My First Otakon

This year Otakon celebrated its 20th anniversary and I celebrated my first Otakon!

According to Wikipedia, Otakon is “one of the longest-running anime conventions in the United States, and the second largest North American anime convention as of 2012.” That’s a great achievement but what I think is a greater achievement is that (according to Wikipedia) Otakorp, the organization that runs Otakon is a nonprofit and that the event itself is staffed almost entirely by “unpaid volunteers, although registration tasks are supplemented by temporary workers provided by Visit Baltimore, and certain services such as legal and accounting work are by contract.”

I also like the idea that:

Otakon attendees do not purchase “tickets” to Otakon; they actually become a member of the non-profit organization that runs Otakon with their paid attendance to the convention. Everyone who pays the annual membership fee to attend Otakon is also a supporting member for Otakorp and is able to participate in sanctioned events, contests, or giveaways that might occur during the year.

My first Otakon was very much like my first New York Comic Con. It was an “ooh and ahh” experience. I wandered the convention center, explored the exhibit hall/Dealer’s Room, the Artists Gallery, waited in lines, watched old movies I hadn’t seen since childhood (or early adulthood), saw premieres of new shows, and caught up on shows I’ve been curious about. But most of my first Otakon was spent just enjoying the eye candy and admiring the resourcefulness of the Cosplayers.

Beat Down Boogie has a nice video highlighting some:

My first Otakon was also my first TM Revolution concert. He has played the New York Comic Con but I had never thought to go. It was one of the things my sister, who had come with me, was really excited about. It was her first Otakon too! I didn’t know much about either TM Revolution or Homemade Kazoku (the opening band) though my sister promised that once I heard TM Revolution I would recognize them. Fans filled the Mariners Arena. Both bands were incredible. And as my sister was right, I did recognize many of TM Revolution’s songs from the anime I had seen. Most recently Soul Eater:

Even more recently (though not anime) Capcom’s PS3 game, Sengoku Basara:

The single panel I did manage to attend was the “Anime Industry: Then and Now” panel. I was late so I didn’t get all of the panelists names or the companies they represented. However, the conversation they were having reminded me of my sister showing me Gunbuster for the first time, which reminded me of when I saw Bubblegum Crisis for the first time.

Panelist discussed the evolution of the anime industry and the impact technology has had on it. One audience member asked if there were a show that has the impact on anime that Super Mario has had on the video game industry? This lead to an interesting discussion about what industry members, Otaku, mainstream media, and the general consumer consider anime. Is Pokemon anime? Is Transformers?

In some very positive ways, Otakon made me miss when the New York Anime Festival was its own event, instead of a part the New York Comic Con. As a part of a much larger event, the Anime Festival is no longer an intimate congregation of Otaku and burgeoning fans. I’m looking forward to hearing more panels next year and digging deeper into the content at Otakon.

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