Otakon 2017 Notes

Posted by DiGiKerot in Random Stuff at August 17, 2017 on 7:31 pm

I made my now seemingly annual trip to Otakon last week – I think it’s my fifth at this point, which isn’t the insane 20 or so of some folks I know, but I do have an entire ocean separating me from it. Still, time flies, and all that. In fact, time flies so much that I complete forgot to finish that post about AX last month. Whoops.

This year marks the first time the convention has been held in it’s new location in Washington DC, as opposed to the Baltimore convention center it had made it’s home in more recent years. From the point of view of a foreigner, this is kind of a nice change – I mean, the Aquarium in Baltimore is nice, but DC actually has an awful lot one can tourist, which somewhat helps ease the pain of those flight expenses. The nice thing about downtown DC as opposed to, say, LA, is that a lot of the stuff you may be interested in is actually within what I’d consider reasonably walking distance of the convention hotels, or relatively straight-forward public transport links if you are feeling lazy. You don’t need a car or anything is what I’m saying.

To that end, I actually rolled into town on the Tuesday lunchtime before the convention and spent a couple of days touristing around a few of the museums. I only got through about half of that I’d probably have liked to, but I guess that just gives me an excuse to head back next year, maybe with an extra day or two in my schedule.

The minor headache for the British traveller is that you pretty much can’t get anything useful directly to the far more useful Ronald Reagan National airport (I guess the “National” in the title would be the clue there?) – most direct flights end up going to Dulles, which is kind of a dead zone for useful, or at least straight-forward, public transport options. I mean, in some senses, Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, though further away, may end up more practical, though most the flights out of there back to the UK are way late at night (I say from prior Otakon experience). Anyway, Dulles ends up being about 40-45minutes out from the convention center hotels by car, being roughly $70 (plus tip) by taxi, or closer to half that by Uber or Lyft. Just make sure to take those costs into account when planning travel, you know.

I ended up staying at the Renaissance, since the extra days I tend to tag onto the front and back of my convention stay have a habit of limiting options a little. The location was fine for the convention – it doesn’t have the convenience of the Marriott Marquis in terms of actually being part of the convention space, but it’s the next nearest hotel, particularly to the actual entry point, only really being separated by two roads and a library building. Rooms were fine, staff were super-friendly and helpful. I gather from others who have stayed there and commented regarding it that there was some confusion over the wi-fi situation, though they told me at check-in that they were comp’ing con-goers the cheaper of the paid tiers, which proved good enough to catch up on Rick and Morty, Dragonball Super and MHA on Sunday, so nothing to complain about here. Lack of easy access to the TVs HDMI sockets was a bit of a pain, though I’m told in retrospect that you could get at them by tilting the TV – I did briefly try that, but it felt a bit sketchy in terms of accidentally unseating the thing when done on my lonesome so I ended up leaving it. Didn’t end up watching a ton of anime anyway, so whatever.

As for the move to the new convention center, well, whilst badge collection on Thursday couldn’t have been quicker, it got off to a slightly rough start on Friday morning. Lack of any front-of-center signage initially led to there being one queue at the front of the convention center consisting of a combination of folks who already had badges, folks looking to collected a pre-registered badge, or folks looking to purchase on-site. This eventually got split into two for pick-up and purchase, but it took deliberately asking a staffer once they started to patrol the lines to be advised that I would probably want to try the Marriotts underground walk-way to get in that morning. This probably isn’t anything that can’t be fixed with better forward information in future, I guess, but those doors were pretty clearly marked at the BCC in the fashion they weren’t here.

The second problem on the Friday morning ended up being the bag checks – even once they’d pointed folks towards the Marriott, they hadn’t actually set up the tables for the bag checks they were requiring there by the time the convention officially opened at 8am. Even once they had, they basically only had a couple of people there doing the checks. I got in pretty quickly once they started, as I deliberately didn’t bring a bag first thing, but I gather it was a bit of a nightmare for the first few hours at both entry points to the convention. I got into the convention center well enough in time to make fifth or sixth spot in the Yousei Teikoku autograph line first thing, anyway, and even managed to make the much busier FLOW queue immediately afterwards, so thats good. By the time I actually left the convention center the first time just after lunchtime, things seemed largely sorted as far as the queuing went – I don’t think it took me any longer than five minutes to go through the re-entry queue at any point during the convention after that.

Still, that those issues, plus some leaking in Artists Alley when a thunderstorm hit Saturday, were about the limit of the chaos caused by the move to a new convention center is nothing short of miraculous for an event of this size, honestly.

The convention center is pretty nice. Lots of room – maybe a little too much in the Dealers room, you could say – and it had a pretty well-hidden food court that apparently even the Otakon staff were unaware of actually being there (it was completely missing from the maps). I’ve heard a few complaints about the center being a little tricky to navigate, but honestly, aside from the room numbering representing more size than the what would probably be more useful location, I didn’t really have that much trouble finding anything (though I didn’t make any of the events in the Marriott). There were still a few issues with people suddenly stopping in the middle of fairly busy thoroughfares to do impromptu cosplay shoots, but I guess there’s not much you can really do about that. Most the panel rooms where nice and big, so most stuff was pretty readily get-in-able.

Obviously, main highlight for this year was the import of the whole Anime World Matsuri thing that Anime Expo has been doing the last couple of years. All the acts performing this year – Jam Project, TM Revolution, Yousei Teikoku and FLOW – I’ve seen before in varying capacities, so mostly known quantities, but it was nice to see longer sets than previously for most of them. The first nights concert went out with TMR and Jam teaming up for a performance of SKILL, which was suitably hype, as was Yui from Yousei joining FLOW for their rendition of Code Geass-classic Colors (though Kagiyama joined them before that for Cha-la head Cha-la as well). FLOWs guitarist Take is a pretty entertaining goofball. Part of me wishes JAM had maybe made some time for some of their solo stuff, but I’m not really complaining about the set we got either. The convention centers ballroom might not be exactly the best venue for concerts – there’s been some complaints about the acoustics echoing into whitenoise a little too much in parts of the room, and it being flat makes it brutal for short people up-back, but it was a blast from the front rows. Apparently it sounded like there was an earthquake going on during JAM and Flow on the floors immediately below, so maybe they’ll end up moving things around next year.

They gave out autographed pictures for those who stumped up for VIP seats, which was nicer than any of the tat handed out at AX.

I didn’t actually end up attending that many panels at the convention, and most the ones I did were Returning Champions, so not much to talk about there, and I ended up skipping Eureka Seven Hi-Evolution in favour of Fogo, though it sounds like I may have dodged a bullet on that one given what I’ve heard from people who went. I skipped In This Corner of the World as well, but, then, as a Brit, I saw that a couple of months back.

Anyway, new location, but it was a pretty Otakon Otakon most things considered. I do like that the concerts were pre-ticketed, though – as much as other may balk at the extra cost or not being able to move to other locations easily, it was nice being able to, like, go to Nandos to eat and roll up a half-hour before the start rather than queuing for two or three hours in the hopes of being seated well as I have at previous events.

(Food was pretty OK. There was a Shake Shack nearby, so I partook of a couple of shakes in the days prior to the convention, which was nice, I guess. Tried a couple of different local fish-and-chips attempts, which were OK, but I don’t really get the US obsession with serving it with coleslaw)

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