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The Otakon 2003 Report

Well, I had such a good time last year, I just had to go to Otakon 2003 at the Baltimore Convention Center–yes, friends, the one weekend a year when the anime geeks descend upon the Inner Harbor in all their glory. Hallelujah!

Overall, I had a great time, watching and chatting and of course frivolously spending money on things. I watched much less anime than last year, partly because there just happened to be less that caught my attention, partly because there were more panels I wanted to attend. And for the most part they were quite worth it!

The absolute most geeky thing I did was wait an hour and a half to get Mandy Bonhomme's autograph on an Utena DVD liner sporting a large picture of one of the characters she'd done a lovely job voicing, who happened to be one of my very most favorite characters, Jury. I'm not much of an autograph seeker; I feel silly doing it, but heck, it was JURY and I wanted to tell Ms. Bonhomme I enjoyed her performance... something I doubt she or most voice actors get to hear often enough. So I was glad I did it.

As for the other activities I engaged in...

Panels Attended

One of the most interesting panels I attended was a discussion panel with Yoshiaki Iwasaki, probably best known for directing Love Hina, one of my favorite anime. He was very quiet and soft-spoken, and didn't quite seem to know what to do with us drooling otaku, but answered some questions and was happy to see Love Hina fans. He said he got along well with Ken Akamatsu (the creator of the LH manga), which he says is often not the case with anime directors and original creators. We also got to see the first episode of one of his new works, Mao-Chan, an almost-too-cute and very, very funny magical girl anime. It's sort of Powerpuff-Girls-Meet-Mecha-Anime. And I got a free Mao-Chan button! Yay!

Speaking of directors, I also went to the Voice Director's panel, which was led by ADR directors Justin Cook (who looks nothing like his head shot in the program) and Scott Houle. Overall pretty cool, although Houle talked too much, and they were very descriptive about voice directions–both sound like very dedicated and competent directors (can't say they are 'cause I haven't seen anything they've directed, unfortunately). Houle also was good in clearing up one myth: subtitles are not necessarily more accurate than dub dialogue. Something I knew already–Japanese and English just don't directly translate into each other very well–but it was good to hear a pro say it.

Also went to the Voice Actors Panel, with Justin Cook (again; in addition to being a director he was the lead voice in Yu Yu Hakusho), Brian Drummond (Vegeta in Dragonball Z), Mandy Bonhomme (Jury in Revolutionary Girl Utena) and Johnny Yong Bosch (Vash in Trigun, although I'm more familiar with him from his days as the Black Power Ranger!). The actors themselves were very cool and did a good job sharing the time with each other. The questions were pretty expected... "How did you start?" and so on and so forth... and we heard an interesting story from Drummond, I think it was, about the Belch from Hell from the VA who did Optimus Prime. I could have smacked some of the attendees who asked about five times how you get into the business of voice acting. The first time they answered the question it was very considerate and detailed (well, you need to move here, and get lessons, and make a tape, and so on...) and by the last time they were like, "It's really hard..." I applaud their patience. Yes, I understand it may be someone's dream (heck, I've thought about it), but that doesn't mean asking the damn question FIVE times and wasting the panelists' and other attenders' time.

For more background information/history kinda panels, I one called "Myths of the Sword," which was a very well-researched and presented lecture on the history of the katana and other Japanese swords and swordsmanship. Oooh, sharp pointies...

I also went to a "History of Hentai" panel–don't laugh, I thought it might actually be fairly interesting. Unfortunately, it was poorly researched, poorly controlled, and the attendees were drunk and sleep-deprived (it was a late-night panel). I went with my friend Dave, who later on within a few minutes of searching on Google found some much more insightful, mature, and well-researched reports on the subject.

Last panel was on cosplay, led by some award-winning Otaku who have given much of their time away to poking themselves with needles and burning themselves with glue guns, all for the joy of looking like their favorite characters. No really, it was cool, and they were very realistic about the joys and trials of cosplaying. I SOOO want to cosplay next year!

Anime Viewed

Like I said, I didn't watch a lot this year. Managed to catch the Love Hina Spring Special which was quite funny, as it's supposed to be. Yay cutesy romantic comedy. Watched several episodes of the You're Under Arrest TV series, and wish I could have seen more (Otakon managed to schedule it against everything else I wanted to do while I was there...)... again, just a fun comedy series–not usually into cop stories but this one's quite a lot of fun. I actually find the car chase scenes exciting!Also saw a few eps of Kimba the White Lion, which many accuse Disney of ripping off for The Lion King, but really, they didn't much more than they rip off anything else. Kimba was cute but excessively cheesy, a poorly animated 1950s children's cartoon about an orphaned white lion who protects the animals. I also saw bits of Otaku no Video, a requirement, I suppose, at Otakon... very funny although it dragged in places. Also saw part of a very cheesy tokusatsu (live-action sci-fi along the lines of Power Rangers or Ultraman) piece that I don't really remember the name of and don't want to. And finally, I saw the end of a hentai movie called Girl Next Door, which was ABSOLUTELY hilarious... whether it was supposed to be is another story.

And other Stuff

I admit to doing a fair amount of Cosplayer ogling... once again, lots of Trigun characters. Lots of video game character I could barely recognize. The Sailor Scout attendance had plummeted, however, and I only saw one middle-aged man in a Sailor Fuku (and he looked much too grumpy to carry off the effect well). A fair sprinkling of Ruroni Kenshin and Fushigi Yugi folks, some Cardcaptors, and I saw one very nice, very... erm.... accurate Armitage the Third walking around. I was happy to see more Utena cosplayers, thanks to the DVDs FINALLY coming out. I missed the Masquerade, sadly, this year... but I was eating yummy Udon noodles with friends at a restaurant called Shogun, so it was a fairly good trade.

And speaking of trade, I am proud that I walked out of Otakon with money still in my wallet. Still, a good deal that I went in with had oddly disappeared... and instead I had a backpack full of such odds and ends as DVDs and tapes, art prints and trading cards, and a Cardcaptor Sakura doll which I knew belonged to my friend Ericka and had to pay the ransom and wrest it from its evil Japanese kidnappers. My prize purchase for myself was a copy of The Art of Utena, which is an Utena artbook (if somehow, you could not glean that from the title). OOOH OOOH OOOH! And I got Mihoshi from Tenchi Muyo! painted on my arm.

Can't wait till next year!


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All original materials © 2003 R. Pickard