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Otakon 2007
Writen by Ciello
Posted on September 01, 2007 at 04:06:00 pm

Overview:

       As stated in our previous reviews, Otakon is the holy grail of east coast anime conventions. It's the largest, longest running, and most eye-popping con you'll find on this side of the Mississippi! While its original focus was around all things anime, otakon's huge attendance (upwards of twenty thousand people) have allowed it to branch out to all forms of asian entertainment, video games, and webcomics as well. In short, no matter what your fancy, you'll find something for yourself here.


Location:
       Otakon is located in the Baltimore Bay area, right smack dab next to the mall, aquarium, and a baseball park. To get there, check out Otakon's website for directions by land, sea, air, or bicycle("All Roads lead to Otakon"). If you live in a populated city, don't scoff at their suggestion for getting a charter bus! It ends up being much cheaper than amtrak or driving on your own. I would know, I organized the NYC charter bus for a couple years!
     There's plenty of places to eat in the area, especially with the malls' food courts right nearby. Within walking distance are several more excellent restaurants, and the con center has its own overpriced catering service, so you'll not be lacking for food. The convention's magazine, given to each attendee, lays out food options in high detail.

        Downtown Baltimore is not a super safe place to be, sadly. During daylight hours the streets always have a constant flow of otaku between hotels and the con center, but traveling the streets at night by yourself would not be a good idea. The con center itself is a safe haven though, and staff work very well with security to make sure all the con goers have a secure and awesome weekend.

 

Cosplay:


        As always, the variety of costumes at Otakon is hard to appreciate without actually being there. Unlike previous years, there didn't seem to be a central theme. Usually a lot of people will independently decide to do the same character, which will lead to a thousand narutos showing up on the first con day. I'm guessing this has more to do with a recent lull in strong anime titles this year, and some really good anime (like The Melancholy of Haruhi) that don't have very distinct characters.

The culmination for all cosplayers in during Otakon is the masquerade, where people in costume perform a skit of their choosing for the audience's pleasure. Or sometimes, for the audience's dismay. Every skit competition will always have a few awkward apples, but overall the competition is enjoyable, and it's really fun to see what some anime fans can come up with for a stage performance. I won't list them here, as the skits and their winners can be found on the convention's forum page, but I will put up my favorite. This cosplayer may not have had a skit or a big group or fancy props, but she had one heck of a talent to showcase, and I have a soft spot for musicians and Legend of Zelda cosplayers. [video-Link's flute performance] There were lots of other talented acts, including stage fighting and witty dialog, so there was a little something for everyone. 


Events, Workshops, and Games:

My favorite part about Otakon are its events and panels. They have six video rooms, giving all attendees a constant stream of anime to watch. Several of my favorite shows have been discovered by randomly wandering into one of these rooms to see what's playing! They have a 35mm room, showcasing a variety of movies throughout the weekend. Some movies are animated, and some are live action to give a taste of other forms of asian entertainment. And to top it off, they have a main events room that is sometimes used for showing media. This is where you'll find the AMV contest, a contest where fans will take scenes from various shows they have seen, and splice them together over a song to make an Animated Music Video. Some are emotional, some are hilarious, and all are worth seeing. Though, if you're going into the contest to see some funny videos, be warned! The contest organizers start it with the Romantic and Dramatic categories first, so it's a slow half hour or so before the contest kicks it up a notch.

If you feel less like watching things and more like doing things, there are three workshop rooms to suit your fancy.  Meant to cater to the creative side of attendees, these rooms feature impromptu classes in everything from photoshop to Shiatsu massage. Many con-goers have a creative hobby that they'd like to improve upon, and workshops such as gesture drawing and story-writing sessions are the perfect way for them to hone their skills without paying out the nose for private classes.

 As usual, Otakon featured a video game room for the more digitally persuaded convention attendee. And in proper form for a gather of so many people, the video room was gigantic. It featured multiple large screen displays, projector screens, and lan setups for games like Gears of War, Smash, and Naruto. There were smaller, lesser known games in attendance as well, and the room had several rows of various game systems for people who wanted to try something new. But the focus this year seemed to be on multi-player games, and the crowds of people around each series of big screen TVs shows that this was a wise choice.

  I don't usually attend the musical guests for conventions, unless there something truly wacky or unique about them. This year, Otakon had a guest that piqued my interest right away: Eminence. [their website here] An Australian orchestra who focuses their musical talents on video game songs, these guys were just plain awesome. They had great songs, the musicians gave us some hilarious banter between songs, and it was just right up my alley. I strongly urge you to check out their site and their songs, and hopefully they'll be back for another Otakon and you'll have a chance to check them out. Great stuff.

 

Con Organization:

Lines: My largest complaint in previous years has been with the way the con was organized. It's understandable that it would be difficult to handle such a large number of people, and in the past there have been several breakdowns in crowd management and poor decisions related to it. However, this year I was in for a pleasant surprise! If you were looking for to get into a popular event, like the Masquerade, you did not have to fear the terror that was last year's lines! The con staff set up a system where lines for large events would start elsewhere in the con, where there'd be more space to organize all the people. It was a good idea, and nobody I talked to seemed terribly inconvenienced by it.


Final Thoughts:

This is a great convention. If it's your first anime gathering, you may be a little bewildered by the sheer size of it all, but it's a worthwhile experience. For the price of a couple DVDs, you have a whole weekend of events, anime screenings, access to the dealer's hall, a whole hall of independant artists, masquerades, AMVs, musical guests, and good company.

  

Overall Score:

Location (8/10) Despite strange closing hours, there's a plenty to see and do, and it's easy to get to.

Cosplay (9/10) I saw lots of creative costumes, check out our gallery to see what we found!

Masquerade (8/10) There were a few skits that didn't seem planned out, but overall a lot of effort must have been put into this event. It was a good show!

Events: (9/10) You will want to go to more events than you'll have time for, guaranteed. But I'm taking off a point here for some canceled workshops that I tried to attend.

Con Organization (10/10) I was very impressed by how the staff handled lines for the more popular events. It was everyone's biggest complaint from the previous year, and the staff really stepped up to the plate this time around and fixed it. Kudos!



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