Otakon Begins and the Otaku Converge on Baltimore

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Otakon

Now that the granddaddy of all conventions–San Diego Comic-Con–is safely in this year’s rear-view mirror, we can finally return our attention to the scores of other cons that pepper the cultural landscape. By now, nearly everyone knows that San Diego has gotten too big. It’s enormous, it’s overwhelming, and it leaves many people completely and utterly wiped out.

Don’t go to San Diego if you’re primarily interested in comics. Don’t go to San Diego if you’re expecting an up-close-and-personal experience with your favorite creators, stars, or properties. Don’t go to San Diego if you’ve never been to a con before. It’s not for newbies.

Instead, do some Googling and find a smaller show that’s near where you live. Wherever you are, I guarantee you there’s at least one or two cons within striking distance during the year.

The best part of smaller cons? They’re often much more personal, friendly, and specialized. I happen to live in the Washington, DC area, and we’re blessed with a number of great shows. If comics are you thing, take your pick among the fantastic Baltimore Comic-Con, Awesome-Con DC, or Small Press Expo. If you’re a sci-fi freak, Farpoint and Shore Leave have got your back. Whovian? Don’t miss (Re)Generation Who.

And if you’re an otaku or fan of Japanese culture? Make sure Katsucon and Otakon are on your calendar.

In fact, Otakon is this weekend. And if you’re in the area, you can still pick up tickets!

What is Otakon? It’s a convention for fans of Asian popular culture. It originally began as an event for fans of Japanese animation, but has since expanded to include fans of all Asian culture entertainment. It also happens to be the largest and longest-running Japanese animation convention on the East Coast of the United States.

The guest list is a who’s who of voice actors and creators working in anime, from both the United States (such as Laura Bailey, Lex Lang, Seán Schemmel, and Travis Willingham) and East Asia (Romi Park, Masao Maruyama, and Kaiji Tang).

Like most cons, there are dealers, an artist alley, screenings, and programming throughout the weekend. There are also musical concerts in the evening and a rave that goes until the wee morning hours.

More unique activities to this con, though, include open-mic karaoke, a lounge with dance lessons, a manga library, a maid cafe, and a cosplay masquerade that has no rival. It’s so big, in fact, that it’s outgrown the convention center and is housed in the nearby Royal Farms Arena–the venue where shows such as Cirque du Soleil and Disney on Ice perform when they come to town.

I’ll be on the ground at Otakon this weekend, in the thick of it and covering it for you lot. Feel free to follow along on Twitter (@theroarbots) as I roam the show, and stay tuned next week for a full report.

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