I want to be honest right from the get go: I’d be lying if I said that Otakon 2015 was a total blast. Don’t get wrong. Otakon did have some moments that I legitimately had fun at, and I definitely will bring some of them up in my report. However, while the good memories do eventually pop up and try to overshadow the bad ones, this is definitely not one of Otakon’s better years IMO. Personally, one factor that affected me negatively was the fact that on Day 0 (i.e. the Thursday before the con), I tripped on a stair while getting some dinner at the Shake Shack and fell to the ground. While there was no major scrapes or cuts, it did result in a lot of pain in the legs on Friday and Saturday when I try to walk from one place to another. However, the real issue is one that reflects the drop of attendance this year: it feels that with the July con date, the riots that plagued Baltimore last Spring, and the fact that this year is the penultimate year before the big move to the Washington Convention Center, there’s a “why bother” feel that ends up clashing with the more enjoyable portions of the con.

To better explain the clash between making the con exciting and having a “why bother” feel that contributed to the drop of attendance this year, let’s look at some of the different factors.

Badge Pick-Up: For a number of people, one factor that could have led to the drop of Otakon attendees was the mess that was Thursday night badge pick-up last year (with network problems resulting in long waits to get a badge and people having to wait until Friday to get their badges). Given that incident and the plan to distribute a good chunk of badges via mail, you would have thought Otakon would have fixed this problem for this year (which is one factor I had in terms of not getting my badge mailed to me this year). Instead, it looked like either Otakon failed to learn anything from last year’s debacle or, thinking that the problem is Baltimore Convention Center related, didn’t even bother to fix it properly. For starters, from what I heard, there were computer issues Thursday afternoon sometime after badge pick-up started, resulting in the line coming to a complete halt for at least a half-hour. It’s understandable to wait in the hot sun if you arrive in line before badge pick-up officially opens. However, to wait there an additional half-hour due to computer problems that should have been fixed following the mess from last year’s badge pick-up is completely inexcusable.

Then, once the systems was back up and the process of getting a badge only took a minute tops once at one of the registration booths, you would think the line would speed up. Nope. Sure, I’d finally got into the Convention Center and got as far as the Autograph area once the line started moving again. However, as I noticed once I got into the queue area for the registration booths, the staff was failing to properly refill the area as more and more people in it got their badges (basically, staff didn’t even bother to refill the queue until it was about 25% empty). As such, there were a number of times where the line leading to the queue area came to a complete stop. The end result: it took me THREE HOURS just to pick up my badge on Thursday (compared to an hour tops in the years Otakon did badge pick-up right and the one-and-a-half hours it took to get my badge the previous year once the line actually started moving), with at least an hour of the wait time being completely unnecessary due to computer problems and poor line handling.

Furthermore, the stuff that I just mentioned above refers just to MY negative experience waiting for a badge on Thursday night. For others, it was much worse. Given how big the line was, Otakon ending up closing off the line to those who haven’t gotten in it yet at 7:30PM. Even then, given the size of the line is and the problems that’s been going on with badge pick-up (both the computer issues and the poor management by staff), Otakon, given how they were only allowed to be in the Convention Center until a certain period of time, once again had to turn away people who were still in line when they ended badge pick-up for the night.

The good news was that to make up for this problem, Otakon opened up Badge Pick-Up earlier on Friday morning for those who didn’t get a badge on Thursday (and those who were doing on-site registration). Furthermore, to ensure fairness, those who get their badges before the official opening time of Otakon still had to wait outside of the Pratt Street entrance once they got it. However, that doesn’t really make up for the problems that happened the night before.

One thing’s for sure: the failure of learning from last year’s mistake (and the knowledge of how smoothly my roommate was able to get everything squared away in terms of getting a mailed badge) is definitely going to result in me opting for the mailed badge option next year, as it’s obvious that Otakon is not realizing what they did wrong these last two years in terms of Thursday night badge pick-up.

Panels: When it came to the panels that I attended this year, it was a mix of both industry and fan panels.

For the industry panels, to begin with, yeah, many people felt it was a waste to attend the Aniplex panel (which didn’t announce anything) over the Viz panel (which had some manga announcements). However, in my case, I had my own reasons for choosing this one over the other, be it the Sony Walkman giveaway (having watched the livestream of Aniplex’s Anime Expo panel, I was aware that they’d be giving these away at their Otakon panel), the fact that it was a floor above the Programming Ops (with me needing to stop there for reasons that I’ll bring up later), or the aforementioned leg pain that I was having Friday and Saturday. Discotek, on the other hand, was worth holding off my departure from Baltimore until 2:00 PM, with a couple of announcements spread throughout the panel and some silliness that is definitely missing from other industry panels (i.e. the Rayearth BD Box Art with the wonky image of Umi, the discussion of the making of the Castle of Cagliostro box art including a slide of Lupin in front of a Love Live image). Finally, for those who feel underwhelmed about the big announcement at the Funimation panel (i.e. Funi getting Speed Racer), here’s a few points I need to make:

