Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Otakon 2011 Convention Report!

Otakon 2011 has come and gone! The weekend seemed to go on forever which I think is a good thing. When you look forward to something for a very long time it would be a shame for it to go by so quickly. So that was a good thing. YAY for anime conventions.

As I said earlier this was the very first time traveling so far for an anime convention. We wouldn’t have been able to afford to do so if we did not have friends living in Maryland. Between the plane ticket and the high prices of hotels in Baltimore one must either go in a large group or save the entire year for only one convention. However I feel as if the money was well worth it despite the fact that flying is something that I completely loathe.


Glad we weren't in that line WOOHOO!!!

So while eating some chicken noodle soup and crackers I shall blog my happy little trip to Otakon. XD And yes folks I am going to be brutally honest. That is how I am usually but this time I am not going to mince my words on how I felt about a particular panel. Prepare for lots of pictures and learning how early one has to get up to attend Otakon events!


Due to events beyond on control we missed all of the matsuri. That was a big sad face for us. I have read online it wasn’t as big as some people were expecting and that might be partly the city’s fault. But some people were unhappy about how the matsuri went and what not. Still I wanted to see some of it and I really wanted to see Eyeshine in concert. Woe is me.


Never found out what was beyond that area. XD

When we made it to the badge pick up around 6:30 pm there was barely any line at all. I have never attended Otakon before but I have surfed the boards and read about the horrors of lines and how the pick-up line on Friday extends to outside. So we registered early so we could do badge pick-up and save a bit of money. Still I thought there was going to be a little bit of a line and was expecting an hour wait at the most. But when we got our badges in under 5 minutes I was super impressed.

Another happy surprise that we received was the fact that Otakon utilizes a phone app that allows you view the schedule of events and receive updates on any last minute changes. It also had a feature that allowed to personalize your own schedule and receive warnings when things were going to start soon. It was cool not worry about missing things because we got caught up in doing something else. I really thought that was cool little add on to the convention and made things easier.


I can see you convention center!

I found navigating the streets of Baltimore confusing and I wasn’t even driving. So I am truly thankful that Otakon worked out deals with the nearby hotels. I couldn’t imagine driving to and from the convention every morning. However a word to anyone who has never been to this convention before and are not from a big city: Parking is EXPENSIVE!!! The most I have ever paid for parking was 7 dollars and believe people are not happy about that in St. Augustine. At Disney resorts we paid 5 dollars for parking at our hotel and were like BOO for charging us. And theme parks in general charge about 15 bucks for parking. In Baltimore….the hotels are bringing in BANK for parking. Our friends paid like 24 dollars A DAY at our hotel. X__X According to them that is not so bad. To me it sounds like highway robbery. So fellow people traveling long distances to conventions beware the craziness that is parking.


Huge room. Lots of space for people to sleep on the floor. XD

That being said our hotel The Holiday Inn was a great hotel. Maps really don’t work for me as I thought we be walking quite a way from the convention to the hotel as we were not on the same street (because this convention sells out on rooms a year in advance X__X) but that was not the case. We could still see the convention from our room and it seemed almost as close as the “convention hotel”. I was expecting a small room but we got a very spacious area. If we were still in the stage where we were fitting 9 people to a room this is the hotel I would pick. And the closest was huge if one had more than one cosplayer in the room. They also had deals on restaurant downstairs but we didn’t eat there. So if I were to attend this convention again I would stay at the Holiday Inn based on the room size even if a few hotels were slightly closer.


Note to all: Thinking that you can make a 9 am panel by leaving your room at 8:45 is laughable. Laughable. Laugh at me.

But yes folks. On Friday morning you couldn’t enter the “main doors” as the registration line was going all over the place and they were trying to create some order. So we didn’t make it to the very first thing we had planned. No making chibi sculptures for us. As a whole workshops tended to fill fast so get to those events at least 45 minutes in advance. Yes folks. 45 minutes in advance.


Let's take pictures as we wait in line!

