For my 5th Otakon, I was eagerly anticipating a wonderful time with friends whom I see on a regular basis as well as those whom I had not seen in years. In fact, it was Consplayers’ first time attending Otakon in Baltimore, and so it was a joyous reunion of myself, Robert (Admin), and Pikminlink (Li).
This convention started off the same as Anime North actually. Ben (Bar1Scorpio) arranged to come and pick me up from my house Wednesday afternoon before the convention. We then traveled south to Ann Arbor, MI to pick up portions of a very large Tetsuo costume crafted by Brian (Daguru) and also caught up with Greg (Zasshu) who drove the other vehicle in our caravan to Otakon. Wednesday night was spent working on art that although progression was made through over the weekend, would not see a completed state for this convention. Likewise, several other cosplay-related things were not quite completed on my end so it was another opportunity to wear Link (which is fine).
Thursday morning saw everyone at Ben’s house early and Morgan (Protoblues / Catboi Blues) was already shuffling around merchandise by the time we were ready to go. Driving went moderately smoothly, given construction and the sheer distance we had to travel from Michigan to Maryland, and we made the trip in about 9 hours given some rest stops.
First order of business was to stop at the BCC and we had made it just in time to have some dealers associates help us with carts for all of our van’s merchandise. Taking the large freight / cargo elevator felt like it was straight out of Resident Evil but we were by no means going to lug boxes of all sizes across the building and down a floor to our table. After that was done, we parked at the Days Inn only a block away from the convention center and checked in. The rest of the night was spent chatting and having some pizza and getting ready for tomorrow.
To start off the insanity of Otakon Friday morning, I woke early around 9am not to get in line but instead to walk a mile north to the Tremont Hotel to arrange some private photoshoot details. After walking back to the BCC I presented my Press materials and was able to enter into the Special Needs line and obtain the first half of the badge for the weekend in about 15 minutes. The second half had me reconfirm press information at the Pratt Street lobby at Ops and after another short while I was ready to go. Right at that time I found Pikminlink, Robert, and Sai (ThatYaoiBoy) right outside the BCC and helped them to quickly get their badges as they were a tad confused and had a slew of private shoots they could not be late for.
While Robert took off to do his private shoots, I went off to do some general coverage while I presumed that Pikmin and Sai would wait in line for their badges (apparently they got theirs later that day before registration closed). Right around that time I ended up stopping at both “The Alley” to help out Jackie (Jaquii), Tanya, and Kacey as well as Ben get their tables situated. After that I went by Morgan’s table in the dealer’s room to assist him.
By this time it was already early afternoon Friday and although I did not plan to be in Link at that time, I did get to do a private photoshoot with Renee (Zoroko) and then went to the Legend of Zelda gathering at the fountains. Hung out there for awhile then ran into Brian (Daguru) wearing his Grand Theft Auto IV cosplay. Early evening consisted me walking another two miles back to the Tremont to sign several pages of contracts for a room rental I was partaking in for Saturday morning. After I came back to the BCC I finally found Robert who was done with his schedule for the day and so we both went out to the bar across the street for some much needed food.
Listen to a person and it really helps you learn about them. Eager are people to share their stories and needless to say it was wonderful not only even seeing Robert and Pikmin again (and meeting Sai for the first time), but to share an extended dinner with Robert alone. Between the restaurant being swamped with Otaku and running out of some food, we eventually received our meals and then talked for a good three hours about well, life, the universe and everything. It gave me great perspective as to some private issues in their lives that will not be written about here but I will sum up in this report that it only showed me more that they are wonderful and hard-working people – friendly in good times or bad. If there is any motivation I need in my personal endeavors to help them out eventually, then I should look no further. That does not mean to say they are in trouble but it made me understand that compared to this veil of untouchability and misunderstanding that the Internet so brings upon them that instead they really are in fact, normal people just doing extraordinary things and there is nothing wrong with that. They should be applauded for all their efforts and endeavors like anyone else and it is wonderful as an assistant photographer and writer to be a part of it.