1. Given how negotiations for it haven’t even started around the time of Anime Expo, news of Funimation announcing Dragon Ball Super at Otakon were very doubtful in the first place;

2. Funimation’s big Otakon announcement in recent years has usually been a license rescue of a major anime title (i.e. Akira, Cowboy Bebop, Haruhi Suzumiya), with Speed Racer following in these footsteps (heck, when Rojas mentioned that the final announcement involved an older anime, my first thought was that Funi had license rescued Neon Genesis Evangelion);

3. The Funimation license of Speed Racer will likely mark a new era for the franchise, as not only was the licensing handled by the original Japanese studio, Tatsunoko (instead of the American-based Speed Racer Enterprises), but also the release will include the original Japanese version of the show.

4. If I remember correctly, there were only two title announcements at Anime Expo. Otakon, on the other hand, had FOUR title announcements.

As for the regular panels: the main ones that I attended were Awesomely Bad Japanese Music Videos (after Anime USA 2013, it has become a regular panel for me) and a panel that compares a season Power Rangers (in this case, RPM) with its Super Sentai equivalent.

For Awesomely Bad Japanese Music Videos, given how they only had an hour at Otakon, there wasn’t as many videos shown this time around when compared to other cons. A bummer, considering how there’s a couple of videos that I wished were shown at the Otakon 2015 screening, more particularly Galo Sengen (thanks to Yandere Simulator) and The End of Shite (given the badge design for those who picked up their badge at Otakon). However, the panel had some of the Tarako “badness” that has me coming back to this panel on regular basis, with the Otakon panel including an element from the Animazement 2015 panel, in which a “computer glitch” results in Tarako invading other videos, only to be stopped by “Awesomely Bad” fan favorite Complex. Also, the people handling the panel made sure that the most recent “awesomely bad” music video to come out of Japan, Ladybaby’s “Nippon Manju”, was showcased during the hour block.

Meanwhile, the Power Rangers panel was interesting, as it discussed the differences between the RPM and the Super Sentai show it was based on, Go-Onger (with my main familiarity of the Super Sentai series coming from Linkara’s “History of Power Rangers” review and season producer Eddie Guzelian's reaction to Go-Onger after he pitched RPM as a “darker” season of Power Rangers). One thing’s for sure: when it comes to music-based attacks, I’d take Dr. K (the one providing the “Ranger tech” in the season) doing a sound-based attack on her violin over the female Go-Ongers and the female general of the villains performing a la an idol group. Following the panel, I tried looking for Zyuranger (the show that the original Power Rangers series was based on) in the Dealers’ Room, with me opting to order it on Amazon (using a $10 credit I got from work) when I couldn’t find it there.

AMV Contest: This year’s AMV Contest was somewhat different for me. After years of just watching and voting in the contest (and pre-judging in 2002), this year, I actually made a video for the contest. Sadly, my entry didn’t make it into the finals (although it did manage to make it into the main show at Anime Mid-Atlantic). However, given how I made a video for the contest, I did get a badge that entitled me to sit in the reserved seats during the contest. Also, Otakon gave me a good opportunity to do something with my current AMV project what I wanted to do with the Otakon entry: give it a proper “beta test” and get an idea from others if there’s anything that needs to be fixed. With the feedback from the beta screenings, I’m was able to put the finishing touches on my latest AMV project and put it online just before I finished typing up this report.

As for the contest itself, one thing to say is this: this year, due to the early con date, there were less submissions to Otakon than in previous years. Also, from what I read, there wasn’t as much Action, Upbeat, and Comedy submissions this time around (I could definitely understand the drop in Comedy, as quite a few people who submitted to that category or Upbeat in the past instead went the Romance/Sentimental route this year). In terms of Action and Comedy, the effects of not getting that many submissions as usual was definitely visible IMO. With Action, the only videos that I found to be decent were the ones that bookend the category (one, which won at Anime Expo, was set to Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood; the other, which won in the category, was set to Yuu Yuu Hakusho). Meanwhile, the Comedy videos weren’t as great as some of the ones that played at Anime Expo (that’s one negative result of Otakon’s “no trolling” rule: some of the funnier videos of the year may end up being ineligible for Otakon due to it already winning something before the Otakon deadline). However, the first half of the Drama category had a lot of great videos, be it a Kingdom Hearts video that was very technical in terms of editing, a DBZ video that focuses on the friendship between Goku and Krillin (that video eventually won the Drama category) and a Memories video that mixes the Magnetic Rose and Stink Bomb segments to create a tale set to a cover of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”.

