Otakon 2007

Hisui and Narutaki’s Otakon schedule

Kodama and Suwa Q&A and signing
Tomokazu Seki Q&A
ADV Panel
Older Otaku Panel
AAA Concert and signing
School Rumble Panel
AMV contest
Podcasters Roundtable
Putting the Man back in Manga Panel
Geneon After Dark

Media Blasters Panel
Tokyo-Pop Panel
Kodoma and Suwa Bringing Anime to TV Panel
Anime News Network Panel
Tomokazu Seki signing
Morio Asaka signing
Anime Recruitment Panel
Geneon Panel

Del Rey Panel
Eminence Concert

Overall, I don’t have a problem saying that Otakon 2007 was the best run con I’ve been to. And also where I had the best time. I missed a couple of things because of last minute schedule changes, but that’s to be expected. But there were surprisingly few technical difficulties and the main events started on time. This was also our first year doing a panel at Otakon and that couldn’t have gone better either. An all around good experience.

I had no problems with Otakon that would not pop up at any fan (volunteer) run convention. Schedules at cons are dirty liars filled with filthy lies. Even the best run cons are going to have schedule changes. The main problem is that most panels are run by fans and that can mean trouble. People are going to forget they are doing their panels, get drunk and miss their panel, oversleep, have personal problems, or don’t prepare for their panel and then they don’t show up because it’s not their job. Even industry panels sometimes have to reschedule or cancel for a number of reasons.

My advice is any time you walk by the info booth at a con look for schedule changes. It’s your only real way of maybe seeing all the schedule changes.

On the other hand I think our anime recruitment panel went splendidly. I feel that we got a good turn out for being in the slot of death (against the cosplay masquerade). I felt that most people who showed up got something out of it and with a little help from the audience I feel we answered everyone’s questions to the best of our knowledge.

We (us and two friends this year) always go down to Baltimore on Thursday morning, I highly recommend this. It’s so nice to be able to relax for one night before the sleep-depriving convention starts. And you get to pick-up your tickets early which makes Friday morning so much better. Why do people wait in line on Thursday? I point and laugh as we walk by to go eat and then come back around 7:30 to get the tickets and we waited for maybe 15 minutes to get them. Why do people WANT to wait in line? I will never understand this! In fact, most things at Otakon you don’t have to wait in line for with the exception of autographs.

Well, I get the feeling people would line up to be smacked in the face with a fish if they saw the line was long enough.

The actual reason people line up, I suppose, is they:

a. have a need burning to be first (I don’t get this but look on Ain’t It Cool News and you will seeing people tripping over themselves to say nothing more than FIRST!).

b. People are worried about not being able to get the badge they want. That’s darn silly because I have yet to see that happen on a Thursday.

c. People have nothing better to do.

They did something new this year and moved where a few things were from previous years. This all seemed to work out for the best. The main events set-up was fantastic. It seemed to have the necessary room, sound quality, and four huge screens so no matter where you were sitting you could see what was going on. Which made lining up for the AMV contest utterly idiotic, but of course people did that anyway. I think this was a great change for the con and much better than the arena or using small music venues.

Even with my mediocre eyesight I was able to see everything at the AMVs. We both did not go to the cosplay masquerade but I assume that was just as easy to see. I think we both agreed the AMVs were sort of bland this year. None of them were bad but none of them were particularly awesome or hysterical. The Honey and Clover one was really good and the Gankutsuou one was pretty visually striking (but I think that has a little to do with Gankutsuou itself being very visually striking.) The comedy ones were o.k. but nothing was laugh out loud funny. Actually the funniest AMV was the Samurai Champloo vs Inuyasha video but it was in the action category.

I do admit to waiting in line for more than an hour to get Tomokazu Seki’s autograph and I also admit to running and pushing to be one of the first 15 people, haha! He is really funny and talkative. And I also got to experience what I have only read about, fangirls swooning and crying. I had heard about the Samurai Troopers (aka Ronin Warriors) seiyuu in Japan having girls just pass out over them but I had never actually seen this. Now I have. Girls were forgetting their questions and saying they loved him.

I really don’t care much for voice actors who are not also Galaxy Angels so I skipped both parts but I did hang out with you while waiting for Seki’s autograph. The most memorable part of the wait was seeing much more than expected of the girl in front of you on line as she stood up in a dress that was way too short for her while not wearing underwear. I admit she was cute so it could have been worse (and there were times when it was worse at the con) but I think a little more modesty would not have hurt this girl.