After that we waited in the overflow line for the dealer’s room. Yes the OVERFLOW line. And by wait I mean we were all near the line as we were not allowed in the closed overflow line. X__X Did I mention that over 30,000 people were at this convention? I decided to wait in this line because we missed the workshop AND I wanted to get the limited charity poster for Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica. Turns out limited edition means like 5,000 posters so I am glad I didn’t wait the entire three hours in line like some people did.


So many things to buy so little...money :(

The Dealer’s Room was HUGE. X__X It took us until Saturday afternoon to get through the entire place. Mainly because it was so huge but it had to do with all the walking and other events we wanted to attend. But yes. I have never been to a convention with such an industry presence before. So many DVDs for all. Manga booths, Lolita clothing, and Steam punk had a real presence. For me I was truly happy to see so many different plushie areas as plushies are easy to pack…and fun. XD

However now that I have been to Japan I can really see how bad con markup really is. There was a standard magazine that came out while I was in Japan. It came with a small figurine marketing some new game. Every single store had TONS of this magazine. It was 880 yen in Japan. Someone had it at their booth for 85 dollars. I don’t think the word insane is strong enough. There were other things that were marked up to crazy amounts but now that I know the true price I can judge if shipping and instant access is worth the extra bucks.


Lots of room to navigate.

The dealer’s room was never that crowded to me. With that many people at the convention I thought it would be hard to navigate. But I was able to look at things without too much pushing and fan boy funk all over me. Plus all the industry booths had free posters which made the dealer’s room fun. I found things to spend all my cash on but I thought it was super weird there were no posters at all (to purchase). Also no food booths made me sad. Stupid rules. :(


My love for CLAMP runs deep apparently.

So we left the dealer’s room to go to our first official panel. The panel was Journey through the CLAMP universe. I don’t think it would surprise anyone reading my blog that I love CLAMP. But as deep as my love is I only considered myself maybe super collector of CLAMP stuff and knew most of CLAMPS titles. After this panel apparently I am a CLAMP expert and I should have ran the panel with the Chobits girl. I mean…..she would answer a question WRONG and when people in the audience would correct her she insist she was right. EVEN THOUGH SHE DIDN’T READ THE WHOLE MANGA. Like I don’t even know folks how to describe this panel besides a trainwreck. Almost like someone wanted a free badge and went with a topic she sorta knew. Perhaps I know too much about CLAMP to get anything out of a newbie panel full of wrong information. Or maybe I was pissed that she didn’t want to acknowledge that Kurogane and Fai had a relationship. I just know that anyone who went to that panel looking for information probably walked away confused and full of wrong answers.




AW cute Homura picture!

After that trainwreck it was Subway sammich time (leftovers from the night before as the line was out the door) and more of the dealer’s room. But we learned that lines are serious business at Otakon so we went early to attend the Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica US premier. Obviously I have seen every single episode but I wanted to watch the episodes with a huge crowd. That and maybe I could get my husband hooked on the series. I think he maybe be interested in watching the rest of the series which makes me happy. We didn’t stay for the Q/A because I didn’t want my husband to be spoiled. Which might have been pointless because some people were doing quite a bit of yelling but maybe it is obvious that Kyubey is the devil. XD But much fun was had and I loved that random cosplayers came out with Mr. Producer himself. I spent a lot of the weekend taking as many MSMM pictures as possible.

After that event there was minor wandering around and taking pictures. But soon it was time for another line. This time we were a bit worried because we were in overflow THREE line for the Ultimate Lolita Fashion show. But we were able to make it in and all was well. My main complaint about lines is while the lines are managed well once we are inside staffers don’t force people to fill each row which causes weird gaps and such.


Some of the fashions at the Lolita event.

However back to the Lolita Fashion show. I think I was expecting more of a name brand type deal but apparently that was an earlier show (which I assumed was all the crazy dark stuff at the Sixh booth). This show was newer American brands thus they had smaller collections. Some of the works were really well done though. Apparently my husband and I watch a little too much Project Runway because we turned into critic machines. I really liked that there was a screen showing the girls walking down the runway. It was a crisp screen and if one could not see the actual girls it was a perfect substitute.


