Otakon 2012: a con in review

From July 27 to 29, Otakon took over the Baltimore Convention Center, 1st Mariners Arena and the Hilton. Already a well established con of varied guests, Otakon seems to want to outdo itself year after year. The final weeks before the con were filled with announcements of Japanese guests. Fashion designer Gashicon, Sunrise producer Sasaki Shin-san, Madhouse founder and producer Maruyama Masao, creator Urobuchi Gen, illustrater Tenjin Hidetaka, Fiction Junction vocalist Nanri Yuuka and singer, Joho Mikako. But of course, the focus of the weekend was on seiyuu and singers, Hirano Aya, Kakihara Tetsuya and up and coming seiyuu, Nonaka Ai. For special events, the focus was on two series in particular, Gundam Unicorn and Madoka Magica from Aniplex and Bandai. Our own talents of the US were showcased. The cast of Madoka Magica was present in Christine Marie Cabanos, Lauren Landa and Sarah Williams with Brina Palencia, Trina Nishimura, Michael Sinterniklaas and J. Michael Tatum each holding panels with packed rooms and screaming fans for a variety of series. Author Peter S. Beagle made his return and the legendary power ranger, Jason David Frank appeared before his fans. Otakon’s first Korean guests, VIXX performed on friday. It truly is impossible for a person to see and do everything at the con, but it is fun to try.

Friday: July 27

At about 10:30am, I went to autograph line for Brina Palencia, the voice actress for Ciel. Her line was already quite long for the 11am signing. The line moved slowly and it turns out, the slowness was attributed to Brina speaking to every fan and taking pics at their request. Even though it was on a friday, they had to close to the line when we neared 12pm. Thankfully, Brina agreed to stay until 1pm to sign as many as possible.

At 12:55pm, Brina signed my Sebastion and Ciel pic (which J. Michael Tatum signed before) as well as my FMA group pic for her voicing Nina. I was also able to compliment her on her Ciel performance. Truly, she is one of the few English voice actors that can pull off a young male voice wonderfully.

I quickly slipped into the room next door where the Nanri Yuuka signing was still being held. No pics were allowed but it was an honor to speak with her.

Viz Industry Panel
The first panel of day was the Viz Industry Panel. Entertaining and funny and filled with release information. Viz has already leapt into the foray of digital releases, but it hopes to close the gap between US releases and the Japanese.

Kakihara Tetsuya vs. ANN

The panel was than followed by the Kakihara Tetsuya-san panel which was a Q&A session with Chris from Anime News Network. German-born Japanese, Kakihara-san has a quick sense of humor and a beautiful voice.

dealer’s room chaos

Confusingly, the Aniplex booth (with it’s own activities) was sharing the space with the Bandai booth (which had it’s own set of activities and signings.) They sold a special Unicorn Gundam set with the HG RX-0 Unicorn Gundam 02 Banshee (Destroy Mode) model along with Unicorn Gundam vol. 5 BD, clearfile, postcards and a tote. They also included the poster that they were giving away all weekend. The set included the autograph ticket for Saturday. The autograph ticket could simply be received by purchasing the BD alone as well.

The Funimation booth also set up a special pole for Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt. Literally, a pole dancing pole for Panty and Stocking cosplayers to dance and for anyone else who dared get up there to show their moves. I did see a staff member get up a dance…though I won’t say who. And he was very good at the pole.

I walked around a bit more before 5:30pm when I stuck to the Aniplex/Bandai area. They were looping the Unicorn Gundam vol. 5 trailer in English. Sunrise producer Sasaki Shin-san arrived first when the staff announced that Michael Sinterniklaas would be a bit late. I grabbed a few pics of the Sasaki-san (with his permission of course ^_^) but it was not long after 6pm when the signing was underway.

Media Blasters had their usual booth and I was able to inquire about some of their latest acquisitions and issues. There were problems with the first Collection sets of Fushigi Yuugi. The problems were simply that the boxes which housed the disc had faulty middles so that the disc would not stay in their place. Consumers would receive discs that were scratched because of that. The Media Blasters staff informed me that though they are unable to replace the boxsets. More will not be produced from the faulty boxes, but new editions cannot be made either until the first editions are sold out. They do promise that the second collection set will be in different boxes. They also have licensed and will release the OVAs as well as Genbu Kaiden. I also inquired about the Ai no Kusabi dvds which will be released. There will be only one disc with the 4 episodes on it. That is a surprise (and a financial relief) since Okane Ga Nai was on 2 discs with 2 episodes each.

Lolita fashion Show
A fashion show showcasing inspired Japanese styles. Creativity truly crosses all borders.

Saturday: July 28

back to the Dealer’s Room

As an aside, the cosplayer above is Otakon staff. She was walking throughout the con all weekend and people could ask for info to which she’ll provide. I took a quick tour of the dealer’s room.

