Otakon 2012 August 21, 2012Posted by aggrogahu| in Conventions, Figures.
By now I doubt navycherub will make his own, so here’s a report from the perspective of the west coast otaku who went on a trek to the biggest anime convention the East has to offer, Otakon 2012 in Baltimore, MD.
…was my day for errands. My train arrived into Baltimore late evening so all I could expect to do was registration and hotel. Other than that, I started learning the BCC layout and surrounding area (which is pretty confusing), and observed that Otakon cosplay was pretty meh compared to that of other cons I’ve been to, but that’s all I’ll report for Friday. Ultimately, my focus was on ensuring the success of the main mission…
From my experience, there are two types of convention goers:
- A) People who go to cons to hang out and…
- B) People who go to cons for industry guests.
These are generalizations, but I mention them because these are two gears I consciously shift between. Example, I go to Fanimecon to hang out, which is why there aren’t any reports for that (unless you really want to read about Steve Urkel inside jokes). Second example, I went to Otakon for Aya Hirano.
As much as I’d like to pretend I’m a hardcore fan who flies cross-country to see the most popular seiyuu of this generation, I was already travelling to the East Coast around the same time for a different reason, so that allowed me to extend my travels to Baltimore. With that said, I was still going out of my way to see her, so my mission for Otakon 2012 was see Hirano-san, no messing around, otherwise my cross-country trip was for naught.
Con schedules constantly change, so part of the mission was to be prepared for these. Although Hirano-san’s first event (Q&A) wasn’t until 2:00 pm, I started the day early, hitting the BCC halls in my Ayumu cosplay, looking to check the information desk for any schedule changes. Sure enough, her Q&A session was switched to an earlier time slot, so I dodged that bullet.
Aya Hirano Q&A
It’s always a little weird seeing someone famous IRL, so I looked anxiously towards the stage as they announced her. She came out dressed in a traditional kimono with her hair up with colored extensions and various decorations, and it was so freakin’ cute. I felt all fuwa fuwa inside. She introduced herself and I died. I’ve seen a lot of her work, so her unique voice was familiar, but seeing and hearing her live is cuteness overload.
After her short introduction, the panel went straight into questions, a (loose) transcript of which can be found at Anime News Network. In there you’ll see the question I got to ask, which sadly was somewhat of a waste (I swear she was more involved with Bakemonogatari), but you’ll also see her quoted when she complimented my costume, which was a gratifying interaction between me and her. When was the last time a Japanese otaku idol complimented what you were wearing?
From the rest of the panel, I noticed Hirano-san kept citing Haruhi Suzumiya as a big influence to her, which makes sense, but I think it’s a sort of Stand Alone Complex. I know plenty of female fans of the anime series identify with and are somewhat inspired by Haruhi, yet at the same time the person who pretty much is Haruhi was growing as a person in the same way from her portrayal of the character too.
First part of the mission complete, yet two other schedule changes happened afterwards. Aya Hirano’s autograph session later that day was cancelled. Second, I lost my phone during the Q&A Panel, so a trip to the Lost and Found was added to my itinerary. I didn’t find my phone then, but I ran into a friend (who I only knew online through a mutual facebook friend) instead, who also lost her phone coincidentally. Now finding myself with a freed up schedule and a new buddy to tag along with, I put the main mission aside and shifted from convention goer type B to A.
My friend wanted to check out this panel because one of her friends was staff for the group. We both couldn’t care less about the generic male Korean idol group itself I’m sure, but watching fans butcher the Korean language, the group responding in broken English, and other mistranslated and general fangirl shenanigans ended up being pretty entertaining.
…was what you’d expect from cosplay contests and skits. We left early ’cause it was getting late. One thing I will say is how hilarious it was that every other skit involved either Party Rock Anthem or ballet dance… or both.
With the big day ahead (concert and autograph session) I switched back to type B convention goer. I went to the BCC as the doors opened around 9 am, and armed with a Black Forest ham, egg, & cheese flatbread sammich, I started camping out in line for the Aya Hirano concert scheduled for 12:30 pm. Lines aren’t a big deal to me, especially having been to Anime Expo, so sitting there for hours wasn’t bad at all. One of the dudes near the front was even giving out free glow sticks; how nice.
I found myself looking anxiously towards the stage again, this time ready to jump out of my seat. The audience was never fully participatory like those crazy pop concerts in Japan, but at the very least we in the front rows got it jumping, with the help of Hirano-san and her encouragement. Speaking of, it’s incredible, almost unbelievable how much energy she has. She might as well be jump-roping all the while maintaining her clear and strong vocal performance. It was so amazing for a live performance. I was getting into the songs I haven’t even heard before, and all the Haruhi-related songs got everyone pumped.
