Otakon celebrated its 20th year a few weeks back at its usual venue in the Inner Harbor area of Baltimore, Maryland. As a DC native, Otakon is more or less my local con, and I’ve been going regularly since I was about 15-years-old. That would make ten straight years, but considering I skipped two, that brings the total down a touch. One of those skipped years was the last one–as the con wasn’t going on while I was in the country. Luckily this year I managed to tap into whatever good karma I had, and found myself in the old Baltimore Convention Center for yet another time. However this was my first time at Otakon as a respected (?) member of society, and with as weathered as I’ve become from two years of Adult Life, coupled with intense levels of sleep deprivation, I have been shuddering at the prospect of calling back things that happened at the show in order to write this up, which is the entire reason why this report is so late. But given this was the event’s 20th year, Otakon put on a show to remember, and as I dig through the grey mush that sloshes around inside my skull, I find that I’m able to recall some things that happened, so I will try my best to scribble these memories down on this digital paper. Hopefully it’ll end up longer than this stupidly padded out introduction.
First, guests. Otakon pulled no punches with this year’s guest list. It was an impressive lineup featuring all manner of guest for all manner of fan, but I only had my eyes set on two of them–the esteemed talents responsible for the creation of one of my favorite shows, Cowboy Bebop.
I met Kanno first. She was, as one would expect, very up-beat, giving me–and all the rest of the 200 fans who lined up from 6 am in the morning to meet her–a big, warm smile. As she was signing, I shot some embarrassing words to her in Japanese–because, hey, when’s the next time I’m gonna meet Kanno Yoko? Unfortunately she didn’t have a panel, which I think is a waste, but I guess nerds are unable to ask questions about music anyway. I mean, I can’t.
Kanno did have a concert though, which was just her and a piano. It was fine, and did cool things with its visuals. Considering I already saw the best Kanno Yoko concert ever, just her and her piano didn’t leave much of an impact on me. It was fun and low key, but I’d rather an encore of Tanabata Sonic. You’ve already read about this concert elsewhere, so I’m keeping it short.
Watanabe was a cool cat at all his events, as expected from the guy who directed Cowboy Bebop. The funny thing about him is that he’s actually really nerdy: His voice is nasally, and he’s kind of chunky. But with his demeanor and those sweet-ass sunglasses, he’s the coolest guy ever. He’s like the Konishi Yasuharu of anime.
I came into his first panel just as he was telling a story about how Bebop almost didn’t happen, and was treated to the world premier of the Space Dandy trailer at the end. With regards to Space Dandy, by the way, I am cautiously optimistic about it. The trailer certainly presents something unique given the current anime climate, but considering how production is still very much in progress, there wasn’t much in the way of cool scenes or impressive animation to show off. Of course the most worrying aspect of Space Dandy is the fact that it’s a comedy. I realize that Watanabe has more or less proven himself with comedy in the past, but given that comedy is very tricky no matter who’s doing it, I’m not getting super excited just yet. Anyway, every panel with him was great. Given I was sleep deprived out of my mind, I don’t remember much, but people have this stuff written down, right? At any rate, he was really relaxed and cracking jokes the whole time, which made for a nice and chill atmosphere.
Of course, I had to be the asshole to ruin it for everyone by asking the question that made
fucking loser nerds people in the audience boo and passively aggressively say things around me (and not to my face). I think my initial question was fine, but the translator (a person I somewhat know, actually) had a hard time translating it, so when I reiterated it more simply, it came out a bit too blunt. I guess now he’s not going to accept my initiation to go out drinking! It’s okay. Bones is right next to SHAFT. I know where he’s at.
Yes, after also saying embarrassing things in Japanese to Watanabe, I said, “Let’s get drinks some time” at his signing. Worth a shot, right?
But despite the typical embarrassing happenings completely as a result of my own doing, I got two of the things I treasure the signatures I wanted on them: Kanno’s signature on my limited edition Cowboy Bebop CD boxset, and Watanabe’s signature on the first Cowboy Bebop DVD, both items I most likely acquired while in… junior high school. Yikes.
While Kanno was all smiles at her signing and Watanabe was a smooth operator at his events, perennial guest and Madhouse co-founder Maruyama Masao’s panel was a somber affair. Maybe they’re all like this? I don’t know, this was my first time at one of his panels. A lot of it seemed to be about how he’s old and going to die, and how anime is dying as well. They screened some rare animated clips Maruyama had a hand in, some of which were quite interesting. I unfortunately can’t divulge the details, as I do not wish to get jumped by Maruyama’s chinpira squad.
Aside from the guest panels mentioned above, I only found myself at a few fan panels, all run by Mike Toole, incidentally. It goes without saying, but in his signature Mike Toole style, he ran them well. I wanted to catch a few more, but I also didn’t want to kill myself adhering super strictly to my schedule, taking my time to instead rest and hang out with people. I especially wanted to check out one of Surat’s panels, for the sole reason of giving him a hard time at the end, but it wasn’t meant to be. He claimed later that at another panel he tried to come up to me and fire whatever one-liner he had prepared, but I guess I didn’t notice him. Next time, Surat.
As the more astute of you may know, I had my own panel this con, Otaku Hotspots in Tokyo, co-hosted by omo and Dave. It was fun, and went alright, but as per my fears the panel was too dense with information, with lots of stuff flying over people’s heads. Good thing a friend recorded the whole thing, and you can download the Power Point here. Omo also put up a bunch of links to stuff we talked about at the panel, so you can check them out online. Thanks for that!
As far as other programming goes, I caught part of a screening of an Anime Mirai short that I had never heard of, and it sucked big time up and down. That’s about it.
No, I didn’t line up to watch the OreImo finale. Life is short.
As it had been two years since my last con, there was catching up to do. I got to say hi to more or less everyone I know, but there were a few people who I only got to speak to for a criminally short amount of time. And even for some of the people that I was with for a while, it didn’t feel like long enough. Roommates omo, Jeff, and Jen were all great. Caught Dave at his table and other places (you know, like my panel) and it was nice seeing him, but I unfortunately hardly had any time to meet the rest of the NYC crew for any meaningful period of time. Other Twitter and Internet personalities include Hazukari, Link, TheGreatSG, Momotato, Moy, TheBigN, Mike, Patz, Elliot Page, DiGiKerot, MrVacBob, and Alex. It’s always a pleasure. As always, apologies in advance if I missed anyone.
I got to meet some new folks, and found myself at a few con parties. One was the yearly industry party, which a friend of mine managed to sneak me into. It had a sweet-ass open bar. The other was a fine gathering that opened wonderfully in another friend of mine’s room, but ended, uh, in an unfortunate manner in another room. I won’t go into the details of what happened, but it was something that clearly brought to light nerds’ lack of ability to read any kind of social atmosphere. Toole had a gathering one night, but the hotel had shut it down before I could get there. I did however run into my old boss Ed Chavez on the street coming back from that party. There was another party I wanted to go to, but the people running it had gone missing in action, leaving nothing but a cryptic message on their Twitter.
I wish I was more awake to appreciate it more, but overall Otakon was, as always, a good time. I doubt I’ll ever see Watanabe or Kanno there again, but I will certainly head back on over when I have the chance. In 2017 it’ll actually be nearer to my parents’ house, so I won’t even need to stay in a hotel! This of course means…
Wah Con Party 2017. My place. Be there.