Otakon 2006 Report|
Writen by Ciello
Posted on March 03, 2007 at 03:43:29 pm
If you havenít been to
Otakon yet, you should go. In ten words, thatís pretty much the gist of it. For
anyone living on the east coast, itís the biggest and easiest con for you to
get to, and chances are youíll find at least a small handful of things thatíll
be right up your alley. More often than not, con attendees have to choose
between events because thereís just so much fun stuff going on around them. Of
course, along with the good points, there are some downsides to a convention
this large, so without further ado, hereís a breakdown of this past weekendís
events by category: Travel-wise, the location is ideal. Otakon has now started
to host an aptly-named page, [All
roads lead to Otakon]. Itís true.
If youíve never been there, you might not
know that Otakon is located centrally in Baltimoreís
downtown bay area. To the conís advantage, the convention center is located
right next to the mariner arena, the aquarium, and a mall. Hereís a map. So
aside from the small shops, bars, and restaurants in the area, there are two
food courts near by. These seem to be where most otaku find their meals. While
it might not be the healthiest choices, you can fill yourself up on Chinese
food or burger king and be ready to dive back into the conís events. For those
who would rather eat food that wonít shorten your lifespan, there are some very
nice and affordable restaurants within a 20 minute walk from the convention
center, and the Otakon magazine that comes with your badge gives some good
advice on where specifically you can find some good eats.
Safety isnít as hot in the area. During
daylight hours, the worst youíll get is a panhandler asking for spare change.
For those who can get rooms in the hotels right across the street from the BCC,
this wonít really be an issue. If youíre coming from farther away, be prepared
to deal with a homeless guy who might follow you for block or two while trying
to win your sympathy. After living in New York
for five years, I can say that even I was surprised at how aggressive they
were. Some good advice: travel in groups if you can, itís the easiest way to
avoid having to worry about stuff like this.
There were some really good costumes this
year, and some really funny ones as well. When this many cosplayers gather,
youíre bound to find an obscure reference or two. In our travels for the
weekend, we came across a Pandaren from warcraft, a freakazoid, and there was
even this cute little Korean girl dressed as a zergling, just to name a few.
Every year has a prevailing costume (three years ago Otakon was dubbed the
ďStampede of Vashes", for example) and this yearís popular choice was
Kingdom hearts. There were a lot of Bleach costumes, but as far as complexity
and sheer number of costumes, Kingdom hearts took the prize. I even saw a
heartless Sora wandering around. Kudos to that one.
The masquerade this year was leaps and bounds better than
before. Iíll review how the con staff handled it in a later section, but from
the performerís standpoint it was a really good show.
There were a couple acts that were (to put it
nicely) extremely lacking. A couple of the skits featuring bleach and kingdom
hearts seemed to be lacking in practice. It should be stated here that wearing
a nice costume does not excuse a poorly executed skit. Honestly. However, skits
like those were few and far between compared to the good ones. There were a
couple musical solos that get an A for effort, as well. As I understand it, one
guy who played a violin (and a song from Firefly) won an award, but he was not
wearing a costume. This is an open call to the con staff, whatís going on
there? Itís a masquerade, right?
Putting those few
examples aside, the rest of the show was a blast. One group featured a fully
choreographed color guard. Group dancing is entertaining, but group dancing
with giant spinny flags is doubly so. Soon afterwards, there was a street
fighter battle skit which can only be described as ĎOMGí. Not being trained in
a martial art myself, I can only rely on a nearby friendís reaction (who does
have said experience) and her jaw was on the ground for the duration of the
show. Find the video when Deathcom.net
posts it and watch. ĎNuff said. Also, there were some other creative skits,
including a song about the horrors of getting into a complex costume and then
wanting to pee. We could barely hear the lyrics, but they get points for a good
idea. Props are also being given to the dancing Sora to the right. If everyone
danced like that, the Otakon Masquerade could take Broadway by storm. Overall,
a very good show.
Probably one of the biggest good points of
Otakon is the sheer number and immensity of its events. Hereís the schedule so you can see
yourself. Seven video rooms, at least one of which is so large it took over an
hour to fill with a steady stream of people, contain the visual fun of the
weekend. Added to that you have a 35mm room showing a mix of classics (Akira
everyone needs to see) and recent movies (Howlís moving castle, also something
everyone needs to see, and with a good English dub to boot).
If you were feeling more active, there were a
series of workshops to keep you busy, including several on cosplay techniques.