Someone else didn't make it to the event either...

After this event it was another Subway run that took a little longer than we though. Silly people trying to eat on a budget. But because of our adventures in actually eating lane and us getting caught up in taking pictures we did not make the cut off for the Bad Anime Bad. Actually quite a few people did not make it to this panel which really upset the panelist. That made me happy, someone caring about is waiting and wanting an accurate count of who didn’t make it in to request a bigger room next time. So major sadness as this panel was apparently the best of the best of Bad Anime Bad.


Party on cosplayers!

But we did manage to make it to OMG/WTF Did I just watch. My husband was a bit Meh on this panel as he wanted to get some sleep but I managed to do some convincing. And we were pretty happy we went. We were scarred for life and have a greater understanding that people in Japan are insane. Because often a life insurance commercial should include a jealous child covering his mother’s nipples in poison so the new baby can die but really it is the lover that kicks it instead. And of course there was the…..music videos of naked men and dancing bees. Much fun was had by us.


Again with the 9 am panels. Only this time we actually made it to the room by 9 am only to find the room closed and the staffer/goffer outside saying NO. So sorry Japanese Commercials. We were going to wait outside until someone left but the staffer/goffer near the door said they weren’t going to let anyone else in even if someone left. So if someone wants to go to a 9 am panel you need to be there when the doors open at 8:30 and run to the panel you want to go to.


So many cosplayers so early in the morning X__X

With this extra time it was dealer’s room time. Which still had a line. My husband and I seem to have the worse luck with loud attention seekers. Unless the loud attention seekers are everywhere and we are experiencing the norm. But it just seems like a lot of anime convention attendees have little to no social skills and this is their time to be “normal”. Or their idea of normal. So girl playing the Zelda flute thingy. No one was looking at you. You going MOG why is everyone giving me looks was so….forced and planned it was laughable. Thanks for GTFO after a short time in line. XD

Next on the list was Anime Family Feud. My original plan was to go to Uncle Yo Stand-Up but I decided that I was generally getting my way schedule wise and decided to go with what my husband wanted to do. I am glad we went as it was a fun way to spend an hour. Some of the people selected to play were a little…special but I guess that made us laughing at them all the letter. The panelist (game show hosts?) were well prepared and their materials worked. They actually HAD their materials unlike other panelists. I wish I was one of the 100 Otaku polled was my answers would have been better (seriously Vash’s glasses stand out more than him being tall!!!). Yay for fun.

From there my husband decided he would go to the Learn to Play Go panel. He said he had a great time at that event but wished the panelist were a bit more informative about the rules and such. Almost like these guys are so good at Go they need to dumb it down a bit for the newbie type deal. But my husband had a great time and stayed for the duration of the panel.


I never got to see if he finished this....

While he did that I finally finished the Dealer’s Room and made my way to the Artist Alley. I would say the Artist Alley had the same number of Artists as AWA. The room was bigger though and the art show had a bigger space (which I neglected to see…). However Otakon does not have the same 20 percent fanart rule that AWA has. That makes Tenchi a very happy buyer. I come to anime events to buy anime products. I am sure artists trying to get their foot in the door are really trying. But generally speaking I am not interested in those types of art pieces and I want to see familiar anime items.


Is this a Brony too?

Except My Little Pony things. Have I been living under a rock or something? When did this Brony thing become so popular? So weird. But yes I found lots of lovelies to buy. I also noticed that those who like to buy 14 spots were mainly in the dealer’s room this year? Hopefully that helped everyone out in terms of sales.

So after my adventures in fanart is was time to do that thing called wait in line. This time it was for Eyeshine which I was determined to see because apparently I love Power Rangers that much. I actually got an end seat (so I guess I only want the rows to be completely filled when it benefits me and I managed to move my chair because my row was special. This was by far my most favorite event of the entire convention. Which is funny as I was expecting a more traditional concert and this was the accustic version of their songs.


