Otakon 2008 impressions

So after spending most of today decompressing from Otakon by mindlessly watching the Olympics, I’m ready to relate my impressions about the event, which I promised on Thursday.

Despite never having been to an anime convention, Otakon didn’t overwhelm me at all. It was pretty much exactly like what I expected. Going to Wizard World East (a comic convention in Philadelphia) a few years back definitely gave me a feel for what it’d be like. Plus, I know many people who’ve been to these things before, and I’ve heard all sorts of stories. The experience wasn’t as transporting as when I went to a local renaissance festival, mainly because while everyone was also in costume there, they also kept in character the whole time. The cosplayers at anime conventions pretty much only stay in character for photo shoots and the masquerade.

Overall, the people at the convention were very friendly. Although I didn’t meet up with my friend from work until later in the day, I wasn’t alone while waiting in the entrance line on Saturday, as the girls behind me in line were very chatty and approachable. They were also from Canada, which kind of made my complaint about having to drive a whole forty miles from DC fall on deaf ears.

Later on during the convention, I struck up many conversations with random attendees, some of whom I was photographing, others of whom were just hanging around, and I never so much as had a rude interaction. No one ever turned down a request for a photograph, which I guess makes sense because anyone willing to go through the effort to make an elaborate costume certainly wants to be seen in it. It was really easy to strike up conversations and find things to talk about, because everyone there shared a rich appreciation of anime and knew a lot about it. I was surprised to find that I was pretty much the least knowledgeable anime fan I ran into.

I was also quite surprised at the sheer abundance of videogame cosplay, which came in a close second behind anime cosplay, with general Japanese fashions (such as gothic lolita) and non-anime TV shows and movies bringing up the rear. I wouldn’t even bill Otakon as an anime convention — I would bill it as an anime and videogame convention. There was a huge videogaming hall that was packed the entire convention. Amongst the videogame cosplayers, the Final Fantasy series was the most popular (with cosplay from the Final Fantasy Tactics subseries surprisingly common). I also saw a lot of Kingdom Hearts and Team Fortress 2 (red team only though). On the anime front, it was the usual suspects (basically, whatever anime is obscenely popular either at the moment or in the near past, such as Gurren Lagann and Naruto), but there was also a surprising number of Trigun cosplayers considering the age of that series. Not that I’m complaining, given how awesome Trigun is.

The only sour moment of the whole convention was when we attempted to attend a panel called “Welcome to Touhou”, which was supposed to be an introduction to a very specific Japanese subgenre of shmup (rail shooter), but were instead greeted with a panel-troller who spouted off bullshit on the “Psychology of Cosplayers” for a good half-hour before Otakon staff shut him down. Our best guess is that the original people leading the panel never arrived, and this asshole seized the moment. He kept babbling on and on, stopping occasionally to curse out the audience members that were leaving or calling him out, and took “questions” only to ignore them and continue spouting bullshit. The volunteer that he had found to walk around the microphone for him quickly grew exasperated and walked off, so it was a solo show. I don’t know why in the hell this guy did this or what he found fun about it, but it was incredibly lame.

On the first day of the convention neither I nor my friend cosplayed. It actually left me feeling a bit out of place (just like being one of the few “normals” at the renaissance festival), so I decided to wear my cloak to accompany my friend who was going as the Tenth Doctor from Doctor Who. Yes, I have a cloak, which I made for renaissance festivals but haven’t yet had a chance to attend one with. My basic plan was to go along with whatever the first person “recognized” me as being, and since one of the first events of the day was a Doctor Who cosplay shoot, I was quickly pegged as one of the older iterations of “The Master”, the Doctor’s Time Lord nemesis.

All right, and now for those promised pictures! And if these leave you feeling disappointed, just know that these pictures don’t really represent the complete lengths that some of the females at the con went to to show off some skin. In particular, there were a few ladies there flashing a lot of ass, but I don’t know of any polite way to ask someone to turn around and present their backside for the purposes of taking a photograph, and I’m not about to be that creepy dude sneakily taking pictures of girls. All of the photographs were taken with consent.

View the Photographs (Woohoo, I installed gallery2 just for this.)

3 Responses to “Otakon 2008 impressions”

  1. Cyde Weys Says:

    Some other observations that didn’t quite make it into the blog post:

    I don’t understand why so many people want to cosplay wounded people. I suppose some of the wounded nurses wrapped in bloody bandages were inspired by Silent Hill, but I couldn’t figure out the guys who were wearing the same thing. There were also some guys wearing no shirts, just painted-on bloody wounds. I don’t understand the appeal of cosplaying something like this at all, and I can’t help but feel that I was missing some reference.

    Internet culture was also in attendance at Otakon, with a fair number of people from Anonymous wearing “V” masks, people carrying around a fabric Looooongcat Chinese-dragon-puppet-style, all sorts of OMGs and ROFLs, etc. I even saw a guy in a V mask walking next to a guy wearing a Laughing Man logo after his face, which is awesome, because I’m the one who originally made that connection.

    Oh yeah, and I guess I failed to mention this in the blog post because it was so obvious to me, but I did have a lot of fun at Otakon, I would recommend it to others, and I expect to go back next year, hopefully with more friends.

  2. T2A` Says:

    Lots more cleavage than I expected, so I’ll give it a thumbs up.

  3. Cyde Weys Says:

    I would say your expectations were a bit off then. There was actually a lot of cleavage on display amongst those who weren’t cosplaying as anything in particular, but it’s a bit harder to get photographs of them.