Tag Archives: Otakon

Otakon Ahoy!

26 Jul

Sorry, no events for this weekend. Be at Otakon, or be square!

Time for some BASS CANNON!

And please message me @iSaunter on Twitter if you’re there. I’d love to meet my readers!

DistrictGeek’s Bronycon Report

10 Jul

Preface: If you don’t know what a brony is, I recommend you reading at least the preface and first chapter of my e-book: My Little Brony: Our Fandom is Magic.

In the words of Rainbow Dash, this was the best con ever!

It started six months ago.  I skipped the winter Bronycon because I was far too busy during the holidays.  When they announced the next Bronycon was moving to a bigger venue, it was tempting enough for me to commit to going.  The commitment was shaky; I was disappointed when BroNYCon was moved to BroNJcon (they changed venues to the Meadowlands in New Jersey).  This was a damper for many – those in prior attendance claimed that it was much more fun to be in the heart of New York City with fellow bronies.  Still, I have been to enough anime and science fiction conventions to know when one looks good, and I bought in.

While all conventions take volunteers (which provides free admission), I had never volunteered for Otakon because of its sheer size. To volunteer would be taking too much time away from attempting to see everything (which I am never successful with at Otakon).  Bronycon seemed small enough that I could put in a few hours and still manage to see everything I wanted to. Further solidifying my commitment, I accepted a position in registration and was even approved to wear a costume while working.

Tada~

I am a massive fan of costumes. Hallowe’en is my favourite holiday, and conventions are an awesome excuse to dress up at other times.  If you have knowledge of anime costumes, then you should know that they are often known for their candy-coloured wigs and odd outfits, which are based off the animation designs.  However, in My Little Pony most ponies don’t wear clothes.  As such, it requires creative license to make costumes.  They fall into three general categories:

  • Fursuits – making costumes that look like the actual ponies
  • Anthropomorphic cosplay – Wearing ears, horns, wings, and a tail, so you look like a human/pony hybrid
  • Human cosplay – Wearing outfits and wigs to look like the pony, but if the character was in human form

While I enjoy neko (cat anthropomorphism), I’m not too big into wearing a horn on my head, so I have made all my pony costumes as human.  And yes, it is already costumes plural.  I have made four cosplays thus far, to varying degrees of difficulty.  Some are just taking a wig and making outfits, as seen above.

This red and blue beauty was fully made-from-scratch.  I am proud of it; this is the most difficult costume I had made to date.  I was hoping to enter this into the Bronycon and Otakon costume contests.  These contests typically judge outfits based on craftsmanship.   Unfortunately, Otakon does not allow original costumes made for characters – those entering the costume contest must be exact replicas of the cartoon character.  That means only Fursuits can enter the Otakon contest.  And Bronycon’s costume contest… well, let’s just say that their inexperience showed.  There were no registrations or qualifications and I literally had to hunt down a pass to enter the contest.

I didn’t get to keep it though T_____T

While you may not have a clue why these costumes are My Little Pony themed, I’ll tell you the secret: Each pony has a mark on their flank, called a “cutie mark”.  Having this symbol on your person will show which character you are meant to be, even if the outfit is difficult to interpret.  For example, in the blue-haired costume, the joined eighth notes are the cutie mark for the DJ Vinyl Scratch.  In the fancy “steampunk” outfit, my handbag is one of the cutie marks of the Flim Flam brothers.

Hm, a collage of ponies’ marks

But enough about what I wore, let’s get back to the con!

In addition to spending a ton of time making my FlimFlam costume, I also decided to sell some of the pony sundries that I had been making as gifts and for my Etsy.  This turned into sharing a sales table with a fellow DC brony.  Which turned into me wanting to make as much as possible to sell.  This insured that the two weeks prior to the convention were rushed and contained very little time for sleep.

But so many Discords to sell!

Suffice it to say that when we all met to carpool up to Jersey at 7am Friday morning, the four of us were hyped up on lack of sleep, eustress, and adrenaline.  I had the responsibility of riding shotgun, and conversation flowed freely on the 4+ hour drive.  I also have the responsibility of running the DC bronies Twitter account, and there were more than enough excited tweets to retweet and spread the hype on the way up.

We arrived a little after noon, and in the parking garage we began to see My Little Pony stickers adorning cars.  In the hotel lobby, we automatically began greeting everyone warmly.  If they were not bronies, they’d just shrug and leave, but bronies stood and welcomed each other. Many were wearing pony shirts, making for easy identification.  I quickly realized that one such person I welcomed was a Dutch brony that had a high-powered laser in his luggage.  In the world of bronies, he’s known as Laser Pon3.  I gave him a sticker that I made, and thus began the exchange of friendship with strangers who became incredibly close friends by the end of the weekend.

