So…I ended up keeping my word in the previous entry: no updates to this blog during the convention. It turned out there were no free Internet connections at the Baltimore Marriot Waterfront hotel, and even the Wi-Fi access points weren’t strong enough to carry across the bay.
But all that aside, Otakon 2008 overall was a great way to close the summer before I head back to the dirge of classes. And as I’ll mention later, it was actually a good thing that there was no Internet available. With well over 25,000 registered attendees, this was the largest anime convention on the East coast that had become even bigger than last year. Now some may disagree, but it felt significantly less crowded than 2007’s con, likely because the Programming department shaped up and nailed most of the events down on schedule. Of course, with a gathering of this size, there’s the inevitable “There’s so much to do, but so little time!” syndrome: there were a total of six video anime viewings rooms, four panel locations, three workshops, two autograph rooms, an additional high-definition screenings room (changed from the 35mm screen of years past), a multipurpose concert/films hall, and for the first time ever, the usage of Baltimore’s 1st Mariner Arena for the most popular and crowd-drawing events (masquerade, JAM Project concert, and Sunday concerts). Almost all of the viewings and panel tracks were blocked in Friday through Sunday.
In spite of the massive event flood, there weren’t many that I considered going to. Besides, there was always video gaming, the dealers room, Artist Alley, cosplay photography, exploring Baltimore, getting food, socializing and meeting with friends, and so many other continuously-distracting events to attend. Here’s a rundown of what happened all three (four) days. Hit the “Read more” link!
– Departing. I left with two of my friends (along with my parents, who were driving us to Baltimore, MD, before they headed to Washington, DC, for their own vacation) to drop off our stuff at the hotel and pick up pre-registration.
– Pre-reg badge pickup. Almost painless even with the lines, but a surprise thunderstorm soaked our hotel group as soon as we left the Marriot hotel for the Baltimore Convention Center (it was a ~1 mile walk that soon became a run and a dive-for-shelter pattern).
– Food-ing. Yep, first dinner of this trip consisted of McDonalds, hah.
– Sleep. The most that I got the entire trip was Thursday night into Friday morning: 7 hours! Recovering rest after this trip was seriously gonna bite hard.
– Con begins! Actually, I didn’t bother to line up early, as there were no interesting events at the opening hour of 9 AM. 10:30 seemed more reasonable, just in time for…
– Club Otaku. I brought my djembe and sticks to Otakon 2008 for this sole reason, because jamming with attendees was unbelievably fun; it also reminded me of the many State College open-mic nights during the school year. Props to Dom and the other staffers of Club Otaku for making this so awesome. Bring it back for 2009! Here’s a video example of what one could do there (I’m not in this session, though):
– Rhythm Games panel. A decent event that covered various music and beat games that most people haven’t heard of; I found it strange, though, that “hardcore” titles like In the Groove and Pop’n Music were never mentioned. At least the panelist listed Rez! Really, though, the annoying thing was that two other video gaming panels occurred at the same time: The History of Metal Gear and a Sonic the Hedgehog panel. Oh well, I can only have one.
– Awesomely Bad Japanese Music Videos panel. Little talking in this one on behalf of the staff, but this was one of the most hilarious events all weekend long; props to the panelists for selecting a good range of exceedingly-terrible music videos. Oh, so you want me to prove it? Here’s one of them: Yaen – “Fish Fight.” Decide for yourself:
On the contrary, I found Halcali‘s “Giri Giri Surf Rider” to be interesting, especially the choreography. Just ignore the beginning part and you’ll get through fine (I hope). English-translated subtitle version here.
The rest of the video list is posted at this Otakon web board thread. Be warned, however: YouTube’ing any of the listed videos is risky business for your sanity! State your feedback if you went to that panel as well!
– Friday Night Fan Films. Great edits of various movie trailers juxtaposed with anime clips; one that stuck out was a remake of The Dark Knight trailer.