There was one on Go, which has suddenly become the new favorite game with my
buddies and I. Seriously, give it a try if you can, itís
simple to learn and pretty fun. There were even more workshops on webcomics,
computer art, and the like. I was thoroughly amused by the photoshop workshop,
mostly because it was lead by Jack Sparrow. Who else to teach you photoshop but
a pirate? A word of advice to con-goers, when you get to see the schedule of
events, it is wise to think ahead of time and come up with a couple questions
about the workshop you want to go to. It seems that every year a couple of them
are thrown together last minute, and it gives you an excellent chance to make
the session help you learn something new. Someone else will probably have the
same question, too, they just donít know it yet.
The otaklause challenge
gets its own paragraph, because my team won it this year :3 Sorry, I just had
to brag. But seriously, Iíve been going to this event for the past three years
now and it is probably the highlight of my trip. Itís like an old nickelodeon
game show mixed in with cosplay and a good measure of ridiculousness. They take
teams of 4 people (all must be in costume) and set you against each other in a
daring battle of catching flying pikachus, or poor-english-dubbing-face-off, or
dressing in a Godzilla suit and stomping on a 25 foot model of the BCC. Some
events have a point system, and some events require you to win the affections
of the crowd. I donít want to tell you to go to it, because that will mean more
competition next year, but the objective writer in me wins out. If you havenít
seen this part of the con yet, youíre totally missing out.
Although I didnít go to the game tournaments
this year, word on the grapevine is that they went fairly well, and at least
the guilty gear tournament was a good demonstration of gentlemanly (or
gentlewomanly) showmanship. If tournaments arenít your thing, the game room
itself must have been roughly the size of a football field and covered
everything from vertically scrolling shooters to Mario party. They had the
usual fighting games of smash, naruto (gamecube), halo and guilty gear. As a
side note, I noticed that the popular games all had clusters of big screens
that held most of the crowd, but there were also smaller screens sort of hidden
in the corners of the room that also held a game or two. So if you want to play
naruto and donít like the crowds around the big screens, look around ;) They
had old arcade games, and even some of the old arcade boxes. There were two DDR
pads which tended to have a very long line. Waiting 40 minutes to get three
songs in doesnít work so hot, so if youíre a DDR fan you might consider
bringing your own pad to the hotel. There was also one display with Rez on it,
If thereís one beef I have with Otakon, itís
here. Everything else is pretty much stellar, so this should be put in
perspective. The crowd control had periods of complete breakdown, and some of
the events just didnít seem to be thought out.
DJ at the fountain: What was this guy doing there? And
next to a new concessions stand, to boot? The fountain is already always
crowded, and now weíre blasting music from some guyís laptop? To top it off, he
was missing several themes from recent anime. Having him at an anime con seemed
sort of like a mistake.
AMV contest: the ďline"for Friday nightís show was
just wrapped around itself on the floor. After about 20 minutes of waiting past
the supposed start time, people got itchy and the line devolved into a blob of
people pushing their way to the front. The stafferís answer was to have two
guys with a megaphone bottleneck the crowd. Thereís an easy way to fix this,
and it requires two things.
invest in those little poles that places use to direct lines, that way you can
make an ďS"shape that will stay true to form and keep anyone from getting
AMV simulcast in a different room, since the AMV is burnt onto DVD by Otakon
staff this should be easy to burn another copy and hold a simultaneous showing
elsewhere. As always, itíll be hard to find space for it, but the demand is
simulcasting that might be more difficult (and more expensive) , panels like
the 4Chan one could use that. The lines for these panels had to be closed,
prompting several unhappy cosplayers to denounce the weekend as ďLine-Con
Security: this isnít a bad comment, just an
observation. In previous years, people climbed up the slanted walls in the
fountain area and were shooed off immediately. This year nobody seemed to mind.
Pre-Register line: This was such a breeze that I almost
forgot to add it to the review! In previous years, Iíve had to stand on a line
for a couple hours on Thursday while waiting to pick up my pre-registered
badge. Iím not sure how they did it, but this year the line was about 20
minutes long. That was pretty flippiní sweet.
Masquerade: And for one final positive note: The
masquerade was AMAZINGLY handled. The event started right on time, there were
no delays in seating, the acoustics were great and the pictures were clear. Iím
sure the 1st Mariner Arena was more expensive, but if any Otakon
staff read this, you guys did well here, I tip my hat to you.
Review written by Ciello.
And now for some random pictures:
(8/10) Everythingís in the area, it just
all closes really early.
(9/10) Some great costumes to be seen!
(9/10) Every masquerade is going to have a few ďiffy"skits, but the ones
that were good here made up for it in spades.
(10/10) thereís so much to do, youíll
never be able to do it all. Unless you happen to be Hermione Granger.
Organization (6/10) Some events were masterfully run, and some just had
too many people trying to get in. Unless you like waiting in line, be prepared
to give up on an event or two.