Otakon is one of the top 10 most attended anime conventions in North America. At one point, Otakon was the second largest, right behind Anime Expo. Unfortunately, after moving from Baltimore to Washington D.C, the number of attendees has dwindled drastically. But fear not, because 2018’s Otakon attendance rose from roughly 25,000 in 2017 to 30,000 warm bodies in 2018. What happened this year to make people go crazy for Otakon again? After spending an entire weekend in America’s capital, we definitely have an answer.
|When it Established|| July 1994|
Otakon started out as a small college convention at Penn State University. After two years, Otakon moved to Maryland and thrived there until 2016.
|Length of Event||3 days|
|Place/Location||Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Washington D.C|
|Hotels||The Marriott Marquis is the main convention hotel for Otakon. There’s a tunnel that connects the convention center to the hotel, and it was really helpful for guests when it rained for two days. The Marriott Marquis was also a hot spot for cosplay photoshoots, with beautiful lighting and backdrops. Across the street from the Walter E. Washington Convention Center is the Renaissance Inn, and a block after that, is Cambria Suites. If you’re on a budget, don’t be afraid to stay in a hotel that’s farther away from Otakon. Shuttle busses, taxis, and even Ubers were available for most hotels. And if you’re walking, crossing guards were around all day long to help con-goers cross the busy streets safely.|
What to Bring in Order to Enjoy the Event
Unlike most autograph stands at large conventions, Otakon does not require you to have an autograph ticket to get a signature. Instead, you just line up at the dealer’s room at whichever person’s booth you want. Prices may vary depending on the special guest and what you want them to sign, so make sure you have enough cash to pay for a photo, video, signature, or even a print. On the bright side, they give hugs for free!
What to Do While There/What is Available
Otaku Rave - Otakon has raves on Friday and Saturday night from 9pm to 2am. A variety of DJs from the surrounding region hype up the crowd by playing Jpop and anisong remixes.
Panels/Workshops - Want to learn about the evolution of mecha anime, or where to begin in JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure? What about the dos and don'ts of lolita or cosplay photography? All this and so much more happening at Otakon. If you stuck around past 9pm, you also got to enjoy the 18+ panels such as bad hentai dubs or yaoi analysis.
Dealer’s Room - The dealer’s room was filled with all sorts of exhibitors. You’ve got the classic figures, manga, DVDs, body pillows, and poster merchants, but there were also industry booths. The industry booths included Funimation, Aniplex, HIDive, Crunchyroll, and Toei. These booths gave away free posters, bags, and hosted raffles. The Aniplex booth, specifically, hosted special events such as Fate/Grand Order meetups and a Sword Art Online festival.
Artist Alley - The artist alley was in a separate room from the dealer’s room. There, artists were selling meme-filled buttons, prints of all sizes, keychains, and commissions. And if you came around at the right time, you might have ran into a large group of Cells At Work cosplayers roaming around the hall in a straight line, ready for pictures.
Gaming - Enter through the main entrance, go up the escalator, and you’ll be welcomed by the video game room. The room was filled with Japanese arcade games and held fighting game tournaments. There were also tables for TRPGs and meeting indie game creators.
Masquerade/Hall Cosplay Contest - If you like fan performances or funny skits, then you can’t miss out on the masquerade. However, if you want to see craftsmanship at its finest, then the hall contest is for you.
Video - Waiting for your next panel or event to start? Then take a seat at one of Otakon’s video rooms. Otakon screened various anime shows, movies, and even live action adaptations.
Makerspace - For the first time, Otakon had a makerspace, where con-goers could go and make their next prop. Make a Phantom Thieves mask, or sew a lolita head with the help of one of the staffers. In case you missed that 3D printing workshop, the makerspace was there to help.
AMV Contest - Throughout the weekend, amvs were being played by genre and the audience got to vote on their favorite. By Sunday, the votes were tallied up and screened for everyone to see. Only runners up and winners were shown, followed by a 15 minute break and ending the convention with random amvs from all categories.
Lolita Fashion Show - Lolitas can unite at the lolita fashion show! Otakon attendees were able to apply to become a stylist or a model for the lolita fashion show. There were a few specific measurement requirements for models, but any designer could apply to be a stylist. If you missed the fashion show, a room called the Lolita Garden was open for lolitas to have photoshoots, drink tea, and befriend mutuals.
Burlesque Show - Most East Coast con-goers are familiar with the popular Cosplay Burlesque organization, who perform comedy skits and strip teases. However, Otakon introduced to us a new burlesque group called D.C Gurly Show. Men and women of all shapes and ethnicities were a part of the show as they cosplayed as famous geek culture characters and stripped. The audience threw money to the performers on stage, a cheered as loud as they could. It was a welcoming environment for all genders and sexualities.
Multiple cosplay meet ups were overflowing with participants. The number of cosplayers this year was enormous, but photographers were on standby waiting for that perfect cosplay, including us! Here are some cosplays that stood out to us.
We’d like to thank the staff of Otakon for their hard work and allowing us to cover this entertaining convention. With all sorts of special guests, events, panels, and cosplay, it’s no wonder Otakon is growing rapidly. We hope to return again next year with even bigger smiles. Did you go to Otakon this year? Are you interested in going? Leave us a comment and we’ll be sure to get back to you as soon as we can. Till next time!