– Video gaming. This was the best day to do it, as lines were shorter for most games; however, it bothered me that Otakon halved the DDR setups from eight pads to four, beatmania IIDX from four controllers to two, and slashed Keyboardmania from the games list. I only ended up playing Pop’n Music 14, beatmania IIDX, and Guitar Hero 2 and 3.
– Dealers Room preliminary scouting. Though I usually don’t buy much from anime conventions, this was a good time to check out the potential selections for Sunday’s closing sales. There’s seriously way too much stuff to browse through, though!
– Touring a bit around Baltimore. Not Otakon material, but visiting the waterfront, the ESPN Zone arcade, and stopping by Best Buy to pick up a small camera tripod was well worth the brief break from the convention business.
– More food-ing. That is, eating lunch at 4PM and dinner at 12AM, if that were possible; a very awkward pattern of eating and starving continued over the next two days as well. I couldn’t possibly survive on $5 boxes of Pocky and Ramune. For you guys who don’t know, five bucks a carton is extremely expensive, and no way was I going to buy one when the at-home price is $1.25!
– Club Otaku, round 2. I didn’t stay as long compared to Friday, nor did I bring my djembe (because carrying that thing around the BBC all day Friday nearly destroyed my back!), yet all in all it didn’t fade in appeal.
– Dealers Room. Still didn’t buy anything yet, mainly because this place was FAR too crowded to move around.
– Video Gaming. Only for a brief time; I didn’t bother playing much today, save for a bit of IIDX, as lines were way too long.
– Artist Alley. Wow, the art there is seriously impressive! Thanks to Catherine “kheleksul” Lu for showing us around and introducing her friends to me. There weren’t enough mecha designers, though; it seems character fanart sells far better these days. Oh, and I met Chris Malone (author of the “Blue and Blond” comic strip) again!
– Life Drawing workshop. Seriously one of the best art-oriented events all weekend long, as I needed to work on my anatomy skills. This preceded the…
– UDON Drawing workshop. This event absolutely blew my mind because of the amazing knowledge and skills these artists have. Now I really have to practice more!
– Iron Editor challenge. Almost made the mistake of passing this one up, but Catherine told me about it. Thanks! What do you get when two talented animated music video (AMV) makers battle head-to-head a là Iron Chef, complete with a “secret ingredient” video clip? Iron Editor! This was loads of fun to attend, especially the mini-games and other contests during the three-hour session. Lots of great fan-made videos, and the winners of Otakon 2008’s AMV contest were shown as well. For example, here’s one of the greatest of this year’s AMV entries, “The Harassment of Kyon.” I totally agree that it deserved the awards for “Best of Show” and “Best Comedy.” It’s brilliantly edited, synced to the music tightly, and above all, incredibly funny if you’ve watched The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya!
– Saturday Night Fan Parodies. Similar to Friday Night Fan Films, except these were re-dubs and re-written plots of well-known anime titles. Hilarious stuff!
– S.T.E.A.M.: The Movie. Only stayed for a little bit, but this was a fan-made movie that consisted of a ridiculous number of anime clips, with re-dubbing and an entire (rather-cheesy) plot on top. Quite a way to close the night off…
– Dealers Room revisit: I finally decided to whip out the cash and ended up getting a pair of out-of-print (1997!) Super Robot Wars promotional posters from the Asylum Anime table. Neither were on sale, despite many other places having manga/DVD Sunday discounts. Regardless, the people whom I got the posters from were great, and they deserve business (I bought a poster and figures from them last year). FYI, one is a horizontal lineup of SRX Team mechs and the other is a vertical poster with Cybuster at the center and a number of other machines around it. Gotta get my mecha fix at some point, eh?
– Artist Alley, part 2: re-visited the friends that Catherine introduced me to, saw Chris Malone again, then watched the art auction. Some of the prices for sold pieces were insanely high, especially for digital prints. Ah well, to each buyer his or her own price.
