After fifteen past Otakons, I thought I might be at a loss as to what to write this year that I haven't said already. In some ways, Otakon has found it's niche -- as I said last year -- and can focus on just getting better instead of bigger. The location is the same, a lot of the programming is similar to previous years, and all the same events were back. If Otakon's goals for this year to just do a great job at everything, though, it met it and then some. Things came together just right in a lot of ways, and from what I can tell it was one of the best Otakon events since moving to Baltimore.
The guests this year spanned a lot of interests. Alongside returning guests like Peter Beagle (The Last Unicorn
), Otakon brought writer Gen Urobuchi (Fate/Zero
, Madoka Magica
), singer and voice actress Aya Hirano (The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
), and K-Pop group VIXX to fans this year. The Fate/Zero
property is perhaps one of the biggest things in anime right now, and Madoka Magica
still remains extremely popular. Gen Urobuchi was a big draw for a lot of fans. Continuing with the tradition of having musical acts, Otakon seemed to go all out. Perhaps one of the most prolific voice actresses and singers in the Anime Industry, Aya Hirano did both panels, a concert, and even an autograph session. The autograph session was in such high demand that the line, which wrapped around more than once through one of the largest basement halls, had to be cut off about a third of the way through. The rising popularity of Korean pop music also left a lot of fans happy with the hour-long VIXX concert. The music didn't stop there, either. The half-time show at the masquerade, often considered too long to wait through for a lot of masquerade viewers, was a short concert by singer/pianist Mikako Joho, who played both original songs and some anime theme song favorites.
Speaking of the masquerade, the once-overshadowing event went surprisingly well. Though it's still the single largest event by far, it's no longer the must-do event on Saturday night. Many conventions have seen a slew of lackluster performances erode enthusiasm for the masquerade. At Otakon this year, though, a number of skits really came out with original ideas and clearly lots of rehearsal to really polish the performance. Despite four Princess Tutu
ballet skits, each was a good performance; the most original was certainly the ballet choreographed to Michael Jackson's Thriller. To no surprise, the winning skit was a martial arts / dance skit performed by members of a martial arts school. A small army of Chun-Li and Dan cosplayers mixed forms and dance to the almost-overused Sexy and I Know It
For those interested in cosplay, there was no lack of costumes. Baltimore summer weather calls for almost as little clothing as one can get away with. With temperatures hitting almost triple digits and the humidity very high thanks to summer showers, light, flowing costumes, often shirtless or pantsless, were understandably popular. Even so, a lot of costumes called for full length coats and armor, and despite the heat there was no lack of these either. The Baltimore Convention Center has some great photo locations, but due to the mass of people only limited cooling capabilities. Some of the nearby hotels, namely the Hilton and Hyatt, were much less crowded and better air conditioned, and had a lot of great photo opportunities for those willing to venture away from the main part of the convention. For those braving the heat, a lot of locations nearby also made great shooting locations, some even going on-board the local ships in the inner harbor.
All in all, Otakon certainly did it right this year. The management seems to be in touch with the interests of the members, even if the occasional problem makes a stir. Next will be will the 20th Otakon, and we can be sure there are some great things in the works for next year. After this year, the bar is set pretty high, so Otakon 2013 (Aug 9 - 11) can be expected to be amazing.