Otakon 2018 – a con in review

The second year of Otakon in Washington, DC was a weekend filled with fun surprises. There were guests of all media from culture with the Shinto Priestess Kanawa Kuniko to Man-at-Arms, cosplayers Serena Dejesus to production with Square Enix Producer Kimura Yasutaka and Studio Trigger President Otsuka Masahiko. Highlighted guests were Conductors Arnie and Eric Roth for the Distant Worlds orchestra with the esteemed composer Uematsu Nobuo and a treat for us all: Cheritz developer, Sujin Ri with the Korean voice actors from the popular, Mystic Messenger mobile game. There was alot to take in, alot to reminiscence, creating a weekend we will not soon forget.

Day 1: Friday, August 10

dealer’s room chaos

Since it was not even 11am, there was a huge line of ppl waiting to get into the Dealer’s room. The tour of the Dealer’s room by press was taking place so I jumped on to enter the hall. We got to walk around, grab pics and then at 11:48, we were set free. I immediately went to the Cheritz booth to grab their special boxsets for the fanclub.

inefficient line issues

Otakon’s new autograph line policy is to have a single line where all the fans gather for all the signings. They hoped to trickle the fans into their separate lines for the guests, but it wasn’t a good idea. First, they didn’t know who wanted to get into which line. So there were some lines that were filled with people so they ended up not letting others into the other lines. So some lines became empty. Also, they placed each guest into their own line, even with two or more guests were from the same company or series. Which made no sense since if someone was a fan of the series (Gundam Iron Blooded Orphans), they would want both of the staffers from the series. Instead, they asked them to choose one guest, get them to sign and then go back to the big line. For something like Mystic Messenger, they were expecting fans to go into the line 5 times for the 5 separate guests. Thankfully, by the time we got to Mystic Messenger, they realized the ridiculousness of the plan and had a single giant line for the guests.

signings

Ie got onto the line for Canna Nobutoshi. The signing started a bit late, but it went through very quickly.

I got on the line for Matsukaze Masaya but the wait was very long. When they were letting people sign for Ebikawa Kanetake and Nagai Tatsuyuki, I hopped over to grab their autographs. I told Ebikawa-san that I really thought the Gundam mecha was amazing for Iron Blooded Orphans. I mentioned something similar to Nagai-san, noting that I was a fan of the series.

Then I quickly got Matsukaze-san’s autograph. I told him that Gaelio was a very interesting individual. His motives and feelings for McGillis in the series was very unique and the anime really gave them a lot of time to develop their characters.

For the Mystic Messenger signing, RFA and Special Believer fanclub card members receive a special cardstock with additional printed autographs of the voice actors not at the convention as well as the entire Cheritz staff for the game. Others receive a blank cardstock for the voice actors and creator to sign.

Since we were able to get an additional thing signed, I got the developer and voice actors to sign the shikishi. Kam Sung Meda! I mentioned to the V voice actor that I thought V was such a cool character and he added that V was so sad which is true.

just a bit of shopping

We ended at bit after 4pm so we went around the Dealer’s room. I went off on my own since the others wanted to go to the Cheritz booth. I did my usual round of the dealer’s hall.

The Toei animation booth had a photobooth as they did in AnimeExpo. Next to the Toei animation booth was the DBZ booth with the dragon hanging over us all. I headed back to the hotel after 5:30pm. changed out of my outfit. I took a quick shower and we headed back to the con at 6:30pm for the concert.

Distant Worlds Concert

Press was given seats at the right side front row which is terrible for shooting pics for the Distant Worlds concert, but understandable since it was a classical concert. They allowed us to shoot the first song and the encore. Also, they told us to shoot from the seat, a bit on the floor and then the right side and the back. I stuck to the right side and the floor.

Day 2: Saturday, August 11

early to rise

Started out the day at the Dealer’s room. XD Went to the AnimeNYC booth where they were having a prize wheel. I ended up spinning and won a poster.

Mobile Suit Gundam Iron Blooded Orphans live reading

The live reading was with both the English voice cast Kyle McCarley (Mikazuki,) Johnny Yong Bosch (Orga,) Cherami Leigh (Kudelia) and Robbie Daymond (Gaelio) as well as Matsukaze Masaya, the seiyuu for Gaelio present, reading lines from the anime. The director Nagai and mecha designer Ebikawa was also present. They first play the clip in English and then the voice actors will do their live reading of it. When it is Gaelio’s clip, Robbie goes first. Then they will show the Japanese clip and Matsukaze-san will go up. This kind of stage reading happens alot in Japanese stage shows for anime and dramas. However, as some of the voice actors mentioned, some of them was their first engaging in character with other voice actors. Some of them was their first time doing this kind of live reading.

