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Otakon2010: Early Thoughts

Otakon 2010, the largest anime convention on the east coast, runs from July 30th to August 1st this weekend. With fresh premiers and certainty of substantial industry news emerging out of this convention once again, it should be an exciting three days for devotees of Japanese animation. In advance of Toonzone’s coverage of this event on the blog and the news page, attending staff wrote some anticipatory thoughts about the con this this year.
Stay tuned for much more Otakon coverage in the coming days!

Weatherman’s Thoughts:

So, it’s Otakon time again. Already? Geez, feels like Anime Boston
just ended and that was 4 months ago. This will be my tenth Otakon.
Yes, ten Otakons. I’ve been going to Otakon long enough that in the
meanwhile we’ve had 2 separate economic implosions, two wars, two presidential elections, the rise of China in the world and the rise and
fall of the US anime industry. Used to be in years past that we would
have FUNimation, Bandai, ADV, Pioneer/Geneon, Media Blasters, Tokyo Pop,
Viz, Central Park Media, Manga Pictures, Dreamworks films, heck even
Bandai Visual for a year or two. Now, it’s just FUNimation and Bandai
who even bother to show up for Otakon in any way, though Media Blasters
will have their usual sales table downstairs but no panels. I have seen
Otakon go from a rather messy weekend in half of the Baltimore Convention
Center to an almost impossibly well-oiled machine taking over the entire place, the newish Hilton hotel next door and the
venerable Baltimore Arena just up the street. And this is all done by
volunteers, many of whom
devote
almost all of their free time to making sure Otakon comes off better every year.

Compared to years past the guest list this year is maybe not as heavy on
total knockout guests from the anime industry, but the convention does feature quality
front to back. From two of the founding members of the seminal
Japanese band X/Japan to the full English language cast of Hetalia to
Otakon regulars like Masao Maruyama, Michael Sinterniklaas aand Amy
Howard Wilson and an increasingly broad mixture of Japanese pop culture
figures suck as fashion designer h.Natao, Otakon 2010 has one of the
broadest guest lists I have seen in quite a while. This is in addition
to the legions of web comic artists, the 50,000 sq. ft video game room,
the 123,000 sq. ft dealers room and an abundance of panel space. If anyone is bored this year, well, they just aren’t trying
very hard.

Now, having said that, I have been doing this for ten years, so my
perspective will be probably a little more jaded and maybe a touch more
cynical than someone who is fresh to the whole deal. And that’s to be
expected. No matter how much fun something is and how much you enjoy
doing it, eventually you lose the element of surprise and awe that you once
had. Please, don’t misunderstand me. I will have a ton of fun this
weekend, possibly more than I’ve had anywhere all year. It’s just that
it will be fun with an acknowledgment that this is not the be all and end
all of life. A lot of people get so wrapped up in planning for Otakon
and the intense fun of the weekend that they forget that the real world
will come back Sunday night, and the reality of convention Sunday can be
quite crushing. I’ve been there, it’s not pleasant till you learn how
to deal with with life moving on.

So, my dear friends, to boldly go where 30,000+ thousand of us will be
going this weekend, with a noticeable lack of vuvuzela noise.
Seriously, there’s a vuvuzela ban, along with a more general ban on
disruptive yelling of things like “Marco! Polo!”, “Buttscratcher!” and
hopefully “I lost the game!”. Seriously kids, it’s not cute, it’s
annoying and hideously ego-centric.

Lelouch’s Thoughts:

With over 25,000 members attending,
Otakon is the largest anime convention on the East Coast. Of course,
this tally doesn’t include the volunteers, guests, dealers and industry
representatives that appear during the three-day convention. Taking a
step back for a moment, the first thought that comes to mind is that
this convention is a bit overwhelming. However, it is because the
convention is so overwhelming that makes it so exciting. This will only
be my second time attending, with my first being five years ago when I
really had no clue what was going on and merely went along for the ride.
Now that I have a better idea of what to look for, I’ve found that
there is something to do from the start of the day until the very end
(even a bit after if you stay until 2:00 AM), each event completely
different from the last (with the linking factor being that they relate
to anime in some form). With all of that being said, as much as I would
love to attend every Industry, Guest and Fan panel, it just isn’t
feasible. However, I’m going to do my best balancing all of them.

