While my trip was a positive experience, Otakon 2011 was pretty disappointing (which’d be a real problem if I was paying for the trip myself). I ask myself: would I go back next year? Even if I had to pay for it? I’m thinking no, not unless they bring over, like, Hanazawa Kana or something. But this isn’t a negative post, I think.
The biggest difference between this Otakon and those of the past is that this one had absolutely no adventure nor nostalgia factor going on. I’ve been to four Otakons: the first was unforgettable and untoppable, and naturally a big adventure. 2009, my second year, was the first for my brother, and still pretty exciting. Last year’s otakon was the first for my even younger brother, and was the one where Otakon started to feel a little less amazing to me (it was pretty nostalgic though since we stayed in the same hotel that we did the first year, which I’d fully explored back then). This year’s group was myself, my brothers, and my best friend No Name, who’d missed last year. This was the first time going without my cousin, who’d always been the driver, so my brother drove. It’s worth noting that this was each of my brothers’ “best otakon ever.”
A few things to consider: none of us managed to get enough sleep before nor during otakon, so we were all in a half-awake stupor the entire time; I forgot to bring my medication; and wouldn’t you know, my bed (only my bed) had bedbugs, the effects of which I’m still feeling.
We showed up early on Friday because the Touhou panel was supposed to happen, but it turned out to be moved to Sunday (we learned later). Instead, we watched the first three episodes of Arakawa Under the Bridge (apparently being released by NIS America), which was pretty cool because the lady running the video room was cosplaying Nino (I have a picture, but like all the pictures I took, it’s really bad. My camera was low on batteries and I forgot to bring its charger.)
Seeing as there wasn’t much to do until the dealer’s room was open (effectively at 1 PM since fuck trying to get in during the first hour), we went to go watch some Dirty Pair. This is where the group split up, No Name and the older of my younger brothers going off on their own, which is how it was for most of the con. (The older younger brother was hanging out with a friend of his most of the time.) Dirty Pair is pretty fun, so I think I might actually finish it.
My plan had been to go to the dealer’s room and then make it back for the Aniplex panel. We didn’t make the Aniplex line in time, but apparently we didn’t miss anything. Instead, we watched an episode of Steins;Gate (they were streaming it off of Crunchyroll and the aspect ratio was fucked up. What were they thinking?) and then went to line ultra-early for the Madoka Magica screening and QnA, since I absolutely didn’t want to miss that.
I couldn’t have realized how big Madoka is in the states. Sure, it’s a big deal in the blogosphere, but a lot of unknown shit is. Madoka was gigantic—it’s even on my badge! Thanks to all of the main characters having cosplay kits for sale, the show completely dominated cosplay at the con. The line for the screening was enormous and full of really big fans. Something fun I noted thanks to the otaku-bashing douchebag nearby in line’s comments as the Gundam 00 movie let out: there were almost no women whatsoever in Gundam 00′s screening (maybe three or four total). Meanwhile, the Madoka crowd was easily 60% female. Very interesting how it doesn’t quite match the expected audiences of those shows.
Watching the first three episodes of Madoka with a crowd was awesome. They were big fans who laughed all too knowingly when Kyuubei offered to grant any wish, cheered when the witch who would kill Mami first appeared (and cried when the event happened), and generally had a blast. I also had the distinct pleasure of getting to watch it with my baby brother who knew nothing about the show prior to the con, and who was very emotionally distraught for the remainder of the day after Mami’s death (takes after his bro). Producer Iwakami was really cool at the Q&A and I learned/confirmed a lot in spite of too many questions that a producer wouldn’t have the answer to. I asked if it was his idea for Urobuchi Gen to lie on his twitter about the show, and he said that it was, the bastard.
(Other notes: I sat next to sdshamshel at the screening. Also, I kept calling Madoka “Maduka” to my brother, and this became a con-length meme between us.)
After Madoka, I re-grouped with No Name (he’d been further back in the line), and since our group didn’t feel like going to see Chemistry, we went to karaoke instead. Not wanting to do my main song just yet, I chose No, Thank You and in my opinion totally botched it (liked it more on the rewatch, though). You can decide how I did yourself:
Later that night, we went to the Gintama panel, which I’m extremely happy we got to do. In spite of being one of my favorite shows, I don’t get many opportunities to talk about Gintama nor have a lot of fans to talk about it with. This panel was packed with serious diehard fans, many of whom were cosplaying the characters and had encyclopaedic knowledge of the entire series events.
The panel started early and had a perfect atmosphere, which is to say lazy and unorganized as all hell, since that’s how Gintama should be. The panel was run by a Gintoki and a Kagura cosplayer, the former of which was perfectly in-character (genderswapped), which just made it that much better. Many memes were yelled, and I asked a lot of really stupid questions. We had a hilarious Elizabeth cosplayer, and at some point, a second Elizabeth cosplayer entered. The two of them got into a face-off, and just when it looked like things might turn violent, they hugged it out like true BROS. At two different times, the panel leader gave the entire Strawberry Milk speech, ending in the whole room chanting “ICHIGO GYUNYUU!!!” Good times. After the panel, a guy stopped me, having recognized me as Digitalboy, and asked to have my picture, being a fan of my blog. This also happened last year at Otakon, so I’m starting to feel really god damn popular! Sadly, he couldn’t make it for the Sunday morning karaoke, but if he’s reading, the videos are at the bottom.