I was 15 min. late to the live reading, but it was awesome since they highlighted some of the most emotional and touching moments between Mikazuki and Orga. All the bromance is there and makes me smile and cry.

One of the most hilarious moments though was a surprise mistake. Apparently, during the scene when Mikazuki kisses Kudelia, Cherami and Kyle didn’t have the first part of the script in their playbooks. So they ended up adlibbing. We got a few gems.

    Kudelia: What’s that in your hand?
    Mikazuki: A raisin.
    Kudelia: Oh, that’s weird….
    Mikazuki: You’re right, I wonder why.
    Kudelia: You should really throw that into space.
    Mikazuki: It’s definitely a strange.
    Kudelia: *singing* Let it gooooo….

Then…we went to script. My favorite moments had to be the choice moments between Orga and Mikazuki. Moments like when Orga loses heart and Mikazuki had to get Orga to move on in season 1, or the moments in season two when Mikazuki loses mobility on one side…Orga speaks to him in bed with Mikazuki challenging him still. Hearing those lines live make me love the English dub more and more. It’s just so powerful. The voice actors really brought out their emotions. And it’s rare since voice actors record in a vacuum, away from other voice actors. To be able to play off of each other’s voices, has to be an awesome experience for the actors themselves as well as it is a rare treat to hear it live.

Unfortunately for Matsukaze-san, he couldn’t live read with anyone else though it’s very common for seiyuu to record together if the scenes call for it. Yet, Matsukaze-san’s Gaelio can still gave me shivers from how real it feels from just his voice. Especially his last scene where he monologues about his relationship with McGillis, filled with respect, sorrow and anger. To hear his voice live is also something I’m glad to experience.

Uematsu Nobuo panel

After the panel, I headed over to the Uematsu panel which was already seated. Thankfully, I found a seat in the first row to the left middle. Yoshida Toshifumi was the interpreter and he is amazing. Knowing both English and Japanese perfectly, he was able to capture the nuances of Uematsu’s responses.

Mobile Suit Gundam Iron Blooded Orphans panel

The Gundam Iron Blooded Orphanspanel was held right after the Uematsu Nobuo panel. The voice actors Johnny Yong Bosch (Orga), Kyle McCarley (Mikazuki), Robbie Daymond (Gaelio) and Matsukaze Masaya (Gaelio) were present along with the director Nagai Tatsuyuki and mecha designer, Ebikawa Kanetake.

Mystic Messenger press panel

After the Gundam Iron Blooded Orphans panel, I headed over to the Marriot Marquis for the press meeting for Mystic Messenger at 5pm. Arriving prior to the start of the panel was necessary though there was a little delay from the guests.

card games FTW

We went to the BL card games night. Turns out, there are different games at each table, possibly over 20 games since the room was very large. Each game had a creative spin on BL. For example, our first game was that each person gets 6 cards and we can make our own BL title. I got a mess of pronouns and couldn’t make any words. With help from friends, I won the first round, “I in Your”. looooool

The next game we tried was trying to think up titles, characters, etc based off of a letter AND has to be within a timer. That was soooo hard. Our first letter was ‘I’ and I had to think up so much stuff. Iason for a seme was my greatest achievement. ^_^

It was close to 12:30am when we discovered one of my favorite games, a BL title guessing game based off of a short description. There were 21 titles and we guessed everything except for 5.

The last game we started to play a BL mangaka karuta game. We placed all the cards on the floor and someone read out the mangaka’s name and we had to match it with the manga cover. It was tons of fun and we quickly learned that I mostly knows the BL series from the early 2000’s. ^^; It was so much fun…even though I basically mixed up a few series with their mangaka.

Day 3: Sunday, August 12

last day

A New World concert

Otakon had one not one, but two premiere concerts. Conducted by Eric Roth, the son of Arnie Roth, A New World presents new chamber ensemble arrangements to the familiar melodies of Final Fantasy. Ensemble groups are more intimate, smaller yet the music they create is no less powerful to the ears and heart. They opened with the strong beats and tones with Decisive Battle.


    Roth: Thank you, everyone! Welcome you beautiful people! Welcome to the A New World, intimate music from Final Fantasy!

Roth introduced Uematsu Nobuo-san in the audience as well as Square Enix and Dog Ear Records and finally, his father, Arnie Roth, the director and conductor of the Distant Worlds orchestra. To start off the concert properly, they played the first measures of the Victory Fanfare theme. Before bringing us back to the first of the games, Final Fantasy with Town. The gentle strings really bring us back to that place so long ago.

