Otakon 2016 – a con in review

Otakon’s last weekend at Baltimore was filled with a plethora of guests with varied talents. From Japan, we have industry guests, from PA Works CEO Horikawa Kenji, Producer Kikuchi Nobuhiro and art director Higashiji Kazuki, illustrator Fukagawa Kasumi of the Idolish Seven fame and director Akane Kazuki from Sunrise amongst others. Popular seiyuu Yamamoto Kazutomi and Makino Yui share their experiences and musical talent. Other musical guests include ALL-OFF, Michi and Yoshiki making a rare appearance via webcam. Stateside guests include Ray Chase, Robbie Daymond, Aaron Dismuke, Caitlin Glass, Lauren Landa and way, way more. Culture guests include priestess and model Kanawa Kuniko, Men at Arms and these are just the tip of the list. With the number of guests and events, we can’t hit everything. However, the weekend has created memories which the city will not soon forget.

Thursday, August 11

Otakon’s presence in the city is strongly felt from the convention center to the hotels. It’s something that we see very much of every year, and it’s something that I will miss when we leave this city.

Friday, August 12

autographs

After picking up press badge, I arrived at the PA works autograph line around 10:00 and was able to sit within the first 3 rows. I played my Miles Edgeworth until we got into the room. I chatted with the person around and pulled out 3 of my shikishi for them to sign. From right to left, it was Horikawa Kenji the creator of PA Works, the art director Higashiji Kazuki and Kikuchi Nobuhiro. The staff was able to give the fans the option to personalize the signing. I told Horikawa-san that I was looking forward to new anime works. For Higashiji-san, I told him that I really enjoyed watching Layton, the Eternal Diva.

Dealer’s Room

After the autograph session, we headed to the Dealer’s room.

Interestingly, the Groot was able to take the elevator. Surprising, since Groot was super tall.

At the Dealer’s Room, I found that Vertical had a big space near the entrance. I asked Ed Chavez about the merger with Kodansha and he confirmed that Vertical will still be releasing series from other companies. I thanked Ed and continued checking out the other booths.

Aniplex also had a good sized booth with events happening throughout the weekend.

The booth which was the highlight of the weekend aside from Viz was the Pony Canyon booth which had a large floor space for it’s Binan events. In order to obtain the Kazutomi Yamamoto-san autograph ticket for the booth signing, you need to buy either of the OP and ED singles for Binan.

The music booths were together as usual. At the Makino Yui booth, I found out that in order to obtain the autograph ticket, we needed to spend $35.

Viz had a special event where we have to find 4 senshi in order to get a water bottle. We walked around and found Mars and Mercury. However, we spent so much time shopping so we didn’t have time to find the two other sensei before the Sailor Moon panel.

Sailor Moon Viz panel

Close to 3pm, we went to the Sailor Moon panel with Viz. There were tons of cosplayers who were helping out with the panel. They greeted attendees with a poster at the door which was really awesome.

Makino Yui concert

After the panel, I rushed over to the Makino Yui-san concert. (Press report will be posted soon.) Press was seated on the left side of the stage and got to take pics of the 3 songs. We were given the setlist early which is nice since it doesn’t usually happen.
After the concert, we lined up for the autograph at the front of the room. The line wasn’t too long but it was a good size for the venue. When it got to me, I told Makino-san that I looked forward to her new songs.

a bit more of the Dealer’s room

Dealer’s Room closed late so I headed there after the concert. Gave up on the senshi since the event closed for the day.

Saturday, August 13

Makino Yui panel
The first event of the afternoon was the Makino Yui panel. (Photos were not allowed.) It truly is an honor to hear of the experiences of a seiyuu with such extensive roles.

shopping time

After the panel, I went to the Dealer’s Room and finished my Sailor Moon rally since Jupiter was thankfully standing near the booth. I got a pink water bottle which is definitely an awesome prize.

Aside from the rally, there was also an anniversary Viz giveaway. There were pens, Sailor Moon lanyards as well as a magazine furoku items including the Haikyuu towel I got.

Yoshiki panel

I arrived just as they were showing a clip of the documentary of ‘We Are X’. Then Yoshiki came back on via Skype.

part of the masquerade and Michi’s concert

After the Yoshiki panel, I went back to the hotel to cool off. I stayed until 8pm when I headed to the Royal Farms Arena, the new name for the Mariner’s Arena for the masquerade

Sunday, August 14

Binan Koukou panel

The last panel of the weekend for me was my favorite with <a href="http://www.liheliso.org/2016/09/25/otakon-2016-yamamoto-kazutomi-panel/. Usually, I have a preference for the deeper voiced seiyuu, but Kazutomi-san is so much fun in interviews that I knew his panel was a mustsee. Also, am a big fan of Binan and other works by the studio.

Yamamoto Kazutomi autograph

At the end of the panel, we headed to the Dealer’s Room where there was already a line for the signing. No matter, at least it’s not so incredibly long. I got Kazutomi-san to sign the heart shikishi and was told him that I enjoyed Rainy Color. I told him that I like the seiyuu talk segments and thought that Kazutomi-san sounding like a girl was very interesting.

After the signing, I walked Dealer’s Room before heading over to the Artist Alley for the first time this weekend.

Artist Alley and PA Works gallery

After the Dealer’s Room, we went to the PA works special exhibit in the Artist Alley. We came at the same time as Michi who was with her entourage. We didn’t want to intrude, so we gave her space and looked at other things as Michi took her time.

The convention booths were at the Artist Alley area.

a con in review

And thus ends Otakon 18th year at Baltimore. It was one of the hottest Otakon weekends to date which really pushed for people to remain in doors. However, photoshoot events were still going and although there were reports where many didn’t want to do anything, the panel rooms I peeked into had a good attendance. First off, the badge situation was handled very well this year with no outside line on thursday night. Instead, they walked around the convention center and retrieved their badges in a timely manner. There was of course, the badge mailing which boasted no issues this year as well. I expect them to do the same for next year’s event.

Most of the issues from this year appear to stem from the panels start times. The ones I attended started pretty much on time with minimal delays. There were some instances of tech issues (like during Makino-san’s panel when the panelist was unable to load the ‘World Tour’ PV.) Tech seems to be prevailing issue which affects the start times of the panels but I hear it has also been an issue every year at the con….

Aside from tech issues and the weather, it was an enjoyable last year at the harbor. Binan Koukou took over much of the weekend along with Viz’s usual Sailor Moon events which I imagine will continue way after they are finished with Stars. (Not that I’m complaining.) The presence of PA Works was also big. Although there were many great guests, there were also several last minute industry cancellations including Yoshiki though I’m glad he was able to make an appearance via webcam. Attendees have commented that it was a lackluster year to close at Baltimore, but I felt the events and guests were strong enough on their own.

The weather may have placed a damper on people’s spirits, but the weekend was a memorable one. Lots of Pokemon Go, fun with friends, awesome musical guests and great panels. It was a great way to close the summer. Otakon promises to be even bigger and better at DC and we are looking forward to it. Hotels for Otakon 2017 is already out and rooms are already going fast. DC, here we come!

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