One of Baltimore's biggest events - and the second-largest anime convention in the U.S. - has come and gone. Otakon 2013, the 20th iteration of the annual convention, was this past weekend. It was my 11th time attending this event, and it didn't disappoint. For the most part.
I started going to conventions with Otakon 2002, when I was 12 years old (yes, you read that correctly - 12 years old). I went with one of my friends and her parents, and it was overwhelmingly awesome. I had only just begun to really get into video gaming and anime, so to have a whole convention full of the stuff was a sensory overload. I was hooked. I've been to more conventions than I can count ever since, including Otakon, Katsucon, Anime USA, Anime Boston, and MAGFest. While Otakon is no longer my favorite convention to attend - that award goes to MAGFest - Otakon is still my "home convention" and I still love going every year.
This year, they had some pretty major guests - but honestly, none that I was too terribly interested in. They did a world premiere of Oreimo 2, but not having seen any of Oreimo, I didn't really bother with it. Music-wise, they had TM Revolution and Home Made Kazoku, both of whom are pretty well-known for some popular anime theme songs, such as the Rurouni Kenshin theme and one of the Naruto themes. They also had Yoko Kanno, who's an incredible composer - she's done scores for Turn A Gundam and Cowboy Bebop, among others. I didn't make it to either of the concerts, unfortunately - the Kanno show required tickets you had to get in advance, which I missed out on, and I'm pretty apathetic about TM Revolution/Home Made Kazoku. I saw TM Revolution way back in 2003, when he made his first US appearance, and I had kind of wanted to see him for nostalgia's sake, but that particular concert was held outside of the convention center, and the idea of walking through the summer heat in uncomfortable shoes and a wig for a show I only wanted to hear one song out of just wasn't appealing to me.
I did end up going to a couple of panels, including a Digimon one on Sunday. Digimon is one of my all-time favorite series, and the people running it did a pretty damn good job of going over the history of the franchise, all the way back to the original virtual pet toy. Remember that commercial? I do. I bugged the shit out of my parents for one of those and never got one. I did, however, get hooked on the show - the first two seasons of which you can now watch on Netflix. If you've never seen the original Japanese Digimon Adventure and Adventure 02, you should definitely watch it. The Japanese and English versions of the show are so different, Netflix treats them as two separate series rather than just different language options of the same show.
Overall, the convention was really great. I saw a lot of friends I don't often get to see, since they're really only in town for conventions. One of my con-going buddies proposed to his girlfriend on Saturday night at our big group dinner at the Inner Harbor - she said yes, which was awesome. I managed not to spend all of my money in the dealer's hall or artist's alley - the only thing I ended up buying for myself was a clock made out of an old Zelda II cartridge. The people selling them also made wallets made out of broken NES controllers, which I regret not buying when I saw them. I went back on Sunday to get one and they were no longer set up. Total bummer.
The biggest downside to the convention was the traffic control problem. Convention staff and con center staff didn't seem to be communicating with each other very well - more than once I was told by a convention staffer that I could get somewhere by going down a certain hallway, only to be told by a con center security person that I couldn't actually go down there. A lot of doors were entrance-only or exit-only for reasons I just didn't understand. They might have just put up a sign that said "Welcome to Otakon, where just because the door's open, it doesn't mean you can actually come in." It made sense to have one lobby as an entrance-only area during the huge Friday registration lines. It stopped making sense to keep that up once that line dissipated. Sending con-goers on wild goose chases around the entire Baltimore Convention Center for the sake of finding the "correct" way into the building was absolutely asinine.
I did have a great time at Otakon despite that nonsense, though, and I can't wait for the next event. In case you haven't heard, Otakon will be moving out of Baltimore and into Washington, D.C. after the 2017 convention. It makes a lot of sense - the DC Convention Center is a lot bigger and a lot nicer than the BCC, and Otakon will for sure outgrow the BCC by then. Obviously that's a few years down the road from now, but I think it will be good for the convention to expand into a bigger space. Maybe they'll actually let us use all the doors in DC.