Industry panels are pretty much a guarantee on my end. Sure, there will
be a good bit of coverage during these, and I more than likely could go
to a couple of different fan panels due to said coverage, but I’d like
to witness these firsthand. During my first con experience I didn’t even
know these types of panels existed, so this will be a completely new
experience. FUNimation is of course the big panel, since they are pretty
much running the anime industry, but other companies such as Bandai, and Aniplex certainly shouldn’t be discounted. Let’s face it, while
FUNimation does a fantastic job, one company alone could not hold the
industry together (or keep it as diverse). One panel
in particular that piques my interest would have to be the Q&A with
Koujina, the director of Rainbow. I’ve had mixed feelings about the
show, but hearing about about it from the source will definitely be very
telling/informative. Anyways, like I said earlier, I’m definitely going
to try and make it to majority of the industry events.

Keeping that in mind, what is the industry without the fans? The obvious
answer is nothing. For this very reason I find fan panels pretty
important, despite how silly some seem (i.e. “How to become a Ninja in 1
hour”). Being new, I’m not sure if I am supposed to expect these to be
sillier than informative, or vice versa, though for now I’ll assume that
every panel has a different level of both. Whichever side they lean
toward, I’m sure I will find them entertaining and interesting. While I
haven’t finalized my plans yet, I have the intention of attending Anime
Journalism: The Story behind the Story, Creating your Comic/Manga from
concept to publication; Modern Mythology: Mythic Elements in Anime and
Video Games; Originality in Fanfiction; Anime and the Revolving Door of
Culture;and Feminism, Fandom and Fanservice, among others. Granted, I’m
sure that list will have to be slimmed down, but for now that is my
rough plan. Hopefully it will give me a bit of insight into the anime
community and the expectations others have for it.

Last, but certainly not least, are the guest panels. It’s pretty amazing
that Otakon has managed to get the number of guests they have, 26 in
total. These range from voice actors, directors to authors and even
singers. Like everything else I will be doing, this has not been
finalized. Scott Freeman, Vic Mignogna, Masashi Ishihama, Masao
Maruyama, Stephanie Sheh, and Michael Sinterniklaas are at the top of my
list though. As of right now those are the people that sort of line up
with my schedule and interest me the most. Maruyama is probably the
number one at this point, due to his involvement within the community.
He has had a direct influence in the industry and, of course, has seen
how it has changed over the years.

So, these three days will be incredibly busy for me. I’m sure there will
be plenty of times where I will be running to make a panel, as well as
in complete shock at some of things I will see/hear. Since I am new I find it all almost overwhelming; however, at the same time I am pretty excited to learn
about the community and industry and convey what I see to the remainder of the community that couldn’t make it.

GWOtaku’s Thoughts:

Otakon has already won some early respect from me for the diversity of
its programming this year. There are some real highlights among the
screenings this year, most notably the U.S. premiere of the sci-fi
adventure family film “Welcome to THE SPACE SHOW” just over a month after
its theatrical premiere in Japan. Amid the Hetalia hype and assortment
of popular guests from the world of voice acting, the Rainbow panel
should also be considered noteworthy–this is a first hand look at a
serious, well made series that is still airing in Japan right now and
being simulcasted by FUNimation, and now it’s getting a legitimate
screening at Otakon with fans having a chance to hear about the show
from the director himself. An event like this for a new anime series
would not have occurred two or three years ago. It is a welcome sign of
the times that it is now. I also welcome the presence of older obscure
titles such as The Sea Prince and the Fire Child and two Cyborg 009
movies (including one from 1967!) alongside newer things such as Gundam
Unicorn, Casshern Sins and more. On a personal note I
strongly look forward to Sunday’s screening of The Last Unicorn with
story writer Peter S. Beagle himself, as well as the Gundam Unicorn panel
with Michael Sinterniklaas and the voice of Gundam Unicorn’s Audrey
Burne, Stephanie Sheh.

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