Then, there’s the Upbeat category, and if my Otakon entry ended up being put into this category instead of the Comedy category that I originally asked to be put it (that’s what happened when I sent the video to Anime Expo), then I can definitely understand the reason why I didn’t make the cut. This year’s Upbeat competition was one of the better ones in recent years, with plenty of great videos making up the category. Among the highlights of the category:

-A video that is best described as anime version of those “live mashup” videos on Youtube (the winner in the Upbeat category);
-A Noragami video that takes a different turn in terms of how I’d do an AMV set to “Immortals” from Big Hero 6;
-An epic video setting various sources to the film version of “You Can’t Stop the Beat” from Hairspray (the Best in Show winner, finally ending the long streak of the Otakon “Best in Show” being a Comedy video);
-A video that suggests that Shouyou from Haikyuu is really a robot (more specifically, QT from Space Dandy) in disguise.

Cosplay: This is where I’m really torn in terms of the “why bother” aspect. On one side of the spectrum, this was one of those years with a higher amount of cosplay photos, and once I think about it, there’s definitely some variety in terms of the titles that the cosplayers I took pictures of represent. As for why I consider it a possible reason for this year’s Otakon feeling like a “why bother” year, it has to do with two aspects.

The first aspect involves the fact that most of the cosplay photos I took this year fell into one of three categories: Nintendo (although there was definitely a great variety of Nintendo cosplay this year), JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure (Stardust Crusaders is currently my favorite anime of the season, followed by season 2 of Kin-Iro Mosaic), and Other. That kinda gets to one issue: to me, it felt like most cosplay focused on the same “main” titles (be it popular anime titles, video games, or American cartoons), and I didn’t really see too many of the “unique” (AKA lesser known anime/video games) “oddball” (AKA properties you don’t expect see cosplayed at an anime convention) or “fast” (AKA a cosplay involving something that is less than a month old) cosplay that has me interested in taking a photo of.

At the same time, it does feel like some of the more exciting cosplay aspects were missing this year. Yeah, I spent most of Friday either in panels/events or in line waiting for the Dealers’ Room, and with a busy schedule of Iron Editor, AMV Contest Results, and Ponies: The Anthology III, I may have missed the highlights of the Masquerade. However, even with me being busy, I thought I would have seen one of those more “extreme” cosplays a la the Metal Gear Rex from last year’s Otakon and the Gon from Katsucon a months ago. Also, besides making sure I get in line for the Dealers Room ASAP on Friday, I have another reason to wait outside the Convention Center on Friday and Saturday morning: in hopes of getting some cosplay photos of those who pass by. While I did manage to get a Splatoon cosplay on Friday, it was very much dead cosplay wise when waiting for the Convention Center to open on Saturday to the point where I eventually started to question whether or not Otakon had a “why bother” attitude this year and if most Otakon attendees this time around are more people looking for something to do for the weekend instead of “geeks” like me who attend these cons on a regular basis and have grown fond of the weirder aspects that are common at these events.

Dealers Room: Despite having tons of money to spend this time around, my shopping spree at the Otakon Dealers Room was small enough to fit just one Funimation bag. This can be contributed to most vendors not having items that would interest me, one item that I was looking for not coming out until August, and me already ordering the main Wave 5 Amiibos I want when they come out to avoid the chaos of finding them either at Otakon or in American retail stores (a good move, as one of them was Palutena, an Amazon exclusive that went on sale while I was at the con).

However, even I only had enough to fill one Funimation bag, I still got a lot of good stuff at the convention. For starters, I did pick a few more anime films for my anime collection (including Robot Carnival, which was sold out on Friday, thus showing that a lot of us older anime fans remember that film). Other anime purchases also included a couple of Sentai titles that I used for my current AMV project (AKA the one I beta-tested at the con). Also, given how I’ve grown addicted to the Love Live mobile game (although I took a break in July so it won’t interfere with Otakon), I picked up the first “Best of” CD (with me tempted to pick up the recently released second “Best of” CD, but eventually deciding to hold that off until another day).

Finally, the real fun game with what Video Games New York had to offer. My main reason for stopping there was simple enough: a new game in Bandai Namco’s Taiko series had just come out for the Vita, and I wanted to see if Video Games New York had it for sale. Sure enough, they had it. However, that was only the start of what that vendor had to offer. For starters, they also had copies of one game that I was searching for since last year, Puyo Puyo Tetris (a game that blends the two puzzle games together into one experience), with that game being the first import game for my Playstation 4. Also, the vendor also had copies of a book that I wanted to read pertaining to the Nintendo/Sega video game wars of the 1990’s, which was also added to my shopping list. Finally, there was one more game (an RPG featuring characters from various anime) that I was interested in for some time. However, given my lack of knowledge in terms of reading Japanese (not to mention there were a couple more games coming out in the next couple of weeks to keep me busy), I decided to pass on it for now.

