Otakon 2009: Geek Convention?

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Is Otakon really still an anime convention? This is the question that I asked myself this year as I walked the halls of the convention center. With anime becoming drastically more of a main stream staple in America you would expect a greater interest at a convention such as Otakon. The sad thing is, despite anime’s popularity and the ever increasing attendees at conventions, the overall atmosphere at Otakon seems to have changed. The change wasn’t particularly sudden but it seems that Otakon has become more of a hang out for people with semi-related interests as opposed to a place to really learn about and experience Japanese culture and animation.

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If you bothered to pay close attention to the dealers room this year you probably noticed that only about half of the merchandise sold had anything to do with Japan or wasn’t a carbon copy of something from another booth. I am still wondering how air soft dealers and companies that sell random leather apparel make it into the dealers room. Back when I first came to Otakon (2002) I distinctly remember there being a much greater percentage of anime and Japanese related merchandise as well as a greater variety of it. After speaking to a friend who worked in the dealers room I became aware that there are only a handful of companies that actually sell merchandise in the dealers room. They simply use multiple names to buy numerous tables. This may have been a practice in the past, I don’t know, but it is more obvious now with the same merchandise being sold all over the place. Overall the dealers room now seems geared towards appealing to the (new) crowd that is attending Otakon as opposed to being focused on Japanese culture and animation. The extreme lack of industry now probably has a hand in this.

My next experience is with the rave. In previous years I had attended the rave occasionally and while it was always incredibly crowded it was fairly easy to get into and participate in. This year I wound up jumping a line you would expect for the masquerade just to see what it090718-413 Otakon was like inside. On top of that, once inside you literally couldn’t breath or move, and as such it was an unpleasant experience. I had the opportunity to speak to a few of the people in line and found out that quite of few of them only went to Otakon for the rave itself and to hang out with their friends. Obviously hanging out with friends is part of the equation however the problem lies in the fact that the true reason behind an anime convention is being lost.

3737175737_74629a7455Being an avid gamer, many of my friends share my interest in gaming. I spoke to a few of my acquaintances who go to Otakon and found out that quite a few of them only go to Otakon for the gaming room and tournaments. There is nothing inherently wrong with doing this as the gaming room is quite fun and the tournaments draw out good players, however it begs the question, how many people actually attend Otakon for their interest in anime and Japan?

While it remains to be seen what will happen in the future, I hope that Otakon can find a way to promote itself better as a convention for anime and Japanese culture as opposed to every day geekdom. Otakon is still an enjoyable convention, I just wonder whether we will still be calling it an “anime convention” in a few years.

~Brian Goldstein


Top Ten Hentai to Avoid; A consumer’s guide by Erogenous Bosch

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CAUTION: The Following May Not be Appropriate for Anyone

(The following deals with hentai and some graphic imagery, you have been warned)

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Maid in Akihabara

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It’s two o’clock in the afternoon. You’ve been waiting in line for the past hour and a half just to visit this one café together with your friends. Finally, the door opens for you and a cute Japanese girl, wearing a French maid outfit with frills abound and ribbons in her hair, opens the door. As you walk in, all the other maids currently engaged in serving, stop to greet you in full smiles with a choir of “Okaeri nasaimase, Goshuujin-sama, Ojou-sama,” (Welcome home, Master, Madam). As you are led to your seat you see that several other customers are getting their pictures taken with a maid. The maid hands you your menu, and leaves for a while. When she returns, you place your order: One of you gets a parfait and tea, one orders the pasta dish and another decides just have a soda. While you wait, you see a customer in the store ordering “play a game with a maid.” Both customer and maid proceed to the game corner beside the bar seats. After rolling a dice to decide which game they’ll play, they pull out an old looking toy similar to Rock’em Sock’em Robots. After three minutes of playing, the customer has bested the maid and as a reward receives a coin, which he takes to a machine beside the stage. He uses it to receive a sticker or a button of some sort.

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Giving Classic Titles a Chance (Old)

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(Blast From The Past Article):

With the rise in the digital age and the vast increase in anime entering this country, it seems discouraging to me that many newer Otaku shy away from older series. Obviously many of these fans have never seen much beyond what has been available on US TV; broadcast, cable, or satellite; and as Cartoon Network has stated rating are key. And it is known that ratings for dated looking shows are lower than more contemporary looking shows. For example Cartoon Network never finished airing (either time they attempted airing the show) the original Mobile Suit Gundam series, but did show all of Dragonball Z. Obviously this is not the best example, as both are actually older series (would it surprise most people that Dragonball Z is over ten years old) and Dragonball Z is far less plot oriented than Gundam, and in all honest looks more recently made. The problem is that age does not mean a show is worse than a more contemporary title.

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Frugal Otaku: Or So You Still Want to Be Able to Afford Food (Old)

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(Blast From The Past Article):

Currently there is the fun little slogan “Anime, Crack is Cheaper”, and unfortunatly that statement is rather accurate. As such these columns were born to help point the way to being able to create and collect a healthy anime collection without having to go hungry at night. This is issue we will be discussing ways of getting shows cheaper. These methods are surprisingly apt for both major mainstream, or “A list” titles, and smaller “B list” titles.

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From Game To Fame (Old)

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(Blast From The Past Article):

In the past year, many different types of anime have reached the shores of America. I, myself has seen more than my fair share of these anime for better or worse and I have taken a particular interest in one of the lesser known genres. The dating sim anime, as it is known today, struck me as something of an oddity amidst the sea of cliché that I firmly believed to have permeated this foreign entertainment medium. These anime provided new stories and fresh ideas, and for me, a feeling of hope from the imaginary depression commonly associated with the fall from the “Golden Age of Anime,” also known as the late 80’s to early 90’s. And so, as a way for me to show my fandom, I write what I hope to be a semi comprehensive guide and narrative to this budding genre. Please keep in mind, this is being written with little to no official research done on the topic, and many of my statements are based on subjective observations.

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51 Anime That Every Fan Should See (And Probably Hasn’t) (Old)

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(Blast From The Past Article):

Sick of new shows not living up to the hype? Want to be the guy who says “You should see “xx” even though you’ve never heard of it?” If so, this is the article for you. We polled a group of Otaku from the newer and older schools to bring you this list of titles that are tops on the “OMG that rocks” list yet for some reason not on the “What do you mean you haven’t seen it?” list. Staff picks are bolded with description, but that doesn’t mean the other titles aren’t more than worth looking at.

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