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Otakon 2009: The Wrap Up

Jellyfish…Dinosaurs…OTAKU!!!!!!!!!!

The otaku have come, and it was good. Otakon 2009, bigger than ever. Better, well, depends on who you ask. Unoficially so far there were a touch over 26,000 attendees at Otakon this year. That’s about twice the full house capacity of the arena where they staged the cosplay masquerade this year. That number does not include staffers, guests and some other ancillary number, so the real number is probably closer to 27,500 give or take. That’s more than the baseball team next door draws on a regular basis these days. Sprawling over the entire Baltimore Convention Center, the 14,000 person capacity Baltimore Arena (formerly known as the First Mariner Arena), and a portion of the new Hilton Baltimore Convention Center, the convention now includes over 120,000 sqft or dealer’s room space; 62,000 sqft of artists alley space; 30,000 sqft of main events space; 55,000 sqft of gaming space; over 40,000 sqft of video space; 50,000 sqft of panel space and other ancillary space.

It’s big. It’s very big.

So what does on do with allllllllll that space and 41 hours? You fill it with 6 video tracks, 6 panel tracks, dozens upon dozens of dealers, concerts, raves, workshops, photo shoots and a few thousand people alternately yelling “Buttscratcher!”, “Marco-Polo” or “I lost the game”.

Seriously, people we’re really doing that. Kinda redefines “annoying.”

To call an Otakon experience overwhelming would be like calling the new Yankee Stadium expensive. It fits, but it so understates what happens. This year one could bounce from panels with some of the founding members of the modern anime world to screenings of the hottest new movie on the anime circuit “Evangelion 1.0: You Are [Not] Alone” to a concert by a J-pop idol to a costume masquerade to a panel on surviving the coming zombie apocalypse within 6 hours. It’s that kind of crazy. Not the “running of the fanboys to the biggest corporate booth crazy” that you get at some other cons since there is very little industry presence at Otakon aside from FUNimation, but a more organic, uncontrollable frenzy of thousands upon thousands of similarly minded and yet very unique people descending on a place to make their own fun.

No offense intended to other conventions, but I don’t many if any can challenge Otakon for sheer beauty of location. Baltimore’s Inner Harbor is simply gorgeous. Sandwiched between the beauty of a still active waterfront dotted with sailboats, the National Aquarium and a beautiful skyline and one of the most beautiful sets of stadiums in the country, Otakon has the unique position of being both massively huge and startlingly intimate at the same time. Well, outside of the dealers room and the registration lines anyway. How many other conventions can claim to have grown from barely 500 people in a small hotel to over 26,000, that’s an increase of about 52 times, in a full scale convention center, full scale arena and an entire major American city backing it up. None that I can think of, though I’m sure one of you reading this will be able to find one somewhere….maybe.

Otakon 2009 set a very high bar for anyone to match in the future, including themselves. I look forward to finding out what next time holds. I’d invite everyone to join in, but we only have so much space, so first come first served….

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