For SCIENCE!

As I volunteered to work pre-registration, I dropped my bags, tossed on my Vinyl Scratch costume and went over to the Meadowlands Exposition Center.  This weekend, it would be known as Bronycon.

Also note the massive truck that had screens on both sides and played pony episodes and pony music nonstop!

Besides the massive sign out front, the first thing we noticed was that there was an impressive set of stairs where bronies were gathering.  This turned out to be ground zero for bronies when the con wasn’t open.

For a young con (I might say this a lot), registration wasn’t too confusing, although I had to get two badges – one for vending, one for volunteering. (Thankfully, I didn’t need my general admission badge, too!)  In less than an hour, I set up a display rack for my sales table and was trained to register.

Then I was up and running, greeting attendees both famous and not, from near and far.  I made it a game to ask where folks were from (Massachusetts and Ottawa were quite common), their mode of transport, their hotel.  Everyone was nice, although some were quite shy.  It’s for those shy folks that I put in the extra effort.  I am so glad that the Bronies can welcome and accept folks that may enjoy it, but not yet know how to express themselves yet.  Lord knows I was a wallflower throughout my grade school years, and many attendees were of that age.  They ranged from under 10 to a man who I believe was 70+ and carried the “oldest Brony” sign with him as a mark of honour.  I hope I’m that cool when I grow up.

One such character ended up being the “Master of Ceremonies”!

I began to feel woozy at 8pm.  Running on 4 hours of sleep and adrenaline, my body was giving in.  Thankfully, I recognized the signals and redoubled my effort to have fun and chat up everyone that passed my gaze, using those good feelings to keep me awake.  It was tough, but I made it to 10pm and then immediately passed out at the hotel.  The sleep was badly needed.

At 7am Saturday I woke up and sneaked into the con using my vendors’ badge.  It was a bit of a disappointment not to wait in line to enter – that is a tradition at Otakon that has become expected.  As vendors, we also got first dibs at others’ works, and I was still shopping around when the floodgates opened.  (Unfortunately, people were let in 15 minutes before opening, so I had to fight to get my last items from vendors that were now swamped with bronies throwing their money around.)

My booth was much quieter, and while I did manage to sell the full dozen of my Discord figures within three hours, my gloves, charms, and stickers did not sell well.  I was not disappointed, however.  I counted myself as one of many vendors who sold out before the day was over, and the lack of continued sales lent us time to be able to enjoy the con activities.

So… Much… Pony… (and my sales partner, Door)

There were very few panels that I wanted to see, with the exception of the first Voice Actors panel.  Everything that I attended I could barely hear – a combination of poor acoustics, poor audio engineering, and  the chatter of 4,000 bronies.  Thankfully, Everfree Radio recorded the panels and the sound was slightly better on playback after the con.  Panels that occurred, but I did not participate in, include Twitter roleplay, musicians, podcasters, pony music videos, artists, and fan fiction.

Perhaps the most enjoyable event was watching the premiere of the newest episode of the fan parody, Friendship is Witchcraft.  When I’m watching episodes with other bronies, I feel a sense of connectedness, and when we all laugh and applaud and cheer on the show, it is exhilarating.

Photo by XyroTR1 Creative Commons Share-Alike Attribution 3.0. Link to MASSIVE pic.

Three major guests elicited the same response.  The first was Lauren Faust, creator and mastermind of the rebooted series.  The second is John De Lancie, also known as Q from Star Trek, who played a Q-like villain on the show. Finally, Tara Strong, the voice actress for the main character (Twilight Sparkle) is known as “queen of the Bronies” due to her massive trolling campaign on Twitter.  While only De Lancie may be normally treated as royalty, these three all were treated like rock stars at Bronycon.  The bronies were unrelenting in their cheers, gifts, requests for autographs, and praise-rain.  I did not partake in these activities. While they are great, I did not have a spare $30 an autograph to meet these famous contributors face to face.  But from what I saw of them, they all seemed like genuinely good people.

Beware the crowd of bronies! Security!

De Lancie also had in his tow a documentary crew of over 20 people who were filming the con for Bronycon: The Documentary, which is meant to shed positive light on the fandom.  Sadly, many that don’t take the time to learn about bronies still think that we are all are gay, or worse, pedophiles.  Let me say: if there are bad bronies, none were at Bronycon.  Not only was there was nothing bad going down at the con, most didn’t even drink.  We were all high on happiness and friendship, as cheesy as it sounds.

