This was my first Otakon as a member of team Killahbeez and as a resident Baltimorean it always holds a special place for me as my hometown con. The announcement that it will soon be leaving for Washington DC was both surprising and exciting, however it is a little upsetting to lose a point of pride for the Baltimore anime community. But it truly will be what is best for the con, one of the nation’s largest, to continue to grow. What this year showed me is that Otakon can continue itself as a must-attend convention for many on the east coast.
There are a number of things to do at a convention the size of Otakon. You can explore the vast amount of programming options offered on the schedule, from panels about Akira Kurosawa to alcohol to moe and everything in between. One can go to the immense amount of cosplay photoshoots in the schedule to see and photograph large groups ranging from League of Legends to Free!. It is also possible to get a great Otakon experience by just enjoying the sights and sounds both inside the convention center and out, from wandering cosplayers to a Zero playing chess. There are countless ways to make Otakon a great weekend.
What first might come to a lot of people’s minds about this convention is the publicized and maligned Thursday night pre-registration line. There has been enough written about that I won’t cover it in this column, but I did sit at home and reading social media as it happened. It is telling that an experience such as that didn’t sour many people on their convention weekend at all. By Sunday people are joking about it and it was out of mind for many others. Otakon provides any attendee with enough to do for 3 days that a Thursday night line becomes a distant memory by the end. Those who weren’t there will talk about the line much longer than those who were.
Of programming highlights one such was Tiffany Dawn Soto’s alcohol panels, which I had the privilege to attend one for a second year running. Her professional knowledge of Japanese drinking culture, history, and customs leaves her panels as some of the most educational experiences of the weekend. Furthermore there is the added bonus of it being about a great subject like alcohol. Tiffany lives in Baltimore and I am far from the only person hoping we get more panels of hers next year.
Another programing highlight is the growth of Kpop at conventions. Otakon in its ever expanding repertoire of East Asian options has been great at adding Kpop panels to its schedule. One of the real highlights of the convention for me was meeting more people who shared my music taste while waiting for a Kpop dance panel. We waited in line, playing music on speakers, and many danced along with their favorite songs. It’s the kind of experience that can only be provided at Otakon.
Whether it was a Japanese beatboxer and an Angel Beats! cosplayer jamming outside near the Pratt St entrance for hours on end, a sing-along AMV panel, or live concerts any music fan will find something to enjoy at what in the past was perceived as just an anime convention. No, while anime remains at the heart of the aptly nicknamed “Convention of Otaku Generation” there is much more an otaku enjoys than just anime and manga. And Otakon has fortunately fully embraced that and always makes for a memorable weekend.
2015 is from July 24-26 so fortunately we have less than a year to wait.