So another Otakon has come and gone. The annual blockbuster anime convention to grace the shores of Baltimore, MD was held during July 24-26, 2015. To start off, unofficial numbers report that attendance this year saw a drop to 28,000 attendees which is about 4-5K less than the previous year. A drop in attendance is really no surprise, however. Increasing frustration with the crowded convention center, last year's pre-reg line fiasco, a hike in membership fees, and the city-wide unrest that occurred in the spring probably helped to scare some people away. Despite the setbacks, this year's Otakon was still a fun experience even if it wasn't Otakon's best showing.
Otakon traditionally kicks off on Thursday with the Matsuri festival held along Inner Harbor to coincide with the Thursday pre-registration badge pickup. This year's Matsuri had a good number of fun booths and entertainers. It kicked off with a Yukata contest and proceeded to have various entertainers perform throughout the day. Unfortunately, the festivities were marred by yet another pre-reg line fiasco with Otakon yet again experiencing computer glitches that caused major delays and long lines for people trying to pick up their badge. You would think that with the problems and anger that resulted from the same exact issues that occurred last year that they would have made sure to correct the problems in order to prevent another catastrophe. Apparently that was wishful thinking. Otakon offered a badge mailing option this year for the first time for a steep price of $10. I had decided to take the plunge and paid the fee to have my badge mailed and after seeing the lines and frustration on Thursday I definitely was glad that I did.
Problems aside, this year saw a plethora of awesome cosplay which is always a major draw of Otakon. I saw someone on Otakon's bulletin boards lamenting on the lack of "professional" cosplayers making an appearance this year. I for one don't care about "pro" celebrities. As long as I get to meet awesome, passionate cosplayers who love their craft then I can care less about their status.
For me this year was a repeat of last year in which I spent my waking hours running from one cosplay photoshoot to another taking hoards of pictures and also going to many of the Q&A panels of the English Voice Actor guests. I was able to attend some of the panels by Bryce Papenbrook, J. Michael Tatum, Laura Bailey, and Travis Willingham and enjoyed every moment of them. Although I do wish that Otakon would enforce a mandatory room clearing after every panel as I saw that most panels did not have such a policy in effect and a lot of people simply stayed put after a panel was over which really screwed a lot of people who patiently waited in line outside for a chance to get in.
I also never miss the Masquerade event which is my personal favorite event at every con. Nothing speaks "by the fans for the fans" like the skits put on by the contestants. I was a little shocked though that the final skit, "Dance Battle Royale", which featured a number of cosplayers performing energetic dance moves mixed with martial arts end up not winning any awards. I think the same group performed at last year's Masquerade and won awards last year which may have factored into the judges not giving them anything this year, but they were by far the crowd favorite.
[UPDATE] It turns out that the Flash Step Dance Crew's performance was an exhibition that was not judged but given a longer time slot and was announced ahead of time as such. Apparently I need to get my ears checked so next time I don't miss that crucial detail. [END UPDATE]
The half-time performance at the Masquerade this year was performed by the popular Japanese rock band, BACK-ON. I'm not a big fan of rock music, but I definitely enjoyed their performance and really wonder why they weren't offered a full concert opportunity. Back on Friday I had attended the concert by the Japanese girls rock band, Draft King. While I was a big fan of the now defunct Stereopony despite not being a rock enthusiast, I'm not sure if I like Draft King as much. I did enjoy Draft King's concert, especially when they rocked the covers to Neon Genesis Evangelion's "Cruel Angel's Thesis" and Sword Art Online's "Crossing Fields", but overall wasn't as impressed by their performance as I had hoped.
Of course no anime convention would be without its staples such as the Dealer's Room, Artist Alley, and Video Game rooms. The Dealer's Room was packed with a wide variety of merchandise and had a big industry presence as major studios such as Funimation and Aniplex had a lot of floor space devoted to them. The Artist Alley had a wide variety of fan art and hand-crafted goods as well. The video game room occupied a very large space and had lots of game consoles to play and a large selection of arcade games as well, although I felt like they had plenty of space to set up even more consoles and TVs so that more people could play.
Last thing to note was an event called "Lip Syncing For Your Cosplay Presented by Jez Roth" that was held on early Sunday morning. It was an extremely awesome event where audience members can be chosen to go up on stage in pairs to do battle by lip syncing and dancing to anime themesongs and other music from pop culture. It's really too bad that they scheduled this during Sunday morning when no one's around or quite awake yet. The crowd was small, so there was a lot of hesitation from the audience members to volunteer to go on stage. However, every one of them that mustered the courage to get up on stage completely rocked it and this turned out to be one of my highlights at Otakon this year. Hopefully next year they will hold another one at a more opportune time slot.
Overall, I had a great time at Otakon despite the issues. Hopefully next year's finale here at Baltimore before the move to DC will be more spectacular. I took a lot of photos and video during the weekend. Anyone interest in them can check out the links below:
Click HERE for my hall costume cosplay photos.
Click HERE for my Facebook photography page where you can find albums for the various photoshoots that I attended and also of the Masquerade event. (Photoshoots include The Legend of Korra, Tales of Series, Magi, Nintendo Cosplay, Fire Emblem, RWBY, No Game No Life, Type-Moon/Fate Universe, SMT/Persona series, Disney, Kantai Collection KanColle, and the Legend of Zelda).
Click HERE for my Youtube channel where I uploaded the videos that I recorded over the weekend. (Thursday Matsuri Yukata contest, Bryce Papenbrook Q&A Panel, J. Michael Tatum's Q&A Panel, Laura Bailey's Q&A Panel, Lip Sync for your Cosplay event, and Laura Bailey & Travis Willingham's joint Q&A panel).