As someone who has been attending Otakon for at least 8 years, it was amazing to see the growth the Baltimore (now in D.C.) convention has made. It’s already been put out there that Otakon’s attendance has increased by 5,000 members from last year bringing their attendance total this year to nearly 30k. But that’s not what I want to talk about.
There has been a lot of talk about how people feel about Otakon moving from Baltimore to D.C. and if it was a good decision. In my humble and personal opinion, I think so. As much as I loved Otakon in Baltimore, I think spending a bit of time in D.C. gives the convention space and resources to grow in the right direction; not just for the con itself but for its attendees or members as well.
To touch on one of the resources Otakon was able to tap into, this year Otakon was able to partner with The Library of Congress, the National Library of the United States, to give members a historical and cultural view on where some of their favorite Japanese pop culture animations or comics might have taken an inspiration from during a one-hour panel. Bridging a gap between 1700-era Japanese collections that include, but limited to, artworks, novels, scrolls of swords to modern hits such as Dragonball, Godzilla, Astro Boy, Afro Samurai, and so much more.
Also included in this was a special visit from the U.S. Copyright Office to discuss on copyrighting, trademarking, and if it was possible for artists and cosplayers alike to have a copyright on the items to create. By having this talk, The Library of Congress and Otakon were able to lead those who had copyright or trademarking questions to the right resources that are in-high demand and sought after.
Another of the many resources were the amount of Industry vendors. There were a lot of new faces for me such as HIDIVE which is a brand new anime streaming service; something new to rival Crunchyroll and Funimation. At $4.99/a month, this new streaming service offers both sub and dubbed which can be preferably among viewers. Their catalog seems to be EXTENSIVE and a small feature I like it how over the anime titles there is an orange box that lets you know when the next episode or dubbing will be released.
The biggest attraction in the massive dealer’s hall had to be Bandai and their Dragonball Z Super buildout space. They brought many interactive spaces and features for Dragonball Z fans and non-fans alike to enjoy such as almost life-size statues of Goku, Vegeta, and Frieza, many photo-op booths like the martial arts tournament stage from Dragonball, a dining room with life-size and beyond sized DBZ food, and scouters to take pictures with! Amongst all the photo taking places and free merch if you followed them on various social medias or used certain hashtags, there were stands to play the DBZ console fighting games, download a new DBZ app for your mobile phone, learn how to play their DBZ card games, and buy DBZ Super figures that were exclusive to the DBZ Bandai tour. Did I mention that floating overtop this HUGE, INTERACTIVE buildout was Sheron and the dragonballs? It was INSANE! The energy was high and it was a nerdgasm!
Now to talk about the con, outside of the amazing vendors in the dealer’s and artist alley, but Otakon itself. I’m not going to mince words, Otakon was pricey this year. Early registration for the full weekend was $85 with a limited number of badges for that, regular registration was $95. This year, Otakon did implement new memberships for Saturday to Sunday which was $70 and a Sunday only badge for $40. That is a big improvement over just offering a full weekend only. If you picked the mailing option when you did your registration online, one can only imagine your full weekend badge total price was $100 or so. And we’re not including if you had a hotel room with friends or not. As I said, Otakon this year, for some, was pricey.
But in the same breath, I can honestly say for me it was worth it. Otakon has grown from just a dorky anime based convention to a convention that is trying to do better each year and makes attempts to do right by its members. Just like with any convention trying to get its feet, Otakon will make changes that may not work for everyone such as raising its membership prices or moving to D.C., but it’s offering bigger and more insightful programs and features for us. The con space is bigger for one, so for all of those who want to do huge and outrageous cosplays, you have the space to do so. There are more food options inside the con space that are affordable and diverse, as well as even more options outside. The kinds of panels we had this year were well assembled and organized. Yes, there were hiccups in that regard but things happen.
Otakon, or Otakorp, is reaching out to local and national institutions in the Washington, D.C. area to enhance knowledge and spread cultural wealth that some people may not have known that they had access to all along. Is Otakon perfect? No, but they’re trying. Is Otakon better in Baltimore than it is in D.C.? I say yes and no, but I know there are people who are willing to fight me on this. As for the price, it’s as a friend of mine said, you’re paying a lot to enjoy Otakon weekend but the memories and experiences you leave with are second to none. So, for those who are on the fence, never been, or second guessing, Otakon is a win in my book and a good way for me to end my heavy con-going season.
See you guys next year on July 26th -28th 2019 at Walter E. Washington Convention Center!