I have been going to Otakon since I moved up to Baltimore in the mid 2000s. It is a home con, where the majority of my friends attend and celebrate our geekdom to the fullest. As a long time Otakon fan, I can say that I was apart of the 25,000 attendees this year experiencing the con for its first year in DC, embracing all the new changes it had available to me.
As a Tourist
Being a Baltimore native who is a 10 minute walk from the Baltimore Convention center, no one was talking more about the move than I have been over the past year. Though there was a lot of negative feedback over this, I was actually excited for it. To be honest, I haven’t gone to a lot of panels at Otakon, simply because I knew I wouldn’t be able to make it inside before the panel cut off. While I enjoyed 2016, it would often be too stuffy for me, or way too many people in my personal space. I’m not as familiar with DC (aside from Awesome Con held at the same convention center) as I am my current hometown, but I was ready and willing to have a new experience trusting the standard I had come to know from Otakon.
We stayed a bit farther away at the Residence Inn by Marriott, which was a gorgeous room that suited us well as a home away from home, and because we were used to cooking meals and such for Otakon’s past, this helped our vacation go by a bit smoother. It was easy to navigate from the Residence to the con, and by the time we hit Saturday, we already knew where we were going.
Not being as familiar with the area, we didn’t see a lot of cheaper food options – aside from the shockingly great food in The Downtown Food District section of the center -which I have noticed to be a complaint about the area. We did splurge on a few places for food, but only after exploring did we find some amazing and nicely priced places in China Town.
As a Cosplayer
Due to the new space, and the level of room I knew I would have, I decided to go all out this year is a full three tiered ball gown as well as take the time to do a full paint job at the end of the night. With the room given to me, I didn’t hit anyone with my wings the entirety of my con experience. There were so many people, yet still room to move, which was such a blessing to have. With designated spots for photos, as well as a cosplay repair station (which I recommend every con have) when I needed it on Sunday, I moved comfortably throughout the entire convention space.
As a Panelist
Being a panelist can be tough at times, and when you constantly have panels you are participating in you have to treat it as a second job. Over time you recognize a standard: pick the panels that suit certain convention audiences. You also meet a ton of amazing people who are doing the same thing along the way.
There have been times where I would enter a room and have nothing set up, no assistant in sight, and even had rooms that were trashed before my panel was ready to go. This was not the case here. From the room setups to the VIP area where panelists can relax, there wasn’t a moment at Otakon during any of my panels where I felt neglected. There were times where I was able to have multiple assistants because of the size of the room given to me. The three panels I gave were:
- I teamed up with the folks from Doomtastic for our workshop Dressforms for Dummies, where people would come in to this workshop and make their very own dressform to take home with them.
- I worked with Doomtastic again on another panel known as Oh for the Love of Folklore; which is a Fan perspective on Rumiko Takahashi’s work throughout her years.
- Anime Boobies: Physics and Phuckery; A Scientific Excuse to watch Animated Breasts is one of my newer panels, with CakedaBlerd.
During all of my panels, the staff made sure communication was always top notch. Whenever something would happen, they would approach me, and update me, to make sure I was okay with the changes or if I was out of my comfort zone at any point and time. This was one of the cons where my paneling experience was truly one of the best.
As a Con Goer
Normally there is a type of energy depending on the convention you go to, and as expected of Otakon, there is always this very high buzzing feeling you get when surrounded by swarms of anime fans. It is a frenetic energy that keeps you in a naturally energetic state when attending Otakon. Not this year. In fact it was far from it. It was relaxing; almost a calm but happy feeling this year. Everyone who surrounded me at any point and time had an aura of contentment, and I was 100 percent okay with this. In fact, I loved it. This is what turned my convention experience into a vacation experience.
Going back and forth, truly contemplating what my issues were with the convention moving to DC only to find myself sit back and experience one of the few vacation cons I have had this year. The energy from this con was a calming one, not as hyper as past years have been, and made it all the better for me. I truly enjoyed my time this year and that gave me the feeling of true excitement for next year’s Otakon; a feeling I haven’t felt in quite some time..
As the number of conventions I attend every year grows, there are times where I have to sacrifice some that didn’t fit my personality or my conventioning style. Due to travel, possible lack of food options, and overall inconvenience of the move compared to being a native walking down the street; there was a debate about not only attending this year, but getting rid of plans to go next year as well. After experiencing the event, while we were leaving DC, we had already began plans for 2018; always a positive sign of a great convention.