Tag Archives: Convention

Otakon 2014 Photoblog

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I’ll admit I haven’t been watching a massive amount of anime this year, or really for the past couple years. Trends in the medium have been polarizing as of late and the industry has sustained some shockwaves over the past few years. That said, what I saw at Otakon this year was an affirmation that anime in general is not only healthy but probably moving in a good direction.

I don’t haves serious stats or anything, but the first thing I can tell you is the anime fandom I see is definitely growing. Maybe it’s re-growing from the contraction the western Anime industry faced around the mid 2000’s. Either way, Otakon is growing. Going this year, I can definitely see why the convention is moving to from Baltimore to DC in 2017. They said Baltimore’s Convention Center is getting too small — they already had to limit registrations this year, and that still wasn’t enough to clamp down on congestion. They may as well have called it “Linecon 2014.” We’re talking multiple-hour waits to get  in if you pre-registered (which is supposed to be advantageous), then going into those lines again the next day because the convention’s computer system crashed and they couldn’t get everybody in the first night, then more lines for places like the dealer’s room, and lines that get cut off for a lot of the convention’s popular events, many of which they had to hold twice. I’d at least like to think that signals growth after what’s been happening to the industry lately.

The “moe” and “fanservice” pandering that’s turned a lot of people off to anime (and a lot of Japanese games) recently is, ironically, a response to that market contraction — the industry deliberately laser-targeting the most hardcore fans in Japan. I’ve talked here more than once about how hard you have to look nowadays to find anime that might be slightly more palpable to mainstream audiences (again, ironic). Come to think of it, the few anime I have been watching in 2014 so far have basically been the “main” popular shows of the moment like Attack on Titan or Kill La Kill. The biggest reason I haven’t been watching a ton of anime recently though is probably money. There are a lot of anime Blu-Rays I’d like to buy, and more coming, including Cowboy Bebop which Funimation announced at the con. To be honest distribution, of anime is getting a lot better with season sets, Blu-Ray/DVD combo packs, digital, and streaming. Titan and Kill La Kill are even already on Netflix along with Sword Art Online. I guess manga is getting there. Streaming site Crunchyroll held a short panel on the future of its manga initiative. That along with digital Shonen Jump is at least something, after pirate scanlations have been tearing things up. I personally would like the manga industry go in a direction more similar to how Image comics went DRM-free, but I don’t see that happening any time soon.

One sector of anime in which I am having increased interest is fan parodies. This has been a thing at least since AMV Hell’s bite-sized parody videos began several years ago, but went into overdrive when stuff like Dragon Ball Z Abridged showed up. One of my top reasons for even going to Otakon is to see these parodies. There are now whole panels featuring the people who make them. I think part of the reason they took off is because they seem relatively easy to make. The way anime is produced makes it easy for fans to manipulate the footage in a way that doesn’t look completely different from the official material. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if the stuff eventually became a significant chunk of my anime consumption.

Other than being crowded the convention as a whole was great this year. Some nice announcements came out of the panels, and this was probably even one of the more impressive years in terms of cosplay. In the video game section I was sad to see Soul Calibur get pushed back to a small area as opposed to the massive centrally-placed screens which Street Fighter IV has dominated for like six years. It was nice to see the Japanese version of Under Night In-Birth though. Lastly, this was the first year I didn’t walk away from the dealer’s room with some manga or obscure NES games. The selection was still great though.

Enjoy the some of the photos I took (click on them):

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Otakon 2013 Photoblog

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It’s slightly ironic that I go to an anime convention this year, as I haven’t really been watching anime at all over the last few months.

Well, my not watching much anime has really been more of a time and budget problem than anything else. I could just say I’m tired of all the moe stuff that’s taken over the anime industry (and I am), but honestly there are still a few shows coming out that I’m interested in. I just haven’t had the time to stream or download them.

Since late last year there have been quite a few movies and shows on Blu-Ray I’ve wanted, but I’ve had just about no money to buy them. Almost all of those Blu-Rays though have been of shows I watched on TV years ago — the last anime shows I really liked.

