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Diary of a Mad Black Otakon
By Lee Miller     |   Posted on August 17, 2007   |   Episode 71 (Show Archive)  

   


Once upon a time there was a man named Frank who was constantly out of focus with the rest of the world. But this article is not about Frank, it's about Otakon!
Would you believe our luck, it passed the 100 degrees Fahrenheit mark just a week ago and the forecast is calling for thunder storms. This could only mean one thing: It was time for Otakon again. That's right, it's Otakon, the second-largest anime convention in the United States. Each year this event is held in the Baltimore Convention Center in Baltimore, Maryland, and 2007 was no exception.

On the 19th my buddies and I piled into the car to go down to the convention center and pick up our passes a day early, waiting in line for your passes on a official convention day cuts into your event time after all. More and more people have the same idea every year however, so needless to say the line keeps getting bigger. As we lined up we thanked the weather for not being 106F (as it was last year), but soon realized it was about to rain. Of course with the luck of the hardy group making up the preregistration line it did rain, luckily not for long.

As soon as we picked up our passes we met up with various members of the Otakon forum at the over-priced(yet tasty), sushi restaurant Edo Sushi, where we planned the rest of the weekend. After waiting for our group platter for thirty minutes we asked the waiter when it would

Barry Bonds was so adorable before he started taking all of those steroids!
be out, she informed us we hadn't ordered it. Obviously a bunch of Otaku would be tolerant of language barriers; I personally was too devastated by SportCenter in the sushi bar to care: Barry Bonds had hit two more home runs (closing in on that all time record). Looking around it was obvious that half of the convention-goers were already downtown, Otakon hadn't started yet but we had already taken over the city. We decided to head up to a friend's hotel room where we proceeded to play the Japanese SNK collections well into the evening. We didn't run very late though, that night would be the last decent night of sleep any of us would have that weekend.

The next morning I had an interesting task, I had to give my ex-girlfriend a ride to the convention. We arrived and headed out to the panels, our first stop was the J-pop panel which I somehow ended up helping run. It's a subject I'm well versed on and write about on my J-music blog, if not as often as I write

Pictured: The only magazine not talking about how successful High School Musical is!
about J-rock. I mainly dealt out smart ass comments and little known facts such as Hikaru Utada's mother being busted with $400,000 in drug money at the JFK airport last year, or Gackt Camui's bizarre claims to being a real life vampire in his early career. As a reward for taking part I got a reward worthy of Cyril: a bottle of water branded with the convention center label.

Afterwards I intended to go to the "Purple Sky" panel; Purple Sky is the first English language magazine about nothing but Japanese music. As I have been working into that field I was interested in what they had to say, sadly it wasn't to be. I soon found out that the scheduling for this year's Otakon was absolutely chaotic, rendering the schedules handed out at the door almost completely useless. Frustrated at my lack of a functional schedule I met with my other friends and headed towards the game room. The first thing I noticed was that Mountain Dew had a corner all to itself where you could stand in line to play Halo 2 with the "Duke" controller and Mountain Dew default settings (no thanks). They were also handing out their horrendous special edition "Gamer Fuel" soda which I expect will sell rather well as it had Master Chief on it. I'm not a big soda drinker, but I can tell you that it's absolutely horrible.


Pictured: The only magazine not talking about how successful High School Musical is!
Looking around the game room I found that once again the area had grown but had some of its unique spirit ripped out. Last year saw the end of the Neo Geo AES table, this year saw the end of the Arcade cabinets. Personally, I mourned the loss of big screen Halo 2 but honestly it never really had much place at an Asian culture event to begin with. In its place was a Gears of War LAN on 50 inch plasma screen TVs. For some reason it was decided to only have one person per screen which looked great but made no sense whatsoever for a event of this size, needless to say lines were formed and I never even got the chance to play. Also on the big screens was Dead or Alive 4, Mario Kart: Double Dash, and Battle Stadium D.O.N. which made a little more sense for the event.

The always up-to-date Dreamcast table featured Trigger Heart, which was played by many and understood by few. This was my chance to plug Defunct Games; I made myself available and filled in the curious gamers on the products they were playing. Some were shocked to hear that some Dreamcast games came out this year, and I was more than happy to write down any information they needed on the back of a Defunct Games business card. Like every year, I made a push to have Virtual On: Oratorio Tangram part of the game room, I, and others, offered systems and dual sticks and to supervise our stuff to eliminate any

Oh, so that's where Waldo has been hiding all of this time!
liability. Otakon shot it down without so much as a discussion, leaving me mildly frustrated at the decisions being made in the game room.

Their tournament schedule wasn't surprising, but provided a reasonably varied selection for those looking to compete. The competition games were Mario Kart: Double Dash, Super Smash Brothers Melee, Soul Caliber III, Beatmania 12, Street Fighter 3, Guitar Hero II, Tekken 5, Virtua Fighter 5, Naruto 4, DDR Supernova and the newest Guilty Gear XX (Accent Core). Yes shooter fans, you got shunned this year.

Friday evening was concert time, pop group AAA had made the trip over from Japan to perform at Otakon. As described by Wikipedia: AAA is a Japanese pop band signed to the Avex Trax label and debuted in September of 2005. The group, consisting of five boys and three girls, were certainly experienced as they had acted in commercials and had been dancers for other Japanese stars, such as Ayumi Hamasaki and Ami Suzuki. According to statements released by Avex records, Yukari Goto has officially resigned from being a member of the group due to health reasons. The group was now composed of only seven, five boys and two girls, from now on.

People bitched and complained, some even said this would be their last Otakon. Personally, I knew nothing about them other than that they provided the soundtrack for the most recent Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks DVD (my favorite Japanese baseball team). Yet when the doors opened for seating, there was already a line wrapping around the lobby out the door and down the street. A little over an hour later the concert hall was packed with thousands of restless fans chanting the band's name.
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