Otakon 2016 Field Report, Cosplay Photos

Summary of Otakon

Otakon is one of the great anime and Japanese pop culture conventions in the United States and one of the biggest on the east coast. The convention, which has been located in Baltimore, Maryland for the last 17 years, has been a welcome guest for the Inner Harbor community as cosplayers and convention goers patronize many of the local business and restaurants in costume. Unfortunately, Otakon has outgrown the Inner Harbor and will be leaving it behind for the much larger convention center 60 miles south in Washington, DC. The move will allow it to exceed the 29,000-member cap of this year’s convention.
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“While Baltimore has been our home for many years, and we leave it with a hint of regret, we have had to acknowledge the realities of our space usage. In order to better provide for our growth, we accepted a competitive bid in June of 2013 to move to the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. We know there will be challenges associated with moving to a new location, but we are energized and hopeful that the move will provide new opportunities,” said Alyce Wilson, head of Otakon Press Relations.

Basic Information


Baltimore Convention Center, Baltimore, Maryland

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Foot town 4-2-8 Shibakouen,Minato-ku,Tokyo

Established July 1994- Otakon is entering its 23rd year and has become one of the hallmark festivities celebrating east Asian popular culture on the east coast.
Length of event 3-day convention + 1 pre convention Matsuri (open to public)
    For the first 10,000 online registrants:
  • Normal: $80
  • For those who are registering as new members: $85
    For the remaining online registrants up to 25,000:
  • For those who renew a previous online registration: $90
  • For those who are registering as new members: $95
    For at the door registrations:
  • For those who are new or renewing: $100
Hotels Most of the hotel rooms are booked well in advance, but you can still give it a go. You will find that any of the hotels downtown that may have rooms available will be at a premium ($250+).

  • Baltimore Harbor Hotel
  • Baltimore Marriott Waterfront Hotel
  • Brookshire Inner Harbor Suite Hotel
  • Days Inn Inner Harbor
  • Doubletree by Hilton
  • BWI Airport

  • Embassy Suites Baltimore
  • Fairfield Inn & Suites Inner Harbor
  • Four Seasons Hotel Baltimore
  • Hampton Inn Baltimore
  • Downtown/Co
  • Hilton Baltimore
  • Hilton Baltimore BWI Airport
  • Holiday Inn Inner Harbor
  • Holiday Inn Express @ The Stadiums
  • Home2Suites
  • Hotel Indigo
  • Hotel Monaco
  • Hyatt Place
  • Hyatt Regency Inner Harbor
  • Lord Baltimore (formerly Radisson Plaza)
  • Marriott Inner Harbor
  • Renaissance Harborplace Hotel
  • Sheraton Inner Harbor
  • Wyndham Baltimore Peabody Court

What to expect

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  • Your tickets will cover all three days of the convention. The matsuri on Thursday is free and open to the public.
  • The convention has a multitude of video rooms to watch old and new titles if you need a break.
  • You will find a many water fountains and water stations around the convention center for free water.
  • You can find concessions all over the convention center on the concourses and in the exhibit halls.
  • The convention center is packed, so bring your patience and leave you sense of personal space at home.
  • BE RESPECTFUL OF COSPLAYERS. Cosplay is not an invitation to be touched.
  • The neighborhood surrounding the convention center is filled with restaurants and welcoming to cosplayers.
  • Bring your dancing shoes! There are multiple dance parties, from techno to swing, in the evening.
  • The convention center is packed, so bring your patience and leave you sense of personal space at home.
  • If you want to save money, we recommend bringing your own snacks.

What to do while there, what to see and what to do:

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Thursday, August, 11th Matsuri

The Matsuri at West Shore Park in Baltimore is the kickoff event before the convention and is open to the public. There’s a yukata contest, followed by a concert with the groups NPC Collective, Jason Charles Miller, and Lotus Juice and Shihoko Hirata.

