Otakon 2002 was held July 26th through 28th in the Baltimore Convention Center, located in Baltimore, Maryland's, Inner Harbor. The convention itself was held in the convention center, with many hotels in the downtown district, though some hotels were located as far away as the 3000 block of historic Charles Street. Almost 13,000 fans attended the event; the dealer's room was over 150,000 square feet in size; artists and gamers got their own halls; a full theater was available for 35mm prints of big films. No major events impacted the convention enough to disrupt most fan's enjoyment. Otakon will presumably be held again next year in the same location at the same time of year.
All picutres on this page were taken using an Olympus D-360L and D-320L digital camera at high resolution, and downloaded at various intervals with a LexarMedia digital film reader and an iBook laptop. Between Thursday evening and Sunday afternoon, 529 pictures were taken, though some of them are not available on this web site because of low quality. Almost all pictures available on this website are between 100 and 250 kilobytes in size and 960 x 1280 pixels in size. Most pictures are captioned.
|Links||Contact||Otakon Website||Orobouros.net Convention Reports|
Seeing people and Otakon were like the forrest and the trees. There weren't many times when I saw somebody I knew and got to talk with them for more than a few minutes. Some people, I didn't even see once. Everybody had something to do. I was in the dealer's room, getting autographs, and taking pictures. Many of my friends were busy with cosplay, some getting autographs of their own, and others trying to do the same thing I was, finding friends. The big benifit of Otakon, being the largest convention on the east coast (and this year even larger than Anime Expo, making it the largest anime convention in the United States), was also a drawback. With so many people around and so much to do, there is little chance and time to just hang out with friends.
When planing for Otakon, I considered what goals I had and what I wanted to accomplish. Last year, I was quite busy working on our skit for the cosplay. Even though I had a very fun time practicing and preparing (and winning), this year, I wanted to get a broader experience of the convention. Additionally, last year I had to deal with a lot of stress because of a hotel mix-up and a stolen wallet. So I set a lot of small things that I wanted to accomplish. I brought along my Crest of the Stars DVDs to get signed, even though I had been hoping to pick up a copy of the first novel to get signed. Since Yashuhiro Nightow was there, I also brought my copies of Trigun and Trigun Maximum tankubon in case I got a chance to get them signed, too. Though I didn't plan on it, I also bought a copy of ParaPara Max and got it signed. Finally, though, I decided to go all out and try to get as many picures as possible. At Anime Expo 2001, I took over 400 pictures (I'm still working on sorting and editing those pictures). This time, I wanted to top that, and managed to after the cosplay Saturday. Unforunatly, though, I didn't have much of an opportunity to give out my business cards, which are my prime meathod of promoting this site.
Other than just getting autographs and pictures, though, I managed to do some other things. Somehow, though, Otakon 2002 felt like an old-skool convention. Back in the day, when going to cons was still fresh and new for me, I'd know about three people, be in awe at what some people at the con were doing, and always end up in some kind of panel or showing room or the like. However, as I went to more and more cons, and got to know more people, things started to change. I stopped watching anime at cons, since I could do it at home. The dealer's room got less and less interesting, since I could shop online or get stuff through friends. So it evenually got to the point where I was going to cons just to see people. Why? Why go all that way just to see a few people over a weekend? Cause it's definitly worth it. What basically happened is that as the crowds grew and became more impersonal, the programing started to lack, and the conventions themselves started to lose control, we replaced our interest in the hobby itself with the people we knew who shared the same interest. It was a change that most convention regulars go through at some point or another, but for many of us spured on by the explosion of conventions and size around late 2000 and early 2001. It's these people that keep me going to cons. In the end, I'd rather just be able to hang out with friends than run around between events, but luckily I'll never have to choose.
But back to the point. Otakon felt like an old skool con since I did a lot of stuff on my own, stayed and worked with the same crew from the days of yore, and did a lot more con events than I have recently. Otakon's programing was very good, and let me go do a lot of fun con stuff, like guest panels and autographs. Additionally, there was just so many people around and the convention center so big (23 acres, I believe), it was hard to get a group together for any real amount of time without pre-planning. So even though I was activly seeking out my friends, often I could only do it going from one thing to another, and when I did find somebody, they, too, were usally on their way to something important. Each chance encounter was nice, though, and refreshing. I think that since everybody knew they weren't going to get much of a chance to talk, we all caught up quickly and spoke what was on the mind. So, once again, the convention became a blur of information and enjoyment and emotion coming all at once, just like back in the day.
Thursday was a pretty dull day, other than meetings up with a few people. Fun as that was, not much to talk about. My Friday started off with the alarm, of course, and me showering and getting the four other people in my appartment up to do the same. Then we took the taxi downtown (I live in Charles Village, just about two miles north of the BCC). Time to help set up the dealer's hall. The staff there seemed a little overwhelmed, but managed to deal with the whole situation quite well, showing everybody where to set up and assigning forklifts and parking spaces to everybody. The dealer's coordinator apparently fell sick the previous evening and his staff had to run the whole thing. After a relativly short time and minumal stress, the setup was soon done, ready for the crowds that would storm in at noon.