I also ended up catching a bit of the Panty & Stocking pole dancing that was the highlight of the booth that weekend. The unfortunate part was that it was mostly dancing with a pole in the middle…not really pole dancing as I (and I believe many) have hoped for. The cosplayers were wonderful though. However, I do understand the dangers of pole dancing in such short hems.

Okaerinasai goshujin-sama!

I was able to visit Otakon’s first Maid Cafe, a wonderful experience. Not every con has the capabilities to have a working café, but this is possible since the con is utilizing the Hilton.

Masquerade highlights

It was after 8pm when I headed out to the 1st Mariner Arena for the masquerade which began at 7pm. There must have been about 7 performances that I missed, a few I realized during the awards that I wish I saw.

I arrived in time to see Princess Serenity dancing ballet….

The crowd cheered when they announced the ‘Street Fighter performance, Tikki and the New Revolution present: LMSFAO…all chibi-Dans and chibi-Chun Lis! Seem that they were very busy from previous years until now. XD It was a definite win for Best in Show. Not just for sake of tradition of granting them the win, their co-ordination, feats of agility, discipline and inner strength truly echoes the series. And they’re kids!

Ballet really took over the masquerade with the Michael Jackson rendition of Princess Tutu…or was it the other way around? ‘Alone in the Dance Studio’.

Other favs include Puzzle from Panty & Stocking which is a good solo act and ‘Summer Day in Holic’ from xxxholic with Doumeki and Himawari.

The xxxholic skit ended the masquerade portion of the night with Joho Mikako-san gracing us with the halftime show.

Joho Mikako mini-concert

The mini-concert opened with the PV of ‘Kimi ga Suki Datta’. Pianist and singer, Joho Mikako performed a few anime songs as well as one of her own creations. Her voice is beautifully light as is her piano playing.

    Every Heart (Inuyasha ED)
    Kimi ga Suki Datta (original)
    Beautiful World (Rebuild Evangelion ED)
    Blue Bird (Naruto Shippuden OP)

    Again (Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood OP)

It was unfortunate that her MC moments were not interpreted. I wonder if there was a reason behind it? Most of it was just her introducing the song, but still…she said some really sweet things. ^_^

The awards were given for hallcosplay first, though unfortunately the majority of the people weren’t there. The masquerade awards were than given out. I can’t help but feel lacking knowing that I missed a FMA skit, Maria Holic which won a craftsmanship award as well as a judge’s performance award, Angel Beats ‘Sexy Asian Song’ and a few others. ^^; ‘And Clench’ won for Journeyman Craftsmanship. ‘Alone in the Dance Studio’ won for Best Craftsman Novice. ‘Puzzle’ won for Best Craftsman Journeyman. ‘There Can Only Be One Diva’ won for Best Craftsman Performance.

‘Sexy Asian Song’ won for Best Overall Novice. Pokemon entry, ‘Hit Them With a Splash’ won Best Overall Journeyman. ‘A Summer Day in Holic’ won best a judge’s craftsmanship award as well as Best Overall Craftsmanship.

The sounds of the crowds’ applause and cheers drowned out the title skit once we heard the number…but it was obviously the Street Fighter group. *applauds loudly*

The MC promised to strip for the audience if we stayed until the end. The audience reminded him and he did strip…he stripped off a piece of paper. *groans* ^^;

Sunday: July 29

last signing

It was close to 11am when we headed to the Joho Mikako line. We all fell in love with her music from the masquerade the night before. Alas, she doesn’t have any albums so we ended up buying her photos so we can have her promo cd.

Kodansha Industry Panel
The last panel before the concert was Kodansha. It began late due to power point issues, but I was able to see the entire panel before leaving during the Q&A..

Hirano Aya in Concert

Only the 3rd, 4th and 5th songs allowed for pics so I snapped away happily during that time with the others. Hirano Aya did all her MCs in Japanese with no interpretation. There was little need for interpretation though since it was obvious how excited she was to see us and the high intensity of the crowd did not fade throughout the entire show.

    Riot Girl
    Kiss Me
    Diffusion (To the Other Side)
    Unnamed World
    Bright Score
    God Knows…
    Lost My Music
    Super Driver

    Bouken Desho Desho?

At the end of the concert, everyone lined up for the signing that was held in the concert area. Only official merchandise or program books were allowed.

The concert closed the con for many of us. It is sad to see Otakon go, but dates are already announced for next year, August 9 to 11. Otakorp released the unofficial count of membership to be 32,724 people during the weekend. Despite the lagging economy, cons are still steadily growing. I don’t truly believe that Otakon needs to get even more guests than this year. It will make choosing and creating schedules very difficult. But one thing for sure, the upcoming staff will definitely surprise us once again.