This past weekend Killahbeez had the pleasure of enjoying another fun filled weekend of Japanese pop culture via Otakon 2011. On its 18th year, approximately 31,348 fans were able to attend (and participate) a myriad of open panel forums, cosplaying opportunities, view anime series and world premieres as well as see their favorite singers, directors and voice actors in person.
Otakon as we have experienced last year can get very intimidating with so many rooms to view panel lectures, watch videos, etc. Our best approach last year was to have the physical guide handy and followed tweets. This year, Otakon paired up with Guidebook to provide a mobile application that included schedules, Baltimore Convention Center (as well as participating hotels) maps, link to Twitter feeds and even a to-do list. For those of us with iOS and Android devices, this was truly a blessing as we could custom tailor our own list of events and set alerts.
For Otakon 2011, my friend Bryan and I decided on a panel heavy weekend. From news, educational to open forum type, we got to experience the very best Otakon has to offer. Two of which really stood out were the Rumiko Takahashi appreciation panel and “Japan’s Intellectual Property Problem” hosted by the author of “Japanamerica”, Roland Kelts. Die hard fans Margaux Zion and Rob Perry delivered an hour long presentation highlighting Rumiko’s ongoing career as a mangaka’s (cartoonist) and all her accolades. Without completely deconstructing Maison Ikkuko, Urusei Yatsura or Ranma 1/2, Zion and Perry pointed out the human elements blended in with sci-fi or supernatural theme that makes Takahashi’s work so darn fun to read or watch. And it certainly wouldn’t be far-fetch to say Ranma 1/2 was an introduction to a lifelong addiction to anime for a lot of us. I left in astonishment that Ms. Takahashi at the age of 53 would choose to continue publishing manga on a weekly basis over retirement.
Roland Kelt’s panel, “Japan’s Intellectual Property Problem” was one of the more enriching events as it highlighted the definition of intellectual property and how Japan’s business traditions have hurt them. Having learned about Pokemon’s globalization and how they signed away their subsidiary rights to 4Kids was downright jaw dropping. On business tradition, Kelt pointed out that in anime production, the Japanese folks take pride in seniority. So even if a fairly young animator have a great idea for a series, movie or even a general lightbulb moment to streamline the company’s efforts, more than likely it wouldn’t be accepted. That is unless the young animator happens to be Makoto Shinkai, who’s a triple threat in the industry. Kelt’s lecture also delved into terms such as “Superflat” which perfectly describes characters such as Hello Kitty or Pikachu, “Limited animation” and Hayao Miyazaki’s thoughts on digital animation versus traditional. Of the above mentioned, I really enjoyed Kelt’s explanation that Miyazaki feels digital animation may provide a picture perfect film. However, its the that error that invites or rather provokes human interaction.
Over the course of the weekend, we also attended a Capcom fan panel and one other that highlighted the use of Japanese folklore and mythological creatures in anime. The Capcom fan panel by far was the rowdiest as the minute everyone was seated, one attendee immediately asked if there was good news in regards to the Megaman franchise. With creator Keiji Inafune gone to start a new company, Comcept, the likelihood of future releases on Capcom is zero. The panel also gave mention to upcoming titles such as Wrath of Asura, Street Fighter x Tekken and Ultimate Marvel Vs Capcom 3. And while the trailers aren’t the latest and greatest, I’m ready to dig deep in my couch for pocket change to pre-order all three games.
The Anime Myths and Legends panel was a pretty good exhibition of how folklore and mythology take place in anime and video games. Throughout the hour we were educated on different types of Kami’s (Gods) and Yokai’s (demons). Interestingly enough, no one took notice that the main speaker displayed a photo of Madara (Nyanko Sensei) from the series, Natsume Yujincho, and labeled him as an inugami (dog spirit).
No Otakon is complete without watching plenty of anime, a visit to the artist alley, dealer room and cosplay appreciation. With that said this past weekend will have me cueing up some Project A-ko, Maison Ikkuko and Ranma 1/2 for future enjoyment. Below are some applaud-worthy cosplayers seen this past weekend. Of the bunch, I thought the Big Sister from Bioshock 2, Otome Yokai Zakuro and Cobra Commander were all well executed costumes.
Finally, a big thanks goes to Victor Albisharat and the rest of Otakorp, Inc. for granting Killahbeez the opportunity to attend another spectacular Otakon. We’ll be looking forward to Otakon 2012.
Image Source: Bryan P. Johns