So I had time to go out and see what the rest of the convention center looked like. I emerged from the exhibit hall (which really is "large enough to launch figher" jets, even if they would end up hitting the ceiling) to see a massive line stretching from one end of the convention center to the other. That's about three city blocks, doubled up. My roommate who arrived at the convention center with me at around 0730 was only about half-way through the line by the time I went wandering around at about 1030.
Well, the first real event to go to was Opening Ceremonies. Of course all the guests were introduced, including those who couldn't make it to the con by that time, or in one case, at all, due to other commitments. I don't know what the white bunny was doing. But what I really liked about opening ceremonies was the speech the con chair gave. She touched on a lot of the things that make cons not just fun, but even enlightening from time to time. One thing that I'm always happy to point out is that conventions are more about the people than the hobby itself, and this theme was apparent in her speech. The final treat during opening ceremonies was a short concert by Yoko Ishida, the musical guest of honor.
After a little bit more wondering around, and taking pictures of course, it was time for one event that I had been looking forward to for a long time. Hiroyuki Morioka, author of the Crest of the Stars and Banner of the Flags novels, spoke about his writing and the complex and intricate Ahb universe. What was an especially nice surpirse was that another fan had personally translated the first novel and had copies with him to provide to other fans at the panel. When he asked, "Would anybody be interested in an English translation of the first novel?" Most of the room was up and forming a line/mob around this individual. At a price to cover cost, he handed out less than ten copies, and I was one of the lucky few to get one. (Note: Please don't ask me to make copies of the translation. Part of the cost was for a copy of the novel itself, so this is a copy that was made personally for me. All copyright laws still hold naturally.) Though he audience was a litle few in number, a lot of interesting questions were asked, and a lot of interesting answers were recieved. To top things off, Mr Morioka was kind enough to give a few autographs at the end of his panel.
But before too long, then, it was time for dinner. At just before seven, I went to the Pratt Street lobby, where we were to meet. Of course, some people were late. However, this gave us a good chance to just sit around the fountain and talk. In fact, a good number of the people there I hadn't even seen yet. Unfortunatly, though, the group was a bit too large to manage effectivly, so we split up, and I went along to he food court in the neighbouring mall. This was the most time I really go to spend with a group of people, and it was nice to start off the con with some informal chatting and eating. Of course, once again, I got to demonstrate my hollow bones by eating other's leftovers even though I was already full.
After dinner, it was time to check out the ParaPara lessions by Yoko Ishida. I came in a bit late, and didn't feel up to jumping right into the dancing with only minimal knowlege of how to do it correctly. However, Ms Ishida sang nicely and it looked like quite a few people caught on to the movements very well.
Saturday started off much the same way as Friday did, waking up first and draging everybody else behind me to make sure we're on time. Since I was mostly interested in just taking pictures, that's really all I did during the morning, other than take a peek into the anime music video screening. But before too long, it was time for Morioka's autograph signing. I sure wasn't going to miss this, so I headed down early at around Noon, only to find the line wasn't yet very long. Bu so much the better for me. I talked with some of the people in line with me, and one of them offered to take my picture with Mr Morioka. (Thanks!)
After that, I went to the dealer's room again, for about two hours. But before too long, it was time for yet another autograph session, Yasuhiro Nightow's. With a friend in tow, we went to the autograph area. This time, it was much different. The line was spilling out past the designated area. We were some of the last people allowed in line. After a while, my friend even had to leave, since it was almost six before we were even close to getting autographs. But I stuck it out, and got my autograph on my Trigun tankubon #1.
Now here's the part of the report where I have to rant a little bit. (I'll keep it civil, don't worry.) Please don't bring bootleg merchandice to get signed. It's can really be insulting to the guest of honor. That's basically telling them you support people who steal their work. Now I'll freely admit that I've got my share of Hong Kong posters and Taiwan compact disks. Bootlegs can be tolerated to a certain degree, since they capture a lot of the costumer surplus that actually helps promote the work. But it's still rude to push that in somebody's face. Personally, I think that if you're not willing to pay extra for an official piece of merchandice, you probably don't care too much about the work anyways. So maybe you should let somebody else get that autograph instead. Now I'm not trying to rag on anybody in particular, and sometimes you just can't get official merchandice. But please be aware of the difference.
Anyways, not much really happened after that. The dealer's room was closed, so my friends and I went back to our hotel room to chill for a while. I got some of my html written and pictures captioned. Before long, though, we were all hungry, and it was decided: STEAK. So downstairs and across the street we went to Shula's 2 in the Wyndham. Now I'm not a fan of sports bars or restaurants, but this place wasn't bad at all. The music was great and nosalgic -- perfectly fitting the theme for the con. The whole sports theme wasn't so in-your-face it was distracting, either, which is my peeve with those places. Our waiter was wonderful, and the food even better. Nothing quite like a dinner with the old gang.
Well, I figured that the cosplay would start late, as it almost always does. I was wrong. At around nine pm, I made my way over to the main ballroom, just in time for skit thirty! Somebody was sure doing something right. The skits and costumes were good. The awards ceremony... wasn't. At least the judges weren't gone for a long, long time, as usally was also he case. However, it's really important for the cosplayers to get some recognition for winning after standing in line and waiting for basically the whole day.