Fight with Seymour was only played with the string quartet which is a beautiful and complicated arrangement with overlaping melodies.

Their special version of the Chocobo Theme is fun and playful, and even cuter with each instrument taking up the melody. Roth polled the audience for fans of frequent attendees of A New World concert, Distant World concerts (raise hands), video game concerts or cons (raises hand again). “Thank you for your contribution to science.” Everyone laughed as he commented that FFXV may be not as well known. Safe Haven is a beautiful piece which brings out the wind instruments. A gentle piece of music in the darkening story of Noctis.

Fragments of Memories was played by the string quartet but special mention goes to Rebel Army theme from Final Fantasy II. It is not played very often in concerts, but is a wonderful arrangements with march themes which highlights the trumpets and drums as well as other wind instruments during the quieter moments.

Roth closes the concert with One Winged Angel which is powerful with the different pieces of the music shining through without the usual chorus. As the cheers didn’t end, Roth came on again to grace us with their version of the Chocobo Medley. I love the playful piano part which got everyone clapping along. There were so many surprises during this particular piece that got the fans to snap their fingers and laugh as Roth himself took the role of the chocobo on the mic. A reluctant yet fitting end to the concert. There was no end to the applause.

    Final Fantasy VI: Decisive Battle
    Final Fantasy series: Victory Theme
    Final Fantasy I: Town
    Final Fantasy V: Home, Sweet Home
    Final Fantasy X: Fight with Seymour
    Final Fantasy V: A New World
    Final Fantasy series: Moogle Theme Medley
    Final Fantasy XV: Safe Haven
    Final Fantasy VIII: Force Your Way
    Final Fantasy I: Chaos Shrine
    Final Fantasy IV: The Red Wings
    Final Fantasy VIII: Fragments of Memories
    Final Fantasy IX: Danger in the Forest
    Final Fantasy IV: Troia
    Final Fantasy II: Rebel Army Theme
    Final Fantasy X: To Zanarkand
    Final Fantasy VII: One Winged Angel

    Encore:
    Final Fantasy Series: Chocobo Medley

a bit of shooting

After the concert, I grabbed some photos of cosplayers to close out the convention.

a con in review

Otakon has always been good to press so I’m very grateful to their organization and privileges. For it’s second year in DC, it has slowly grown. Many people who didn’t want to try out Otakon in DC last year, attended this year’s con. with a 5,000 people growth. The convention center and halls were occupied, but it didn’t feel crowded. There was steady movement, even during the bag check lines in the morning. Thursday prereg was empty and Friday prereg stretched down the block but I heard the wait (in the sun) was nothing to really complain about. Receiving badges through mail is a viable option which many people took advantage of. This year, Otakon tried out it’s ‘trial memberships’ with single day Saturday and Sunday badges. Though I haven’t heard much information about the transition of trial badges to full day badges, I felt that the option was very helpful since I know of many who are only able to attend the con over the weekend. The bag check was efficient and the barcodes in the back of the badge was mainly used during concert events.

My biggest complaint was changing the autographs. Last year, a group line was needed prior to the hall opening so that attendees can stand in a group line and filter into their respective lines. However, after the hall opened, the attendees can go directly into their lines. There was no waiting in an initial line. It was either, come back later or the line was closed. The initial line this year became a hindrance. It kept people from seeing the guest they wanted to see although the guest line was supposedly empty. Also, the separation of guests into each ‘table’ was not efficient since many people want to see the entire group if they are interested in the series/company. Although the Otakon staff changed back to grouping the guests a few hours later after implementation, it still gave attendees undue stress. This was not a first year con. It was not the first year autographs are held. To change the policy and separate guests was very odd. I’m glad that the Otakon staff are always thinking about how to make autographs more efficient, but I hope they realize that there are better ways to utilize the group line and do away with separating the guests.

I was surprised with the absence of a few major players in the Exhibit hall, mainly Viz, Pony Canyon, Kodansha, Vertical and Crunchyroll. The Dealer’s room felt more spread out without them. It was understandable since I heard many of them were preparing for the Crunchyroll Expo which is coming up quickly, but their lack of presence was felt. However, that didn’t mean there weren’t a ton of guests and representation at the con. Viz still held their K premiere of the second Seven Stories movie and they will continue to do so at many conventions as each movie makes it’s release in Japan. Lacking a few players doesn’t mean for a slow con. By how busy the plethora of panels and events were, Otakon continues to grow once again. Next year, Otakon returns to July with dates from 7/26/19-7/28/19. Let’s start planning!

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