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


Otakon 2009: Kanon Wakeshima Concert

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Being a follower of Vampire Knight along with the rest of the fan girl population, I was ecstatic when I heard that Kanon Wakeshima was going to be performing at Otakon this year.  Kanon Wakeshima is a fairly new artist.  Signing with Sony in 2008, she soon after released her first single, “Still Doll”, which fortunately became the chosen ending single for the popular awaited anime adaptation of Matsui Hino’s Vampire Knight.  Through the publicity it gained from Vampire Knight, “Still Doll” became an instant success and peaked on the Oricon charts at #33.  Her second single for Vampire Knight, “Suna no Oshiro” also peaked at #39.

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Because of Kanon’s recent debut, I had little exposure to her music. Like many fans, I had only heard “Still Doll” and “Suna no Oshiro”. On the day of the concert, I didn’t know what to expect. The line was long, packed with the usual con crowd and Lolita girls.  After suffering a strong headache from the opening act, my only hopes were that the concert be worth the suffering I had just endured and that it live-up to all the hype it had generated.

 

The concert certainly was everything and more.  Kanon lit up the stage in her black and red laced Lolita dress as images from Vampire Knight appeared on the screens. Her voice was as strong and clear as on her CD, but the highlight of the show was definitely her cello.  Her cello performance was also impressive, and added to the energy of the show.  I also found her personality to be extremely friendly and cute.  She even had a name for her cello and introduced it to the audience.  While she English was far from fluent, her accent just added to her cuteness. Overall I thought her stage presence was strong and her performance inspiring. This was certainly a great Otaku concert.

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While the concert was one of the best I’ve ever been to, I do have one small complaint with the organization of the program.  Since the Kanon Wakeshima concert was a day after the Mel concert, many fans had learned the previous night that autographs would take place immediately after the performance had ended.  Having this knowledge, a huge crowd ran towards the autograph area, located on the stage right, as Kanon began singing her final song.  While I can understand the excitement and desire to meet Kanon and get her autograph, I found that this was extremely rude and distracting.  Perhaps next year there will be a better way to organize concert and autographs.

~Lena Pang


Otakon 2009: The [geist] Experience

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Having never been a fan of rock or punk music, I definitely would not be the best person to judge a visual kei band.  I can honestly testify though that many of my fellow Kanon Wakeshima fans seemed just as shocked as I was when [geist] appeared on the stage and began playing their hard core music.

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My first encounter with [geist] was during the 2009 Japan Festival at the University of Maryland in College Park.  It was a family event.  Professors, students, and many others in the Maryland community brought their family to enjoy an enriching night of cultural experience.  The festival offered a show of traditional Japanese dance, and had a room filled with booths that introduced guests to various aspect of Japanese society.  It was a calm and quiet affair until the stage was cleared in preparation for the band…

Standing there on stage, the members of [geist] certainly were more than just a face in the crowd.  The audience looked at them with curiosity, and then…they played their first song…  Saying that their music was a shocking contrast to the atmosphere in the room would be an understatement.  The room quickly emptied as grandparents, children, students and professors sought shelter from the noise.  The Maryland community was obviously not ready for [geist].geist 2

As I stood there in Hall D of the Baltimore Convention Center and saw the familiar faces enter the stage, I too was not ready for [geist].  While I can appreciate that there are many fans of visual kei and j-rock, I found their music too great a contrast to Kanon Wakeshima’s.  I do wish the band luck in their climb to success, but I would just ask that they try to choose more appropriate venues in the future.

([geist] Photos courtesy of Lee Miller)

~Lena Pang


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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