After the so-called awards ceremony, I went outside to get pictures of the cosplayers as they came out. Since I missed the first half of the cosplay, though, I only had a margininal idea of which groups to look out for. Well, I certainly got the King Ghidra, and the first-place FFX skit. In fact, I ended up taking a lot of pictures for them, since some of them were people I had done skits with in the past. I even got a glomp from Rikku.
After the cosplay event died down, the dance started up. Holding the dance in the lobby and panel room was a good idea. The open space is good to prevent overheating, and the two rooms give people a choice of music. I didn't dance, but I actually found some friends to sit down and hang out with a little while, which was quite refreshing after a day of standing and walking around.
Well, because the BCC closes at three am, the dance had to stop at about two. And the staff had to kick everybody out. This is a big problem. Normally, after all the events are over, people can still socialize and have fun. But to do this, you need a place to meet and wait. But since people are all spread out over many hotels, there's not even a particular lobby to congegate in. So after about two am, which is still early for a con night, everything is jus dead. At least there were a few room parties. In fact, Anime 54 was probably created just to combat this problem, by inviting people to a location outside of Baltimore for a big Saturday night party. Other than that, though, only one party was posted, so most people had little choice other than to retire to their hotel rooms in small groups, or walk the streets of Baltimore at night. Perhaps this is the greatest price we pay for size.
Ah, the slow day. Sunday is of course the last day of the con, where people have to pack up and go home, hopefully saying goodbye somewhere in the process. We checked out fairly early in the morning to avoid the rush around noon and avoid needing to come back to the hotel to pack and check out after we already went to the con. For once, I even cosplayed on Sunday. Spike is a nice, comfortable costume, even if it's a bit hot during the summer. But other than take pictures, the only real event on Sunday was the Yoko Ishida concert.
The line was long, and the concert started late, but it was definitly worth it. Interestingly enough, when she started the ParaPara songs, she asked anybody who could to come up front and dance. Well, the staff didn't like this idea, so they chased everybody away after one song. Oops. With the concert over though, I had to head down to the dealer's room to make a few last minute purchases and then break down the booth. Lots of stuff was sold, so it didn't take too long to get it all packed up and put away. Even though we were basically done by three pm, the con was already pretty much dead. It was back to the real world for most folk.
Otakon is definitly worth it. For many people, it got too big to be fun any more. But you really make your own con. I knew I wasn't going to be able to find people, so I made sure to talk with people when I got the chance. My big goal was to get lots of pictures, so off I went with camera and laptop in tow. Unexpectedly, though, I had a great time. The programing was great, which certainly helped. But what I really think it was was the oldskool feel it had, despite being so big. Nostalgia is a powerful force, and even though I thought I already knew that, I'm again reminded that it can grow ever stronger.
I had talked with a few friends about my own future with cons. Since I'll be in graduate school by this time next year, I hope o have the resources to continue to go to as many cons as I do now, about six a year. However, just because I can doesn't mean I should. After thirty-some odd cons, they've lost their novelty for the most part. People are starting to move on in other parts of their lives, and cons just don't have the same place they used to. But there's still something almost magical about cons, perhaps since they are a short escape from mundane reality. And there's still nothing like watching your favorite show on a huge screen with a hundred other people.
I believe in moderation and balance over almost all else. So what does the future hold for me and cons? I'll just have to see. I'm not going to call off cons, or try to go to every single on I can. Each one on an individual basis. I might slow down for a while, then speed up again. Otakon, Animazement, Nekocon, and Anime Expo have always been wonderful experences for me, so I doubt I'd disapear from them. But just as for everybody else, I'm moving on in life, so maybe something else might be a bit more important when those come around again. In any case, I've got plenty of wonderful memories, and plenty to look forward to.
Otakon was big. So some of my friends got together after the con to hang out and relax for a while at somebody's house. Just us and some junk food and some games. For the first time in a while, I really didn't want the con to end. I was tired, broke, and had work to do, but I still wanted it to go on. A nice social was the perfect way to wind down from the convention, though. Conventions are, after all, more about the people than anything else.
Change is ineveitable. Just make the best of it you can.
Please let me know of any sites you feel should also be listed here.
This page was created on a Macintosh with help from PhotoPage by John A. Vink. All images on this and related pages are © 2002 Oliver T Oberg, and may not be reproduced or distributed without the copyright holder's express permission, with the exception of emailing the pictures for your own private use. General permission is given for the following. You may download these pictures for your own personal collection, and you may use these pictures on your website provided they are not altered in any way with the exception of rotating, flipping, croping, and resizing. If you wish to use these pictures for any other use, you must contact me first. This is done to protect the subjects of the pictures. If you are using any pictures or css files for your own website, please download them to your own webspace. DO NOT link to pictures on my server from your html or other file. My server has limited bandwidth, and linking to my files from remote sites causes unnecessary traffic on my network. If you are the subject of one of these photos and wish your likeness to be removed from this website, please contact me and let me know the filename of the file in question. Unless I have substantial reason to believe you are not the subject of the picture, your request will be granted in a timely manor.