The streams and discs were very much on-display at Otakon this year, so I guess going was sort of a chance to step back into that hobby.

One of the tentpoles of conventions like Otakon is typically a dealer’s room where you waste your money useless-but-awesome things. This year my focus was kept mostly on Blu-Rays, but unfortunately Amazon.com decided to undercut pretty much every sale and deal Otakon had this year with its own anime sale at the same time.

While Otakon dealers had some Blu-Rays 20 percent off, Amazon was slicing those prices in half (and still are as of this writing). I’m not saying Amazon did this on purpose in its apparent crusade to kill retail, but it has been known to compete directly with Steam deals and such, and pretty much the entirety of Black Friday last year for me took place on Amazon. The point is, Amazon successfully discouraged me from buying hardly anything at Otakon (and while writing this I ordered Black Lagoon Roberta’s Blood Trail).

The watching of anime might be another issue though. Over the last couple of years I have been able brush aside the moe and high school drama to find a handful of shows I’d like to watch, but haven’t gotten around to trying them out. Some of Otakon’s screenings kick started this a bit.

Actually, one show I watched at the con was the first three episodes of the original Patlabor OVA miniseries of which I’d been eyeing the Blu-Ray. Now I know I want to get it once my finances are in order. If you don’t know what Patlabor is, it’s kind of a semi-realistic giant robot show mixed with a cop show. Well, it’s more accurate to call it a cop drama with giant robots. The series is pretty lighthearted but the movies (which I highly recommend) are a bit more serious.

The one thing going to Otakon really sold me on though was Attack on Titan. Maybe all I had to do was spend a weekend away from my computer and consoles in order to have time to finally look at it, but I think I’m going to try to find the time to marathon this show in the coming weekes. Might even finally sign up for a 30-day Crunchyroll premium trial.

Like some of my favorite anime, Titan does a great job of balancing entertaining, developed characters with a bleak but unique setting. I guess it’s the next popular shounen action series because half the cosplayers at Otakon were dressed up as characters from this show. If I had to compare it to anything I’d probably pick Fullmetal Alchemist, both in terms of tone and even the setting.

Of course whether or not I can actually follow through with hopping back onto anime depends almost entirely on my money. We’ll see as summer draws to a close and we enter the fall release season for both anime and games.

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Otakon 2012 Photoblog

When I went to Otakon a couple years ago in the midst of the financial crisis and decided to report back on something, it ended up being the feeling that hard times hadn’t hit this convention at all. This year it’s all about me being broke and unemployed, and just deciding to take pictures of stuff I wish I could buy.

The biggest thing that doesn’t seem to change every year in Otakon’s dealer’s hall are the prices of rare and/or import games. Every year I go I end up spending a few minutes staring at a $100+ copy of Mother or Mother 3, or both. It’s times like this when I praise digital distribution of old games. Final Fantasy VII was something like $150 this year even though I’d bought it on PSN for $9.99. The strong yen is probably making things worse nowadays. I saw a copy of Final Fantasy Type-0 there and had just learned that the PSP is actually region-free, but the game was $92.

The one thing that hurts me the most when going to Otakon though is still walking into one of the art book vendors. It’s probably another case of the strong yen, but combined with the still common superiority of Japanese game art books, some of the prices in there are just devastating.

In terms of the actual playing of games, it might be just me, but the gaming hall felt a lot more competitive this year. I’m disappointed that we couldn’t get some kind of Persona 4 Arena preview like we got for King of Fighters XIII last year, but Soul Calibur V, Street Fighter X Tekken, Modern Warfare 3, and Skullgirls all debuted at Otakon this year.

Is one-on-one MW3 a thing? I saw a lot of that at the convention, and it was getting a fair bit of attention too. What really impressed me though was Skullgirls, which I’d never seen in action before. I’d kind of ignored it for being a western-developed fighting game (though Mortal Kombat did get an increased presence at Otakon this year) but it actually looks pretty amazing in motion and the matches I saw were intense.

The only game I myself tried to break into this year was Soul Calibur V. Even though I didn’t win at all I still feel good about the game, I just need to figure out ground recovery, which I swear has changed significantly since SCIV.

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