Greetings, everyone! I’ll cut right to the chase: Otakon was great! I really enjoyed it. Everything about the convention was highly enjoyable (except for the lines, but I’ll get to that in a minute). The first thing I did once I got into Otakon was head for the dealer’s hall. Now the dealer’s hall is huge. Otakon wasn’t joking when they said that an F-16 could take off in their dealer’s hall. Since the dealer’s hall was so large, I had no problem finding any of the items I was interested in. In fact, I snagged a few items that I didn’t think I’d ever find (Gundam: Ecole du Ciel volume 4 is finally in my possession!!).
While some may not like large cons due to the amount of people, I think that large dealer’s halls are certainly better than small ones. The artist’s alley, similarly, was also pretty cool. I should point out that the artist’s alley itself felt like it was almost as large as Anime Boston’s dealer’s hall. Not only did it contain the artist tables, it also contained an art auction, where some artists auctioned off their works. As a result, there was a neat little gallery type thing on one end. Additionally, many people got to see the making of the large Otakon ’11 banner. Combined with the number of artist tables, the artist’s alley is definitely a place people who buy art shouldn’t miss.
One of the bigger events at Otakon was the Friday concert. Normally, Otakon has a Friday and a Saturday concert, with the Saturday concert usually being the more prominent one; however, Otakon this year did not have a Saturday concert. To make up for it, they did get Chemistry for the Friday concert, an R&B duo that performed songs for shows like Gundam Seed Destiny, Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood, and Gundam Unicorn. I’ve known about them for a while, so I was pretty excited to be there. While I certainly won’t be so daft as to describe a concert, I will say that the popular songs were merry-go-round and Period (Period was reaaaaaaaaally popular there, too).
I got to see the two new movie screenings, Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos, and Makoto Shinkai’s new film, Hoshi wo Ou Kodomo. I had to wait on a bit of a line to see Hoshi wo, but it was worth it. Shinkai worked on this film for a while, and it shows. There’s numerous amounts of themes and references to all types of fantasy, such as Shangri-La. I also felt like it did a better job than his other films from an emotional standpoint. While I had many problems with Voices of a Distant Star and 5 Centimeters Per Second, I thought this film had much better execution. It’s also heartrending, since the main theme is a lot more depressing than 5 cm’s.
Additionally, the art and animation was Shinkai-tier; people who have watched his stuff should know what that means. However, it was also amazing seeing him work with fantasy environments, something that’s rather new for him. However, the showing itself annoyed me for a few reasons. The screen was placed at ground level: this made it hard for me to see, since someone in front kept blocking the subtitles. Now, those of you who have met me in real life know that I’m pretty tall. Yes, that means I’ve met my match. I certainly wasn’t expecting that to happen at Otakon, but I digress. Additionally, I’m not sure if it was Otakon’s fault or if there were problems in the original video, but the picture was really terribly interlaced; some beautiful shots were destroyed by the interlacing problems. What a shame. Still though, I was very glad I was able to see the movie.
However, with the FMA movie, while I rather enjoyed the experience, I had more problems with this than I did with Hoshi wo. Let me first describe how I managed to skip the 2000-long line. I was watching the AMV contest right before, but since they were in the same room, they didn’t bother clearing it. As a result, anyone watching the AMV contest who also wanted to watch the movie were allowed to take seats (I love skipping lines!). Sadly though, the presentation was rather shoddy. While it was placed higher up, the screen was rather small and presented in a standard aspect ratio. This annoyed me because that meant they either chopped off the sides of the original film, or they had to shrink the length (provided the movie was widescreen to begin with).
Amusingly enough though, the audience was probably the most enthused film audience I’ve ever seen. The movie itself is fast paced and exciting for the first 30 minutes or so. Then it slows down rather considerably. It got somewhat boring by the middle, since this is when all the exposition happens. Luckily, it picked up again near the end, but I believe they placed way too much emphasis on the new characters. This normally wasn’t a problem, but it got to the point where some of the recurring characters had little to no role at all, despite the movie earlier supposing otherwise.
Additionally, how they included the antagonist felt way too silly, since he came out of nowhere. I did appreciate how the film’s overall plot relates to the series. Still, it felt like the movie tried too hard to make the MacGuffin something bad. Despite all that, the action was great, the jokes were funny, and when it was moving, the film was enjoyable. Even though I had problems with it, I still liked it quite a bit.
While I didn’t go to many of the panels, I felt like the ones I did go to weren’t too different from fan panels at other east coast cons. Otakon scheduling was rather stupid, since almost all the mecha panels overlapped with one another, some even taking place at the same time as another. However, the sheer number of fan panels was definitely a plus. I had to wait in line for some of them. This brings me to my biggest negative: lines. There’s a reason why they call Otakon, Linecon. The lines were really ridiculous. If you wanted to get your pre-reg badge early, and you were really unlucky, you might have ended up on a line that wrapped around the whole convention. Luckily, when I got my badge, the line was only three people long.
The next day, however, had something I can only describe as Lineception. I wanted to get into the dealer’s hall super early because I thought the limited edition Madoka posters would disappear fast (in retrospect, however, this was extremely unnecessary). I got there about 45 minutes early, but I eventually found out I was on the unofficial line to get onto the overflow line of the actual line. Talk about proxies. “But there are lines everywhere!” you may say. I have to agree, you can’t avoid lines.
However, Anime Boston only allowed people to start lining up thirty minutes before an event; knowing this, it felt like Otakon wasn’t doing that great of a job with the lines. Granted, people made unofficial lines at Anime Boston before the thirty minute mark, the staff there did a good job of breaking up unofficial lines. Not the case here. Fortunately though, that was the only really bad line. For most other events, you could get there 5 minutes before an event starts, and even though there may be a line, most likely there still would be enough room for you.
“What about visual novels?” you may ask. Well, I did snag Kira Kira for $20 (fellow writer Shinkiro0 did a review of that a few months back), and I did go to MangaGamer’s panel. The guys working there are really cool, but nothing really new was confirmed. They will now sell some hentai, and will sell some manga now (all digitally), but nothing else. However, they did pretty much snag a deal with one of the developers on their top 10 requested developers (currently unknown), and negotiations are proceeding smoothly with two others, so that’s something to look forward to.
Overall, I had an amazing time, despite all the lines. Some stuff I would improve, such as smarter schedule planning. However, the number of benefits you get from going, such as the large number of guests (many of which are industry giants), and the huge dealer’s hall and artist’s alley, are definitely worth it. If I had to choose my favorite con, it would be Otakon.
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