Photography by Joe Emond
Despite bearing down on its 20th anniversary in a scant two years, this weekend was my first experience with Otakon, one of the largest anime conventions in the country. I have to say I regret not having gone sooner. I had a hell of a good time, and I definitely wish I had been able to make it for more than just one day.
Otakon bills itself as a celebration of anime, manga and Japanese culture in general, but looking around the crowd it’s clear that the convention is much more than that. In reality it’s a gathering of every kind of geek, a place where fans of all stripes of nerdery can find like-minded brethren. Where else will you see someone dressed like the cabbage merchant then turn around and see a group of people dressed as the cast of Top Gear?
You won’t exactly see that kind of cosplay diversity at Comic Con.
And if you got tired of people-watching, there was an insane amount of programming with seven panel rooms, six video rooms and two workshop rooms, not to mention an arena and a concert hall. And of course there was the massive dealer room where you could find almost anything you could possibly want (and a few things you didn’t know existed).
We caught a few panels including the Square Enix and Gundam ones.
The Square Enix panel mostly consisted of trailers for upcoming games. They talked about a few games including Bravely Default (which plays much like Final Fantasy 5 and comes out 10/11 in Japan with no US release date yet), Kingdom Hearts 3D (which came out this week) and the less-than-well-received Theatrhythm (a rhythm game for 3DS using old school Square Enix game music). But what really caught my eye was Final Fantasy Versus XIII. God damn, this game is gorgeous. I’m not a big RPG fan, and I haven’t played a Final Fantasy game since I was breeding and racing Chocobos back in the 90s, but I’d play the fuck out of this game. Unfortunately, it’s on PS3 and I have a 360. It doesn’t yet have a release date.
They also talked a bit about some of their missteps and the their shittier games. It was pretty refreshing to see a company admit that their catalog isn’t all winners. They seriously put out a wine-tasting game for the DS called Wine no Hajimekata. I am not kidding, this is a this thing that happened.
The Gundam panel was really interesting and filled with information. Most of the panelists only spoke Japanese so everything had to go through a translator, but it really wasn’t a big deal. They explained that Gundam Age was intended as an entry point to bring in a new generation of Gundam fans and was designed for younger teenagers. Gundam Unicorn, on the other hand, was meant for older fans that like the classics. The series has the first simultaneous worldwide release for On-Demand, Live-Stream and Blu-ray. They also spoke a bit about the Gundam Front Tokyo theme park that opened in April. Planning for the park began in 2008 and it seems like the wait was worth it, as it has 1,700 models on display as well as a full-size 18 meter tall Gundam.
We also took advantage of the main video room to catch a screening of Battle Royale. God damn, I forgot how melodramatic that movie is. It’s like it doesn’t just star teenagers, but it was written by them too. Still though, watching it in a giant theatre full of fans is exactly the movies like Battle Royale should be seen – crowds that cheer at that kills and laugh at the ridiculousness, a midnight movie atmosphere in the early evening.
Otakon is, quite frankly, one of the most fun conventions I’ve ever been to. If you have any doubt, then just take a look at these cosplay pics. They should convince you.
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