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08/18/2008 Archived Entry: "Con Report: Otakon 2008 - Part 1"

Otakon convention report, part 1

Report by Linda Yau

During the weekend of August 8th - 10th, I attended Otakon's annual convention at the Baltimore Convention Center (BCC). FYI, Otakon, this year is celebrating its 15th convention year and is considered to be one of the longest running and largest anime convention gathering on the east coast. So for the people who wouldn't be able to attend conventions on the West coast like Anime Expo as our editor Ginger previously attended, this convention is a possibility. This year their attendance accounted for 26,324 people, a huge jump from their initial 350 attendees.

Technically this is my second year as a con goer and a first year attending as press for JLHLS and as a
photographer for Animejutsu.com. Convention going is really exhausting, but greatly rewarding in the new friendships, and experiencing memorable Otakon events.

Last Thursday, I started out from New York city to Baltimore with a friend driving down at 10AM, reaching Baltimore around 4PM. I was also in the car with two other guys I met from Otakon's helpful Ride Central via Bulletin Board. We were in the car for about six hours, a majority of it being on the highway and New Jersey Turnpike. I always imagined that traveling down to Baltimore would take four hours, but that is not factoring my friend stopping, and we made a brief stop one of those rest stops on the Turnpike with a Pizza Hut. I got to take a picture of my friend's shirt which is really funny.

We reached Baltimore where I checked into the Tremont Plaza Suite Hotel.

This is a very nice spacious hotel, but not the hotel to check into if you want to be near the convention center. The hotel is like two blocks over and five blocks up - location 7 in this year's Otakon hotel map. The plus about this hotel though, are several things - kitchenette room, spacious surroundings, free Internet via an Ethernet cable (wireless is free at the lobby). I stayed in this hotel last year, so was able to make reservations at this location again.

A cozy, undiscovered by Con-goer Starbucks is nearby and a useful Super Fresh market with many pre-heatable items. Along the route, there is 7-Eleven and McDonalds. Upon, going to any unfamiliar places, it is useful to point out potential food sources, so that people won't starve. The only bad thing was that many of these places were closed quite early.

Let's not forget about the convention though, upon arriving at Baltimore, I checked into the hotel and went to the BCC to pick up my badge and weekend roommates. I am unsure of when it occurred, but Thursday has became a big event for con goers, to be able to pick up badges rivals waiting in line for a hot concert or sporting ticket event. Baltimore citizens were surprised and wondering as the line for badges begin hours before the event. Cosplayers were also in full force and I was impressed with the costumes of many attendees. These are some pictures of the cosplayers I saw on Thursday:

Also took a picture of an Otakon's t-shirt from the back - they're pretty cool, so I wish that can purchase one.

There are some pictures at Flickr or more (including 205 pictures of mine) at Anime Jutsu.

After a previous night dinner at the California Tortilla, a Mexican dining location, that felt like the Baltimore version of a New York version of Chipotle, a food location that serves gourmet burritos. Cheaper also as well.

The convention officially began on Friday, and I attended Q&A panels for most of the day. My day began early at around 9AM, long before any panels I was interested in began. I snagged a picture of the line for registration, for people who didn't pre-register. Later a friend told me, that they waited for two and a half hours, before making it in the Convention Center, weary and a bit sun burnt.

These are pictures I took while waiting -

I had decided to stake out Panel 3 as my place to start.

I attended the first panel that featured Kazuko Tadano and Hiromi Matsushita, both are well known for designing and animating the first two seasons of Sailor Moon. Their panel was filled with questions from the con goers and the animators themselves. One story I was surprised by, was when Ms. Matsushita spoke about her experience in animating the Sailor Moon R movie. They were asked by the company to move into an old moldy apartment near the studio; worried about the cleanliness of the place. Mr. Tadano and Ms. Matsuhita went to work exhausted from cleaning the apartment, but then they were forced to stay longer, therefore this is a bad experience, but it shows a dedication to their jobs. Ms. Matsuhita was chosen from a group of seven animators to animate Naoko Takeuchi's difficult manga style. There were some disagreements from the producer on how short the mini-skirts of the Sailor fukus of the sailor senshi were, but Ms. Matsuhita wanted the shortness of the skirt to accentuate the height and length of the sailor senshi and of this outcome, who is the clear winner? The panel ended with an elimination round of Jan Ken Pon, (rock paper scissor) with three lucky fans getting three really nice Japanese gifts from the animators, (two mecha headsets for online gaming, and an original art tote bag from Ms. Matsuhita's art school).

The next panel was with Peter Fernandez, the original voice from Speed Racer, I only had the opportunity to listen to half of this panel, as I went to get some substance for my stomach. I return to the panel to hear him mentioned that he was not the voice behind the Geico commercial and that there was more opportunities back then, as he jumped from theater to radio to voice acting. His favorite media medium is the radio. Mr. Fernandez had also mentioned how grateful he was for being able to be a part of Speed Racer. There are many support from fans, as Peter Fernandez is a figure that inspired many other people to later become voice actors.

