I spent last weekend at Otakon 2017, which moved to Washington DC this year after it outgrew the convention center in Baltimore. Below are the pictures I took of some neat cosplay and some other cool things I saw and did there. Continue reading
If there’s one theme I noticed from what I saw at Otakon 2016 this past weekend, it was trying to revive the way anime was during the 80’s and 90’s. I obviously didn’t see everything at the convention, but the panels and screenings I did attend at least signal some concerted effort in the anime industry to revive something that has been lost. Continue reading
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):
Otakon is an anime convention but video games have infiltrated it pretty thoroughly over the years. In the last couple years this has been happening through the 3DS, which basically everybody has at the con.
If you’re a 3DS owner living in the US you probably know how hard it is to get streetpasses. Nintendo has had to change the entire way the feature works in this region just to get Americans to use it. This all changes at any event where thousands of geeks gather, Otakon being no exception.
I’ll tell you right now that probably 90 percent of the streetpasses I get all this year will probably have been from the three days I attended Otakon. The worst part is that you literally can’t catch them all. A few minutes into the con I gave up and just decided to grab them whenever I could.
There are so many people walking around with 3DSs that it presents an effectively infinite stream of streetpasses. Any and every time I opened my 3DS within the walls of the convention center I found the Mii Plaza at its capacity of 10 new Miis ready to greet me. Of course this let me blast through the Mii Plaza games.
It’s almost like Nintendo knew people were gonna use Otakon for streetpasses when they decided to release the new Mii Plaza games in the US this summer. I finally finished Find Mii (which I’d started at the last Otakon), blew through all of Mii Force, and got through a good portion of Monster Manor. In the end I think I grabbed something like 300 Miis in three days, but I saw some people who’d done twice that.
A really cool side effect of the leveling system Miis go through when you meet them multiple times is that when I went back to my hotel each night I met more or less the same group of Miis — probably people staying in adjacent rooms, some of which got to around level 5.
The egregious part though was the full 3DS games that used streetpass. I gave up on catching Fire Emblem Awakening streetpasses on the first morning. The game will hold up to 50 streetpasses at a time, but each individual one constitutes a party of NPCs that you can barter with or battle. That’s potentially twice as many battles as the entire main quest. My game was filled to capacity on streetpasses 30 minutes after I got in line on the first morning of the con. I still haven’t touched any of them yet.
Even worse is what happened to me and Shin Megami Tensei IV. I’d basically gotten through the tutorial and decided to take a break on the game, not realizing that in order to activate streetpass you have to reach a certain point a bit further in the main quest. I ended up spending probably half the con trying to burn through the game up to that point. I spent a chunk of Saturday night banging my head against the boss after which you can use streetpass. After all that, I wasn’t even able to get a dozen (the game’s capacity) of streetpasses. People were playing SMT IV at Otakon this year, but in popularity it seemed to be distantly behind Animal Crossing New Leaf and Fire Emblem.
Maybe Nintendo’s new streetpass relay system will work as intended. At least Nintendo’s starting to realize they can’t get the system to work as-is outside of Japan unless you get thousands of enthusiasts together in one building.
Click the above image to see more
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.
Freaking everybody had a 3DS at Otakon this year. I think we all had a feeling this would be a big opportunity for people outside of Japan to actually get a lot of use out of StreetPass, but Jesus Christ. I still don’t know what this indicates about the platform’s position though.
I got something like 400+ 1up mushrooms in Super Mario 3D Land over the course of one weekend along with enough special coins to skip most of the hard mode levels. I really didn’t expect to see so many mystery boxes to show up, only for new ones to appear as I was playing, which kept me stuck on the game for hours. Even though that told me a lot of people bought the hardware, for a year-old platform there still doesn’t seem to be a lot of software variety.
From what I can tell most of the StreetPass going around at Otakon was for two games. Actually, almost everyone I saw playing a DS was playing the same game: The “Find Mii” game that comes pre-installed in the 3DS as part of Mii Plaza. The funny part is, I didn’t even know what it was until I finally asked someone the night before I left the convention.
All this time I just thought Mii Plaza was the same as its Wii equivalent – an indexer for all the Miis installed on your hardware. For those that still don’t know, I had no idea there was a whole Dragon Quest-style RPG packed inside. The whole time I was up there I kept thinking “what the hell is this RPG people are playing with the Miis?!”
Within the last few hours of my stay at the convention I was able to collect some 60 Miis in Mii Plaza, and I like how through it I was able to collect data on who went to the convention: where they came there from, what games they were playing, etc. Other than Mii Plaza, the most popular 3DS software right now, or at Otakon at least, seem to be 3D Land, the Kingdom Hearts 3D demo, and Theatrhthm Final Fantasy.
Even before I left for Otakon I remarked at how little 3DS software I owned at this point. Actually, the problem is just the small number of notable retail releases there have been for the system so far. For me the 3DS had become very valuable, but almost primarily for the games from eShop. Nintendo’s 8bit summer, weekend deals this summer, and free Club Nintendo games have reinvigorated the platform in my experience.
Still, this fall, starting with New Super Mario Bros. 2 should start to improve the retail landscape with stuff like Epic Mickey Power of Illusion, Zero Escape: Virtue’s Reward, Paper Mario, Luigi’s Mansion, and the next Professor Layton game. Now if only more of the Japanese stuff could get localized.
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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