by AGtM Guest Contributor, The Yetti
In every nerd’s life some sunlight must shine, and in this particular nerd’s life that annual sunbath comes in the form of Otakon. Otakon is one of the largest anime conventions on the east coast boasting a membership of somewhere close to thirty five thousand people, all crammed for three memorable days into the accommodating quarters of the Baltimore Convention Center. This Mecca for East Coast nerds is held once a year in the sweltering month of July and for the past four years has been the summer’s great event to save for and look forward to. So naturally, when it rolled around this year I packed my bags and headed off to the sweltering city of Baltimore.
2012 was a particularly good time for attendees of the con, especially if you were looking forward to fantastic guests. Along with the usual assortment of prominent voice actors from both Japan and the U.S. (this year featuring: Michael Sinterniklaas, Christine Marie Cabanos, Lauren Landa, Trina Nishimura, Ai Nonaka, Brina Palencia, J. Michael Tatum, Yuuka Nanri and Sarah Williams) the guests also included amazing writers such as Peter S. Beagle (writer of the teleplays for both the animated Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Last Unicorn) and Gen Urobuchi (writer of Puella Magi; Madoka Magica), as well as musical guests such as K-Pop boy band VIXX and Japanese vocalists Aya Hirano and Mikako Joho. But among these amazing guests one which stood out in particular was retired Power Ranger turned MMA fighter, Jason David Frank, who played Tommy Oliver in Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, Power Rangers Zeo, Power Rangers Turbo, and Power Rangers Dino Thunder. Not only was Mr. Frank signing autographs for the throngs of us nostalgia freaks out there, he was also doing a Q&A panel and giving a martial arts demonstration for the assembled masses.
Speaking of panels, Otakon this year was teaming with interesting and instructive panels and workshops, many featuring the theme of the con this year…food. Whether you were there to discuss the merits of the philosophy in Madoka Magica or just there to see some really wacky hentai, there was something for you to love. So much so that any poor otaku (Anime nerd) attempting to cobble together a schedule for the con had to throw their hands up in annoyance at the impossible choices they had to make. Yours truly was able to attend quite a few interesting discussions and workshops and I’d like to throw some shout outs to the crew of Anime News Network, who had a truly excellent panel on anime journalism; The boys from +2 Comedy who managed to make me belly laugh so hard the people in front of me shot me concerned looks; and The Gentlemen who conducted the Voice Acting workshop who had some really great advice on how to break into the business and allowed me to try my hand at it (I was the guy in the Jake the dog hat….call me).
One panel so large and amazing it deserved a special note was the Abridging Panel on Saturday night, which was so highly attended that I arrived an hour and a half before the panel and was still only at the middle of the line. For those of you who don’t know, Abridging is the process by which someone takes a show (usually an anime) and edits it and voices over it, creating a brand new, much more hilarious product. The first and most famous of these would be Yu Gi Oh Abridged created by Martin Billany (A.K.A. LittleKuriboh) who was attending the panel, along with MasakoX (of Naruto Abridged, Dragon Ball Z Abridged, and Kampfer Abridged. As well as his own anime review show Anifile), Nowhacking (of Pokemon ‘Bridged, Kampfer Abridged, and Bobobo Bo Bo Bobo Abridged) and 1KidsEntertainment (of Pokemon ‘Bridged). This panel allowed us to ask a few of our favorite abridgers about their internet fame as well as see clips from their upcoming work!
As usual the dealers room was chock full of amazing trinkets that any nerd would kill to get their hands on, including some bits and bobs brought direct from the Land of the Rising Sun. The massive collection of vendors and dealers have everything a nerd needs for his/her utility belt, from goggles to armor, kitty ears to fluffy tails, wall scrolls to DVD’s. Showcased this year in almost every stall were the Necomimi Moving Cat Ears. These delightful contraptions are controlled by the wearer’s brainwaves, reacting to stimuli as the wearer does, and they flew off the shelves this year. By Sunday there was hardly a cat girl in the place without a set. Also in new prominence were the booths featuring Squishables, round animals/dinosaurs/Lovecraftian elder gods which you can squish until your head falls off. Yours truly walked away from the Dealer’s Room with a new Madoka Magica bag, a Sailor Jupiter wall scroll, the complete collection of FLCL, a pair of triforce earrings and a Cthulhu squishable for my niece. A special shout out to the good people at the Pawstar booth who were particularly friendly as I searched for a new set of ears and a new tail. Another shout out to the people of Sanshee merch who had some incredible T-Shirts I lamentably couldn’t fit into.
The Artist Alley was a show of excellence this year as almost every single booth had a print of something I desperately wanted to display. Whether it was artists selling their own comics or promising to draw anything for six dollars, the talent was thick and gorgeous to walk among. From famous superheroes to unsung obscure anime, these talented people created some amazing scenes for the fans to drool over and I, along with many others, left the Alley with my pockets considerably lighter and my arms laden with art of all shapes, sizes and subject matter. A special shout out goes to the ladies at Poison and Antidote, who drew me a wonderful sketch of one of my favorite anime characters. Another goes to Michael Terracciano (A.K.A. Mookie), Creator of the Webcomic “Dominic Deegan; Oracle for Hire”, Who not only signed my copy of his comic, but also endured my embarrassing fanboy self, who walked past his booth three times before conjuring the courage to talk to him.
The Cosplay this year was some of the best I’d ever seen. It seems that the otaku out there really pulled out their A-game for this con. I found myself frequently amazed by the incredible works of detailed brilliance before me. They ranged in subject from anime, to video game, to comic book, to webcomic and finally to internet meme. By far the most numerous cosplayers this year decided to go with a Legend of Korra motif, with the result that by Saturday evening I had seen a grand total of 67 Korra cosplayers. Also notable amongst the costumes were the high level of Avengers cosplayers I saw. Not just standard Halloween costumes either, the fans got creative. Meaning that I saw, not just Thor and Loki in their usual form, but also Fem-Loki, Lady Thor, and the entire Avengers team as flappers from the 20’s. Doctor Who was also a popular one this year prompting a River Song cosplay so accurate, I thought Alex Kingston had showed up at the con. And of course when you mention a large congregation of nerds one can never forget to mention the new nerd cult in town My Little Ponies; Friendship is Magic. The Bronies and Pegasisters were out in force this year and all of them displaying cosplay. Whether it was full-body suits or a humanized version of your favorite pony there was no denying the magic in these costumes. Yours truly was happy to see that he was not alone in his Adventure Time cosplay, and although many tried, I feel I was one of the few who brought dignity to the Jake the Dog costume I wore.
All in all the organizers and attendee’s of this years Otakon should truly be proud of themselves. It was not only a con to remember but truly one of the best cons I had ever attended. Aching and exhausted as I was on Sunday, I was sorry to see the back of the convention center. And I am whole-heartedly looking forward to next year, when I drag more reluctant cheapskates with me to the land of anime nerddom.
The good people at Otakon have recently announced that next year’s con will be held on August 9th – August 11th of 2013.
Editor’s Note: Check back later this week for our Otakon Cosplay Gallery! If you have any photos you’d like to submit, please e-mail them to allgeektomenet [at] gmail [dot] com.