Maybe she was hoping for a invite back to his room with that dress. :)

He also let people shout out characters to do the voices of and he even did the Godfinger speech from G Gundam! When he signed my book I asked him to say something for me and he happily did that too.

I know people who would have sold their mothers to have a live recording of the Godfinger speech. I’m a little sad I missed the part of the panel where he did Gilgamesh’s voice to tell a Saber cosplayer, “I am the King of Kings and you are the King of Poverty”. I’m pretty sure many of girl would love to have the recording of what he said for you.

The things that tend to get big crowds are American voice actors, flavor of the month fan panels (Even though I like you as a game I’m looking right at you Kingdom Hearts II panel), and the dreaded 4chan panel. But goodness forbid anyone goes to a Japanese director or producer’s panel. They only make the anime you don’t buy because you too busy downloading it off bit torrent.

I’m not bitter. Not one bit.

Speaking of people who make anime, why was there no one at the Kodama and Suwa panels? I see this every year and every year I get angry and every year I seem to forget that 0.5% of the people at cons care about the Japanese directors and producers. They are behind City Hunter, Detective Conan, and now Kekkaishi. Kodama is also the producer for Inu-Yasha.

Silly Narutaki. Anime fans don’t like anime. ;) As we all know no body watched that obscure doggy demon show so why would they care about the men responsible for bringing it to TV?

O.k. to be serious and not super bitter, the fact is that producers and directors are not super flashy so they don’t really care. The average age of anime fans has gotten much younger so they tend to care even less. Manga-ka and voice actors have an immediately appreciable impact on the anime people like. Manga-ka make manga so as long as their manga is popular in America they will draw a big crowd. Voice actors bring the characters you love to life. There appeal is easy to notice.

Directors and producers have no immediately noticeable impact on their hobby so most fans don’t care about them the way an older fan might come to appreciate them. They are greatly important to Anime but it’s not something that’s super obvious. Plus I don’t think it’s just the Japanese staff. I think that if you had a big panel of American directors and producers would there be no more of a flood of people at their panel as well.

I mean think of it this way: Would you rather talk J.K. Rowling or any of the number of directors/producers of the Harry Potter movies?

Maybe people aren’t interested in these shows, okay fine. But two years ago there wasn’t anyone at Seiji Mizushima’s (director of Fullmetal Alchemist) panel either! I know people watched that show, but this is a whole other rant altogether.

We definitely have to do a blog on the great divide between how many people WATCH anime and how many people BUY anime.

Oh yes. We will.

AAA, which once again we didn’t wait in line for because the main events was nice and big, was really high energy and fun! Their set was a nice length, 8 or 9 songs and there was plenty of audience interaction and bantering. I got angry when we were waiting for our friend before getting seats though. We spoke to this girl who said she was pulling her friends out of the dealer’s room to come to the concert and they would thank her later. I whole-heartedly agreed that this concert was a once in a lifetime thing. And then she said, “Yeah, well if you go to it you can get better seats for the AMV contest.” I HATE HER. People have the lamest priorities! YOU DON’T NEED A GOOD SEAT FOR THE AMV’S THEY ARE ON A SCREEN! HATE. These were the same people that were sitting for the whole concert and taking up space where I could be closer to the stage. HATE. But AAA made me forget these idiots because they were really good. They played Blood on Fire from Initial D which made me giddy!

At that time I went to the School Rumble panel. It was sort of lame but I love School Rumble. The English voice actors and the director for the dub of the show talked a little bit about their experiences. It was your standard talk by American voice actors. Then they showed the first three episodes of the School Rumble dub. It was adequate. Nobody stood out as being great but no one was like nails on a chalkboard. My major complaint was they did not subtitle the written parts of the show. I knew what they said from the manga but that was a silly way to play it to an audience your trying to get into the show.

We attended quite a few industry panels, they weren’t especially interesting but everyone did seem to answer a lot of questions and were pretty truthfully. Well, except Tokyo-Pop who I always think is bullshitting me. They always skeeve me out! Like I know they are just lying to my face with their corporate crap. I must just like how everyone else lies better. I did learn that anime DVD sales account for 1.5% of the DVD sales market. Which wowed me a bit. Also made me wish everyone knew that and understood that and didn’t try to drive the price point of anime to the price of normal DVDs, for another day though.

