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Otakon 2002 Memoirs

On Friday July 26, I walked into the Baltimore Convention Center after a long day of work, looked around, and breathed in wonder, "Wow, look at all the geeks!" The center and downtown Baltimore was just covered in geeks, some in sailor-fuku (Japanese schoolgirl uniforms), some in kimonos, some in skimpy bikinis or foam carved to resemble full body armor (for any of these outfits, gender was not a consideration in who was wearing what). Some in just the standard geek uniform of jeans and clever t-shirt. Even if you're not an anime fan, it's fun to walk around the Inner Harbor when you can see things like a full grown man dressed as Sailor Moon crossing the street.

But the fans weren't there just to make the Inner Harbor look more interesting; Otakon was a very cool place to be. I admit full anti-social geekishness; I just watched lots of anime and gawked at people in costumes. Actually I wouldn't have minded being more social and chatting anime with some other fans, but as a semi-shy geek, not good at starting conversations, among other shy geeks–or really UNshy geeks at the opposite spectrum who made me uncomfortable for other reasons–I found I ended up pretty much keeping to myself. I did compliment a few people on their costumes, including a female Sanosuke (Ruroni Kenshin) and a cute little Jury (Revolutionary Girl Utena). I also did take advantage of one of the glomp fiends who was offering hugs for free; that made me smile. More people in everyday life should walk around wearing signs that say "Free Hugs" or "Glomp me!" Hugs should be more plentiful in general. I just wish conversation opportunities had been more plentiful too. I could have fixed that if I really wanted to.But I digress.

As I said, many of the costumes were pretty impressive. I had a great deal of fun just walking around seeing what people had come up with. There were LOTS of Vash the Stampedes running around–including the best one, a contender during the Masquerade who had a kickass costume, came on stage all badass... and then proceded to hyper-dance to the perky J-Pop theme song to Love Hina. Many game characters too. To my delight I saw a lot of Utenas (and a smattering of Rose Brides and Seitokai). Lots of Fushigi Yugi characters, including some amazing Chichiri costumes, and some great Kenshin costumes running around too (such as the Sano I mentioned earlier). Very few Tenchi characters, unfortunately, although I did see a great Ryoko, who had solved the spiky hair problem by making hers out of stuffed cloth. I think that actually worked better than the people that just sort of put dye in their hair without doing anything else to make themselves resemble the character. The Masquerade was awesome for costumes (although many of the skits were kinda lame); my favorite was a three-headed dragon puppet that lip-synched "Bohemian Rhapsody."

I went to a panel about voice actors, led by Doug Smith, who was the lead in an anime called Golden Boy. There was also a director from RightStuf there, as well as a couple of lesser known VAs who've been in a bunch of stuff such as Kare Kano (which unfortunately I have not seen). Sadly I can't remember their names, as they were not in the program; they seemed quite competent, really, and I hope I hear their work in the future. Wendee Lee was supposed to be there, but she broke her leg (!) apparently on Friday; hope she gets better! Anyway, they talked a lot about the VA business and gave advice to VA hopefuls. It was great to hear from these people who really loved their job.

Finally, the anime I saw: I saw some pretty cool and relatively obscure anime, a lot of which I don't think is distributed in the US (yet, in some cases). Most of these I only saw a few episodes at most, so do keep this in mind as I review, as it's not like I had extensive time to watch all of it (and they often didn't show much to begin with. Completely unintentionally, most of the stuff I saw was shoujo and/or Magical Girl; it just happened to be what was on that looked interesting when I was hopping the movie theaters.I share what I saw in case you have your own thoughts on it, or just like to hear about more anime:
GaoGaiGar Final: A cool mecha anime about various vehicle mecha that combine to form a big robot–pretty standard stuff. It also features some cyborgs, including this one really cool female kick butt cyborg named Lune; those of you who know me now know why I liked this. But really, unlike in a lot of mecha anime, the characters seemed pretty interesting... there was some interesting political/future history kind of stuff going on in the background. And back to characters, ALL the characters were interesting–even the girl who pressed the buttons at the control console had personality.

Princess Knight (Kishi no Ribon) : This is from the 1950s and looks more like a Disney movie, except it has gender bender issues. It's about this princesswho is raised as a male heir to the throne, and she has both a male and female soul (whatever that means). She rides around on a horse and rescues people, and this cute little trumpet theme follows her wherever she goes.This evil warlock wants to steal the princess's boy soul and give it to his femmy daughter so she will become a powerful witch. Don't ask me, I was just a spectator. It was very cute (it was a kids series, I think) although kind of odd/interesting in its gender assumptions. Even though the ambience was very different, it seems the makers of Rose of Versailles I guess grew up watching it, and the makers of Utena grew up watching Rose and reruns of Princess Knight... the whole tomboy prince/hero thing. I guess in 2020 we'll see an anime called "Androgyn Knight Revolution" or something...

A Cheeky Angel (Tenshii no something-or-other): I got to see less of this than I wanted... it was shoujo high school anime, more or less. The heroine is named Megumi and she seems to have issues about being female, because she seems to think only guys can be strong. So she resists this, but also for some bizarre reason feels the need to "act like a girl"–almost like she isn't a girl, she's just trying to learn how to be one. I didn't see the beginning of this, so I don't know why this is. No, I didn't watch all of the gender-twist stuff on purpose, I just walked into this one. Although it seems to be a normal high school setting, there seems to be an implication that she wasn't an ordinary human (perhaps a real angel?), but I don't know. If anyone does know anything more about this anime, I'd appreciate a heads up, because it seemed interesting, but I couldn't quite pick up the full gist.

Magical Nyan Nyan Taturo: For those of you who know Bill, I watched this for him. It's a Magical Girl anime about a little blue catgirl with big cute violet eyes who casts magic spells. There is an evil Elmyra (or for Ranma fans, Azusa) girl that wants to "collect" the catgirl for her catgirl collection. Clearly a kid's anime (although every one was admiring Taturo's tail, so I don't know... ;) ). I didn't watch a whole lot of it, but it was just pretty damn kawaii all around.

Saint Tail: Most of you have probably heard of this. Another Magical Girl anime, about a Catholic schoolgirl who gets magical powers from a saint to help save the world. Seems like one of the animes that Pretty Sammy parodies.

Oh yes, one more thing: the dealer's room. That place is evil, EVIL I tell you! I was proud to have left with money still in my wallet. I got some Utena and Love Hina DVDs, and a cute Naru (Love Hina)Christmas figurine. Also got some Maze TV series video tapes 'cause they were cheap and they were being sold by people who put their products in Utena bags! Yes, I am a sad fangirl. I also got a free poster of tanooki eating KFC. Additionally, I came home with a Samurai X and a Tenchi in Tokyo videotape because someone stuck them out on a table with a "free" sign on it. What the heck, it's free! So that was fun.

All in all a good trip. I will definitely go to Otakon in 2003 if time and money permit. Gotta practice my romanji pronunciation so I can participate in karaoke next year!


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All original materials © 2003 R. Pickard