Other: Besides the stuff that I mentioned above, there’s a few other things at Otakon that I should mention.

To begin with, I actually found it to be very smart to have one of the big Japanese bands Otakorp got for the weekend, Back-On, perform not at the con itself, but rather the Matsuri festival the day before. To me, the outdoor atmosphere of the Matsuri works much better than if the concert was held on one of the lower floors of the Baltimore Convention Center. Also, the timing of the concert at 7:00PM was perfect, as those who had to endure the long wait of getting a badge on Thursday night could still be able to check the concert out, while those unaware that they won’t be able to get their badges that night due to the line closing will at least have something to do to ensure that the day wasn’t a total bust.

Meanwhile, the Video Game Room had something unique to make me want to check it out this year: the convention was able to get Tokyo Attack to supply arcade games this year, and the arcade games that they provided were quite different from what I usually expect from arcade machines in the Video Games Room. Yes, there’s still the usual Bemani games you expect from Konami (including more recent titles like Future Tom Tom). However, Tokyo Attack’s arcade library also includes some titles that I don’t usually see at most convention video game rooms. Among them include Dariusburst Another Chronicle (which is basically a four-player shooter game that utilizes two screens), Music GunGun! 2 (a game that mixes a “gun game” with a rhythm game), and Super Table-Flip! (a game that, as the title suggests, had players flipping a table during various situations).

As for the hotel room, while I stayed at the usual place, the Holiday Inn, this time, my roommate and I stayed at the West Tower (rather than the main building like the past few years). While I did stay in that building in 2007, things were much better this year. Concerns about the room size (when I originally stayed in the West Tower, the room only had one bed as a result of booking it late) disappeared when it was confirmed that the room was a two-bedder that I requested. The room was also close to an ice machine, which was perfect for either ice for my soda, ice for my sore leg, or to fill up my water bottle before I head to the Convention Center for the day. Finally, the elevator situation on Sunday morning was nowhere as bad as I was dreading. One thing’s for sure: my roommate definitely wants to stay at the West Tower again next year, but this time on the first floor, as it would be easy to transport his luggage to and from his van (and trust me when I say he has a lot of it). However, as you’ll see below, there may be some problems with that.

In the end, Otakon 2015 has been a mixed bag for me. On one hand, there definitely were enough things to keep me busy over the weekend, and I did have a lot of fun at the con on Friday and Saturday. On the other hand, there’s a number of things that could have been done better this time around. Whether it was the failure to learn from the mistakes last year (Thursday night badge pick-up), the July con date affecting some plans, or the “why bother” feeling that some people may have as a result of the Baltimore riots and this year’s Otakon not going to be as exciting as the next two years (with 2016 being the final year in Baltimore and 2017 being the first year in Washington DC), various factors did bring down the fun at this year’s con.

As I close, there’s a couple of additional things I have to talk about.

First, in terms my con plans for the next thirteen months, things are definitely crazy:

-Bronycon: I opting to skip the con this year, on the account that I’m that impressed with the current season of Friendship is Magic (it feels like the writers this season are trying too hard to either attract a new set of younger viewers or pander to the Bronies, forgetting that the show’s greatness actually came from a product that appealed to people of all ages just by being itself).

-Anime USA: After confirming that it will not interfere with my niece’s birthday (the main reason why I didn’t know whether or not I’d be attending it this year), I’ve finally pre-regged for the con, although it was a mess due to an email needed to reset my password that’s needed to register online not be sent to me (with me having to email the registration staff about the situation).

-Katsucon and MAGFest: The good news: neither con will interfere with my big plans for early 2016. The bad news: next year, MAGFest will take place the weekend after Katsucon. I still have plans to attend both cons (and plan to go my usual days for both of them). However, I’m not too happy about the idea of the conventions being back-to-back next year, especially if my bank account doesn’t recover from what I plan to do in early 2016 (I do have some money in savings, although some of it may go towards one of the things that’s part of my “big plans”).

-Otakon: Rather than waiting two weeks to do so (as next year’s Otakon is slated for August 12-14), the convention instead decided to open up their room booking for next year this past Wednesday, with me not knowing about it until my roommate mentioned it on Facebook. I was able to get a room at the Marriott while also on the waitlist for the Holiday Inn (while I don’t mind either hotel, as they are close to the Convention Center, price and the fact that the Marriott’s garage parking is too small for my roommate’s van will eventually lead to me sticking with the Holiday Inn if a room does become available).

Second, here’s some links to various things pertaining to my Otakon experience:

My Otakon Cosplay Pictures: http://acparadise.com/acs/display.php?c=13061
Otakon AMV Contest Entry: http://www.animemusicvideos.org/memb...o.php?v=198652
Video I Was Beta Testing at Otakon: http://www.animemusicvideos.org/memb...o.php?v=199038