This year marks the 20th consecutive time I attended Otakon. Maybe that’s deserving of something, but probably no more than just this mention here. It’s probably better noted that it marked the start and end of an era where Otakon existed as a thing in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, as Otakon ’98 actually was at Hyatt Crystal City in Arlington, VA, and now Otakon is at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC.
Guest-wise, the main thing about Otakon this year is Anisong World Matsuri. Like Anime Expo, this was my main reason for going. Otakon’s AWM featured Yousei Teikoku, Flow, TM Revolution and JAM Project. Otakon itself brought over a bunch of guests, mostly regulars like Maruyama and Matsubara, Aoki Ei, and probably most notedly the lead seiyuu in Welcome to the Ballroom, Tsuchiya Shinba, plus your usual producer types. There were some movie premieres, like the new Eureka 7 Movie. Actually was that it? There was a promo for This Corner and the new Gundam movie I guess?
Anyways, it was a good time to take it easy, as we have to also deal with the new con center, setup, new places to eat, new hotel, new routine, everything. So my scattered thoughts below…
(Too lazy to crop photos sorry)
In prior years, I’d do Otakon by heading down Thursday for a dinner-offkai type from MTF. It was actually no different this year, but we only had a small turnout with a lot of usual faces. Dealer Room setup consumed the time of a few others who could have made it. Walking around town there were quite a number of decent places to eat, so that is a marked improvement from the fast food affairs Otakon offered, although the inner harbor had its share of places to sit and eat, they were definitely of a lower grade than the ones in that part of town in DC.
Due to a snafu on my end, I had to register for the con at the door. Otakon uses the front entrance of the con for this, and essentially sealing off all other entrances inside the con center other than the underground tunnel connecting the Marriott and the WEWCC. For Friday morning, it made things a bit of a mess since there were a lot of people at both entrances, and a lot of badged attendees didn’t know they need to go in from the Marriott. The bag check was actually not a problem at all most of the weekend, save for maybe just the first hour when the doors opened.
Having to do at-con reg gave me a chance to look around as well, which was nice. The con center is pretty cold, actually, especially early Friday when most of the crowd has not yet arrived. But I think this is preferred over too warm. Also, there were some flash thunderstorms on Saturday night which led to some leaking in the WEWCC. Not too sure about how to deal with it besides that it got kind of bad for a while in the Artist Alley.
I parked at a metro stop. You’re not supposed to do park for longer than 24 hours, but the parking facilities are basically unmanned on the weekends, at the lots further out, so you can park there on a weekday and exit on the weekend, which is free. I recommend this besides that it adds a giant chunk of time to your commute out of DC, as you have to haul all your junk on the metro to really take advantage of it. If you are carpooling with 3 other people, it’s probably not worth it–just suck it up and eat that parking cost.
We ubered around town a bit; taking the metro didn’t seem to be the way for us to get around. It wasn’t expensive when we usually shared a ride. Definitely worth it when it’s raining (except we didn’t even?).
I stayed at the Marriott Marquis. It’s a much nicer hotel than any of the Baltimore Inner Harbor ones I think, although I typically didn’t stay at the nicer ones in the Harbor. Funny enough, this actually make Otakon feel more like Anime Expo, since I also stay at the Marriott JW there usually, and both hotels are kinda flagship properties for the mega hotel chain. Anyway, I had a good experience with the hotel, partly facilitated by having status with Marriott due to AlexD’s coordination. The free breakfast was nice.
Overall, I think the new location is a huge boon to Otakon. The attendance this year might have been lower than last, and it has some ripple effect on the content/vendor types. I think also this year was a wait-and-see year for people, attendee and industry alike, so that probably will contribute to the pop drop.
Some of the pain points this year at Otakon are purely consequences of being new at the venue. Friday AM a lot of staff got swamped by people asking questions, since it’s the first time something like this has happened. That reduced the efficiency of the staff on the floor. A lot of the time, people would know where to go, but they stopped and ask because it’s the first time. People went to the wrong thing, or lined up at the wrong place, because it’s their first time. And so on.
Some pain points may not be due to new-ness. Like the $100 badge for example. Or that a lot of the dealer room was empty? I’m not clear on why, although that may be a wait-and-see thing. Otakon started a security check this year going into the WEWCC, so that is a minor discomfort–most of the time the security bag check went fast, but I did had to not carry bags sometimes just to be able to go line up somewhere faster.
Panel-wise, it’s the usual Otakon stuff. Some panels were in the WEWCC and some were in the basement levels of the Marriott, which is where the pedestrian tunnel and Marriott meeting spaces were. It worked out pretty well.
The main ballroom is where the masquerade is held, as well as the main concerts. I didn’t get to go see the Slants play, or their panel, unfortunately. I heard it was good though from someone who went. They played at the Matsuri space, which I don’t even know where it was.
I did catch JamPro and Nishikawa’s panels. There’s this girl who would go ask them to do Nico Nico Nii. Ugh. But JAM Project did a good thing for it, so I guess people were happy. Overall, nothing much to say, other than Kageyama is straight and upfront, which is cool. Makkun sported a yukata on Saturday which was 10/10. TMR is smooth but sufficiently down-to-earth.
Saturday night I briefly went down to have a drink with some fellas at the sports bar attached to the Marriott. It’s nice that such a facility still exists an easy walk away, and they were serving food still. It was past midnight already. It also made for sighting guests pretty fun, as we regularly ran past AWM and Otakon guests throughout the weekend. It seems that there is a second tower at the Marriott which made for some more seclusion than the main building.
It’s an unusual thing that I would be drinking more after Otabrew, but we got to the event late (had to Fogo for an hour) and by the time we got there, most of the event was over. I still walked home with some nice beers I guess? It turned out the French Toast Stout was a hit, I will have to bring it again I guess? And why was there a cake of Aqours there? Anyway, if you can get invited to go to Otabrew, please check it out.
I actually didn’t even go to the con on Sunday, because I wanted to get more rest, and because I needed to head out by noon or so. It’s good stuff just chilling, having breakfast with friends, and rolling out underneath pleasant weather in the nicer part of Washington DC.
It’s definitely not an Otakon that I did a lot of stuff in, but at the same time I highly prefer this year due to both the upgraded location and the fact AWM was a thing. The panels and such are just bonuses I guess, and there were much hanging out to be had. I suppose I could have had a nicer time if I didn’t spend like a couple hours opening up CDs and entering codes, LOL.
PS. Food-wise, DC is pretty new to me. I’ve been to DC a bunch of times but never really as a food tourist. I felt like eating at Nandos is something we just had to do, so we did, and it hit the spot. The pre-con dinner was an another Irish pub, by choice or by coincidence I don’t know (as we previously always did ours in Baltimore at the Tir na Nog). Food was better than Bmore but nothing to write home about. I did manage to have my first Moscow Mule in a copper cup (tinned), I guess it’s one of those current event things that would make no sense.
The Marriott has some decent food options. The breakfast buffet that you pay for is actually worth the ~$30 it costs after tax and tip, because you can get real crab meat in an omelette. If I wasn’t tired as heck I would have had two. The spread was solid but not that remarkable.
We did end up going to Fogo, as part tradition. Feels like we should switch it up sometimes though, but I feel my group is too weeb to appreciate a group dinner NOT at some Japanese-type place, and that rarely ends well in my experience, for a large group.