As anime convention attendees may already know Otakon has packed up and moved over to the Walter E. Washington Convention Center for 2017 and beyond. A lot of us already miss Charm City as its home. However, the new space gives off a rejuvenated feeling. More physical space equating to less foot traffic congestion, equally delicious food options around Northwest DC and some quirks witnessed that makes this almost feel like a brand new con. This year our “Watch This” author, Christopher Anderson, took on an endeavor to co-host a Bubble Gum Crisis panel leaving yours truly to roam the halls and explore the variety of programs Otakorp has to offer.
On the agenda was the opening ceremony, Katsuyuki Sumisawa’s general discussion on writing for anime, Frederik Schodt’s Osamu Tezuka themed panel, a martial arts demonstration by Capital Area Budokai, Evan Minto’s Beautiful Backgrounds of Anime Panel, a lolita fashion show as well as a history of Gainax’s beginnings by Nate A.M.
The bigger space meant a bit of fumbling around to find our ways to the next panel, video room or wherever the next destination may be. However, it doesn’t take long for muscle memory to kick in, but if you’re one to get lost, the roaming info volunteers and info booths were always nearby and quite visible to guide you. Much like Otakon Vegas, Otakon DC had its share of “new con” hiccups at the opening ceremony. One such instance was an awkward pause during guests announcements and voice actor Vic Mignogna “Reclaiming his time” for missing out on a grand entrance. Between voice actors Tyson Rinehart and Michael “Rangefinder” Sinterniklaas, I couldn’t recall which had the more entertaining entrance. Along with guests announcements and a shinto priestess blessing, Jam Project and Chin Daiko also delivered vignettes of what the Anisong World Matsuri and proper taiko drumming is all about.
Next up was Katsuyuki Sumisawa’s Writing for Anime panel. For aspiring screenwriters and or general fans of big anime franchises, Sumisawa provided endless amounts of info, but stressed no Gundam Wing talk as he had another panel focusing on that ip. The takeaway if you have been to a few voice actor, actress or artist panels is relatively the same. The message is that if they can do it, you can too as long as the will is there. Sumisawa entertained us with what it was like to work with cohorts in the industry, answered questions on how to handle work load stress e.g. how to stretch a 6 pages of a manga into a 30 minute episode and even called out a random passerby for walking in and out in his quirky uncle-like mannerism. It was one of the many panels where you walked in with zero expectations and walked out with a deep appreciation for the industry as a whole.
During the opening ceremony, anime and manga history buffs were in for a treat as both Frederik Schodt and Roland Kelts announced they had individual and tag team panels for all to attend. Initially, I had planned on going to as many of both authors’ panels as possible. However, I ended up only stopping by the Friday evening one where information ranged from Tezuka’s treatment of characters like stars to providing fan service by way of illustrations at book signings. As a fan of both Astroboy and collectibles, I’ll have to ping Fred in the near future inquiring about the subscription box magazine he kept referring to as a “Thing”. In collecting the entire volume, subscribers get pieces of an interactive or shall we say “smart” Astroboy figure.
Past Otakons, attendees could attend the Matsuri at the West Shore Park. This year, Otakorp relied on Marriott’s large convention and meeting spaces and dedicated one of “Liberty” rooms as the official Matsuri space. That said, those in the past that couldn’t get off on Thursdays or make it to the inner harbor due to rush hour could attend matsuri events that were spread out during the course of the convention. Those intrigued by martial arts were able to witness Capital Area Budokai Friday and Saturday Kenjutsu and battojutsu demonstrations. The matsuri space also hosted guest cosplayer Stella Chu’s panels as well as concerts by Project Beck, the Slants as well as a Yukata contest. As Otakorp settles in the dust, my guess is the outdoor matsuri may make a comeback as soon as next year.
For art book collectors, landscape photographers and those that appreciate the finer details in anime. Crunchyroll’s very own Evan Minto had an amazing panel called Beautiful Backgrounds of Anime. Already at full house by 2 pm sharp, Evan divulged bits such as how directors like Mamoru Oshii and Hiromasa Ogura hired photographers to aide in creation of cityscapes seen in Ghost in the Shell, Kaneda’s stomping grounds was continual without much of a skyline and how the use of paintings as well as digital art co-existed in Wolf Children. Other franchises discussed included the Monogatari series and the work of Makoto Shinkai. It was evident that Evan wanted to cover more examples as well show more sample footage. However, with an only hour, we were shown a final slide with his social media handles to get our fix on all things anime and anime architecture.
Hosted at the Marquis Ballroom was the return of the Otakon Lolita Fashion show. Four designers from Paulina A. Gato, Puvithel, MonsterEnvy and StrawberryPaperDoll presented their work ranging from visual kei, American Gothic and sweet. MonsterEnvy’s usage of zombie prints was applaud worthy while a space themed skirt would’ve paired well with some eggplant Foamposites or even the Space Jam Jordan 11’s. The hour long show breezed by, but it was nothing short of excellence and I’m definitely looking forward to next year’s show. For those that needed more Lolita friends and happenings in their life, the Lolita Garden was a room dedicated to fashion shoots, swap meets and even card games with prizes.
The final pitstop to a fun filled weekend at Otakon was Nate A.M.’s “Gainax’s Hall of Dreams and Toxic Resin Dust” panel. This was another hour long panel that could’ve used an extra 30 minutes or even another hour to fully appreciate how Toshio Okada and Yasuhiro Takeda later joined by Hideaki Anno, Hiroyuki Yamaga and Takami Akai were college dropouts who followed their passion for scifi, animation and garage kits. This of course led to greater things (if not frustrating for fans) such as the Evangelion franchise. Nate A.M. also shed information on how the dudes teamed up with Bandai earlier on, worked on live action as well as anime. As a result, I’ve added rewatching The Wings of Honnemaise, reading The Notenki Memoirs and possibly scour eBay for Daicon collectibles to the bucket list.
As always, Otakon offers a plethora of things to do from industry to fan panels, cafes, gaming, demos, world premieres (this year was Eureka Seven Hi-Revolution) to name several things. While choosing between two or three events happening at the same time can be immensely painful, this is actually a great problem to have. Otakon excels at delivering options for their fans and I can’t wait for August 10th, 2018 to come around.