Otakon is one of the conventions I’ve been going to the longest, and with attendance of over 30,000 people, it’s certainly the biggest one I’ve been to so far. It takes over the Baltimore Convention Center, and most of the harbor, for three days every summer. In spite of it’s size, unlike the other big conventions on the East Coast like Dragon*Con and NY Comicon, it is devoted entirely to Anime and Asian culture.

I first attended Otakon in 2004, and although I have missed it once or twice, I’ve been back almost every year since. I particularly enjoy Otakon because it is for a medium I’m not trying to make an eventual living in. Balticon is great fun, but in a lot of ways, I’m still working the whole time I’m there. I’m making contacts, learning new techniques, and hunting for trade secrets in addition to spending time with all my friends from twitter. But Otakon is a chance to fully relax and enjoy the spectacle. So with that being said, let’s begin this year’s review of the show! I packed in so much this year, I’m going to go through it day by day.

Day one was my day to really watch new anime, and was filled to the brim. I watched some new things, some old things, and even a US Premier movie!

First up: “Occult Academy.” This might be my favorite series from the convention. When a teenage girl’s father dies under mysterious circumstances, she inherits the private school he owned, which is famous for its study of supernatural phenomena. But his obsession with the occult drove her parents apart, and she ‘hates the occult.’ Beset with the supernatural, a scheming faculty, and a time-traveler sent back to prevent an apocalypse centered around the school, can she save the world and find her father’s killer?

I really liked this series. It is made up of a nice blend of comedy and drama, and is centered around a tough, capable heroine who isn’t reduced to a sex object or damsel in distress in the face of the monsters. This series is on the Crunchy Roll anime streaming service, and I’m adding it to my pile to watch.

“A Certain Scientific Railgun” Fewer railguns, and much less scientific than I was expecting, but this is a slice-of-life comedy or sorts that is not without its charms. A companion piece to an apparently much more dramatic series called “A Certain Magical Index,” which I have not seen, the series is set in a futuristic city where 80% of the residents are boarding school students, and most of them have unusual ‘Esper’ talents. The Railgun of the title refers to the main character, a powerful esper girl with psycho-electric powers who can launch 100 yen coins like a railgun. She has a penchant for vigilante justice, which exasperates her roommate, who is a member of a school-based local law enforcement agency. I have no idea how that works, by the way. Anime, I guess?

As action-packed as the description sounds, most of the series involves the relationships between the two main characters and their friends. The series has a fan-servicey vibe with extremely heavy lesbian undertones, and while it was funny, I felt like a dirty old man watching these supposedly teenage girls engage in that kind of ‘horseplay.’ It was fun, but I won’t be looking for it on DVD.

“Hanasaku Iroha-Blossoms For Tomorrow” This is another slice-of-life show revolving around a teenage girl, but this one was much more grounded in reality. When a 16-year-old’s mother runs off with her boyfriend, she moves from Tokyo to her grandmother’s distant onsen. But in addition to dealing with her mother’s abandonment and moving to the small town, her grandmother, who she has never met before, expects her to work for her room and board.

This is a cute series that was far less maudlin than I had expected. The animation is high-quality, and the depiction of life at a Japanese inn was very interesting, as I stayed in one while teaching in Japan myself. I believe this is also on Crunchy Roll, and I will probably watch more of it later.

“Evangelion 3.0: You Can (NOT) Redo” Perhaps I should have rewatched the second Evangelion movie before coming to see this one, because I was a bit lost for some of the movie, but if you’ve seen any of the previous incarnations, you should be alright. The thing I liked about the first two movies is that as a necessity of run time, they cut out a lot of Shinji’s reluctance and depression. This movie, well, it’s mostly that, actually. Set 14 years after the second movie, Shinji unwittingly triggered 3rd Impact after trying to save Rei Ayanami, and now he is caught between NERV and anti-NERV organization WILLE. If he pilots an EVA again, he might be able to restore the world, or make a new one, but he could also trigger a devastating FOURTH Impact which would fully destroy the world.

So Shinji is still a terrible character, followed by worst father of all-time Gendo Ikari, but this movie had a space-ship made out of EVAs captained by Misato, (in the requisite amazing hat and giant sunglasses) so it still evens out at ‘pretty cool,’ although the movie series has finally caught up to the ‘makes no damn sense’ arc of the original TV series.

“Space Adventure Cobra” More “Star Wars” than “Star Wars” is possibly the best way to describe this early-80’s space opera movie. A lost cousin of Kirk and Solo, the main character, who’s arm turns into the dreaded “Psycho-Gun” macks on telepathic alien princesses, fights his way through a flying prison, and joins up with a platoon of female revolutionaries on rocket-powered snowboards called “Snow Gorilla.” It’s awesome, while never taking itself too seriously. The movie is also a clear influence on later anime heroes like “Vash the Stampede.”

And that’s all I did on day one of the convention. Stay tuned for Wuxia Detective films, anime music videos, and the surprising popularity of cereal-themed video games.

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