This year’s Otakon was the most bittersweet affair as it spent its final year in my hometown of Baltimore before it moves down the road the larger and more state-of-the-art Walter E. Washington Convention Center in our nation’s capital. My biggest feeling on the move a week out from the end of the convention is excitement. I can’t wait to see new things. But the nostalgia of being a teenager confusedly scouring every corner of the Baltimore Convention Center is something I’ll miss. However, for many reasons a bigger convention center is needed. Of all of those reasons none is bigger than the need to fit even more programming into a jam-packed Otakon schedule.
Otakon’s guest lineup has been something very hard to pin down. There is an audience for American voice actors; unfortunately I’m not one of them. LeSean Thomas felt like the marquee attraction for me, as he was promoting his new show Cannon Busters. An avid anime and Japanese RPG fan, Thomas’ work on Legend of Korra has endeared him to a generation of fans. PA Works was at the convention continuing the celebration of their 15th anniversary. Funimation premiered the new dub of Escaflowne.
These events were hard to fit into a schedule that already felt bloated with great fan panels. The names I’ve come to know and expect to bring the goods were all there this year. Mike Toole, Charles Dunbar/Study of Anime, Anime World Order, and countless other people I follow on social media. Mike Toole’s Worst Anime of All Time marched through a slew of bad (or good?) anime from yesteryear including Chargeman Ken! which Mike himself had the chance to help announce as a new Discotek license only a few hours later. Adding to the bittersweet nature of the weekend, he announced this was retiring his Worst Anime of All Time panel. The Otakon Game Show, an event that has been a mainstay of the weekend is also entering retirement.
As hinted at, the Discotek Media industry panel had some big license announcements. As the leading company for so-called rescue licenses and classic anime it’s always a big deal to see what they’ll be releasing next. Few announcements are bigger than the double-whammy of movies they announced at Otakon. Leiji Matsumoto’s Captain Harlock tale Arcadia of My Youth and Mamoru Oshii’s incredible Urusei Yatsura 2: Beautiful Dreamer are both coming out from Discotek. Not just that, but more Lupin III has been announced as Island of Assassins and Operation: Return the Treasure are both getting releases and Fatal Fury: The Movie is coming out as well. If you haven’t been to an industry panel and only want to pick one, I highly suggest Discotek Media. The structure leaves you constantly excited as license announcements are sprinkled throughout with other news, trailers, and release information. It’s never boring or dry.
Now comes the part where I rattle off more of the great fan panels I attended over the weekend. If you see this title on a programming schedule you should go without any hesitation. All Geeks Considered’s 70s Anime Funtime!, Study of Anime’s The First Anime (or any of his panels), Anime World Order’s Greatest Forgotten Anime Openings, Chris Meharg’s Anime Physics 101, Space Opera Satellite’s Gattai! Giant Robots of 198X, Daryl Surat’s Thirty Years Ago (Daryl takes a trip thirty years in the past, this year it’s 1986 and next year it will be 1987), and Scott Spaziani’s How Meta Destroyed the Anime Industry. These panels and especially the panelists who presented them are what make Otakon a great experience.
In spite of terribly hot weather of the weekend this ranks as one of my favorite conventions I’ve ever attended. I managed to fit so much in and see so many great panels. Otakon has had a handful of problems over the year, but attendance rose this year to 29,000. It’s not at its all-time height, but with a more spacious convention center looming next year in a much larger city the sky might now be the limit for where Otakon can go.