With LASERS!

I was definitely on cloud nine at what was called “BronyPalooza”, a rave which featured only music done by Brony musicians.  They have made music of every genre – from dubstep to rap to eurobeat, so it wasn’t hard to put together a two hour long music marathon.

Yes, there were even fursuits.  Photo by XyroTR1 Creative Commons Share-Alike Attribution 3.0

My buddy Laser Pon3 even put on a show, and it was so beautiful, in combination with sharing the moment with so many other bronies, that I had an existential moment – I was so amazed and glad to be watching this, but also wished I could remember it forever, even after I was gone.  But I blinked away my fears and immersed myself in the moment.  There was epic dancing, glowsticks everywhere, and even a few of the guests of honor got up on stage and danced!

Also Meetup’s pic, not mine.

During the rave, folks moshed, grinded, even crowd surfed!  And to end it all, the final performer, Mic the Microphone, stage dived into the crowd.  I have never witnessed such a willing crowd surge toward a common goal.  It was insane.

Best of the glowey things! (My blue-haired character) Links to slayerdarkcross on DA.

No one wanted to sleep after that.  Unfortunately, my group was unable to find a hopping party, so we parted ways and tried to get some sleep.

I dreamed about bronies.

I woke unable to speak, my body aching, reminding me of the epic night.  The DC brony group was giving gifts to the major guests in the morning, and I joined the group in line – the second of two massive lines needed just to get an autograph, averaging 2-5 hours total.  When we were nearing the head of the line, we saw near the center of the main forum a fire dripping from one of the lights.  The panelists told everyone to evacuate, but instead the crowd just tweeted and took pictures.

For Example.

I looked behind us, found the emergency exit, told folks of its existence, and then also began to tweet.  Everyone stood around, clueless.  It was hilarious.  Judging by the location of the fire, I think it may have been started due to a rogue glow-necklace that was thrown up there the night before.  Either way, we eventually evacuated, and ended up giving gift 1 of 2 to Tara strong outside.

Ignore the male Fluttershy in the foreground 😛

Then it was back to waiting in line, another hour before we could wave from a distance to Faust as our representative delivered our gift to her.  It was anticlimactic, to say the least.

I ran off to enter the costume contest, and it was disappointing.  There were no categories – handmade got no better marks than store bought.  Skill and age meant nothing.  The only thing they did was separate group costumes from single entrants.  I am upset about it because I wanted my craftsmanship judged against others of my skill, but again, it is a young con and I bet they didn’t know any better.  Hopefully next year they change the rules…

…though there were still awesome costumes!

We skipped out on closing ceremonies, since they are always a bore, and had our first real hot meal of the weekend at the Outback Steakhouse attached to our hotel.  Once full, the DCbronies simply met up and watched Dr. Horrible and some pony music videos before finally succumbing to convention fatigue.

For me, the entire two day convention was epic! Any shorter or longer, and I might have had different feelings.  I was also expecting the intensity of the convention to rub some of my pony obsession off, but that did not work.  I’m still addicted to the brony community.  Seeing so many people, going to a convention with my brony friends, experiencing such a positive, open, and uplifting community on a massive scale has only served to reinforce how awesome it is to be a brony.

So, while I’m still your loving District Geek, there will still be more pony in your future.  Heads up.

Of course, having seen many successful and well-aged conventions, on the drive back we brainstormed ways it can be improved.  When I applied as a volunteer, the staff did ask if I wanted to be an administrative assistant, but due to work commitments, I had to turn that down. Now, of course I am tempted to take up that torch.  Confound these, ponies!  They drive me not only to co-lead the Washington, DC group, but also perhaps the East Coast’s largest Brony meetup?  We shall see…

DistrictGeek’s post-Otakon Report 2011, Part II!

16 Aug

And now, part two of my Otakon 2011 venture! (Otakon 2011 Part I is here)

EAR! OMNOMNOM!

Saturday

Brookshire suites has a Shark Mascot and a free buffet breakfast which drew me in.  After our impromptu photo shoot, I wolfed down some grease and spent the day in my Gatomon (Digimon) costume.  Predictably, the first thing I did back at the con was to queue once more.  This time it was for a Baby, The Stars Shine Bright (BTSSB) and Alice and the Pirates fashion show, which featured Japanese Lolita fashion.  I met more local Lolis there, and they convinced me that Lolita is a branch of costuming that I would like to venture down.