- God Knows… – the guitarist for the band nailed the intro riff and solo. Hirano-san also nailed her high notes.
- Lost My Music – Hirano-san encouraged the audience to sing along during the post-chorus parts that were in English. We didn’t know the words too well either way, but we sang our lungs out either way.
- Super Driver – having authored a Rock Band custom of this song, I was actually able to sing along quite a bit. More importantly, this is a super high-energy song that was super fun to rock out to.
- Bouken Desho Desho? – this was after the encore call, which was incredibly fitting because of the song’s very unique intro. Great song, and this being the first opening theme to the Haruhi anime, there are tons of memories tied to this song.
I was unbelievable happy following the concert, not only because the whole weekend led up to this moment , but especially because it was a showcase of great talent and great songs that were part of the otaku culture I seldom get to express openly. Also, during a silent transition between songs, I yelled out “DAISUKI!” and Hirano-san replied with a thank you, so that was another gratifying interaction between me and her. All-in-all, a truly amazing experience, yet at the same time the mission wasn’t over.
Throughout the weekend, I was thinking in the back of my mind about the autograph session immediately following the concert. The most any of us knew was that it was in the same room as the concert, so acquiring the coveted autographs involved less pre-planning, more quick thinking and action the moment they revealed how the autographs would work. In other words, my final mission was to fight a mob of otakus.
At the end of her concert, everyone got out of their seats and rushed the stage for a picture Hirano-san took for her blog, which began the free-for-all. Staff finally announced that the autograph line was forming in the back, so after rushing the stage up front, everyone rushed the back. I was a bit bummed since practically everyone else in the room was in a more advantageous position than me, but I kept my wits. The end of the line was marked by a staffer with a sign, and he was moving along the back of the room as the line grew. I changed course towards where he was headed, leading to track a moving target rather than aiming straight for it, going against the flow of the mob to meet the ever-expanding end of the line in the back corner. I ended up in line just in front of the 150th person; which is where they declared the cutoff. I felt super relieved, yet at the same time 150 was only the staff estimate. No matter what, they were going to stop the autograph session exactly at 3:00 pm. I was still a little nervous, but as you can see…
I got Hirano-san to sign the base of my most valuable Haruhi figure, personalized to “马理德”, my Chinese name. Why not my English name? Because Chinese characters/kanji look cool. Hirano-san actually didn’t recognize the “马” character since it’s simplified Chinese. I panicked and felt like an ass for a second ’cause I was trying to think of how to explain it to her, all the while wasting time that could be used for the people behind me in line. I only knew how to pronounce it in Mandarin, and I doubt that would’ve helped her, so I just said it was “horse”. She replied saying “Ah, ho~su!” and then signed it as “馬”. Luckily we successfully translated across three languages, and luckily for everyone behind me, they extended the autograph session to accommodate everyone who was in line, even those fans heroically stubborn enough to stay even if they were past the 150th cutoff.
Having completed the trek, surviving encounters with fate, all the while having so much fun left me feeling so thankful. Reflecting on all of this now, almost a month later, made me realize how unreal and fleeting Otakon 2012 was. The mix of unique circumstances leading up to this convention eerily echo that of last year’s Anime Expo trek. These types of experiences don’t happen often at all, but I was blessed then, and one year later we have this, 2012’s summer anime convention adventure.
- Ruiki – She was also out of state to attend this con, also staying in a hotel with a friend and some strangers, also riding solo throughout the convention, at least prior to also losing her phone and running into me. Though I’m perfectly content sticking to my own schedule at conventions, I needed to run into her if only to relax and be more lively, otherwise I would’ve been stuck in the strictly-business Gear B. Also, because we had mutual friends, she was the balance of familiarity I needed in the foreign east coast convention. She also kept me healthy by making sure I ate my veggies :) Ruiki, you were one of my Otakon crushes, second only to Hirano-san.
- navycherub – I already told you, but thanks for helping me with hotel, and sorry we didn’t get to hang out more because of our differing schedules. When we did get to hang out it was good times, so I hope someday we’ll be at the same con again for some shenanigans.
- dude giving out free glow sticks – I already told you as well, but seriously, everyone need to know how awesome he is for giving out free glow sticks. The audience at the concert would’ve been completely dead if it wasn’t for him.
- Sogequeen-Perona – once again for the Ayumu cosplay, and for being the one to point out Hirano was coming to Otakon in the first place.