August 27, 2009
News for Otakon 2009:
Otakon 2009 convention reportby Elizabeth O'Malley, AnimeCons.com Staff
The largest east coast convention, Otakon, was held from July 17 - 19, 2009 in Baltimore, Maryland. This year the convention had 26,586 people in attendance.
Once again, the Baltimore Convention Center was host to the east coast's largest anime convention. Also, with the completion of the new Baltimore Hilton last year, which is connected to the convention center by a sky bridge, Otakon was able to expand into the new hotel, holding several panels and other events. This expansion was great for the convention, as it already used all the space in the convention center.
The convention center is a good location for a large anime convention, though not necessarily the greatest. The center is sort of divided into two halves, and the main way to get from one side to the other is to go through some hallways that are too narrow for a con of this size, especially when people stop to take pictures or chat with friends, blocking the way of others. Also, getting from point A to point B could be somewhat confusing. When you first walk in (at least through the Pratt Street entrance) you go up to the third floor. Then you have to go to a certain staircase to go down two floors to get to things like the dealer's room, artists alley, and main events.
The convention has the standard events and facilities: a dealers room, artists alley, video game room, manga library, panel rooms, screening rooms, AMV contest, masquerade, game shows, and concerts. Looking back on the events of the weekend, nothing unique stands out. However, the quantity of what was given was well worth it. The dealers room, artists alley, and video game room were some of the biggest I have ever seen. There was a great variety of dealers, selling things from the usual anime merchandise, DVDs, and manga, to non-anime dealers selling clothing, weapons, and jewelry. There were also six panel rooms, two workshop rooms, and seven screening rooms, including one in HD.
Throughout the weekend, Otakon had five concerts. The first, VAMPS, was held Thursday night, followed by MELL on Friday night, Kanon Wakeshima on Saturday night, and finally Becca and Naomi Tamura on Sunday afternoon. All the concerts were held in main events, while the other big attraction of the weekend, the masquerade, was held in the First Mariner Arena, just a couple blocks away from the convention center. This arena is a great asset for the convention center to have. Most cons have to do deal with very long lines, both in time and length, for their masquerades and other huge main events, and some do not have enough space for all attendees who want to attend. Having this arena, which seats over 13,000 people, allows Otakon to avoid these problems.
Otakon is well known for having amazing cosplay, however this year seemed to be lacking. There were few costumes that were crowd stopping. Without a doubt, the new cosplay sensation this year is Kuroshitsuji/Black Butler. The masquerade was overall entertaining, save a few skits that were absolutely horrible. The skit that won Best in Show was a Baccano! skit, that will hopefully bring attention to a wonderful show that does not get the recognition it deserves.
The surrounding area of the convention is great. The Inner Harbor of Baltimore is a quick walk away and a tourist hot spot, with numerous places to eat and shop. Many of the eating options are cheap, allowing for more money to be spent on the dealers rooms, however with the huge crowds the lines at meal times would become very long. There are also many different hotels in the area allowing for plenty of options for attendees to stay. However, it's best not to head out alone at night in the area, especially past the tourist spots. And for some reason, all the pharmacies in the area close early.
Overall, Otakon was a fun time and well worth the trip. There was almost always something I wanted to do, and sometimes I had to choose between things, which I enjoy because it keeps the convention from getting boring. The funniest part of the convention had to be my shuttle ride over to my hotel Thursday night. My driver asked me what I was doing in town, and when I told him it was for an anime convention, he got excited because he was a big anime fan. He must have been between 35-40 and had been watching anime since Speed Racer was on TV, and today he still watches it, and so does his children.
Otakon is a convention that every con goer should try to attend once, just to see the sheer size of it and all the attendees. Is it worth attending every year? It's on the expensive side and other than the great guests and musical acts they pull in, there isn't much that sets them apart. If you're a person who likes to see lots of guests, especially Japanese guests, then you should plan to attend. Otherwise, unless you live in the area or if it's the only chance you have to see certain friends, don't break the bank if you can't afford it.