I then made time in my schedule to visit the dealers hall by skipping the showing of Trigun: Badlands Rumble.  Afterwards, I joined in a fur-meet (to show off my catgirl outfit) and visited a Lolita clothing swap.  It was at that point that I realized I hadn’t eaten in eight hours.  I dashed off to my hotel for a bite and then it was back to queue for the US Premiere of Fullmetal Alchemist: the Sacred Star of Milos.  In contrast to Shamballa, this movie was exciting, fit well with FMA: Brotherhood, and cued a lot of insane cheering when certain well-loved characters appeared.  The action, though repetitive (and becoming a lot like Harry Potter) was exciting and gory.  I would highly recommend seeing it when Funimation releases it to US theatres.

(For those interested, a good SPOILER-full review of Otakon FMA Milos is here.)

The Masquerade literally fills the lower level of Baltimore’s sports arena as costumed otaku hold their talent show.  This event can be awesome, but also sometimes awful.  Hence, I allowed it to pass without me.  Instead I decided to hit the rave again.
At 10pm I queued for a Midnight Burlesque show.  It was a packed house; the combination of anime cosplay and a peep show was distinctive and worth the wait.
Sunday
The final morning of Otakon always has a bit of a slower pace, and the halls are lined with people wanting hugs.  There are still panels and a replay of the Anime Music Video contest, but I managed to miss everything either because the venue was full (damn thinking I didn’t need to queue Sunday!) and picking up my art from the show.  I sold 6 of 9 pieces, at a net loss of $10, but I found it an educational experience for my first entry.  I then got sucked into the art auction, where the most successful pieces in the art show were sold.  To the chagrin of many competing otaku, I kept my hand up for one piece.  Now, I have a Catbus Sleeping on telephone wires above my bed.

Mineeee<3333333

I made my way out at 1pm, with the auction still in full swing.  It’s always a bit of a downer to go, but as I looked back at all that I saw and did, all who I met and how much money I spent, and I was content.  I did all I wanted to and started some great friendships which I hope will continue.  One unique thing about conventions is that even if you only ever see your con buddies the following year, you still know that you’ll have some great people to hang out with next time.  In the meantime, the interwebz is always here.

DistrictGeek’s post-Otakon Report 2011

11 Aug
Otakon 2011

Time to Tofu Race!

Otakon’s attendance this year was 31,348. Though not as big as ComicCon, this event is pretty intense, if not overwhelming for the uninitiated. Otakon is an anime convention named after Otaku, the geeks that love anime. And there are tens of thousands that show up to this con every year, taking over the Baltimore Convention Center, the 1stMariner Arena, the Inner Harbour, and all hotels within at least fifteen minutes’ travel. Most attendees dress up, either in costumes of their favourite characters or memes. It’s Halloween with a Japanese flair. There are always a sea of coloured wigs and men(*1) and women dressed in skimpy schoolgirl skirts. Though some buy their outfits, I am one of the many at con that enjoys both making and wearing costumes:

Ahhah, it's me, DistrictGeek!

The con is so huge that you can’t nearly begin to do everything you want. Instead, it is quite typical to queue for an hour before any major event that you wish to see. Compounding this issue is the fact that the schedule only comes out a week or two before the convention (owing to the epic scheduling done to fit hundreds of events into only three days). It goes viral as soon as it’s released: a massive offering of anime, fashion shows, panels, workshops, autograph sessions and concerts. But that’s not all! The Dealers Hall and Artist Alley are both the size of aircraft hangars, and they take hours to peruse. Add in photo shoots for all the epic group pictures of themed costumes, and your schedule is so full that eating and sleeping can be easily forgotten(*2).

I left for Otakon with a handwritten, double-sided schedule in hand. There were room for edits and additions. I knew what I wanted to do, but had no idea if I could get it all in. Here is how I fared:

(this isn't mine, dur)

Thursday

Though commonly only used for those coming early to pre-register the night before the con, this year Otakon hosted a Matsuri street festival. I wanted to go but I worked Thursday, which made it nigh impossible to fight through rush hour and get there in time. From all accounts it had cosplay and food and awesome, and I plan to check it out next year.

Photo Shoot!

Friday

Registration began at 8am. I got up early, planning to arrive around 9, even though my first Group photo shoot (Katekyo Hitman Reborn) was at 10. This was cutting it extremely tight, as depending on your luck the registration line could take hours, not to mention that the path was wide open to the sweltering summer sun. I was insanely lucky and was able to walk right up to the reg, get my badge, and catch the tail end of the photo shoot. Then I ran over to the Brony (MLP: FIM) meetup and hung out with a bunch dudes (and a few chicks) who love My Little Pony.

Dash's whup-ass!

