Otakon Online occured on Saturday, August 1, 2020 on Otakon’s various Twitch channels. In response to the worldwide pandemic, Otakon held their anime show on a virtual platform. There were a few panel rooms that featured topics of fandom discussion. A handful of industry guests – Yuki Hayashi, Kaoru Wada, Shinichiro Watanabe, Celeina Ann – among others showed up to represent the eastern and western anime industry. If Anime Expo focused on the industry side, Otakon focused on the fan community side. Both events were enjoyable in their regard.
We did participate in Otakon Online as panelists. We presented “Make Mine Mecha.” This was a whirlwind version of our giant robot panel. Given that the time of this online convention was on a Saturday on an east coast schedule, we woke up bright and early in our west coast home to do the presentation. Our panel was one of the first panels of the con. “The audience was a lot more interactive than other events, everything went smoothly,” said Jared the Greek.
And once we were done with hosting our presentation, we decided to hop on our laptops to see what else Otakon Online had to offer. After all, it’s been years since we have been to Otakon! Our last time was the last year at Baltimore.
I really enjoyed the one time I attended Anime MST3K. I thought I could enjoy it online with a live chat going on. Today’s animated atrocity was Twinkle Space Nora Rock Me. It’s an 80s science fiction anime that’s all over the place. For MST3K fans, the aesthetics are spot on in their otaku adaptation of the beloved series. However, what I like about MST3K at cons is when it’s done live. You have the actors / panelists also chiming in with audience commentary and riffs. The chat was also making jabs at the anime.
If you are morbidly curious, Twinkle Space Nora Rock Me is on YouTube.
Coming off our Make Mine Mecha panel, we decided to check out some panels about our favorite giant robots from Japan. There was a Gundam Wing anniversary panel where the host talked about the history of the TV series. Like Anime MST3K, the best part was interacting with Gundam fans in the chatroom. We started talking about our favorite pilots, songs, Gundam cosplays we had planned, etc. I made quite a few friends in the chat while attending this panel that talked about my first Gundam series!
We also checked out a Gundam merch panel wherein the host talked about the weirdest and wildest Gundam merch. While Jared the Greek did attend this panel at Anime Boston and now is the owner of Uniqlo gunpla and shirts, we were just enthralled by the amount of tie-ins the popular franchise has teamed up with. While I was aware of a few of them, including the Zaku “massager,” this franchise still amazes me. Jared the Greek’s favorite merch covered was the Haro roomba and he would like to own one for novelty. Of course, the panel also covered Gundam Base, a Gundam themed shop in Odaiba. The presenter also talked about the time John Boyega (Star Wars) picked up some gunpla (aka gundam model kits). (John Boyega, if you’re reading this please do a Twitch show on building Gunpla!)Speaking of robots, I also checked out the Sakura Taisen panel. It’s very rare you will find folks covering Sakura Taisen at cons these days. I was actually tweeting out to the presenter about the time I cosplayed as Erica Fontaine at Otakon Vegas. Unfortunately, the presenter had technical issues and had to start over again. I felt really sorry for them, but I was happy to find Sakura Taisen content here!
Mike Toole is a veteran in the anime industry. His panel was about Korean versions of Japanese anime. This panel was so intriguing, we ended up inviting a non-otaku in our household to check it out. While the concept of Korean knockoff Japanese anime sounds mesmerizing on paper, Mike talked about the history of Korean animation and its beginnings. Korean animation was so inspired by Japanese anime, they have also created their own giant robots as well. Due to time, the panel was cut short. This would be a really interesting to see the full presentation.
And we just had to check out th Girls Und Panzer panel. While it covered the basics of the sport of tankery in the anime and in real life, the best part of this presentation were the slides.
On some more serious notes, there was also a mental health panel run by actual mental health professionals. This presentation covered mental health issues in anime. The one they focused on the most was Welcome to the NHK. The three panelists went on about hikkomori – the people who have major social anxiety and have trouble interacting with the outside world. The panelists also talked about hikkomori in real life – how it is perceived in Japan and the reasons why folks might be living in this lifestyle. The audience posed questions about hikkomori affording their otaku lifestyle without having job skills. This was a different mental health panel that I’m used to attending. I do applaud that it is run by people in the field and not some rando influencer.
Otakon Online was short and sweet. The virtual ended in the early afternoon for us west coast cats. While there were other events running throughout the day including Japanese guest spotlights, cosplay contest, etc, the fan panels were the most intriguing because it really did feel like a community was building in the live chat. Whether a panel was presented pre-recorded or live, it was really fun to interact with likeminded folks. Much like Anime Expo’s virtual event, people are dying to make connections in this pandemic. Fan panels that focused in on specific fandoms made that space for fans of all generations of something to get together and build community.
Overall, I enjoyed Otakon Online. What panels we attended were strong. I wished we could have done everything. Attending Otakon Online makes us want to visit Otakon again. While we have sent our east coast team to cover Otakon as press for the past few years in DC, the west coast team really misses this community. There’s a lot of generation of otaku represented in this fan space and I felt there was something for everyone here. If anything, the content and quality of Otakon Online makes us miss attending Otakon proper. Maybe in 2021 we will be with Crabby and Friends…