It's morphin tiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiime

I think the best part of the concert was how real Johnny Bosch was. Some people asked him some dumb questions. And in retrospect it was probably really dangerous to allow the fans run up on stage and hi five him. But he sang about 4 made up on the spot songs and they were AMAZING. From making fun of Bleach’s never ending episodes to his time as a power ranger it was all wonderful. But I think maybe the story on how their band came together was the very best part. I think many people were at the Haruhi movies at this time or waiting in line for the Masquerade so I am a bit bummed the room wasn’t completely filled. But much fun was had by me!

After tracking down the husband he decided he wanted to go around the Artist Alley too. Which was really a first for him, actually buying things in the Artist Alley. I guess he didn’t realize the rule at AWA about 20 percent fanart/80 percent original work. He is of the mind people should make what they want as long as they are not outright tracing.


Taking pictures so late at night...

There were grand plans for Saturday night. They included The Dubs that Time forgot, taking pictures of people leaving the Masquerade, and maybe attending Anime’s Greatest Death. None of these things actually happened. We forgot things like sleeping and eating are important. That and an expensive trip the Cheesecake Factory had to take place as the cheesecake was half off. A small note though: the Baltimore area is a very touristy area to begin with. Perhaps con-goers should be a little understanding of lines at restaurants. I mean they are used to the lines at Otakon and really we con-goers are the ones creating the long waits at the restaurants.

So after eating and having a fun adventure of find the wallet we wandered a little taking pictures. I am pretty impressed on how many people stayed in costume all day long. Sure there were people just wearing rave clothes or random crap but the number of people still in decent costumes at such a late hour made randomly walking around fun.


Lots of cute pictures to be taken at night. Just be careful okay?

A note to ladies (well really anyone but since I am a smaller lady I feel the need to look out for other ladies): there are a lot of beggars/homeless people that wander around the front of the convention center. While no one seemed violent or harmful it was a bit X_X and I was walking around with my husband. So please keep to the rule of traveling in at least pairs. And maybe try to walk in the actual convention center and not on the outside. Not trying to strike fear into people but this area is big and people begging for money can become unpredictable.


We shall ignore the crazy people and take pictures instead.

Also a bit of X__X was when about 30 young people starting running up and down the streets. Now since this was a convention I didn’t think too much of it. But then all these cops started driving by with their sirens on. And then a police helicopter was circling the area. Like back and forth with the lights shining on us. So that was a special moment for us. In pairs people. PAIRS!


We actually got up and went to panels at 9 HURRAY!!! I think what saved us was most people were packing and getting ready to leave. We didn’t have to battle long lines. XD Our plan was to go to the 9 am panels we wanted to see and then go back to our hotel. Because our hotel is awesome and has a 12 pm check out time!!! That is pretty awesome woohoo. Also our hotel had a 3pm check out for the car parking situation. GO HOTEL.


Not posting any awesome bad cosplays. Only good ones with me. XD

So the panel I went to was the Awesomely Bad Japanese Music Videos. Besides the person yelling and screaming the entire time behind me (yes I was sitting in front of the person being THAT GUY) the panel was pretty awesome. Or awful given most of those videos will scar me for life. So much scary so little time. XD


Hello stuff we can't afford.

My husband went to the Steampunk 101 panel. I didn’t know he was that into Steampunk but I think it is cool he is. I find the clothes pretty awesome (and mostly covering which is YAY for me) but way too expensive for my (and his budget). But he learned some tips on how to start wear Steampunk on a budget. He said that he wished the girl running the panel would have showed more pictures. But he said he learned quite a bit and may try dressing up one day. Beware I might have a cosplayer to worry about.

After that it was time for packing. Those free posters the industry booths were handing out are awesome…for people living nearby or taking cars. Not for special people like us who think we can go to a huge convention and only take on carry-on only bags. XD So lots of folding went on. I think if our budget had been bigger and not been drained by recent weddings we may have had more of a problem packing. But since I was plushie and shirt queen this convention it worked out fine.


I still feel as if we missed lots of cosplayers despite taking so many pictures.

After packing we went to the dealer’s room to spend the last of our money. Or in my case most of my money. It is hard to comparison shop when the room is so huge and I can’t remember who had what. My husband turned into the shirt king and got quite a few funny shirts. Someone bought the one decently priced nendroid I had my eye on and no one had half priced mangas X___X. So yes it was mainly plushies and shirts for me.


