A good deal of my weekend was spent at Otakon in the Baltimore Convention Center. Otakon, as it’s publicity states, is the largest anime and Japanese pop culture convention on the east coast. They rent out the entire convention center for three days and attract 22,000 paying attendees. I was there at the behest of my 15 year old son who reads manga, watches anime, and plays videogames way too much. When he begged to go, I let him throw me in that briar patch.
I am the veteran of four science fiction conventions including Magicon, the 1992 World Science Fiction Convention, so I thought I knew what to expect. At science fiction conventions the costuming is a minor but significant part of the convention activities. I enjoy the bizarre costumes and like to go to the cotume constests. In fact, I thought the last science fiction convention I went to a few years back in Philadelphia had a fairly lackluster Masquerade. But nothing had prepared me for Otakon.
In addition to the run of the mill anime and manga fans, Otakon seriously courts people into cosplay. Of that 22,000 attendees, about half come in some level of costume ranging from Halloween-lite cat ears and dyed hair to full blown hand-made leather costumes with props. At no time was I out of eyesight of someone attempting to look like some anime, movie or videogame character.
The most disorienting aspect was that I rarely knew who or what most of these people were trying to be. Other than well-known touchstones such as Star Wars or Harry Potter, only a few of the shows featured had bubbled high enough on the pop culture radar screen to be identifiable. I eventually learned that any guy all in red leather with spiked blond or bleached hair was Vash from Trigun and I could spot the Sailor Moon squad, but I couldn’t tell you Sailor Venus from Sailor Neptune if my life depended on it.
I normally take a camera to science fiction conventions to get pictures of writers I admire or other quasi-celebrities. But since the Puffy AmiYumi line went on for several hundred people and I didn’t recognize any other name in the program, I took pictures of the attendees instead. Fortunately that seemed to be encouraged and almost de riguer, so I didn’t quite feel like the pervy old man I otherwise would have been tagged as by taking lots of pictures of scantily clad complete strangers.
Actually most of the costumes were fairly tasteful and modest given the lasciviousness of some of the source material. Thankfully so, in the case of some of the attendees. (That was a little uncalled for.) Otakon tries to stay as family friendly as the hormone level of the target market allows and all the “adult” oriented panels and activities were clearly marked with ID required.
Here’s where you, the unsuspecting blog wanderer, come in. I have posted the less blurry pictures I took on Flickr and set up a separate set for just characters. Since I am completely clueless, please leave comments stating who the character is and what show they’re from, or let me know in the comments of this blog where I should go to get better acquainted with these shows without having to BitTorrent hours of Cowboy Bebop.
You’re help in my education is much appreciated.
Technorati tag:hummingbird rump, Otakon, otaku, anime, manga, Puffy AmiYumi, Vash, Trigun