From Black Butler to Princess Mononoke to some your imagination hasn’t even dreamed of yet, Otakuthon welcomed them all. Some had weapons. Some had plushy toys. Everyone had a smile. The consensus among them was that this was the best Otakuthon ever. Attendees raved about the panels, the artists, the costumes, and the camaraderie. I had the good fortune to talk to some of the attendees of Otakuthon to find out what made this year special.
A number of people at the conference were delighted at the attention their costumes received. “I love having my picture taken,” a cosplayer in a pink frilly dress told me. The costumes can take months to prepare. One cosplayer said she worked on her costume “once or twice a week for three months.”
A group of women all dressed as Pokemon’s Nurse Joy told me that this was the first time they came to Otakuthon. “Seeing people react to our costume was the best part,” one of the Nurses told me while others swarmed them with smart phones and digital cameras. In fact, whenever I asked someone to take a picture, inevitably five or six other people jumped at the opportunity to take a picture as well. While some loved dressing up, others loved seeing others. “The costumes are great. The masquerade is great,” someone mentioned as I asked the nurses about their experience.
However, the number one recommendation all around was to come in costume. “A lot of people are dressed up,” said Maggie Zerczy, dressed as a character from Obito Uchiha. “It’s so much fun.” In fact, many people coordinate their costumes deliberately.
Of course, for those who can’t make a costume, it’s always possible to throw one together from stuff one has around the house or to buy one. Rey and Christine, who sold plushy costumes imported from Japan explained “We get to meet all the people who bought our product from everywhere. There’s a big sense of community.”
Those who have been coming for many years mentioned that with experience comes wisdom, and that while first timers are often overwhelmed by all the activities, it’s much better to find your own flow. For the lifers, they enjoy meeting up with friends who have similar interests and tastes, and having the opportunity to cosplay with them. Gaelle and Etienne have been coming for six and seven years respectively. “Every year we come in costume,” they explained. But when I asked what they liked most, they told me, “Just hanging out, sitting around, meeting up with friends, taking pictures.” I asked if they had any advice for those who were coming for the first time. “Just have fun,” Gaelle said. “There are so many people here. There can be pressure for cosplay that can make people feel uneasy, but really, just be happy. Enjoy it.”
I asked what specific events people loved and everyone had a different answer. “The concerts,” said Ernst, who was working at a shop. He could only attend events after his schedule finished. “There was also a great voice actress.” Another attendee chimed in, “Yui Ishikawa. She’s very hip right now. She played Mikasa Ackerman.”
Meeting celebrities of the Cosplay world was part of the conference. I noticed a particularly long line to take a photo with living doll Venus who gave several workshops at the conference including “VenusAngelic Make Up!” and “Living Doll Modeling.”
“The artists,” was another common answer I heard from attendees when I asked what was the best part of Otakuthon. Several rows of artists were featured in the exhibition hall, offering drawings, prints, and commissions in a diverse range of styles for very affordable prices.
People also enjoyed the panels and workshops. These included titles such as “20 Years of Sailor Moon,” “Hentai Jeopardy,” “My Little Pony: Fandom is Magic,” and “Plushie Making 101.”
The list of events goes on and on: video games, shopping, card games, dance lessons, films, and people watching. Everyone I spoke to reported that they’d be back next year and were counting the days already… or at least until Comiccon.