics teacher/kento instructor wins his bet.
We took a late lunch break across the street at the Pratt Street Ale House. Needless to say anything within a few miles vicinity of the convention center was packed. But at around 3pm, securing a table wasn’t an issue. While a quick scan at the menu revealed average prices, the food was your standard ale house fare. Nothing too impressive, but it got the job done. It was also a good spot to observe the mediocre to the best cosplay outfits since we were directly across from convention center.
At around 4:25, we headed over to the Hilton for the Aniplex panel. By far, this was one of my favorites of the entire convention. The two spokespersons covered future US releases including Miracle Train, Gurren Lagaan (both movie and tv show), DRRR!! (abbreviated for Durarara!!), their Youtube Channel and social media presence. The biggest news however, was the US premiere of Welcome to the Space Show. Directed by Koji Masunari, this Miyazaki-esque feature was first aired at the Berlin Film Festival as well as the BFI Anime Weekend in the United Kingdom. So for Otakon to be the recipient of the US premiere definitely made headline news (and a livelier room). For those that didn’t attend, here’s a twenty-four minute trailer. As a nice gesture, the spokes persons for Aniplex gave out swag for those that stepped up to the mic to ask questions.
Towards the evening hours, Bryan caught a few more shots of Otakon cosplayers and we ended up watching five episodes of Shotaro Ishinomori’s Skull Man. This was presented at one of the larger video rooms close to the Charles Street lobby. What seemed to be a decent sci-fi horror anime with a great build up lead to a disappointment towards the latter episodes shown. Set in the 80’s, the story takes off with a down on his luck photographer looking to investigate rumors of a murderer donning a Skull Mask. The Towa Tei-esque jazzy house opening was pleasant to hear, but didn’t seem to mesh well with the theme of the movie. Although, we commited to the full five episodes, I don’t think I’ll be looking for the remaining eight anytime soon.
This concludes the first day. Stay tuned for our second day coverage.