Otakon has more events on its roster than most from multiple concerts over the weekend to premieres of anime and all kinds of cosplaying in between there is more to do than you can shake a stick at. Some cons you have free time to spare, but not so for this year’s big east coast anime con. I’m not even sure it is possible to go to every single big event, I know I certainly didn’t, but I do have a run down of the few things I was able to scramble to over the weekend.
For the last couple of years Otakon has upped the ante on their Opening Ceremonies by including an original piece of animation produced from a major anime studio. It was doubly exciting to see Production I.G’s name attached to the 2010 project. This year’s theme was music so an original song was created for the short as well and the creators were in attendance. All that being said, the piece of animation itself was rather underwhelming. Otakon mascots Hiroko-chan and Hiroshi-kun battle it out in over the top Guitar Hero fashion culminating in taking on a monster. The animation starts off very storyboard-like with a sketchy feel which was much preferable to the Flash animation of the majority of the sequence. The song was a little more exciting though the vocals were being drowned out a bit. It really wasn’t a memorable opening sadly. However, having a majority of the guests in one place was a real treat and what the Opening Ceremonies is really about anyway. Home Made Kazoku really made their presence known as MC Micro sang a few bars and Hiroaki Yura Eminence’s founder was entertaining the audience with his wit and his amazing violin skills.
The premiere of Welcome to THE SPACE SHOW was one of my most anticipated events of Otakon 2010. I had read and seen some of the promotional material a while ago plus it only recently hit Japanese theaters so this was a real treat. The story follows five elementary school kids of varying ages as they are swept away into space by Pochi an alien dog they nurse back to health. When they try to return to Earth things go awry and they must defeat the head of THE SPACE SHOW in order to get home. The design of the film and its visual space, characters, and cast of aliens were vivid and fun to behold. There was a good dose of humor and some enjoyable action in the beginning, middle, and end. However the story flounders a number of times. This is seen most notably in the pacing where the quiet moments dragged rather than created a breather, this then made the film feel much too long for its story. A story that we get very few real answers to and don’t really come to know a good portion of the cast very well. I think it would have benefited from cutting out three kids and honing in on the two girl cousins, they are really the focus and get the most development throughout the film as it is. Welcome to THE SPACE SHOW was a fun ride, but seemed to lose focus a lot which didn’t allow for it to really shine.
So I was lured to the Masquerade by the promise of X Japan performing a couple of acoustic songs during the half-time intermission. Half-time being the important word here because that was a lie, they performed after all 40 skits. Though this upset me greatly, I did learn a bit about this event to which I had not attended in years. This also happened to be my first time in the 1st Mariner Arena which still seems much too big for the crowd this event turns out. Everyone was hyped up considerably before the show began and the crowd got their energy out by dancing and shouting. As the show started that energy continued but began to wan about halfway through the entries. The masquerade is still too long, perhaps 30 skits might be more tolerable because even the attendees who were there solely for cosplay were getting restless by the end. I was pleasantly surprised to see so many musical numbers including many using showtunes from the likes of Gypsy and Wicked. There were also a good portion of performances that fully or partially included dance routines. I had the realization that this might be more fun if it was a dancing competition! But probably the funniest skit of the night was one based on the one of Old Spice commercials in which they tell the crowd why we should be playing Final Fantasy. As always one must remember this is an amateur talent show so you’re going to get great and not so great. While this event ended up being better than I expected I still felt fairly miserable sitting there for so long in uncomfortable chairs, with no break, and freezing cold air conditioning. If conditions were better and the event shorter I might actually think of attending again but probably not.
So what I waited through the whole masquerade for was X Japan or more specifically Yoshiki and Sugizo. As the piano was rolled onto stage I felt my heart leap. The last time Yoshiki was at Otakon he did a panel but did not perform, this was a very special night. We were greeted with a promotional video for the band as the crowd got whipped into excitement. And without much ado they appeared before us and began their short stint on stage. Their first song was Forever Love, this happens to be my all time favorite song, but beyond that it has a quiet and sorrowful melody that penetrated the audience keeping them in rapture with their acoustic performance. Once the song came to an end they chatted with the crowd a bit. Yoshiki lives in L.A. most of the time now and has become very familiar with the U.S. fans. Sugizo also mentioned how much more open American fans are. When asked whether they would be performing as a full band anytime soon after their appearance at Lollapalooza, Yoshiki shocked the crowd by saying this fall they will be in Washington D.C. and New York City. They ended with Endless Rain, another personal favorite. It was a brief but moving appearance by a legend in Japanese rock.
Home Made Kazoku was not a music group that was on my radar when they announced them for Otakon so many months ago. I listened to a few of their songs from subsequent anime, including Eureka Seven, and so decided I would give them a shot as making me a fan. Their hip-hop and upbeat singing style is a great match for the con scene. They made a great impression at the opening ceremonies and their energy and excitement played nice with the crowd of rowdy anime fans on Sunday afternoon. Their performances was high-spirited the moment they took the stage engaging the audience almost instantly. Opening with Eureka Seven’s Shonen Heart did hurt either and served to make me more than happy to be there. They took some time to introduce themselves as well as talk to the crowd about performing in America for the first time and their hopes to return. Once things got going again clapping, waving, stomping, and having the crowd sing worked everyone into a frenzy. But just as easily they were able to wind everyone down with some slower paced pieces like Naruto Shippuden’s Nagare Boshi ~Shooting Star~. I had a great time and looking at the nearly packed main events hall I could see everyone got a great final event of the convention.
Even with the mountain of events I just talked about, there was tons more to do. I was unable to make it to the Yoshida Brothers concert on Friday night as well as the Anime Music Video contest just to name a couple. When you think of an anime con what do you think of first? What do you prioritize? It is a tough call. Oh Otakon, I’ll never be able to do it all but thanks for the opportunity to do a lot!
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