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Otakon 2002: Closing Thoughts

posted on 2002-07-29 09:15 EDT
Final thoughts about Otakon, its improvements and its disappointments..

Closing Thoughts
by George Phillips

At 11pm Thursday night, a small group of anime fans gathered outside the BCC. Unable to check into their hotel, they opted to sit outside, first in line to enter the largest anime convention on the East Coast. While foul weather moved into Baltimore that morning, these fans were some of the lucky few who were untouched by the early morning rain storm. Otakon staff decided to open pre-registration at 8:30am, to help spare as many fans as possible from the incoming storm. Unfortunately, nearly everyone else suffered from drenching rains. The cosplayers whose costumes were soaked to the skin must've been quite angry at the weather. The rest of the weekend blazed with warmth and humidity, which combined to make trips outside the BCC uncomfortable.

After last year's incredible lack of organization, Otakon vowed improvements in line management and video track organization, and they seem to have kept their promises. Registration for several thousand anime fans took a while, but even with lines snaking down the entire length of the BCC, the lines moved fairly quickly, although slower than in previous years. It also didn't help that an hour into the convention, some credit cards stopped being accepted for registrations.

Other lines, though, moved quickly (the Dealer's Room line, when it existed at all, meant no more than a 15 minute wait) and many of the main events had no line at all -- the Main Event's hall had more than enough space to hold the thousands of people who attended Otakon.

All in all, Otakon was highly enjoyable, and I look forward to attending the East Coast's largest anime convention again next year.

As usual, here's a quick list of greets of people I had the pleasure of meeting at Otakon this year:
Matt Anderson of DVD Vision Japan
Everyone at animeacademy.com
Everyone from CAML, including HockeyKamen, Bill, Hachiman, Sue, and Doc
Everyone from PSSFS and PSAO
And, Kirk and all the rest of the guys from RDFN.org and #robotech on EFNet

Closing Thoughts
by Mikhail Koulikov

Its ninth iteration successfully concluded, Otakon really has established itself firmly as the "brand name" convention of the East Coast, the one to go to if you only go to one con a year and can't make it out to Anime Expo. In fact, in some ways, it is even a better convention than AX; certainly one that still remains fan-friendly, and in touch with the original - almost mythical now - spirit of fandom.

As Otakon has grown to cover the entire Baltimore Convention Center, the location's advantages are finally being utilized fully. It is extremely accessible - blocks off the East Coast's major expressway, a short light-rail ride away from a major airport and an Amtrak station, several blocks from a Greyhound terminal. It is also surrounded by dozens of restaurants of all types and price ranges. Since the entire convention center, which unlike that at AX is designed as several connected structures lined up along one street, is now taken up by the convention, there is no risk of conflicts with other groups.

In terms of programming, Otakon retains the unique events it is known for, such as the "Mystery Anime Theater 3000" a major anime music video competition, and several game shows, but also introduced several new ones, such as a presentation by the artist of the popular online comic Megatokyo and events related to the videogame ParaPara Dancing. The video rooms maintained Otakon's tradition of a mix of fansubs and commercially available titles, both classics and the very newest releases, as well as fan parodies and a live-action track of Japanese, Korean and Hong Kong films.

The Dealer's Room, although overwhelming in its sheer size, stocked an extremely wide array of merchandise, with several companies manning full trade-show booths rather than just tables. The Artist's Alley was equally impressive and perhaps the only let-down was the videogame room, again flooded almost entirely by rhythm and fighting games.

A word must also be said about the con guide - in Otakon's case, essentially a 64-page magazine that contained, in additions to standard convention information and guest biographies, several feature articles on topics as diverse as Cowboy Bebop, South Korean cinema, and Westerners' experiences in Japan. And to make it even more memorable, this year's guide included a number of humor articles as well - a "Fear, and Loathing in Las Vegas"-style take-off on the convention, an overview of "Otakon 2102", and a mini-comic. Probably the only complaint attendees seemed to have was the design of the convention map.

Overall, then, Otakon remains the one convention on the East Coast that is not to be missed, and a great experience for any anime or manga fan, regarding of his or her level of fandom or specific interests.

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