It’s con season once again on the East Coast and with it comes the promise of even more anime news and otaku fellowship! Last year I attended one of the biggest Anime Conventions on the east coast, Otakon and I had a blast! Otakon is the place to be for fans of anime and Japanese culture. It has so many great guests, panels, workshops, and events for a weekend full of otaku fun!
What Is Otakon?
Otakon is an annual three-day anime convention and one of the largest cons in the United States. Founded in 1994, it is usually held during July/August and recently moved from the Baltimore Convention Center in Baltimore, Maryland to its new home at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C.
2018 was my second year attending the event (thanks in part to the move from Baltimore to DC) and I am still in awe of how much the con has to offer! There is just so much to see and do! It’s definitely a must if you live in the DMV area.
Anime conventions can be tricky to navigate even for veteran con goers. With so many guests, panels, workshops, photoshoots, concerts, movie screenings, and events, it’s enough to make your head spin! Each con has a handful of staples they bring back year after year that are the highlights of any con going experience. A lot of time and planning goes into these events so you know they’re bound to be worth checking out!
With just three days to experience all that Otakon has to offer, how do you maximize your con time? What are the big ticket items that every Otakon attendee should check out? With two Otakons worth of experience under my belt I’m here to give you my expert opinion.
OtakuRave: The Otakon Dance
One of the biggest Otakon mainstays is the OtakuRave or The Dance as many veteran con goers call it. Dressed to impress, attendees cue up to show their stuff on the dance floor! The dance is a two-night event (Friday and Saturday) from 9PM to 2AM and features local DJs and talent from the PA, NY, MD, VA, and DC areas. The music is always on point with bass heavy beats and anime remixes to really get you into the dancing mood!
Masquerade and Hall Costume Contest
Cosplay is a huge part of any convention with cosplayers from all over the country and from abroad showing off the amazing costumes they’ve been working on all year long. But it’s hard to stop and marvel at all the great costumes when you’re busy running off to panels, signings, and concerts. So, Otakon has two events that give con goers the chance to check out some great cosplayers attending the con!
The Masquerade is held on Saturday night and it gives cosplayers the chance to take to the main stage and perform short skits and other routines for the audience. Some talented individuals take part at this event and perform dramatic scene renditions, comedy routines, and even poetry readings!
In addition to the Masquerade there is the Hall Costume Contest where participants have their cosplays judged by the audience! The judging categories include: Craftsmanship, Performance, and Best in Show! If you’re looking to see some great talent and even greater cosplays, the Masquerade and the Hall Costume Contest are an Otakon must-see!
Photo by Daniel Roh
Photo by Ross Guida
Have you ever had the fantasy of being served by a host of cute maids? Well, Otakon has a special treat just for you! The annual highlight of Otakon is the Maid Cafe, where a host of volunteer maids (and butlers) are ready to serve and entertain their guests with sweet treats and a host of fun activities. Choose from a specialized menu full of traditional Japanese meals and snacks while playing games with your own personal maid/butler.
The Maid Cafe staff is of specially trained volunteers who bring their own unique personalities and talents to the con. But, be sure to RSVP in advance because this popular event fills up fast and there’s only room for 60 guests per show!
Lolita Garden and Fashion Show
Lolita is a popular Japanese fashion subculture that is heavily influenced by Victorian, Edwardian, and Rocco styles and fashion. Lolita fashion is all about playing up aesthetic cuteness and having a keen eye and a flair for the details. Fashionistas work hard to incorporate just the right amount of lace, frills, and ribbons, to get just the right look! So, whether you’re into Lolita fashion or just curious about learning more about the Lolita lifestyle, Otakon has you covered with the Lolita Garden and the Lolita Fashion Show.
The Lolita Garden is a place for Lolitas and fans to relax and socialize. There are a number of activities to participate in from card games and photoshoots to solo concertos, there is no end to the fun! But, the highlight of the Lolita Garden has to be the Lolita Swap Meet where folks can trade tips and fashion items. Even more thrilling is the Lolita Fashion show, where boutique Lolita fashion designers showcase the latest and greatest of Lolita clothing!
Panels and Workshops
What’s a con without panels and workshops?! Otakon has many panels that delve into just about every aspect of otaku culture! Whether you’re looking for the latest in industry news at the studio panels or looking to learn something new about Japanese culture at the fan-led panels, there is literally something for everyone to enjoy!
Pro Tip: Stay late for the more ‘adult’ themed panels!
If you’re looking for something a bit more hands-on, Otakon has a number of great workshops! Learn how to make ornamental pins and plushies or learn the art of bondage, or get some great tips on breaking into voice acting, this is the chance to get in on the action!
Photo by Michelle Burgess
Photo by Jamie See
Artist Alley & Dealers Room
Is there an artist you’ve been dying to meet or a piece of fan art you’d love to see hanging on your wall? Artists from all over the world come to Otakon to sell their artwork. You can find prints of your favorite fictional characters, original comics, stickers, key chains, and everything in between, Otakon’s Artist Alley is the place to be!
Blow your entire budget in the Dealers Room! Vendors from all across the country have set up shop at Otakon, selling official and unofficial merchandise from all of your favorite shows! Both independent sellers and big name studios are selling their wares in the Dealers Room. Pick up some games and manga at a super cheap price or maybe you’ve been searching for just the right figure to add to your collection… this is your one stop shop for new otaku merch!
The Biggest East Coast Anime Convention
Otakon’s website describes the convention as an ‘annual celebration of Asian pop culture’ and I think that perfectly sums up the three-day event. Otakon is a place where fans and industry leaders can come together and communicate about the fandoms and media they love. I’ve had the opportunity to attend Otakon twice and each year I find something new to discover, whether it’s news about upcoming anime and games or a new friend. We must not forget that anime conventions are about fellowship.
This is just a handful of the exciting events and activities that you’ll find at Otakon, there is so much more that didn’t make it on this list. So, if you happen to be in the Washington, DC area and you’re looking for a place to share your love of Japanese culture, Otakon is the place to be! Otakon 2019 will take place at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington DC on 26-28 July!
Registration is still open with Pre-Registration Weekend Passes going for $95 (until July 25th) and Single Day Passes going for $50 (Friday), $60 (Saturday), and $40 (Sunday). You can still register at Otakon‘s official website and save on the door ticket price!
Dates: July 26 – 28 2019
Venue: Walter E. Washington Convention Center (WEWCC)
Official website: https://www.otakon.com/
Recommend hashtags: #Otakon / #Otakon2019