So, Otakon 2013...
I was a last-minute addition to the line-up. Literally. An august weekend was approaching and I realized I had to get out of town. I started looking at various conventions I might want to attend, as I had never done that before. It would be a new and interesting experience. Lo and behold, Otakon 2013 was starting in 2 days and tickets were still being sold until next morning. In a spur-of-the-moment decision I got myself a ticket. And then I had to make travel plans.
Getting to Baltimore was relatively easy. The thing is - I arrived super late on Thursday, then had to get to my hotel. I think I only had six hours of sleep before heading out in the morning. And I had to change hotels - almost everything within the vicinity of the Baltimore convention center was booked but I found a Hampton Inn that had the reservation time I needed but starting Friday. The hotel was crowded and had no check-in until the afternoon. So I had to leave my one bag in storage and head out to the con... into a huge line of people slowly moving in scorching heat.
I think it took about two hours for me to just get my badge. The line was akin to a twisting and turning anaconda. There had to be a thousand people in it at least. Sunblock was my ally. During that time, I met a few other Con-goers and spoke to them about their experience. One guy had been something of an Otakon veteran and made references to a West-Coast equivalent of Otakon. He told me a story about how after last year the Japanese refused to have the convention take place in July, because of intense heat. Or something like that... the story is a little murky. One fella wanted to get in so badly, I jokingly recommended him to just pay someone way in front of him to let him take his spot, a technique that worked for me back home when standing outside the US embassy. To my surprise, he actually did just that - paying someone a hundred bucks let him cut ahead of a few hundred people.
What really amazed me was the sheer variety of cosplay. There were so many people in costumes. Some were very elaborate. Some were very provocative. I learned that apparently there was something of a schism between those who bought their outfits and those who purchased them. Essentially, the rule of thumb was that if you come in costume, you should've made it yourself. Everyone could tell a purchased costume and if you had one, most would hate you for it. I also heard that in the past couple of years, some female cosplayers had to leave the Con just because their outfits were so skimpy, they drew too much attention.
After finally getting in, I realized the Con Center was freaking huge and it was very difficult to navigate. It's very easy to get lost and the proprietors love to block off entrances and exits to steer the human traffc, which only makes things more confusing. I actually managed to find a few shortcuts to circumvent this though.
Here's the thing - there are way too many people at Otakon. I think statistically, they had over 10000 visitors this year. I think they shouln't sell half that many tickets. I say this not because I don't think more people deserve to go to the Con, but rather because the individual experience becomes devalued when there are several times more individuals attending the event than seats available in all the rooms combined.
Many of the convention center rooms simply aren't big enough and overflow far too quickly. You have to get in line on certain events hours in advance just to make sure you get in once they start letting people in. And then you can't remain seated for the next event immediately afterwards, which means you have to really pick everything in advance. All that makes it super easy to miss out on stuff you really want to attend. The dealer's room I really wanted to revisit on Sunday - but the line there was like a mile long. "Greatest Anime Deaths" was another unmissable event that I had to skip, because I attended the equally unmissable video game event right before it. So, I think - less is more would work wonders for the Con, not that they would ever do that.
What I did see though was pretty cool. Off the top of my head: Japanese-exclusive videogames, a panel on Japanese mythology in relation to Pokemon, a panel by Crispin Freeman on the subject of giant robots, a screening of Evangelion Rebuild 3.0, a look at the wierdest games you never heard of, a look at 100 years of Japanese cinema, multiple panels on Anime that deeply broadened my knowledge of the subject, a panel on Abridged Anime featuring LittleKuriboh.
Crispin Freeman in particular was a blast. I had previously read an interview where he delves into Giant Robot Mythology and he made a fantastic panel on the subject that really draws the comparisons between superheroes and mechs. Seriously, Superman compares to Gigantor and Astro Boy, and it makes perfect sense.
My other favorite - the videogames panel. It was a laugh riot. Seeing people play super obscure stuff like Octodad, Arm Joe and I wanna be the Guy had left me incapable of anything but laughter for 5 minutes at a time. Youtube these titles and you'll see what I mean.
Rebuild 3.0 was so weird. The screening room was packed and the movie - well, it got lots of different reactions from the audience. It was like 3 films in one, with the middle being essentially Brokeback Eva starring Shinji and Kaworu. I'm still not sure what happened in the movie or if anything really happened at all.
But the Abrdiged Anime panel is another gem. LittleKuriboh, creator of Yugioh Abridged showed a sample of the latest episode before it hit the web and other Abridgers were there to answer questions. Fantastic Panel and one that made it all worth it.
I realized all too late that Katimus was also at the con and tried to get in touch with her. I had never met another member of the Xeno community in person, so this would be a new experience. Unfortunately, she would be out of town on Sunday, so we couldn't meet. Shame. But there's always next year.