This year marked the 20th year of Otakon! We stayed in the city and were especially looking forward to seeing Crispin Freemanís panels. He had been a guest a few years back and is one of our favorite voice actors. I brought Sebby again, and this year his new cosplay was of Kumagoro from Gravitation!
We decided to stay at the Marriott this year instead of the Hilton. It isnít connected to the convention center, but the amount of money we saved more than made up for it, and we actually preferred this hotel over the Hilton. The ice machine worked, we got the amount of beds we had booked (unlike last year at the Hilton), and we just liked the overall feel of the place. After arriving in Baltimore, we were checked-in within a matter of minutes and really liked the location of our room. We will probably try to stay there again in the future.
The convention center was directly across the street, so we got in line to pre-register after checking in. It was fun seeing all the cosplayers and con-goers as soon as we arrived. The pre-reg line was pretty long (it was deceiving from the outside) but moved at a good pace. They didnít have a lot of badge choices we liked, so we both chose the Free! badge, since we were planning on watching that show. (It was a good choice - Free is now one of our favorite anime!!).
After pre-reg, we headed over to the inner harbor for dinner and it started raining on the way. We always like to eat at Pizza Uno on the first night, but for some reason there was a two hour wait on this evening, so we found a Johnny Rockets and got dinner there. Thursday was a little bit stressful with arriving in the city, and dinner wasnít as good as we had been looking forward to (we were cold, wet, and everywhere was packed), but we were hopeful that the rest of the con would go a little bit smoother.
Day 1 - Friday (8/9)
Our mom again made Sebbyís costume (we showed her our Ryuichi plushie as a reference) and I was so excited to carry him around in it. He looked adorable as Kumagoro and Gravitation is still one of my favorite series. The first thing we did was head over to the Hilton for breakfast in the Diamond Tavern. We have eaten there several times in the past and it was pretty good.
For some reason, this year the convention center seemed utterly packed. There were some hallways where the crowds came to a complete stop and it was just a nightmare when some people started pushing their way through everyone. In those instances, it did seem like the con staff took it seriously and made an immediate effort to get things moving and to keep it from getting backed up again. But it was just very disconcerting to see some of the huge crowds in some sections of the convention center when we had not noticed anything like that in the past.
The first panel we saw was Crispin Freemanís Q&A at 10 AM. We lined up early so we could be sure to get in and we enjoyed the panel very much. He is a terrific guest - he is so well spoken and manages the flow of the panel very well. His panels never get out of control like some others we have seen, and his answers to the fans questions are always well thought out and interesting. He talked a lot about voice acting in general, his experiences, and his podcast that goes into detail about voice acting. One thing we always love about his panels is that he has such an appreciation for the material he works on and has very interesting insights to share about the series he has worked on.
After Crispin Freemanís panel, we stayed to see Vic Mignognaís Q&A. He is also always a fantastic guest and his excitement is always fun to see. Weíve seen him before in past years, and we love how sweet he is to his fans. He talked a lot about how thrilled he was to be back at Otakon, and we had a great time at his Q&A.
Another thing that was odd about this year was how we really couldnít find much to buy in the Dealerís Room. That is usually one of my favorite things about the con, but booth after booth just seemed to have the same stuff. We couldnít find anything on any of the older series that they usually have merchandise for (they barely even had any Hetalia merchandise, which was really weird). We ended up saving a lot of money, but it was disappointing to not find much that we were interested in. We did end up buying a Hetalia wallscroll, a Final Fantasy VII Cloud figure, and some Doctor Who trading cards. It is odd that if you are a Doctor Who fan there is no shortage of stuff to buy. I like Doctor Who, but it is kind of annoying to see more stuff for that than for anime.
We then headed over to the Inner Harbor to try to eat at Pizza Uno, and we were able to get in with little to no wait. While we were there, it started pouring outside, so we took our time eating to avoid the rain. We had fun taking pictures in the Inner Harbor, and when we returned to the con we spent some time in the Artistís Alley. Again, there wasnít as much stuff that we were interested in as usual, but we bought a cute sweater for Sebby and some pins and artwork.
Day 2 - Saturday (8/10)
On Saturday, we ate breakfast in the nearly empty restaurant in the Marriott (it was weird how empty it was) before heading over to the convention center. Sebby wore his Chibitalia cosplay and looked super cute. We spent some time on this morning in Ota-chan coloring some anime prints while waiting for the Dealer's Room to open and for the panels we wanted to see to start.
At noon, we attended Crispin Freemanís second Q&A panel. It was just as much fun as the one on Friday and we had a great time. He even sang some opera at the request of one of the fans! Afterwards, we stayed in the room to see Tomokazu Sekiís panel. His panel was fun and we always enjoy the translator that was assisting him. A lot of people requested that he say certain lines from different shows, he talked a bit about his radio program, and it was fun to hear him talk a little bit about Shuichi from Gravitation.
In the Dealerís Room and Artistís Alley, we bought a Tiger and Bunny Kotetsu figure, another small Cloud FF7 figure, some Power Rangers cards, and some pins. The Artistís Alley had a ton of stuff from the Free! anime, so we wished we had seen it before we attended the convention. Hopefully theyíll still have merchandise for it next year!
Later in the day we lined up for Crispin Freemanís mythology panel. It was an extremely compelling and well researched panel. He discussed the differences between heroes in Amercian culture vs. Japanese, including how mechas and robots compared to American superheroes. He had video clips and slides to share, and it really gave the audience a lot to think about. We didnít realize his panel was two hours long and were starving, so we had to leave before the Q&A at the end to get something to eat.
On the way back through the BCC after dinner, we felt like it was the convention for the first time. Iím not sure what the difference was, but the feeling walking through just finally clicked that it felt like Otakon. Something was just off the rest of the con, and it may have just been us, or something at the con, or a combination of both, but we both agreed that Saturday evening was when the energy we usually experience at Otakon was there.
Day 3 - Sunday (8/11)
Sunday didnít really have much on the schedule that interested us, and there was no way we were attempting to go through the Dealerís Room with the crowds, so we only attended one panel. We saw ďAn International Game of TelephoneĒ panel on the way ideas and trends go between Japan and the US, and it was pretty fun. The panel felt like it complimented the Crispin Freeman one we had seen the day before, and we thought that the panelistís presentation was very good.
We left early on Sunday and had a nice lunch on the way back home. Overall, we had a fun time at the convention and we did enjoy the guests and all the panels that we saw.