Wow, I thought I was late with my Anime Boston write-up, but Otakon 2016 takes the laziness award. I thought about scrapping this article altogether, but seeing how I’d left myself detailed notes AND Otakon 2016 marks the anime convention’s final year in Baltimore it was worth writing about. So enjoy a very, very late con report. 2017 should be better, especially since I’ll only be attending one convention.
Arriving in Baltimore and seeing all of the “Thank You, Otakon!” signs really made it clear that this was the anime con’s last year in the city. The convention has been hosted here since 1999. I would have liked our last year at the convention to be a big one, with an entire group of friends attending, but once again it was just my boyfriend and me. At the hotel all of the staff wore commemorative pins noting Otakon’s 1999 to 2016 span in Baltimore. Once we were settled into the room, we set out to pick up our badges.
Badge pickup was easier than ever. There was NO line and it took us only 15 minutes to get our badges, compared to two hours or more during previous years. 2016 marks the year that Otakon began mailing out badges and the results were impressive. It makes you wonder why the con resisted this for so long, given how much easier it made the lives of con-goers and staff. Long lines outside of would have been a disaster given the incredibly stifling heat.
When we returned to the hotel room we had every intention of playing a few video games before bed. It was simply too hot outside to enjoy the Matsuri. The hotel (which used to be the Sheraton, but now is the Radission) did not have TVs with HDMI ports. This means we couldn’t play any of the gaming consoles we brought with us. As a solution, we took a taxi to Target and bought a small TV. The taxi round-trip total was $40. Worse, the original cabby who gave us his number, did not get back to us when we called, but the company sent a second cab. The wait for the cab took about 30 minutes.
Getting the TV was barely worth it, given the crappy picture. I was able to play games, but discovered I didn’t have an interest in playing much of anything on console.
I ended up oversleeping and missed the Sentai Filmworks panel at 10:15. With my next panel in the afternoon, I explored the convention and part of downtown Baltimore for an hour before heading back to my room. I wanted to take as many interesting pictures as possible. I noted the lines for registration were MUCH shorter than in previous years, thanks to the badge mailing option. Also, the heat and humidity were intense and made it difficult to stay outside for long periods. When I returned to my room my clothes were completely drenched in sweat.
I stayed inside until mid-afternoon, then left to explore the dealer’s room for a few hours. The room was crowded, but the selection of merchandise was awesome, as always. I also picked up some of the free swag bags that Crunchyroll offered premium members. The bag was meant to hold merchandise while being worn like a backpack, think of it as a mall shopping back with straps advertising one of CR’s currently streaming shows. I settled on the Berserk bag. I ultimately left the bag in my hotel room until it was time to take it home.
I spent the rest of the evening attending the Viz Media panel in the Hilton, then stayed for the FUNimation panel that immediately followed. Both industry panels had some exciting announcements, and I took notes (which won’t be turned into articles and published). After taking pictures of cosplyers, I left the convention center and tried out some of the new stores that had been recently built.
I spent the morning playing on my 3DS. When I finally left my hotel room, I made it just in time for the Crunchyroll panel. I left my hotel room 20 minutes before the start of the panel and spanned the distance from the hotel room to the panel room in less than 15 minutes. There was a room clear, so the line outside of the panel was long, but there was plenty of room inside. Again, CR had some exciting announcements and cool give-aways.
I returned to the room for an hour and played a while longer on my 3DS before returning to the con with my boyfriend. We explored the dealer’s room to pick up a few items, then left to check out the gaming room. On the way, we found the area where photoshoots are being held inside (since it was too hot to take pictures outside) and stopped by an Overwatch shoot, which is the biggest thing everyone was talking about. The selection at the gaming room wasn’t very impressive, with Street Fighter V, Mortal Kombat X, and Guilty Gear Xrd being the main attractions, but there were Japanese style arcade games, and other games such as Mario Kart Double Dash. The breadth and depth of games just weren’t as interesting as those found at Anime Boston.
We left the gaming room to attend the Aniplex panel, which was probably the most interesting of the four panels. Like the FUNimation panel, it was also an hour and a half long. There were announcements and prizes given away. As always, the only downside to Aniplex releases are the prices.
After the panel, we decided since it was our last year in Baltimore to try seafood in the area besides the sushi restaurant. We found a place called Bubba Gump in the Inner Harbor. It was based on the Forest Gump movie. The servers even had FG movie trivia while we waited for our seafood. The food was expensive, but very good.
I felt pretty bummed out that it would be our last day in Baltimore. Part of me was also excited for a bigger and better con in Washington DC in 2017.
Before leaving, we made a final trip to the dealer’s room. It was even more crowded than on Saturday. We didn’t stay for very long and skipped going to the artist alley.
We attended the “Road to DC Panel,” but stopped at the Otakon Museum first and got a brief rundown of Otakon’s first days in State College, PA, to Otakon Vegas, to the final days in Baltimore. Two older staff members gave us a brief history of the con and their personal history. One man had donated all of the Otakon badges and guidebooks to the museum. The Road to DC panel was mostly a Q&A session and was packed to near capacity. Thanks to it, the closing ceremonies started a half hour late because there was not a room clear and staff had to find open seats for people wanting to get in. Overall, the closing ceremonies were helpful, being a mixture of questions about Otakon 2017 in DC and a thank you to Baltimore. As we left, I took one last look around the Baltimore Convention Center.
On the way out of Baltimore we took a trip to Chaps Pit Beef. I had heard of Pit Beef from both ANNCast and Anime World Order. The food was just as good as promised and was a 15 minute drive from the BCC, which is why I’d never heard of it before. Interestingly enough, the restaurant was located on a highway, just next to a strip club.
Overall con thoughts:
-Mailing the badges helped out tremendously. Con-goers no longer had to stand in line for hours just to pre-register or register. The process was the smoothest I’ve ever seen at Otakon and it’s a shame it took the con years to start mailing out badges.
-The first day was crowded, but the second day was more relaxed. Most of the attendees crowded one side of the con, leaving other areas clear.
-The hotel we stayed at was okay under new management, but I wish it was still the Sheraton.
-The heat really put a damper on everything. It was difficult to enjoy the con while struggling to deal with a suffocating humidity.
Next year’s Otakon will be on August 11th, and when I grabbed a hotel room for the con much of the nearby space filled up fast. The hotel connected to the convention center sold out within two minutes of being available. If you’re planning to attend Otakon 2017, you should be looking for a room now, if everything reasonable hasn’t sold out.
My full gallery of pictures from the convention can be found here.