Otakon 2007 was our very first anime convention! We really had no idea what to expect because we had never been to anything like it before, but we wanted to see what it was all about for ourselves. Before the convention, we were most excited to find out that Vic Mignogna, Steve Blum, and Maki Murakami were going to be there. The weekend before the convention, we printed off the panel schedule and tried to plan out what we wanted to do, although by the time we were at the convention, we found that we really didn't have enough time to do everything that we had planned!
We live close enough that we could take the light rail into Baltimore and decided to pick up our badges on Thursday night. That was our first dose of Otakon, and it was really a fun experience. Since we had gotten there after the line had cleared out, we pretty much just got to walk in and pick up our badges. It was so much fun to walk into the Inner Harbor and see so many people in cosplay and all with the same shiny silver bags as us. It really started feeling like the convention was starting and it was really fun because we had never seen anything like it before. Having always been a Final Fantasy VII fan, it was especially amusing to see someone dressed up as Cloud with a huge buster sword and walking around Baltimore like it was the most normal thing in the world.
Day 1 - Friday (6/20)
When we first walked into the Convention Center, we were completely floored by how many people there were inside. According to the official website, attendance for this year totaled 22,852 people. It was overwhelming at first, but we quickly got caught up in the excitement of it all. For awhile we just wandered around to try and find where different things were located, and we made sure we knew where Vic and Steve's panel was going to be held so we wouldn't be lost when it got closer to it. In our wandering around, we ended up joining the autograph line for Colleen Clinkenbeard since the line was very short. While we were waiting in line we saw a huge line behind us that we later found out was the line to the Dealer's Room. It was unbelievable that the line reached the third floor since the Dealer's Room was on the first floor, and we decided to wait awhile to head down there. Colleen Clinkenbeard was really nice and it was cool that the first thing we did was get an autograph
right off the bat.
After meeting her and getting her autograph, we decided to get in line for the Vic and Steve show so that we could get good seats. It turned out that it really wasn't necessary to line up early for any of the panels we saw though, because there were always some seats still available in the back even after they started. It was really neat to see Vic Mignogna and Steve Blum in person, and they had a really fun panel. They did a "Real Fans of Genius" song about Otakon and Vic played his music video for "The Legend of Middle Tennessee". Our dad came with us for part of the first day (he arrived after we had gotten Colleen Clinkenbeard's autograph), and even he enjoyed their panel, despite not knowing anything about them or the shows they've been in.
After their panel, we headed out for lunch and then came back in to shop in the Dealer's Room since the line had finally dwindled. The Dealer's Room was enormous and it was so cool to see booth after booth of anime merchandise! There are no stores here that carry this type of thing exclusively anymore, and it was amazing to see so much stuff available. We met the guys who had done the Sims Strangerhood videos and they even signed the DVD that we bought from them! We also picked up a Shuichi plushie and patch, some pins, and a Last Exile figure. We headed home pretty early after having a really fun day at the convention.
Day 2 - Saturday (6/21)
Day 2 of Otakon was absolutely the high point of the whole weekend for me because it pretty much revolved around "Gravitation". We were really excited when we had heard that Maki Murakami was going to be a guest at the convention. Gravitation was the first yaoi anime that we had seen, and it was also the series that got us into manga. We took the light rail in again and got in line for her panel an hour early to make certain we got into it since it was her only one scheduled for the entire weekend. We still weren't sure at this point if there was going to be an autograph session or not, since it had not been listed in the printed books, although it was listed on our original schedule from the web site. We brought our manga just in case we had a chance to have her sign it.
We got pretty good seats up close, although the people behind us had to be the most obnoxious people in the world. They talked throughout the whole panel and made dirty comments after everything that she said. However, the panel was really a lot of fun and it was so awesome to see Maki Murakami. It was really interesting to see her and listen to the things that she had to say, and it was funny how she kept accidentally having conversations with the Tokyopop rep and leaving her translator out of it. She showed pictures of her workspace and her pets, and everyone in the audience seemed to be very respectful of her desire to not have any pictures of herself taken. She seemed very nice and it was funny to think of that sweet looking person writing some of her more hardcore material! She was very amused by the Gravitation cosplayers in the audience, and she even commented that the series got crazy around volume nine because she had run out of ideas.