Well, Industry panels are sort of like plain rice. It’s filling but most of the time unless it’s really poorly done it’s kind of all the same. I mean I have been to really interesting industry panels but they are rare as hen’s teeth. Most of the time they play some trailers, pimp whatever is there big shows, make a few announcements, do a Q&A, and then give away some stuff if you’re lucky. You can usually get the most personal spark from such a panel if you get a chance to talk to a cool rep after the panel.

The problem with Tokyopop is two-fold. One I never like the way the Tokyopop reps describe anything. I remember when they announced Fruits Basket. I was super hyped for them to announce the manga. When they announced and then described it, I was thinking I would never buy a manga like that except for the fact that I already knew it was a good read. Secondly, they seem to have that nasty layer of corporate sleaze all over them of late. Tokyopop makes it seem like they are totally not corporate but just super big fans of everything. Del Rey and Viz seem more like “Yeah were part of the corporate machine that wants nothing more than profit but were also fans.” I guess I appreciate the honesty.

Oh and don’t get me started about D.J. Milky.

We did miss the ImaginAsia panel(and not because I was taking pictures of cute boys cosplaying Kenshin, as you might believe!), much to our dismay it had been moved to 3 hours earlier than scheduled. I also missed the Morio Asaka panel due to last minute schedule changes but did obtain an autograph. As for fan panels, loved the podcasters roundtable. Of course that was just because I was delighted to meet all the podcasters I listen to including: Dave and Joel, Geeks Nights, Gerald from AWO, and Ninja Consultants.

The Podcasters panel was super fun. It was made up of all the anime Podcasts we listen to so it was like the ultimate team up of awesome. The only thing that would have made it better is if all of AWO had shown up. There was a super nasty podcaster in the audience who needed a punch in the face.

The putting the Man back in Manga panel was fun. Gerald from AWO seemed really well prepared as opposed to the Geek Nights guys who seemed to have wanted to prepare but ran out of time (in their defense I think they were running like 4 different panels). Despite their occasional references to materials they did not have the Geek Nights guys were pretty knowledgeable about Gekiga and their love of the genre came shining through. Gerald is a god so he could do no wrong.

Gerald rules! But I avoided the Gekiga panel. Too much testosterone in one room.

We also went a little soiree on Saturday night hosted by the classiest Kung Fu masters at the convention. Those practitioners are named Dave and Joel. It was rather cool to spend an evening chatting with some of the more mature members of anime fandom.

Oh, I had such a good time at the party! It was like a new piece of fandom I had never participated in. And we got to hang out with a couple of industry people, Dave and Joel, and Noah from Ninja Consultants. It was filled with hilarity and a good time was had by all. Hopefully I was mildly entertaining enough to get invited again.

The Eminence concert was a real treat. Definitely a con highlight! It’s rare to have the chance to see a classically trained group of musicians preform video game and anime music. I was impressed with the turnout of attendees for this event, it was packed, as it should be. Hiroaki Yura, the lead violinist and founder of Eminence, was especially talented and quite charming when talking to the audience.

Eminence was definitely the classiest part of the convention while still being very high energy and quite a bunch of geeky fun. They also brought out Hitoshi Sakimoto during the concert and had a small interview with him before they orchestra played some of his works. His little story of how he got hired at Square was definitely hysterical.

Oh and I could have done without the parts with Piano Squall.

My favorite part of the performance was the theme from My Neighbor Totoro and their last song, Scars of Time! I also had to chuckle because the audience was really enthusiastic and cheering, I bet that doesn’t happen at the symphony!

I was really impressed they played the main theme from the Radical Dreamers (aka the text adventure side story to Chrono Cross). Since Eminence is made up of either Japanese or Australians musicians maybe that game was more familiar to them then it was to most Americans.

We didn’t get to stay for the con feedback panel because we had to catch the bus. I wouldn’t have had much to complain about though! In fact, I would have praised them up and down. But I would have been curious what other people had problems with. They announced the dates for next year’s Otakon, August 8-10 at the BCC again. Although I like the July dates better, it’s still relatively early in August and I’m glad to see it staying in Baltimore for the foreseeable future.

I’m glad we rushed so we could take the bus ride from hell. : ) Well I enjoy the July date as well because it means the con falls on my birthday. Birthday + Otakon = the Win.

Brainwasher Detective (Hisui) Currently:
Watching The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
Reading Parasyte
Listening to Tom Sawyer by Rush

Narutaki Currently!
Watching Captain Herlock Endless Odyssey
Reading Kino no Tabi novel
Listening to AAA