The third panel was the JAM Project/Lantis, I was up at the front, and expecting this panel to be of Lantis speaking about the music they produced and JAM Project's concert schedule and they did. They showed a short clip of J-pop artists/music commercials and promotion videos. Before the clip began though, I was surprise to see JAM Project actually appear. It was quite thrilling, because it turns out that they wanted to take this panel time to formally introduce themselves. Baltimore is their third stop for their world tour, with Tapei and Brazil being their first and second stops. They were heading to Seoul, Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong, Mexico City, Paris and Barcelona for the rest of their tour. Otakon is the first time that they have appeared as a collective group in the United States, with each of them having successful solo careers. The JAM Project likes to play as much live music as possible to reach out to fans, and there is a new anime series in the fall where they will sing the opening and ending music to. Then if it wasn't enough information, the audience, got a short bio of each current JAM Project member, how long have they been singing Anime songs, what songs were they known for, how long have they been members of JAM Project, to which Lantis had said earlier that it is a nearly ten year collaboration. This is some plug in for next year's anniversary year. So after the band spoke about themselves, the audience got a chance to ask them questions. I got to ask them a question about how involved are they going to be in the (annual famous Japanese Anime concert in Tokyo) Animelo, and it was really neat, got some nifty fan swag for my question.



Following this panel was the awaited event of the Otakon's opening ceremony, this year was really neat and packed. Earlier in the year, because of an idea from Otakon, and the artistic support of Madhouse Productions, there is a specifically produced 90-second opening, that resembled an parodied crazy anime segment of Hiroko-chan and Hiroshi-kun's (official Otakon mascots) mad dash to Baltimore Convention Center for Otakon. Before the opening though, there was a video introduction from Otakon's 2003's music guest, T.M. Revolution. No photography or video for the event.

After this event was Masao Maruyama's panel, to which audience members were treated to a slew of current or upcoming projects that Madhouse did in various genres. Previews were shown of the Highlander movie, Redline, Chi's Sweet Home, Kaiba, and Alison & Lilia. Then there was Masao Maryama himself. I was able to ask him a question, after an attempt to get an individual interview didn't work, with his busy schedule. I asked him this question: Do you read any books and if so, what type of books do you like to read?

I had my tape recorder with me, so I recorded his answer, unfortunately because of background noise and distance, some of the transcribing might be a little off.

This is what he answered, via an interpreter, "A lot of things draws his interest, but he actually tends to read manga. He also reads the newspaper though, he does loves to read widely. He tries to find things that are interesting, so as he goes to a bookstore, he looks for things he would potentially like to read and start to read them. But since there are too many information in society nowadays, he would like to pick up books that can be of creative interest, this is a great part of him creating projects. As he reads and sees various things, he feels inspired to work, so this is where new projects begin."

I had felt quite tired from the day of panels, so I decided to end it for going to panel. Later I went to the JAM Project concert, which was quite good. I wasn't in a good spot to take good pictures, and the excitement was pretty intense. I met other fans that traveled quite a far distance to see the guests, so that was pretty neat.

The concert ended with two encores, and this was the song list for what Jam Project sang during the concert -

1. Rocks
2. Crush Gear Fight
3. No Border (English ver.)
4. Meikyuu no Prisoner
5. Garou - Savior in the Dark
6. Kageyama Hironobu solo - Cha-La Head Cha-La
7. Endoh Masaaki solo - Yuusha-Oh Tanjou
8. Okui Masami solo - Rinbu Revolution
9. Cry for the Earth (acoustic)
10. Little Wing (Fukuyama whistled the opening, acoustic)
11. Fukuyama Yoshiki solo - Angel Voice
12. Kitadani Hiroshi solo - We Are
13. Hagane no Messiah
14. Nageki no Rosario
15. Break Out
16. Victory
17. Gong

Encore
18. Soultaker
19. Skill

One thing to mention, during the events of Friday, fellow JLHLS writer I-hsiu Lin was with me, as a regular con goer and cosplayer. We are personal acquaintances from previous Otakon (I met her at Otakon 2007) with also fellow JLHLS writer, Jilly Gee. I had left some things at her hotel room, so I went back to her place, before making a trek back to my hotel, where I saw the last half hour of the Olympics opening ceremony with my roommate. Something to compete for attendance to Otakon - last year's was Harry Potter Book 7's debut, and this year was Olympics 2008.

Replies: 2 comments

Hi!,

Posted by name @ 08/31/2008 11:56 PM PST

First part looks good Linda, seems like you had a good time.

Posted by Aleksey @ 09/04/2008 07:32 PM PST

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