Costumes, stickers and songs abounded. However, I knew my schedule was packed and darted down to submit some pieces I painted to the Art show, where Otaku bid on pieces by artists who may not necessarily have had an actual table in the Artist Alley. I quickly perused one lane of the Alley, and by then my hotel room was ready. I got a Brookshire Suite, which, though a few blocks from the Convention Center, was across the street from the outdoor fountains, a hub for photo shoots in the evening when it was cooler out.

I had a quick bite and returned to queue an hour for the Sixh fashion show.Sixh is an H.Naoto clothing line, focusing on Japanese punk and Gothic Lolita style. I happened to sit next to Youko Sunshine, an amazing model who has been to so many con fashion shows that she’s been barred from participating in any more in the US. Though unfortunate for her, she was willing to throw my name into the hat, as I had applied to be a model but did not succeed this year. The show itself was fun and enlightening; it was a great way to see how Gothic fashion is evolving in the Land of the Rising Sun.

Goths clap?!

By this time I had missed a travel-to-Japan panel and the Reddit meetup, but I didn’t feel that they were top priority. I did a more thorough run-through of Artist Alley, and then met an old high school friend for sushi (Edo Sushi meal review here) before going back to the queue – this time for the Ultimate Lolita fashion show. It may not be the Ultimate, but this show is always great, as it displays many local and self-starting Lolita designers, not to mention that and the amount of clothing is much higher than that of the professional shows at Otakon. It inspired me to try and make a Victorian Pirate outfit for this year’s Renaissance Festival, so we shall see if I can get it done in time!

So ... frilly ...

While in queue and at the second fashion show, I missed a screening of member-created Anime Music Videos, the Thundercats Premiere on the Hub, the Chemistry concert and a Digimon photo shoot. But there was still one thing that I wanted to do: the Otaku Rave. Yes. Otaku. Rave. Because many of the anime fans fit in to the jailbait category, there were masses of teens clad in neon, rainbows, fur boot covers and glowsticks. The music was great to begin, but at midnight a girl in a long teal wig came in and tried to play anime songs. No one was amused, and there was no beat. It was a mass exodus.

Mrow!

… To be continued Tuesday!

*1 – Picture by Bluebell-Ren at Deviant Art

*2 – Food is easy to come by, but time is not.  After a few years, I found that having sandwich fixins at the hotel, and carrying fruit, a power bar and 5 hour energy drink is the way to go.  Every time I went to my hotel room, I made sure to eat.  Still, it wasn’t often.

Being Social: the Weekend of 07.29.11‏

28 Jul

Really, you shouldn’t be doing anything other than going to Otakon this weekend if you live anywhere near DC or Baltimore.  And if you’re coming into town for this con, let me know!  I’ve been prepping for this con for the past couple of weeks, hence the lack of posts.  I’ll try and do more soon, including a recap of the con!

Otakon 2011

This year's theme: NASCAR?

(For the unaware, Otakon is a Convention of the Otaku generation, aka MASSIVE ANIME GATHERING. This consists of screenings of anime, panels on every interest imaginable, costumes, contests, and tons of stuff to buy.  There will likely be around 30,000anime fans in Baltimore for this, and it centers around the Convention Center, though Otaku also take over 1st Mariner Arena and the Inner Harbour with their festivities.  Even if you don’t buy a ticket to enter the convention center, just walking around near this place will be sure to yield a ton of costumed anime geeks.)
 
For those of you unable to attend, there isn’t much going on in DC. Here’s what I found:

July 30

12-8pm

Hipster Camp at the Capitol Skyline hotelIf you ever wanted to say you’re trendy, go for a bout of immersion at this really strange pool party. Maybe youll find something you were a fan of for years before it was cool.  Yeah. (via WaPo)

1pm

Rockstar Mayhem Festival at Jiffy Lube Live will feature Disturbed, Godsmack, Megadeath, Machine Head, In Flames, Trivium and more. Woohoo \m/   (via WaPo)

7pm

Manchester United vs. FC Barcelona at FedEx Field. If you wanted to see European soccer without the danger involved in massive fan rivalries, youve got a chance in Landover, Maryland this weekend.  (via WaPo)

Gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhh

July 31

11am

You may not have heard of the Washington Kastles, a really odd celebrity tennis team, but at their stadium
this weekend there will be a Celebrity Soccer Challenge.  Check the website to see if you know anyone playing.  And even if you don’t, it’s for charity, right?  (via WaPo)

8pm

Like I said, I didn’t find much to do. Your last option is to see Dolly Parton in concert at Wolf Trap. Yee-hah!