Lots and lots of people still by the fountain area.

After taking some pictures in the dealer’s room we waved goodbye to the chaos that is the Sunday shopfest and went upstairs. I had my leftovers from the Cheesecake factory and we walked around taking a few last pictures. And by a few I mean a lot. Again I am impressed at the amount dressed up in complicated costumes even though it was the last official day. Maybe people were staying until Monday so they had hotels to go back to? But yes time to take pictures. I think we should have been by the water fountain area more as that is where most of the costume people were hanging out.

Looking back perhaps I could have added a few more things to my Sunday schedule like getting Eyeshine’s autographs and maybe going to the Fine Print: Madoka panel. But I didn’t want to spoil my husband and really going through this huge dealer’s room took so much time. X__X


One of my favorite shots of the entire convention.

And that is about it. We did some wandering, last few goodbye pictures, and spent some time chillin with our friends before we took special plane rides. Most of this just involves of us not being used to traveling after a convention but it does take its toll on you. Also folks…con flu. I has it. Don’t drink out of water fountains!!! The only other thing I can think of that caused me to become sick (besides my hatred of flying) is the whole everyone is hugging my plushie thing which increased my contact with people.


Yay for costumes!!!

So conclusion since I am pushing a million words. Otakon was tons of fun but the travel time and costs are brutal since we live in Florida. It is a great huge convention for people who are local or can drive the distance (I consider under 6 hours driveable for large groups of people and maybe 3 for people going alone). If it were not for our friends in Maryland we would not have been able to afford the adventure.

But if I were more local I would be attending Otakon every year. Yes there are lines but the amount of awesome cosplays made up for the fact that we couldn’t attend every panel/event. The quality of guests was awesome (if that is a sentence) and the walk to and from the hotel wasn’t that bad. Actually the hotel was rather nice and spacious. Food could have gotten very pricey if we wanted something other than Subway. The badge itself was very, very expensive though and the parking price was X__X.


Nagi says PEACE OUT!

So…I don’t know if we can afford to go to Otakon all the time. But I am glad we did go. We had a great time with our Maryland friends and got to experience such a huge convention. So anyone who is a huge anime fan and withstand some lines of doom this convention is worth checking out for the cosplayers and the huge dealer’s room. Not sure what else I can say but I had a blast! Thanks for reading a million words! Up next is the Otakon Sway Post. XD


Anonymous said...

Jealous of your trip! I got the feeling from their catalogs that most Japanese Lolita clothing lines would not fit even the smallest American lolis and goths. Shame because the japanese fabrics are so great ...

Christina said...

Anonymous- Sorry for the late response! Trying to catch up all the comments and random internet stuffs!

I have always dreamed of going to be a big convention. The atmosphere really is different. Every 5 feet there is another great costume that you must take a picture of. The guests are bigger and the dealer's room is so massive.

XD But it was still a lot of work. If I lived closer I would go every year (closer being drivable as flying is really not my thing). I am lucky that Anime Weekend Atlanta is what I consider drivable. Is there a major convention near you? It seems most of the major conventions are on one coast or another. Hopefully one is near you. If not save save save! Despite the lines, hotel costs, and crazy big city streets I do recommend attending a DREAM convention at least once.

Most of the people wearing the Japanese major brands seem to be rather tiny girls with no to little breasts. Anyone bigger than a size 6/ Cup A would look a lot bigger than they really were simply because the clothes don't have a lot of give.

But at the fashion show I attended (there was another one with the Japanese brands but I didn't attend that one) the designers had a better variety of body types. A lot of tall girls and girls who weren't supermodel thin. But with the exception of the plus size model designer many of their fabric choices were plain. Nothing is wrong with that but compared to the bright colors of the Japanese designers the American brands would get lost in the crowd. Hopefully when more people break into the industry the fabrics will become more unique and colorful while being flattering to people taller than 5 feet tall and more than 110 pounds.