Otakon 2019 Convention Report

Folding paper cranes for the Kyoto Animation arson victims

Last weekend from July 26-28, 2019 was Otakon’s third year in the nation’s capital. Since moving to Washington, D.C. from its longtime home of Baltimore, Otakon has been able to better serve its attendees the anime goodness that was sometimes lacking in Baltimore due to its over-crowded nature. Besides some minor hiccups Otakon ran pretty smoothly and was a great time for everyone.

However, many con-goers going to this anime convention did so with a heavy heart. Just a week before the start of the con the world woke up to shocking and horrifying news about a blazing fire at Kyoto Animation Studios in Japan which to date has killed 35 people (and the number may continue to rise as many victims are still in serious medical condition). The arson was most likely the worst tragedy to ever befall the anime industry. And for this malicious act to happen to one of the most beloved anime production studios is still hard to grasp for many people.

This weekend was a time to celebrate anime, video games, cosplay, Japanese culture, and just geek culture in general. And in times of hardship, we geeks do what we do best by banding together to help others stay strong during their tribulations. There was plenty of support for the victims of the KyoAni fire that was seen throughout the weekend. From the mention of the Sentai Filmworks GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign at the Opening Ceremonies, folding paper cranes for the victims and collected at the Eleven Arts booth (pictured at the top of the post), and to Otakon setting up blank paper for people to write their wishes to the victims, it was a time for the community as a whole to help heal together.

Well, that’s enough of the downer stuff. So what about the cool stuff to happen this weekend? First there was the amazing lineup of guests this year. From a ton of English Voice actors, Japanese industry staff like those from Studio Trigger and groups representing Fruits Basket and Laid-Back Camp (Yuru Camp), and great musical guests like BRADIO, nano, and Diana Garnet. And to coincide with the 15th anniversary of Samurai Champloo, there was the Tribute to Nujabes to celebrate the late artist’s contributions to Japanese hip-hop music.

And being in the Nation’s capital, we got some recognition by the Japanese embassy here in the US. One of the ministers from the Japanese embassy spoke at the Opening Ceremonies and then made an appearance during the cosplay Masquerade event to award the very first Japanese Ambassador’s award for cosplay. It is pretty cool to know that the Japanese government is not only cognizant of the passion that anime fans have outside of Japan but to see them formally interact with us to try to bridge the culture gap was really impressive.


Speaking of cosplay, Otakon made a change with the cosplay photoshoot scheduling this year in that all of the officially scheduled photoshoot gatherings were held inside a reserved room in the Marriott Marquis hotel that is connected to the convention center. This was a very welcome change compared to the mass clusterfucks that were the previous two years where the photoshoots were held in open areas around the convention center that often times ended up blocking traffic and being chaotic in nature. So having the photoshoots take place in a reserved room just for the cosplay gatherings was a really nice change of pace. The only complaint about this was the selection of the ballroom that the shoots took place in as the lighting was not only bad but was also very yellow in nature which while may be great for mood lighting it was rather ugly for photographs.

In terms of crowds and lines, the convention center was only lightly crowded on Friday and was much more crowded on Saturday but never felt like it was too much to handle. There were definitely longer lines waiting outside the convention center to get in through the security checks on Saturday. It would definitely be nice if the convention center would open up more entrances and/or have more security staff to conduct the bag checks in order to move the lines more quickly so that people wouldn’t have to stand and wait outside in the hot sun.

Lastly, Otakon apparently gained a new mascot to join crabby during the weekend. A pigeon was spotted by multiple attendees throughout the con and instantly became social media-famous. I have a feeling that pigeon-kun earned more than just his five minutes of fame.

The convention was a blast overall and one that I always look forward to going to every year, although next year may be in question as I have been contemplating about taking a trip to Japan during the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic games which coincides with Otakon 2020’s dates. Decisions, decisions.

Click here to go to my Facebook photography page where I posted the photos that I took at various cosplay photoshoots to include: Fate Series (both Friday and Saturday), Friday’s My Hero Academia (Boku no Hero Academia), Disney (Friday), Final Fantasy, Overwatch (Saturday), Fire Emblem, Touhou Project (Saturday), and Sword Art Online (SAO).

Click here to go to my YouTube channel where I uploaded my video recordings of Samurai Champloo 15th Anniversary panel, the Persona 5 panel featuring voice actors Erika Harlacher and Elizabeth Maxwell, the video games voice acting panel featuring five English voice actors, and the full cosplay Masquerade event.