It’s really nice to get back to my “home” convention and run through it as if nothing happened since 2019. I enjoyed the humid Chesapeake Bay summer as much as I ever could enjoy…humidity. Otakon was packed to the gills with things to do in 2022 and things I wanted to do, even if much of it is just hanging out. On top of seeing some old timers that I haven’t since, I would chalk it up as a great time, if too short time all together.
One of the running themes of Otakon for me was that it was always a packed weekend by the end of it all. There are always some conflict to deal with in the schedule. There are things I have to give up to do for others. Going into it, Otakon 2022 didn’t feel that as much, although the usual conflicts still took place. I was definitely miffed on how Ise and Oregairu team basically had lapped scheduling both days. As much as making Otakon longer would be swell, there’s so much stuff people spent their time, effort and money on to put on that it felt a waste to not be able to see it, having even 1 more day would make it too much of a sprint. As I write about my feelings the week after Otakon, that remains true.
To put it into perspective, this is just the fourth anime con I attended this year, yet it’s definitely the most exhausting one despite being the closest to home. I stayed the the Marriott Marquis (which is usually good but there’s always a curveball or two there) and it wasn’t like I had to line up for hours to get a badge or even walk more than 5 minutes to get to the venue from the hotel.
Anyway. It was a packed, fun, informative and enriching experience. As generational otaku tendencies go, Otakon is still stuck on the “information” age. Despite having a lot of kpop guests. Maybe COVID resetting everything actually did them a benefit. In 2019 I wouldn’t have expected Otakon being the best con I’ve attended in 2022 after going to also A-Kon, Acen and AB.
There were a few crowd/line snafu at Otakon this year, so let me get that out of the way. First of all, the main corridor linking the two halves of the con center underground got packed yet again. This was a problem that was solved in 2019 by setting up ropes and have staffer always clear the area. This didn’t really happen in 2022, so it felt like a loss of collective knowledge on Otakon’s part. With the highest attendance Otakon has ever had in 2022, the crowding was really bad on Saturday. This also exhibited outside where attendees had to be single-filed in from the main entrance, leading up to 60 minutes or more of delay for people who were already badged & vax-checked during peak entrance hours. The reg/prereg line was also very long on Friday, over 2 hours. It seemed that the con was not really prepared for what was happening line-wise.
The other crowd snafu was at autographs. I think overall the process from 2019 was replicated, but the scheduling lined up all these guests to begin at the same time, which meant fans for different artists all arrived at the nebulous holding area 1 hour before the lineup time at the same time. That caused unnecessary crowding–it wouldn’t be hard to modify the schedule by 5 plus-minus minutes as people were just waiting there for an hour anyway. I think for Ise’s only autograph panel that caused a stampede since people were a good 20 yards away and all rushed up. The staffers think people can hear them, but not really.
The good thing is the rest of the con was smooth. Even the walk to the off-site afterparty event was an easy 15-minute stroll with the weather cooperating. I asked director Mori during his autograph session about his impression of DC and he said it was a well-manicured city, and he is spot on. I think there are few downtown areas this easy to walk and as well-kept, in the USA.
I was able to spend a bit of time watching the Kakinumas do their thing, which you can read up on here. The power couple seems in good spirits after COVID.
Content-wise, I spent a lot of the time on Ise stuff–both of her panel and I was able to get her autograph (lucky!). ANN has written it up here. I also tweeted a lot of stuff real time (her panels and others). I also did, uh, visit a couple places. Again, the nice parts of DC makes a very well-kept, touristy city.
Otakon this year fed me not just that stuff, but also my mind and soul as well. Mind in terms of the Oregairu guests, and soul in terms of the music performance on Sunday. Oregairu’s author, Wataru Watari, is a bit notorious. Well, given what he wrote, it seems all but natural. So there’s this pretty good panel that explains everything in that same style, how Watari come up with ideas and how these ideas eventually make it into animation. There was an earlier panel also, that conflicted with Ise’s Friday panel, so I couldn’t go. Hopefully ANN will catch that one for us too.
I’m going to also flesh out a bit more than what I tweeted. The Oregairu cast and staff are definitely friendly, in a way that’s kind of rare for this industry. It seems like Horii is especially someone who hooks up the cast with the staff with places to drink? I assume all of this is well-detailed in various bonus content and live streams for the Oregairu series (and overlapping staff/cast in Watari’s other anime adaptations). I’m not really familiar with that besides that it does come up from time to time.
The producers for the show also were all very keen-nosed on Watari’s stuff and how it’ll fit with the current trends. Watari seems to have some pride as a writer, but also suffers greatly from being able to produce writing consistently. While lately he has also taken up the job of writing anime scripts, that also seem to suffer from his writing irregularities? LOL.
There is probably some high level brains going on at that panel between Watari, producer Kato from Marvelous, Watari’s editor Hoshino from Shogakukan, and the producer from TBS Tanaka. Wish we could have teased that out more during the panel.
As for the rest of the con, I did get to a few random other-stuff. Denpa’s panel was fun as always. Caught most of the Trigger Cyberpunk screening (good stuff btw, Netflix soon) and (half of) the subsequent opening ceremony on Friday AM. I also spent a chunk of time in Furukawa/Kakinuma panel. I was able to catch the first Carole & Tuesday panel with director Hori and Celeina Ann. I think I was able to sit in some rooms that didn’t clear and enjoy the content before, like catching half of Harumi Fujita’s panel. Really a bummer I had to miss out those two composers’ panels otherwise, even if I guess, it is a bit before my time/era.
For autographing, I spent a lot of time in there, partly because the lineup system but also having to deal with capped or temp-capped standby lines. Maybe it’s for the best because I did catch a panel as a result of the temp-cap on Ise’s line on Saturday. It’s also a bit poorly run in terms of how the staff handles the people waiting to line up. Maybe the schedule can be improved so not everything start at the same time during the day. I was able to also swing by Orange’s autograph and say hi to Nabe.
I think having the Sunday concert being the only music performance I caught was just fine–it’s easily the most impressive orchestra thing I’ve seen at Otakon in a long while. It’s not MHA like Yuki Hayashi’s show last ANYC, even if the same VGO Boston folks are running the show. With Wada having so much content out there, the concert is just :chef_kiss: especially when it comes to his Yashahime stuff. It was just wonderful. And it sounded much better than ANYC acoustically too, in spite of a myriad of technical problems during the show.
What else? I wasn’t able to swing by the AA. I did walk the dealer’s room somewhat and it feels a bit empty with some stands not present. and I spent a lot of time just sitting around the Marriott having a drink with folks. It seems to be the one Otakon everyone flocked to since COVID and it was great. I’m just glad we all made it.
Just to talk about the afterparty at Spin DC. It’s a ping-pong themed lounge/club in the basement level of some place at around 15-ish minute walk away from the Marriott. It at a very nice part of town, I might add. Totally delicious whiskey on tap and would hit it again 10/10. Aniparty and Sonicboombox did this combination and other than these old bones expiring not much after midnight, I got no complaints. Given the environment, I think COVID remains a problem, of course, but so far so good one week in. Keep that mask up the whole time is the way to go.