Friday night consisted of going back to the BCC and watching insanity by the fountains that only Otakon can bring. Random glompings, fighting fish, robots, and running into a group of practically every major photographer I know (ACP people, Lionel, EBK, and more) in one circle that made the night complete. Robert and Pikmin headed home to Sai’s house and I went back to the hotel to get ready for the next day.
Saturday I was awake even earlier, maybe 8:30am to prepare a unique private photoshoot. Walking to the Tremont despite some earlier texts on my phone indicating a chance of plans not happening I was still resolute to get things ready in case. Spent about 30 minutes preparing the room but then unfortunately no one came. I did not want to lose the space so I spent the next three hours waiting and basically doing nothing; having practically buried my face in my arms by the end of the rental period. I felt like I had lost but would not accept defeat. After some discussion and a total breakdown to tears with the hotel staff (alas I can at times only remain so calm), they spoke to the main director and we were granted usage of the space for Sunday as well. Needless to say that instantly cheered me up and I got back quickly into the groove of things upon walking back to the BCC for what should have been any other time, a regular Otakon.
Due to walking delays and everything getting this late start (Robert and Pikmin included), I changed into Link but missed the second Zelda gathering. It surely didn’t last an hour or more like the first one did… oh well… I got to hang around the fountains and do more coverage while I found Robert and Pikmin again for a brief time. Pikmin finally brought out her Twilight Princess Link but didn’t wear it long as she had to go down to the Bandai Booth in the dealers room for some obligations there.
It was at this point in time as we walked from the fountains to the main entrance of the BCC that a slightly aggravating point made itself known over the weekend in brute force. Now I am an incredibly patient person and I believe Robert is as well but when you are faced with a substantial physical need and it limits how you can function – whether that be poor vision in my case or back pain in Robert’s – you work with it to have it not limit you to the best you can. The BCC is a wonderful open building but for someone who has an unfortunate dearth of medical issues and back pain, it is not the friendliest space with 25’+ floor to floor heights to try and navigate vertically.
Time and time again I was told by Robert – AND SAW FIRSTHAND – how staffers of the building created excuses for those who are disabled. Robert caught a person on the 100 level in a wheelchair for example, not able to walk. That disabled person was LIFTED from his chair and carried by two others up the huge flights of stairs to the 200 level Sharp Street / Otterbein lobbies. Likewise, I was with Robert when we had to find three different Otakon and BCC staffers because the first two told us that the elevators were not allowed to be used except for the disabled. We had more than enough paperwork to prove some medical issues yet were still given questionable glares and uncaring attitudes when we indicated a need for elevator usage. I do not understand that how, as part of a building requirement of architectural design and fire codes coupled with the American Disabilities Act, why we were vehemently denied access to any other method of egress other than by using the stairs. Of course when I found Robert and met him later that afternoon in the dealers room, the elevators to L200 were broken or shutdown and could not be used. Likewise everyone who attends Otakon knows that the escalators eventually are shut down or break due to the weight sensors shutting the motors down for the safety of the system. Though it is not something I mind – I’ve climbed up over 20 flights of stairs when wearing Link (it’s an extra 60+ lbs of gear on me by the way), I know Robert would be in severe pain after using the stairs (and yes he trudged up them and needed a break afterwards). Again it is easy to dismiss but a very real and hard fact of handicapped access that I had to learn about during the weekend and I felt it was completely unrespectable for Otakon to treat our issues in this manner. To call it discriminatory might be a tad too far but nonetheless Robert’s medical needs were not addressed professionally at all and I can’t blame them if they were to not return to Otakon based on this alone.
I am not saying it is wrong to watch who uses the elevators as with crowds of Otakon’s size having the potential to overload the system but for someone with severe back and heart troubles, it was unfortunate to see this kind of behavior displayed.
