We've been going to Otakon for several years now, and while the overall vibe was better than 2013, it was probably our least favorite so far due to issues outside the convention itself (a very ill pet) and also within the convention (the horrible line on Thursday night). It all just added up to a very non-relaxing weekend, with us considering not returning next year.
The convention weekend started off badly, as I had spent the previous night at the emergency vet with our sick baby guinea pig, Bianca, who had been diagnosed with pneumonia. We were not looking forward to leaving her, but our mom has a lot of experience taking care of our guinea pigs, and she was able to give Bianca her medicine while we were away. We got into the city a little after dinner and were very surprised at the huge line for pre-reg badge pick-up. The line was massive and wrapped around the whole building and them some. We've been in line for pre-reg before, but never anything like this. There were several long stretches when the line just did not move at all. As the hours passed and we were all standing outside in the dark (without anyone explaining what the situation was), we worried that we weren't even going to be able to get our badges since the cut-off time was rapidly approaching. It was insane how many people were still in line. When we finally got inside the lobby, the line was cut-off maybe 20 or so people behind us and everyone outside was told to leave. For a moment there it was actually scary watching the people because everyone was so angry, and rightfully so. It was hours wasted in line with absolutely nothing to show for it, another line the next day to get the badge they should have already gotten, and a wasted night's hotel fee.
After standing in line inside for at least half an hour, the line came to a standstill once again and we were told we were going to have to come back the next day as well. We were so tired and frustrated at this point, but they did hand out printed 'skip the line' passes for us to return the next day without waiting in line again. We took the passes and headed back to the hotel. If we hadn't gotten those passes, I wonder if we would have just called it quits on the whole weekend and went back home. I never want to have to do that again - heading back to our hotel around midnight in Baltimore wasn't fun, especially after worrying for hours in line about if it was even worth it to wait (and dealing with all the annoying people in front of us who kept having more and more friends arrive to cut in front of us), it was just incredibly frustrating. I hope that this experience will lead to a change in the future where the con actually mails the badges.
Day 1 - Friday (8/8/14)
This year our mom made Sebby the cutest cosplay outfit - an Iwatobi tracksuit from the anime Free. (She made the outfit and I made the cap.) I was really looking forward to getting some pictures of him at the convention in his new outfit. After eating breakfast in the hotel's restaurant, we eventually made our way back to the convention center and picked up our badges. We were very relieved that the passes worked (we were afraid that the workers wouldn't know what they were since not many people were inside the building the previous night to get them). Once we got our badges, we were then disappointed to find that there was no printed schedule in the bags, since we always rely on that schedule during the convention. We were able to pick one up at the info desk, but they warned that they were only printed in limited quantity. The bags did contain free t-shirts from last year's Otakon, which was kind of cool. We also weren't thrilled with the new badges, since not only did we not get to choose a design, but the new shiny coating caused the permanent marker to rub off and stain my shirt, and Jen's badge broke and had to be taped so it wouldn't fall off the lanyard.
However, despite all the issues, we were happy to note that this year felt more like Otakon than the previous year. For some reason, last year just felt like it was missing something, but even from the first day this one felt more normal. It probably had something to do with everyone really putting their all into having a good time after the line experience from Thursday. One of the first things we did was head over to Ota-chan to relax and make some crafts. They had a lot more options this year at the tables and we made little tulle skirts for Sebby, which he looked really cute in!
For panels, we saw a really well done ninja panel put on by the Anime World Order podcast. It was very informative and we really enjoyed it. They played a lot of clips from various series, and it was really funny to see what passes as ninjas in different shows and movies! Their panel was very well researched and their effort showed. We also saw a panel for director Sunao Katabuchi. Although we weren't familiar with the works that were discussed, we also had a good time at that one.
In the Dealer's Room, we were very excited when we found a booth that was selling the Free figures where they were riding in their little tubes. Those figures typically come in blind boxes, so we were really thrilled to be able to just buy all five of the characters without having to worry about duplicates. They are just the cutest figures!! We also bought little figures of Rin and Haru where they are running, and got a nice Tiger and Bunny Keith figure. In the Artist's Alley we bought a bunch of Free prints and pins, and were also excited to find a Big Wind Up picture. Several of the pictures we got (three Free ones, a Hetalia Britain one, and the Big Wind Up one) now hang on the walls in our basement.
We ate dinner at our favorite spot - Pizza Uno - and then finished the day by attending Stephanie Sheh's panel. We've seen her in the past (we were in her panel several years back when we all heard about the fire alarm - someone in the audience had asked if they could get Stephanie's autograph now since the Dealer's Room was on fire), and this time was just as entertaining. She is a very interesting person - loved her story about how in college she walked with her friends in the graduating class instead of getting a ticket to attend, and how she dealt with a girl who was bragging about graduate school by pretending she had been accepted to Harvard.
Day 2 - Saturday (8/9/14)
For the second day, I dressed Sebby in his Kumagoro cosplay from last year. We ate breakfast in the hotel at the convention center, and also spent some time again in Ota-chan to make more cute little crafts. For panels, we attended one for voice actress Saori Hayami and also actor Dante Basco. We were not familiar with Saori Hayami, but her panel was fun and we thought her outfit was adorable. We were looking forward to Dante Basco's panel because we had just re-watched Hook, and while he was a very entertaining and gracious guest, we thought the audience was really annoying. There were way too many requests for things (such as pictures with him and autographs) and there was even someone in the audience near us obnoxiously puffing away at their e-cigarette. It was awesome when a guy asked Dante a question while introducing his boyfriend Jesus. We also caught part of Tony Oliver's voice acting workshop panel. What we saw of it was very interesting, and he really gave some good advice to any aspiring voice actors.
In the Dealer's Room, we picked up some pins and I got a Free Iwatobi Swim Club t-shirt. We also bought yet another Cloud Strife action figure (can never have enough of those!). In the Artist's Alley we got some Doctor Who prints, a Vincent Valentine print, some Free keychains and magnets, and a hand-knitted Totoro hat for Sebby. We then headed over to the Inner Harbor for dinner. It was such a beautiful day out that we ate outside and watched the dragon boats on the water - it was so nice! On the way back to the hotel we got ice cream from one of the vendors outside the convention center. It was a very relaxing way to end the day.
Day 3 - Sunday (8/10/14)
After getting some upsetting news the night before that our guinea pig was not doing well, we were not really feeling the convention any longer. We caught the end of a diversity in anime panel and then stayed to watch a wrestling panel put on by the same guys that did the ninja panel on Friday. Their panel was again very informative and although neither of us have any interest in wrestling, we kind of want to watch one of the movies they were discussing because it looked really interesting. (And their video before the panel with the wrestler fighting with a little girl was really bizarre and funny!) We ended up leaving during the middle of the panel when our ride arrived, and we got the somewhat expected news that our guinea pig had passed during the night. It was a very sad end to the weekend. Although we did manage to have fun throughout the con, it definitely was not our favorite year.