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Otakon 2011
Opening Ceremonies

by Crystalyn Hodgkins,

The opening ceremonies got off to a half-hour late start due to the staff needing to set up the tech, but the large panel room was close to full, and it was clear that the audience was excited to meet the guests.

Con Chair Bob Clemens took the stage and welcomed everyone to the 18th Otakon, and the 13th one at the Baltimore Convention Center. Clemens mentioned that the con was hosting multiple premieres, as well as a masquerade ball, to be held at the Mariner Arena stadium. He also mentioned that Otakon was hosting a charity auction to benefit the victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake disaster.

Clemens reminded fangoers with smartphones to download the free Guidebook app that will automatically update with schedule changes. He then asked fans to follow their Twitter and Facebook accounts. He wished everyone a fun weekend, and reminded everyone to stay out of the heat and drink plenty of water, as the temperature was to hit 100 today in Baltimore.

Next staff member Rebecca Roach explained the charity funding Otakon is doing this year. Attendees can buy special-edition keychains, wristbands, T-shirts and mini-flags at Otakon's merchandise booth and at the lost and found. She mentioned there would also be a charity auction at the art show.

Next, Jeff Lee from guest relations welcomed everyone to the convention, and thanked the guests for coming to the convention. Next the staff played a guest reel, which quickly introduced all the guests for this year's convention: Eyeshine, Akira Sasanuma, Atsuhiro Iwakami, Bob Shirohata, Cassandra Lee, Chiaki Shimogama, J. Michael Tatum, Johnny Yong Bosch, Chemistry, Kazuya Murata, Makoto Shinkai, Orine Fukushima, Mitsuba, Masumi Kanō, Sixh., Nobuo Uematsu, Masao Maruyama, Masayuki Ozaki, Momoko Ohara, Scott Freeman, Kylee, Patrick Seitz, Peter S. Beagle, Scott Sager, Stephanie Sheh, Roland Kelts, Takamasa Sakurai, Tom Wayland, Lisa Ortiz, Tony Oliver, Toshihiro Fukuoka, Shelby Lindley, Cristina Vee, Noboru Ishiguro, DJ Saolilith, Mari Yoshida and Hiroaki Yura.

Former relations chief Jim Vowles then started introducing the guests. First he introduced Yoshikuni Dōchin and Kaname Kawabata, the duo Chemistry, who gave a brief introduction in English, asking everyone to come to their concert this evening.

Next Vowles introduced the 4 voice actresses from K-ON, (Stephanie Sheh (Yui), Cristina Vee (Mio), Cassandra Lee Morris (Ritsu), Shelby Lindley (Mugi)) who were signing autographs and could not make it to the ceremonies, but will be performing a K-On! concert at the convention. Next, Vowels introduced Eyeshine. Then he introduced musical guest Kylee, who came on stage to give an introduction. Kylee noted she was from Arizona, and invited everyone to her concert on Sunday afternoon.

Vowles introduced Noburo Ishigoro, Orine Fukushima, Momoko Ohara, Chiaki Shimogama, who will all introduce the new show Scandys. All four came up on stage and introduced themselves in Japanese, asking everyone to have fun together. Vowels then introduced Eminence founder Hiroaki Yura and vocalist Mari Yoshida. Yura will host a panel talking about his music as the recording director of The Dissapearance of Haruhi Suzumiya. He then introduced Yoshida, who will work on a lot of anime and video game singing projects. Yoshida asked everyone to come to her performance on Saturday, and asked everyone to have fun at the convention.

Vowles then introduced DJ Saolilith, who will DJ at the Otakon Dance later this evening. Saolilith spoke a small introduction in English, and recieved a booming response when she asked if everyone really liked anime. Saolilith said she'll be playing anime and Vocaloid songs at the dance.

Next was Toshihiro Fukuoka, who produced the Mikunopolis tour. Fukuoka mentioned the recent Hatsune Miku performance in LA at Anime Expo, and said he will show special behind-the-scenes footage at his panel.

