Otakon 2009: Part 1

by Linda Yau
Photographs by Linda Yau

Otakon 2009, a convention intended for the Otaku Generation or for the masses of fans that would converge onto the Baltimore Convention Center on an annual basis. This year the convention was held on July 17 to July 19 and the final count of the convention attendance was at 26,350 people, an increase from last year’s official 26,262 people.

With the addition of the new Hilton hotel, the convention had gained more area, and was more crowded in attendance. There was plenty of ground to cover between some events, and there is always the issue of scheduling too many interesting events in a very short amount of time. I also heard of how this convention center wasn’t as big as Anime Expo, but would have to refer back to those who experience both Anime Expo and Otakon to see if that was the case.

One of the bigger draws that this convention had was its ability to get certain guests, and this year was no exception. Guests this year that stood out for this reporter included the four planned concerts with MELL, Wakeshima Kanon, BECCA, and Tamura Naomi. The special guests appearances of Kikuko Inoue, and Yamamoto Yutaka. There were many other guests, but the mentioned guests names, were the people that I was able to see this year.

Thursday: July 16

I made it down to Baltimore this year via the Bolt Bus from New York City, and while I am not a big fan of buses, this was my first time traveling with the Bolt Bus, and my experience is that this bus service is actually better than Greyhound. There are two reasons as to why I would say that this is the case: price and the accessibility of free Wi-Fi with a handy electric outlet definitely made travel productive and affordable. I will be using the Bolt Bus next time I need to go down to Baltimore or Washington D.C. Upon reaching Baltimore, I took the Light Rail ($1.60 a ride) directly to the convention center, where there was still a line stretching around the building. Pre-registration pick up that day was from 5:00 to11:00 PM. I walked over to my hotel afterwards, and prepared for the next day when the convention began.

Friday: July 17

The next day shone bright and early, and outside the convention center was teeming with activity of people waiting to go into the convention center, or register for the day/weekend. I asked a pre-registered convention go-er what time did they start waiting on the line, and apparently they have been waiting since the night before with no sleep, plenty of coffee, and teeming with excitement for the event to begin. An acquaintance of mine who also didn’t get pre-registration, waited on Friday, and mentioned that he waited four to five hours on the line outside.

The first panel I slipped into was to listen to the ending of “Know Your Creators” where the panelists recommend to audience what directors or titles they should know about to well round their anime experience.

Outside the same panel room, there was already a line growing that was waiting for the VAMPS fan panel that was to be in the afternoon. Line and Otakon goes so hand in hand, as with many other conventions, so it is hard to not avoid lines.

I was waiting with some anime blogging and press acquaintances for the panel after “Know Your Creators,” which was a Q&A session with Japanese animation director Yamamoto Yutaka. Toward the left column as you can see the Twitter history, I did take some notes I thought was interesting in the panel. For a straight transcription please refer to bayoab for what exactly was spoken in this panel, or here for Omonomono’s blog assessment and his official post for Japanator.

Then I went and waited with friends for Kikuko Inoue’s autograph. As I referred to this in last year’s report, if you don’t get there in time, then often you might not be able to get a guest’s autograph.

Later toward the afternoon, I went to Kikuko Inoue’s second Q&A session after going to another focus panel with Yamamoto Yutaka presenting his newest animation series, Kannagi that is currently distributed by Bandai.

Moritheil of Anime Diet was also present in the audience and took an account of what was said during this session. This is his second post on continuing with what was said.

One thing to note was the photography restriction on each and every panel, event or guest. Dependent on the guest and sponsoring company, there was photography restrictions that even press couldn’t freely take pictures of. This restriction was probably made to protect the guest’s appearance at Otakon. JAM Project had a similar restriction last year.

At the evening, I made my way to Hall D where MELL’s concert was to be held. The concert was just as I imagined it, fabulous and great! In person, she was so cute, and professional. During her concert – she changed outfits three times, and at one point of concert, her wardrobe actually malfunctions, so she waited until the end of the song to say, “Chotto Matte!” I was a fan of MELL before this concert, so this concert was a definite highlight and treat of my Otakon weekend. I heard of people, not knowing her music actually becoming fans afterwards.

There were specific allowances of press to be able to take pictures of MELL during the concert, so I did. More pictures is available at Flickr.

International Wota mentioned in MELL’s later press panel, that her concert set list was similar to an earlier DVD that she released. So the set list might be a sample from this listing, I am asterisking the songs I know I definitely heard being sang during the concert:

*Under Superstition
Way beyond there
no vain
On my own
*Red fraction
The first finale in me
*Virgin’s high!

There was an encore for Rideback, and afterward there was an autograph session where MELL signed autographs for every fan that waited for her.