Otakuthon cometh, and not a minute too soon.
Fans of all things anime and Japanese get centre stage at Otakuthon. Now in its 10th edition, this colourful, quirky festival with a dedicated following is like Comiccon but with an emphasis on the Japanese side of things. Walking around, expect to see members of Miyazaki films (Princess Monoke), as well as favorites from animated series: Host Club, Gintama, Full Metal Alchemist, Naruto, and countless others.
Going to Otakuthon doesn’t require anything more than purchasing a ticket, but to get the most out of your weekend, it’s worth taking a moment to read through these pointers.
Maximize your hours.
Depending on what you like best, different parts of Otakuthon are open at different times. Those eager to start as soon as the doors to the convention and exhibition hall open on Friday might consider registering on Thursday. Otherwise, take note that the Manga library is open late on Friday and Saturday, but closes earlier on Sunday. The convention also opens at a merciful 10 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday, so it’s possible to spend the night post-conference meeting like-minded animaniacs for a bit of cosplay re-enactment, gaming, watching of favorite shows, and just hanging out with like minded peeps. The timetable is here.
Hunting for Autographs
Otakuthon invites animators, artists, voice actors, and creators to the festival to appear. If there is someone coming you are especially keen to meet, make sure to show up early with the item that you would like to have signed. Bootleg items will not be signed. If you’d like photographs or more than one autograph, you may be charged by the invitee. While guests are already listed on the site, more may appear.
Cosplay and Dressing Up
To cosplay or not to cosplay, that is the question. Cosplay (costume-playing) aka dressing up is one of the best parts of Otakuthon. It isn’t required, but everyone who does it seems to have so much fun. Those in costume find people with similar anime passions and get to participate in certain events like the Masquerade, Cosplay RPG, and the Cosplay chess. While it is possible to rent a costume, this seems to miss the spirit of the exercise, which is a chance to showcase creativity and skills. Going to the Masquerade is a great opportunity to see the costumes. If dressing up like an anime character isn’t your thing, there’s also the street style of Tokyo, harajuku, which can best be described as loud and colourful. The fashion show is where Harajuku styles get their chance to show off. For a first timer, or even a tenth timer, cosplay and other kinds of dressing up might be too intimidating – don’t fret. There are plenty of people who will come in their street clothes.
Imagine spending 40, 50, 60 hours on your costume. You want to be seen. Usually, cosplayers and harajuku types are all too happy to be photographed. Of course, after awhile, the amateur paparazzi can be a bit much and cosplayers want to enjoy the convention too. So, be polite. Ask before taking photographs. If your desired cosplayers are eating or talking or engaged in an activity, wait until they finish or catch up later. Some cosplayers are very particular about how they pose or how their costume looks before being photographed, so make sure to wait if necessary. Finally, it’s bad form to put pictures of strangers on the internet without permission. If you’re planning to post someone else’s picture, check to make sure.
Purchasing original art
If you’ve ever wanted to become an art collector, Otakuthon is a great place to start. Lots of artists who are gifted in anime style, among others, will offer original pieces and prints at prices that go from almost a bargain to taking out a mortgage (okay, they don’t go that high, generally). A well known artist might charge more for his or her works than a lesser known one. If you’re purchasing a single piece, haggling is not that appropriate, but you may get a deal if you buy multiple works. Don’t feel limited and purchase only things that you think you should like. When it comes to buying art, let your own taste guide you. An original work you love by an artist you don’t know will make you much happier than a reproduction print you dislike by an artist that you know
Exchanging cards as a way to introduce yourself
Another thing that newbies might miss is the concept of giving out a business card. This is a Japanese cultural custom; everyone seems to have an introduction card that is exchanged upon meeting someone new. There are technically rules about exchanging them – who goes first, how to hold them – those rules are better left for business transactions. Again, it’s no big deal if you don’t have a card, but afterwards, you might want to sign up with vista print and get your own pack printed for the next Otakuthon.
No matter how many faux pas you might make in terms of Japanese etiquette, no matter how lame your costume is, no matter how few anime tv shows you know, you are still welcome with a big hug at Otakuthon. This is a warm and friendly place where geeking out is good. Check out a panel, a workshop, or an event. Dance, go to the Masquerade and the Fashion Show. A big smile and jhonestly telling someone, “Your costume is fantastic. Who are you?” will almost always open the door to a new friendship.
Otakuthon takes place on August 7-9 at the Palais de Congres. $35/45 for single day, $55 for all weekend.