Vowles introduced Nobuo Uematsu, who was holding a Q&A at the same time, and thanked the Distant Worlds staff for helping to coordinate Uematsu's appearance.

Next he introduced Masao Maruyama, who said he was excited to eat crab and crabcakes in Baltimore again this year. Next he introduced the producer of Madoka Magica, and talked about the Madoka Magica poster taht will be on sale at the convention.

Fullmetal Alchemist director Kazuya Murata was introduced next, although he did not attend the opening ceremonies personally.

Masayuki Ozaki, from Sunrise, then came to the stage and introduced himeslf. He spoke his introduction in English. He mentioned he will have a Sunrise panel where he will introduce his new lineup, then he will host a Tiger & Bunny panel on Sunday.

Uematsu then came on stage and asked if he should speak in English or Japanese. When the translator said English would make his job easier, Uematsu immediately started speaking in Japanese, to the laughter of the audience. He asked the audience to leave the ceremonies and go to his panel, which was about to start in 5 minutes. Uematsu then introduced Arnie Roth, the conductor of the Distant Worlds tour.

Vowles then invited Makoto Shinkai to the stage, to a thunderous applause. Shinkai asked everyone in English to come to his showing of Hoshi o Ou Kodomo on Saturday morning.

Vowles then introduced Peter S. Beagle, who was at another panel at the time, and Roland Kelts, the author of Japanamerica. Vowles called him Otakon's "academic guest." Kelts said he will host a panel on apocalyptic art later on today, and noted it was a great honor to follow Makoto Shinkai to the stage.

Next to the stage was Takamura Sakurai, who noted that he was happy to be back again this year at Otakon. Vowles then began introducing the fashion guests. He invited Sixh. to the stage first. Sixh. noted that their good friend h.Naoto was at the convention last year, and invited everyone to their fashion show this afternoon. Sixh. noted they also had a booth, and would coordinate outfits for audience members at their booth as well.

Next were Mitsuba and Masumi Kanō, who will be doing a fashion show on Saturday. Mitsuba and Kano will also have a booth in the dealer's room. The two ladies have also donated dresses to the charity auction.

Vowles then announced Pokémon director Tom Wayland. Wayland plugged his panel "Voice Actor Story Time," which will have 7-8 American voice actors do a reading of Neil Gaiman's Sandman and a Vampire Hunter D short story.

Next Vowles introduced Lisa Ortiz, the voice of Lina Inverse from Slayers and Tony Tony Chopper from One Piece. Next voice actor Tony Oliver came to the stage, who introduced himself and noted that Otakon was his favorite convention.

Next he introduced the Hetalia guests: Director Bob Shirohata, voice actor Akira Sasanuma (Austria), J. Michael Tatum (France), Scott Freeman (England), Scott Sager (Egypt), and Patrick Seitz (Germany). Each of them asked attendees to have fun and enjoy the convention. Sager asked everyone to be gentle, as he hadn't been to many conventions. Sasanuma, to the laugher of the crowd, gave only a brief introduction, saying he had to keep it short because he really had to go to the restroom.

After the introductions, staff member Rebecca Roach reminded attendees that no full-face masks were allowed at the nearby Inner Harbor, and invited attendees to volunteer with the convention if they were interested.

Roach then read an "in memoriam" speech, recognizing the victims of the earthquake in Japan, and how the earthquake has affected the manga and anime industries. She noted that this year the convention is dedicated to the people of Japan.

Roach then mentioned those who passed away in the last year, recognizing the loss of Satoshi Kon, mentioning many of the staff knew Kon personally, noting "In his honor, dream big, and let those dreams inspire you throughout your lives." She also mentioned a staff member, Walt Sysak, who passed away this last year.

Then the staff then played a few music videos from the musical guests, including "Vacancy," "missing," "It's You," "Everlasting" "Never Give Up!" by Kylee, a video from DJ Saolilith, "Wings of Words," "This Night," "Life goes on ~side K~," "Period," by Chemistry. Roach Rebecca. And with that, the opening ceremonies were over.

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