– PSAO reunion lunch. Finally! We managed to get a lot of active Penn State Anime Organization members back together for one last gathering at the nearby Harborplace & The Gallery mall before the school year begins again.
– Headed home with my friends in tow and parents at the wheel again. We slammed into a major thunderstorm with hail and lots of lightning (including one bolt that nearly struck overhead) for a good portion of the ride; the interesting thing was that this storm was moving west to east, and our drive along I-95 was also west to east. Basically, it wasn’t very enjoyable for anyone – particularly my dad. Regardless, thanks everyone for a memorable time at Otakon 2008!
So now that’s all out of the way, here’s what I didn’t do. Some are pretty obvious for long-time attendees, but otherwise, this is just a brief rundown…
– Watch anime screenings. There’s the Penn State Anime Organization, DVDs, and even the Internet for that reason. Seriously, though, aside from Lucky Star, Gundam 00, and a few others, there weren’t many titles of interest…
– Play DDR, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Halo 3, or most other video games. The lines were far too long for many of these titles, especially on Saturday; plus, I could easily enjoy them back at State College with friends I actually know. And I’m still disappointed that they halved the DDR setups from last year (not to mention keeping the disgraceful DDR SuperNOVA and SuperNOVA 2 around. Where’s In the Groove, or at least DDR Extreme 2?).
– Participate in video gaming tournaments. Not my thing, especially when the hardcore participants are downright vicious and merciless at big conventions. I’ll stick to the Setsucon gaming room’s homely atmosphere, thanks.
– Take a lot of photos. This year, despite being Otakon’s 15th anniversary and 10th at the Baltimore Convention Center, wasn’t much different than last year. Unfortunately, there weren’t many outstanding costumes (save for two mech cosplayers – one of which I knew beforehand – and some amazing Kingdom Hearts III armor), and the venue, of course, hasn’t changed. So…I figured that this year should be spent having fun instead of getting distracted with a camera in hand. However, one exception: a group of people doing the Haruhi ED routine, the Caramelldansen, and Rickrolling everyone else…hah!
– Go to voiceactor/mangaka Q&A panels and get autographs. I’ll likely never wait for four hours again just to get an autograph or two (unlike last year, with Vic Mignogna and Aaron Dismuke). Sadly as well, there weren’t any guests I was truly interested in for this year’s con. Here’s hoping to 2009’s lineup!
– Attend the JAM Project concert (or Sunday concerts). As awesome as that (those) would’ve been, the JAM Project concert already began when I went to the Awesomely Bad Japanese Music Videos panel; besides, these events occurred at the 1st Mariner Arena – a bit of a walk for just one event.
[Edit, 8/19/08] After realizing last night that JAM Project was one of the principal music artist groups for the Super Robot Wars game series, I’m beginning to regret missing out on that concert…and the autographs. Oh well, I traded those few hours for a great panel regardless. Maybe some other day!
– Attend the masquerade. Same reason as above, but substitute it for the Iron Editor challenge.
– Buy a lot of stuff at the Dealers Room. It’s already annoying enough to spend a good chunk of my summer earnings on the hotel and Otakon pre-registration. Besides, those SRW posters were truly awesome, and they weren’t cheap at all. No fake China-made stainless steel swords or replica airsoft guns for me, thank you.
– Attend the Opening and Closing Ceremonies. Eh…I was busy at those times?
And with all of the above, that’d be the end of my Otakon 2008 summary. In the end, the best part was just enjoying the time off from the dreariness of summertime with my friends (sans Internet! Really, the Web’s a distraction in this case), doing the things we love; I ended up hanging out with numerous PSAO members, friends I’ve made from last year’s convention, and even someone from my church back at home. This was quite an awesome time thanks to God; I can’t deny that it was one of the summer’s best highlights.
Dates for next year’s convention have already been posted: July 17-19. Assuming I do get an internship then, going to Otakon 2009 will probably be difficult; however, I do hope to go anyway! Mecha cosplay for real this time, perhaps? We’ll see if time allows!