Concerts and Cosplay dominate Otakon in 2014
Otakon is unparalleled on the east coast when it comes to anime conventions. It's sixteenth year at the Baltimore Convention Center has been yet another success for the convention. It's been successful enough to spin off a half-year event, Otakon Vegas
, a new yearly event closer to the west coast. Baltimore will be losing Otakon (and the millions of dollars of commerce and revenue it brings in) in 2017. But if Otakon in 2014 was any indication, Baltimore is in for two more years of great experiences. The convention will be moving a bit south to the Washington, DC, convention center in 2017.
As Asian pop culture is spreading more and more in the Western world a number of big-name musical acts have crossed the ocean to perform for international fans. X-Japan kicked off a big worldwide tour in 2011 which would bring them to Madison Square Garden in October 2014. Bandleader Yoshiki had appeared as a guest of Otakon in the past and was scheduled to appear again at Otakon in 2014. As part of a Sunday performance there was a surprise and his bandmates appeared briefly on stage to lend their musical support to Yoshiki's concert. Many fans at Otakon had tickets for the New York event but got a fairly up-close and personal performance at Otakon. This alone made Otakon a great experience, but it didn't stop there.
ALTIMA formed as a band much more recently and with a focus on anime show theme songs. Lead vocalist Maon Kurosaki performed the High School of the Dead
opening, and together with the band produced the opening for Shakugan no Shana Final
. The Saturday concert was as much a highlight of the convention as the Yoshiki/X-Japan event. With a full band, lights, and costume changes, not to mention tons of fan-favorite songs, it was one of the most memorable parts of this year's Otakon.
Otakon has found a great home in Baltimore due to the great location of the Baltimore Convention Center. Though the summer heat in Maryland gets oppressive even at night, there's quite a number of dining and entertainment establishments very near by. There's no lack of food options at all hours of the day and for any price range. Many local establishments understand the great business opportunity and stay open extra late, or even 24 hours in some cases. Sadly, some of the most popular establishments disappear between conventions. The Burger King in the Bank of America building across the street from the Charles St Lobby closed a few years ago. Around that time a California Tortilla opened at the other end of the convention center by the Pratt St Lobby. Though it got a lot of late-night business from convention goers over the years, it was shuttered for the 2014 event with nothing in the vacant space.
And for all the great programming, the big crowds, the busy schedules, and the heat, Otakon boasts a pretty robust cosplay scene. Proper lighting is hard to find; either you're inside in shadows, outside in direct overhead light, or outside in the rain. The best places are also the most popular. "The Fountains" are probably by far the most popular location for photos. The 400 level with wide gathering spaces is very popular, too. But Otakon is an event where people know they will get noticed and can really show off their stuff. With the large spaces afforded by the venue it's also an optimal place for particularly large costumes, too. This year's most-talked-about costume was almost certainly the Metal Gear Rex (Metal Gear Solid
) costume, which was too big to really move away from the VIP lounge area. And while this is neither here nor there, despite a growing tendency for non-anime, non-manga, and non-video game costumes and programming to show up at anime conventions, Otakon is still by far mostly attended by anime, manga, and video game cosplayers.
Next year's Otakon will likely have many of the same things as in 2014. Fan panels abound for shows like Naruto
, Sailor Moon
, Kill La Kill
, Attack on Titan
, etc. There's also a lot of fandom panels for things like Japanese Taiko drumming, old vs new anime, and AMVs. New in 2015 may be pre-mailed badges. Lines for pickup in 2014 were around the building as always. Otakon reached large size with stability by fixing the problems they encountered, and most attendees will be happy to know there's something in the works for the huge line that forms starting Thursday evening. As Otakon grows and takes up the larger Washington Convention Center this problem will likely get worse if not addressed.