That night, my brother showed me a flyer he’d been handed for Bit Gen Gamefest 6, which happened to be the next day, happened to be right down the street, and happened to be headlined by Protomen. It so happens that Protomen are No Name’s favorite band (and would be his first concert), and we’d been trying to see them for two years, each time the show being cancelled or moved. Great news.
Saturday morning was where the biggest disappointment began, because we’d been pretty psyched about Makoto Shinkai being there to premiere his new movie, Hoshi o Ou Kodomo. Unfortunately, the movie was complete and total shit, and both No Name and I hated it. I had a “done” moment about halfway through and slept until the finale, which was pretty terrible. I might make a full post about how this movie was so bad, since I have enough to say, but to sum up, it was poorly directed, completely half-baked, and, while pretty, not nearly as pretty as 5 Centimeters Per Second.
After the movie, we (discluding the bro who was with a friend) headed to the dealer’s room and ended up skipping out on the Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood movie premiere (apparently near-impossible to get into) in favor of the Atsuhiro Iwakami Q&A.
But before that, we saw the K-On! concert, which was totally stupid but very fun. The English dub actresses for the four main girls were cosplaying them (Azunyan was handled by the voice actress for background characters, since her voice wasn’t there), and they all pretended to play their instruments while singing the Japanese versions of all the songs from season 1. So it was a glorified karaoke performance, but a pretty good one, considering that the actresses actually sounded pretty spot-on when singing in Japanese. (They played a ten-minute clip from the second episode of the dub while seating. It wasn’t terrible as far as dubs go, thought that’s pretty much nowhere with me.) It got even more fun when they had everyone come up to the stage like a real concert and they re-played the opening and ending songs.
(Note: Chatted with Omo in the line for that show about how much I hated Hoshi o Ou Kodomo.)
Iwakami might’ve been the highlight of the con had the lying schedule not listed his Q&A as an hour and a half, when in fact it was only about forty-five minutes followed by his autograph session. (We had no official merchandise to get signed, so we left.) The only really good question we got out of that was Wildarmsheero doing his thing and asking about how it is working with Akiyuki Shinbo.
Having nothing better to do, we attended the Sunrise panel, featuring the producer of Tiger and Bunny (also an important guy at Sunrise with pretty decent English skills). This panel didn’t offer much, since most things they couldn’t talk about, though I asked a question especially for Ghostlightning (in first-person, sorry). I kinda botched the phrasing, though, but I think he basically said what I wanted him to (see video).
(Apparently that guy was much more fun at the Tiger and Bunny panel, wherein he cosplayed Kotetsu and said “arigatou, soshite, arigatou!” while doing the arm-thing.)
After that was Bandai After Dark, which we wanted to stay for because it’s always hard to get into and they always give out free stuff. US industry news is completely useless to me these days since I’ve abandoned the US anime industry, but some cool stuff happened, namely the dude who was sound director for the Haruhi movie being there and giving a violin performance of one of the songs he played on, as well as showing clips from the movie that had his music (reminding me how awesome that movie was).
We bailed out of there before too long to hit up Bit Gen, which was incredible. We caught the sets of Entertainment System (good), Bit Brigade (possibly the coolest live show idea ever: they have a guy do a live speed-run of the original Ninja Gaiden while they play a badass speed-metal version of the entire soundtrack as it appears in the game), and of course, Protomen, who were positively amazing. Even if it hadn’t been for Otakon, this trip would’ve been worthwhile just for that show.
On Sunday morning we hit up the karaoke. I opened with La Divina Tragedia, because the guy who’d sung it the previous year (Touhou panelist dude), and thereby introduced me to the song, was in the audience, so I made it a tribute to him. (Turned out better than I expected on rewatch.)
After that, I sang the song I’d actually planned, Os-Uchuujin from Denpa Onna. Aside from fucking up the lyrics at one point, I really, really enjoyed this performance. (Note that my bro forgot to press record for the first few seconds.)
I wish I’d made it to the J Directors/Producers panel, since I’ve heard it was great, but I don’t regret my decision to stay in the Touhou panel line for the same reason that I was so happy about the Gintama panel: Touhou is a huge part of my fandom that largely gets left out of my blog. Being around a bunch of really hardcore fans, watching guys play EX stages in the line and singing along to Tasukete Erin, seeing all the cosplay, was a great experience, and the panel was a blast. Even more fun because I got to attend with my brother, who’s a diehard Cirno fan (he bought two volumes of Advent Cirno and some random worksafe Cirno 4-koma doujin at Hen Da Ne, and he can’t even read them).
We closed out the con with the would-be tradition of watching Otaku no Video (we missed last year because of the Home Made Kazoku concert). Hilariously, all four of us fell asleep at one point or another while watching, but I still got the intended effect (that is, feeling like I understand what drove me to buy this Sakai Kyuuta artbook even though I was sworn off of buying artbooks).
Otakon is always a great experience and way to spend a weekend, but it’s also an expensive one, and this might be the last year that I go on my dad’s dime. In spite of getting rushed to the doctor for my bug bites immediately upon arrival at home, I’d say it was a net-positive and fun trip.