After her panel was over and they said she was going to have an autograph session, we hightailed it to the autograph lines to get in line early. However, no one was allowed to officially line up that early so we all kind of hung around until they announced that we could line up. Everyone hurried to get into line, and although we weren't near the front at all, we didn't end up in the way back either. They did say that not all of us would get one within the timeframe, but that we could chance it and stay in line if we wanted to. As the end time got closer we got nervous, especially since only five people were allowed in the room at once and some people were taking forever. And even though we would have another chance the next day, by the time it was our turn we had already been in line for two and a half hours. We were thrilled when we got in because aside from these two autograph signings, we probably wouldn't ever get another chance to get her signature. She had a stack of Yuki and Shuichi photos, so we got one of those signed and she also signed our copy of volume 11. Both her and her translator laughed at the picture of Yuki in the front of the book and Maki Murakami even checked the cover to see which volume it was (she made Yuki whistle!!).
We were so unbelievably excited after meeting her that we pretty much called it a day after that and went shopping in the Dealer's Room. We spent a lot more time this day because our dad didn't come and so we could take as much time as we wanted and look through more stuff. We ended up buying more Gravitation pins, a Kumagoro plushie, a Drama Queen manga, lots of pins, two more Last Exile figures, and doushinshi from Get Backers, Kyo Kara Maoh, and Final Fantasy VII.
Day 3 - Sunday (6/22)
Day 3 was the last day of the convention, and you could really feel the difference in the air. Everyone seemed to be in a different mood and the excitement in the Convention Center was really down, at least from what we saw. We ended up getting there way too early to line up for the Elric Brothers panel, so we killed some time by watching an episode of "To Heart" in one of the video rooms. It was the third episode of the show and in it, there is a girl that talks really quietly and the male character (voiced by the same guy that does Shuichi's english voice), would repeat everything she said in the form of a question. Like she would whisper 'I wanted to thank you' and then he would say "Do you want to thank me?". It was just so hilarious because everyone in the room would laugh at the exact same parts and a lot of people were yelling funny things at the screen throughout. That experience was a great way to end the weekend, and we ended up buying the "To Heart" DVD's because of that memory.
The Elric Brothers panel was fun and everyone seemed to have a good time. Vic always puts on a good panel, and we got to see Aaron Dismuke (Al) and Caitlin Glass (Winry) as well. They talked a lot about Full Metal Alchemist and voice acting in general, and it was a good time. Afterwards, we went into the Dealer's Room to see if there was anything we missed on the other days, especially since there were some sales going on on the last day. We bought another Get Backers doujinshi, a manga, a novel, the Kizuna OVA's, and some more pins. We finished off the convention by attending a pizza party at the Chicago Grill with some people in the Risembool Ranger fan club.
All in all, the we had a fantastic time at Otakon and look forward to the next one! Hopefully we will fit more in the next time now that we have experienced our first convention. One thing that really stuck out to us was how nice the atmosphere was. Almost everyone we encountered was really friendly and helpful, and even just talking to the other people while waiting in lines was nice. It was a really laid back atmosphere, where you could just plop down on the ground and sit while you were in line or even if you just wanted to sit, and no one would care. And the other people were always pleasant, even if you'd all been waiting in a line for two hours. I still think one of my favorite memories of the Convention was just sitting in one of the restaurants and looking over and seeing cosplayers dressed up as Kingdom Hearts or Bleach characters and just eating their food like normal. Some tourists might have looked at all of us like we were crazy, but we were all having a really great time. We look forward to the next Otakon!!
To see the full size autographs and details, click on the images below to visit our autograph section.