Friday, August, 12th Day 1

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The convention really gets going with panels on Girl Power: Feminism and the Magical Girl Genere, 70s Anime Funtime, and Sentai Filmworks Industry Panel to name only a few examples. The panels, workshops, and autograph sessions begin at 9 a.m. and continue throughout the day. The organized cosplay photoshoots begin and give you a chance to get photos of various cosplayers from your favorite shows and games such as Love Live!, Kingdom Hearts, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, and Fallout. The swing dance room opens at nine for the 18+ crowd to dance the night away.

Saturday, August 13th Day 2

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The line to get into the convention center on Saturday is often more than a half a mile long. Remember it’s August in the mid-Atlantic, so it’s bound to be hot. If you don’t have to get in the door right away and you are wearing a hot or heavy costume, we recommend waiting until after 10 a.m. when you can walk right into the air conditioned center. We know you want swag and all the big dealers have exclusives. You need to be first in line in some cases since quantiles are limited, such as the P.A. Works replica key frame from Shirobako in a Mushino Animation envelope. You could get some other free stuff by signing up for trial memberships. For example, Daisuki was giving away posters for Tales of Zestra X if you signed up for a trial membership and Crunchy Roll was offering oversized swag bags with proof of subscription.

The Masquerade, held down the street at the Royal Farms Arena, was held at 7 p.m. and designed for cosplayers to preform skits and show their talent in costume craft by giving them a safe area to present their more elaborate and sometimes delicate cosplay. The highlight the evening was a concert by MICHI. You can also attend a Maid Café Show that runs all day, but be warned there is a long line to get in and you could wait an hour or more. The panels and workshops are still in full swing, with industry panels like Pony Canyon, Right Stuff anime, and Aniplex. The DJ dances begin at Otakon after dark and run from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Sunday, August 14th Day 3

The crowd doesn’t get any smaller, especially on the dealers’ floor on the last day; they close at 3 p.m. You will find yourself surrounded as every conventioneer vies for a last minute deal. The panels are still going on, too, such as a great one on The Visual Novel: History of the Unrecognized Narrative Art. It offered a great explanation of how to create a narrative and techniques to use in crafting a visual novel. The convention even has some more involved workshops on how to create a panel for a convention and how to wear a kimono.

The convention also has a many, many autograph sessions and panels from your favorite voice actors and singers like MICHI, Yui Makino, Diana Garnet, and the cast of Pokemon spread out over the preceding days.








Final Thoughts

We loved our time at Otakon and were able to meet some amazing people like Abby Murphy, who talked with us about her love of the genre and how “it allows for a real diversity of stories to be told. The fact that a lot of girls are featured in anime and it isn’t something you see in mainstream stuff in the states.

The weekend had record heat and the convention center even had to pull some of its events inside because of it, but we soldiered on. We cosplayed, we enjoyed some LARPing, and amazing discussions ranging from the funny and silly to serious as we examined themes present in anime in the company of our fellow Otaku. We celebrated our Otaku lives in a safe space with no judgement, inside or outside the convention center. We will miss returning to the safe space Baltimore has created for us next Otakon.

“Everyone is so friendly and nice,” said cosplayer Paul Hazlett of the convention atmosphere. “When I first did cosplay I was afraid that people would think that I’d look silly. But everyone who comes up to you wants to take your picture and is like wow! You did such a good job.

We can’t say we’re not worried that the new, larger Otakon in DC will change the feel of the convention, but we have hope that bigger will mean better. We leave you with the updated web address for the new Otakon: dc.otakon.com so you can start your planning for next year.

Zeke Changuris


Author: Zeke Changuris

I’m a journalist, writer, photographer, video producer, social media manager and above all a storyteller. I’m located on the east coast of the United States but travel the world with the love of my life. I’ve been a nerd since birth with a love of history and science. I fell in love with anime, watching ROBOTECH and Venus Wars in the 80s when our only source was secondhand VHS dubs. A crazy new thing called the internet changed that, giving me access to new and amazing anime every day. I love to write for work and pleasure. I’m living the dream of every kid, getting paid to watch anime and loving every subtitled line.

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