[Con Report] Otakon 2018

This year, Otakon moved to Washington D.C.! Otakon 2017 took place in the beautiful Walter E. Washington Convention Center from August 11-13. This convention center gave the con a lot more space than the previous Baltimore Convention Center location. There were many attendees, but it didn’t feel too crowded or congested (although there were some LineCon moments).

I spent most of my Thursday traveling since I was carpooling with a group and we had to go from the New York area to Pennsylvania to Washington D.C. By the time I got to the convention, it was too late for me to pick up my press pass. I spent my Thursday night in casual Luo Tianyi (Vocaloid) cosplay and hanging out in my hotel, the Grand Hyatt, which was about a ten minute walk from the convention. I scouted out the area a bit, and discovered that it’s a very fancy neighborhood! Lots of luxury boutiques, nice wide sidewalks, and well-lit. I don’t recall any other convention location being so fancy and up-scale! My friend brought me a burger from Hard Rock Café for dinner, and I heard that both the Hard Rock Café as well as McDonald’s were in walking distance from the con too (even though I never went to either of those locations). It was easy for me to eat my dinner in the hotel lobby, which was really roomy (and also super fancy). For food during the con, I generally ate at the Starbucks that was in the middle of the route between my hotel and the con, or I ordered delivery since it was convenient and cheaper than eating at a restaurant.

On Friday, I cosplayed Victorian Maki and at first, I thought the weather was perfect. However, as the day went on, it got more and more humid, and it rained on and off. Luckily, I didn’t get caught directly in the rain, although I heard some other cosplayers did.

The photoshoot scene around this convention center was great! There is a park across the street, a Church area, and other great locations for shoots. The official convention hotel, the Marriott Marquis, has a beautiful lobby and upper level that many cosplayers and photographers took advantage of. It was also pretty easy to find a nook or cranny away from foot traffic at the convention center to grab some shots or set up an impromptu photoshoot.

The Dealers Room was open until 8pm on Friday, so I was able to check it out before it closed. It was huge! Definitely overwhelming at first (and I totally got lost a few times in that huge hall). There was a huge variety of merchandise, plus I was glad to see that there was a purikura machine at one of the vendor’s booths! For dinner, I checked Eat24 and ordered delivery and ate at the Marriott Marquis lobby with a big group of people, both old friends and new friends.

I didn’t go to the Artist Alley on Friday, but I was surprised by how late it was open! It was open until 11pm, so lots of people went to shop for art and fan-made merchandise late at night. Not all artists were at their tables so late, but it’s still a great option to have open for late shoppers.

On Saturday, I went to the official Love Live! photoshoot, but I ran really late (due to some LineCon traffic). I was cosplaying Ruby and unfortunately arrived to the location after they had already finished doing Aqours group photos and Ruby solo photos. I did capture some photos of the other cosplayers, and at the end, they did a group photo to include late people (I wasn’t the only late one!).

Before I changed out of Ruby, I dropped by the BJD meetup. I’ve never been to a BJD meetup before (although I always compliment people’s BJDs when I see them at cons). It was great seeing so many beautiful BJDs all in one place! The meetup was super chill, and I was welcomed despite not having a BJD of my own to share. This meetup took place in the Marriott Marquis lobby, and the pretty hotel lobby was the perfect backdrop for these precious dolls.

After the BJD meetup, I switched to my Luo Tianyi Millennium Recipe Song cosplay and attended the Vocaloid photoshoot. This was a chill and fun gathering, and I thought it was really cute when a Miku asked to have all the Mikus take a photo with the 10th anniversary banner! There were so many amazing Vocaloid cosplayers, and I was happy to see some rarer cosplays like Oliver. After I left the photoshoot, I bumped into some Chinese tourists in the lobby who recognized my cosplay! It was really exciting that they recognized Tianyi, and they also had no idea that the convention was going on that weekend.

Later on during Saturday evening, I caught the end of the Touken Ranbu photoshoot. I liked how Otakon had official “Photoshoot” locations so gatherings like this one can take place without obstructing traffic.

One of my Otakon highlights was the Masquerade! At first, it was confusing to figure out seating for press. I asked multiple staff members, the information booths, and eventually was told to go right to the entrance for the Main Events Ballroom. I waited at the front of the line, off to the side for a while, until I was able to get a staff member for help and she kindly took me inside and showed me where the press seating was. It was a bit stressful trying to figure out the Masquerade seating, but it was well worth the wait! I got a seat right in the front, and was able to enjoy the whole show. The walk-ons for the Hall Cosplay Contest were at the beginning, and I was impressed by everyone’s breath-taking costumes. After the Hall Cosplay Contest, the skits began! The host was fun, and the American Sign Language interpreters caught my eyes as well. Otakon also had a hashtag on Twitter for the Masquerade, and I participated a few times. They featured some of the tweets throughout the event, which was a fun personal touch. I appreciated how all of the skits were fun to watch even if you were not familiar with the fandom. For example, there were a few Fire Emblem skits and I have no idea what Fire Emblem is other than the fact that it’s a popular game.

Since I was at the Masquerade, I didn’t hear about the Otakon “flood” until I got out. There was a rainstorm, and some water started coming down from the ceiling of the Artist Alley. I heard that staff was quick to clear the room of attendees, although there was confusion over what had actually happened for a while. I’m glad no one got hurt!

Sunday was the first day when I actually got to browse the Artist Alley and buy stuff. The only thing I bought prior (besides food) was a CD on Friday night (and that CD was an amazing find — it was the first Daiya no Ace character CD that I’ve seen in person!). The Artist Alley felt as big as the Dealers Room: yet another place where I got lost trying to find tables I wanted to see. I was really excited to see some Daiya no Ace art, and of course bought everything I didn’t have yet. Otakon is such a great place to shop at because there are so many options. Original art, fanart, plushies, pillows, fashion, and more in the Artist Alley. And in the Dealers Room, there’s a ton of merchandise too: anime and manga merchandise, DVDs, CDs, stage play stuff, manga, doujinshi, plushies, figures, clothing, wigs, and more! You can find non-anime merchandise too. For example, I saw a ton of Voltron stuff in the Artist Alley.

Toward the end of my Sunday, I had my first epic rush-to-make-a-final-purchase experience. I’ve never done this before, but a friend texted me a photo of a Seido snapback. I’ve seen this floating around online, but I’ve never seen it in person and freaked out when I saw that text… and I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t find it. It was in the Dealers Room but I had no idea which booth it was at. As I power-walked back to the Dealers, I bumped into a friend who was also a Daiya fan and asked her if she’d seen it. She hadn’t even heard about it, so she freaked out too and we went on a quest to find them (and enlisted the help of her mom along the way). We found one booth that had snapbacks, but not the Seido one. They did say they might have it at their other booth… so we set off on a quest across Dealers to their second booth. I didn’t realize Dealers could have more than one booth until this moment, but it makes sense to cover your bases if you can since the room is so big. As the speakers announced that shoppers had 10 minutes left to make final purchases before closing time, we found the snapbacks! And the best part was this: there were exactly two left.

The end of my con involved me purchasing the hat and then looking for my carpool buddies for the trip home. This was another interesting search since the con was so big. When you try to look for someone in “the big hall area in front of the main escalators and staircase” — this is quite a busy and wide area. In any case, since I’m writing this now, I got back to NYC safe and sound!

In conclusion, I had lots of fun at Otakon 2017 and hope I’ll be able to make it to the con again in 2018. I love the new venue and can’t wait to see what’s in store next year.

Con Report by Li Mei | IG: @pearlpeony | Tumblr: @xiaorawr | Twitter: @treizemacarons

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