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August 19, 2013

Convention Report: Otakon 2013

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As some may know, 2012 was the first time I attended Otakon. It was a fantastic, magical time for me and a wonderful adventure. The true test was the second visit. Was Otakon really as amazing as it seemed to a newbie last year? Would the con be as memorable the second time around? Would I find the same quality of panels and events? Yes! On August 9-11, 2013, I returned to the Baltimore Convention Center and entered into the wonderful worlds of anime and pop-culture fandom that is Otakon.

Otakon Costumes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Otakon Costumes

Vicky Kariolic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vicky Kariolic

 
Otakon celebrated its 20th year as a fan convention for fans by fans. This year the 34,000+ members were able to choose from a fantastic mix of panels, anime, workshops, and events to satisfy any fan covering the topics of anime, manga, videos, voice actors, creators, writers, artists, superheroes, Japanese pop music, workshops, and more. Every hour of the day was filled with dozens of things to do at any given time. Photoshoots, dance competitions and workshops, and interactive games were found in addition to the official events. About halfway through Saturday, one fan informed me there was a photo scavenger hunt, which I plan to look into for next year! With three days crammed full of events, I wished, once again, to be multiple people so I could attend events two and three at a time.
 
The author with her friends; the giant sword and scythe are both handmade

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The author with her friends; the giant sword and scythe are both handmade
 
Although there is much I could talk about, I would have to say my favorite things this year were my favorite voice actor, Vic Mignogna, and all the variety of costumes!
 
Vic Mignogna is a talented musician, singer, and voice actor. His voice is probably most widely known as the voice of Edward Elric from Fullmetal Alchemist and as Tamaki Suoh from Ouran High School Host Club. I have found out that he is also a genuinely nice guy and knows what it is like to be a fan. When I found he was a guest this year, I was determined to meet him. After attending his Q&A panel and then standing in line for his autograph for hours, I finally got to meet him. He signed his new DVD and a glossy photo, gave me a great big hug and then posed for a photograph, all while being obviously tired, but just as obviously not letting it make him grouchy or curt. He had been signing photos and objects for hours, but he kept his spirits up by singing along with his music, which was playing over a loud speaker, or yelling out quotes in his characters’ voices for fan amusement. I was very impressed watching him. Props to Vic.
 
Otakon 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Otakon 2013
 
Again this year the costumes were amazing. I said it last year and I am no less impressed by it all. Time and dedication is poured into every detail. I just cannot give cosplayers enough credit. I created several cosplays during the last year. Each simple design and concept took hours to complete, and I was hard-pressed to finish many details in time. This experience helped me to appreciate their efforts and skill at their results. Several buddies also posted progress in our discussion groups as they completed full sets of armor and unique weaponry. I witnessed their days and hours spent designing, carving, painting, sanding, forming and finishing objects I wouldn’t even know how to begin! Costuming is a time-consuming task, and the more I watch, the more I appreciate their efforts. I could stand fascinated in one hallway of the con and never tire of the vast mix flowing past me.
 
In case you are wondering, even the individuals who buy their costumes often need to make adjustments and add personal touches. Some invest in more weaponry and accessories, some add just one little piece that makes the costume perfect, some take time to do a little extra workout to firm up. Everyone invests time and energy into even the simplest costume and I for one appreciate seeing all their efforts.
 
I seem to have gushed on and on about my favorite topics. Let’s leave the costuming alone for now and let me tell you about some of the other things that were going on at Otakon.
 
There were six video rooms running constant anime in Standard and HD formats, seven panel rooms, two workshop rooms, four autograph areas, a Game Room, Otakafe (which I explained last year), a Maid Café, a Photo Suite selling 3D images of you, and a main event hall, all in addition to the typical Artists’ Alley and the Dealers’ Room.
 
Once again, the Alley and Room were filled with people, but not nearly as packed as many other conventions because of all the space available in and around the convention hall. Photoshoots were done out in scenic areas of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and skywalks, or in various other halls and hallways away from the milling crowds trying to hurry to panels and events. It was relatively easy to navigate the stalls of the vendors and artists. I wanted to make purchases at every other booth.
 
There were events at the con that I could not attend because of various factors, among these were a world premiere of several anime episodes presented to this US con before even the fans in Japan were able to view them, the US Premiere of the Rurouni Kenshin movie, and Japanese musical talents T.M.Revolution and Yoko Kanno. There were also interesting looking panels and workshops, such as Let's Talk Swords, which explored tips and tricks for various props including weaponry, Make-up for Cosplay!, which taught the basic of how to and when to apply makeup for both men and women, Fight Choreography 101, which explored basic stage combat for videos and choosing a “fight character” for your cosplay, and Basic Fundamentals of Drawing, which explains itself. There were an amazing amount of options available; it was overwhelming.
 
Otakon 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Otakon 2013
 
Although I was busy, I was able to catch a few panels. I might have enjoyed The Abridged Series panel the most. Abridged series of anime are reworked episodes from the originals. Sometimes the writers simply shorten the story, other times they change it completely; it really depends on the group. My favorite group is Team Four Star, who abridges Dragon Ball Z. I found out that MasakoX from this group was supposed to attend too --- I was enthusiastic to go see what he had to say. As seems to be typical for these comedic type panels, the panelists arrived early and entertained the morning crowd, with many jokes and interactions. The panel itself consisted of several viewings, including Pokemon Abridged and Yu-Gi-Oh Abridged, intermixed with Q&A. I was laughing constantly from up to half an hour before the panel and all the way through. If you like abridged versions, this is certainly a panel worth visiting.
 
We stayed at the convention until they shooed us out on Sunday and even then, we were squeezing as much in as possible. The dealer’s room and artist alleys had last-minute deals, people gathered in hallways for one last hurrah of interactions, and all the goodbyes and partings were uniquely bittersweet. Another year of the con had ended and many of us wanted to prolong our final moments. After all was said and done, was the con this year as fantastic as last year’s? Absolutely. I am already planning and looking forward to next year’s Otakon!
 

-- Vicky Kariolic