Moving on to Saturday evening, after a brief photoshoot with Robert, I quickly went right to the 1st Mariner Arena for the Masquerade. Took the long way around the building (d’oh) and got there just as the skits were starting and the lights began to dim. At least it did not take long to grab a press seat and set up so I was able to catch the show from almost the beginning.
For never having been in The Arena (as I missed the show last year and had never seen a masquerade take place in a sports venue), I was curious what to expect. It was actually similar to previous masquerades but with a more elaborate lighting set up, perhaps slightly larger stage, and obviously far more seating. The darkened balconies of the upper tiers of the stadium were certainly packed and if there were less than 8,000 or so people packing the place, I would be shocked. It really gave an amazing atmosphere for anyone who performed to say the least.
The show itself was excellent and I’d say about average to the high Otakon standards. Though some skits again touched on Yaoi and dancing, actually most that integrated it did it with such humor or sheer number of songs and choreography that it made the concept fresh and exciting. Of special shout-outs I give one to Laura aka “Flute Link” who again returned for a stunning performance. Not only did she juxtapose at least a dozen different Zelda songs, she dueled with Navi (pre-recorded of herself playing for that part) and did even more insane playing this year. Later I would learn on Sunday that she was awarded “Best Novice” – an award rightfully and fully earned (if not Best in Show). She was the only person to have the entire Arena stand with a cheering ovation – Amazing. Many other skits though from Jim and Zach’s “Purgatory”, to a Gundam skit with tremendous sound editing, to an exceptional Eternal Sonata comedy skit by Rogue, Flexi, Hikaruchan, Kim, and Andrew, and even a skit that mentioned practically every Anime out there in “Broaden Your Horizons!” was entertaining and well put together. Great times had by all! The walk-ons and half-time show were equally impressive but as my batteries died at that point I took leave early and went back to the BCC.
Ran into Jackie again who wore her Twilight Princess Zelda for a very short while and then went back to the hotel and crashed.
Sunday brought more fun, more somewhat early rising, and lots of luggage moving as usual. Lugged the bulk of my gear down 8 flights of stairs and was the last to check out of the room as Ben, Morgan, and Angela had already left for their tables at the BCC. Made some last stops at the dealers room more or less to visit some booths I was trying to find (and didn’t) and also ran into Robert, Pikmin, and Sai while rearranging schedules last minute for all of the private shoots we either had or tried to make up on Sunday.
By Sunday afternoon knowing that original plans weren’t going to pan out and that I was already out of time on my usage of arranged hotel space, I thought we could try a last-minute attempt to extend the time we had. I found Pikmin and Sai, grabbed Pikmin’s Twilight Princess Link suitcase and props and hailed a taxi up to the Tremont (not making them walk a mile with 40lbs of luggage after all). After speaking with some managers about our situation, it turned out we were granted further access to the space and although the original plans didn’t work out for this aspect of the weekend, the end of Otakon for me resulted in giving Pikminlink a totally awesome photoshoot with Robert and Sai!
After several hours in the space, things could not have ended on a better note. We took a group shot and literally caught Morgan coming upstairs to grab me for the van as they had long broken down and left the BCC. With our shoot done it was out from the lobby and into the van for the trip home. Left around 6pm Sunday and got home at around 4:30am Monday then was back home by that evening.
Overall again for my fifth Otakon and Consplayers’ first, I do have to say it was a blast. Between epic skits, the best of friends, and a whole lot of planning for private events that eventually worked themselves out to satisfactory conclusion, it was a good time for just about everyone I know (including all my artist and dealer friends who made a little or a lot of money). This con continues to do many things right and work with people in a professional manner – most of the time. I personally had no issues and thought that few things could have worked better.
As far as Consplayers themselves rate this convention, that is their choosing but I personally feel that due to the treatment received that they will not return to Otakon. Please continue to watch the Otakon section on Consplayers for any further reports as this is the first time nearly all our members have been in one place at the same time and I figure each member will give a very unique report for this convention.
Overall Grade by The-Real-Link: B+
Overall Grade by Consplayers (in my opinion): F