This past weekend Killahbeez had the pleasure of experiencing another phenomenal Otakon. On its 19th year, the three day event saw a total of 32,724 membership attendees, a steady rise from last year’s 31,348. Having seen the schedule of events nine days in advance this year, I was ecstatic to see more Japanese mythology, Studio Ghibli and Osamu Tezuka homage panels were on the horizon. Adding to the robust array of events, there were even several food and beverage panels that made picking and choosing between shows and panels difficult.
As with last year, the best tools to have handy are the Guidebook app and the Awesome Sheet of Awesomeness. The paper guide proved most useful as a backup since we all love to use our phones as a point and shoot. And with the bevy of app guide updates, packing a charger is a must. For 2012, we were able to preview Crunchyroll and Viz Media’s industry panels, sat in on fan turned professional digital illustrator, Hidetaka Tenjin’s qa session as well as qa sessions from voice actresses Ai Nonaka and Aya Hirano. While these were all highly educational and fun to sit in on, the weekend left me craving three things: a need to stock up on some ITO En products (as if I don’t already drink enough Oi Ocha), attend a Nippon Motion event and bookmarking the 40 plus food related manga I didn’t even know existed.
Having been a fan and member of Crunchyroll since 2006, I finally got to sit in on their panel this year. Their way of engaging the audience upon entering the doors was having their cosplaying hostess Victoria Holden and a couple of “Ambassadors” hand out raffle tickets and Crunchyroll rubber wristbands. On top of the great swag giveaways, I left with a notion that Crunchyroll is truly a “For the fan, by the fan” kind of community and wide eye excitement that Crunchyroll will be accessible on PSN very soon. The next panel I sat in on was Viz Media’s where pop quizzes yielded PSP, XBOX360 and PS3 title giveaways. Keeping things entertaining with Inuyasha impersonations and Cantonese speaking lessons was spokesperson, Urian Brown’s segment of the panel. But I think what wowed guests the most was the announcement of Neon Alley, an upcoming 24 hour dubbed streaming network. Both Eric Eberhardt and Urian Brown mentioned that Neon Alley would be available on a video game console. While undetermined at the moment, I’m hoping its not restricted to just the Xbox360. Also making our nerd juices overflow with joy was the announcement of a Nausicaa manga release.
Saturday was filled with voice actress q&a session, our friend Rob Perry’s Japanese Cuisine and Tea panels as well as a die hard Ghibli homage panel hosted by Charles Dunbar. The q&a sessions provided fans with an hour time slot to ask questions such as the difference between a video game seiyuu (voice actress) and anime one. Answer: not different at all according to Ai Nonaka. But what drew fans in were seeing the cute expressions that each actress displayed while re-enacting scenes. One particular entertaining moment was when a fan asked Miss Ai-Pon to re-enact a very specific scene and she delved deep into character asking the attendee how it should be done. Our pal Rob Perry’s “Japanese Tea and You” panel provided attendees with education on full sun versus partial sun tea leaves, brewing techniques and what everybody came for – free samples. Meanwhile Darrell McinDoe’s “Mainstream J-Toons” panels opened our “Foreign eyes” to Japanese cartoons of yesterday that are still quite popular today, yet unrecognized in the States. One such would be the original yokai manga turned anime, GeGeGe no Kitaro. Having tasted an Anpanman azuki paste bun and seen the live action to GeGeGe no Kitaro, I”m suddenly inclined to find the original series for both shows/mangas. Last but not least, Charles Dunbar gave us a deeper look into the meaning behind the beloved Studio Ghibli movies. Whereas I could’ve read Helen McCarthy’s fangirl Studio Ghibli reference guide, Charles Dunbar summed it all up in an hour with lots of shouting and multiple instances of referring Lady Eboshi (of Princess Mononoke) as a badass MILF.
Sunday would have been the perfect day to hit up the dealer room and watch some recent shows, but instead I ducked into two great panels. One being Rob’s J-Rock and Ninjaconsultant, Erin Finnegan’s Cuisine Manga fan panels. Both had me taking down names of bands such as Zazen Boys, Mo’some Tonebender, Hinto and culinary manga such as Cooking Papa, Temps de Fromage and Doing Time. To be precise, there are now forty six manga I must read that pertain to food.
Overall, I’d say Bryan and myself had a successful Otakon 2012. Despite, not being able to catch all the shows and premieres we would’ve liked to have seen, the panels this year had us itching to dig up some older manga, anime and prep up for next year’s Otakon. And with some encouragement from our friend, Margaux Zion, yours truly may even want to participate in a ramen or Junji Ito fan panel next year. Mark your calendars, Otakon 2013 will be held on August 9th-11th. Once again, we’d like to extend a huge thank you to Victor Albisharat and the rest of Otakorp, Inc.
Below are photos courtesy of Bryan Johns. Enjoy.