Otakon: Don’t Let Your Dreams Be Dreams!

July 26th, 3:06PM and Otakon is over.
Snapshot_20150726_3Lemme level with you for a second.

Otakon is the largest anime convention on the East Coast of the US, and has maintained its size and stature for years. It’s a celebration of East Asian media and culture, and gets its name from the pejorative, “Otaku,” which means anime, or Japanese animation, fanatic- as in, never leave your house, only watching anime, never seen sunlight type of fan. The word became a term of endearment, whether through the exportation and growth of the market, or just folks becoming less ashamed and more proud about it. Nowadays, everybody who loves anime calls themselves an Otaku.

When I went to the Manga Museum in Kyoto in 2007, I remember one of the hosts who taught us some drawing skills asked before the lesson, “Anybody here otaku?” And a bunch of us 15 and 16 year olds said, “Hai!” (Yes in Japanese) and he immediately burst out laughing. It’s not a joke. We’re here, we’re Otaku, get used to it!

Ever since I was into anime (around from elementary to high school) I’ve always wanted to go to Otakon.

Sango, from the series, “Inuyasha”

I’ve always wanted to cosplay as Sango from Inuyasha. I wanted my Dad to make me a giant boomerang, and I’d handle all of the particulars of her outfit. For some reason, that trip to Baltimore never came to fruition. Years later, I’d drift out of the anime game, as I like to call it. At my peak, I watched anime all the time, knew anime studios, directors, and animators. I conned my parents into buying the Animatrix on pay-per-view, watched every channel’s Anime block, from the reliable Cartoon Network, to IFC and TechTv, and visited all of the main anime websites like Anime News Network like it was my daily dose of local news coverage. By the time high school was over, I was out of the loop.

Part of it was intentional.

Growing up in a “small town,” as a black girl with an inhaler and a runny nose, liking something as (literally) foreign as anime often comes with a few disadvantages. The image of the otaku still carries some stigma, because anime is rarely separate from Japanese culture. People into anime often know songs in Japanese (or in my case, gibberish), speak in terms that are not English (mecha, yaoi, gami, neko- nyan nyan!), and get into a popular culture that is not American (there is a huge crossover between fans of Japanese anime to Korean pop culture and beyond, for example). Some kids like me were teased for this, and it alienates you. You can’t relate to other students if you’re absorbed into something else, and it’s not easy to explain to other people, as I’ve tried to explain to you all. All in all, I started to get the impression that I was weird enough, and I could let go of this thing if I could fit in a bit better.

It didn’t work, but I tried. I’m terrible at hiding my nerdy passions.

Either way, many times I had felt weird alone. My friends and I weren’t a big enough buffer against other pressures, so as a survival tactic, I let the anime thing go.

Fast forward, what, 6 or 7 years? and BAM, I’m at Otakon.

IMG_7977IMG_7930I meet up with my friends Stephen and Ashley, Ashley being one who cosplays.

Ashley as Tsunemori Akane, from “Psycho Pass.”

I am immediately overwhelmed and excited beyond words. Otakon is practically everything I wanted and more. It’s three days of madness, panels, shopping, and lines. OH, the lines! Otakon is also called, “Line-Con” by fans, because some of the panels and events line up HOURS before they start. Combined, I’d say we spent about 5 hours in lines through the course of three days.

Panels I went to: One about cats,


The panelist started off with, “Who here loves cats!” and the audience erupted in a roar. IMG_7938 IMG_7939

IMG_7942 IMG_7943

(Some of these photos I took for reference, I think I wanna watch Nyan Koi based on the clips I saw alone!)

one about Japanese fetishes (HEE-Larious, but rated R and was declared a judgement-free zone, so no photos allowed), one about why your favorite anime is terrible, one about female ghosts in Japan,

IMG_7961 IMG_7962 IMG_7963one about Bootleg South Korean Animes (Golden Bat, or Batman, was my favorite. Here’s a clip of his film in Spanish. It’s a hoot to watch!),

and one with the voice actors of the Abridged Series.

In between the line waiting, hilarity, and people watching, was a whole lot of shopping.IMG_7934 IMG_7931 IMG_7975 IMG_7974

Another anime that I think I need to watch, Sound! Euphonium, solely about high schoolers in a school band past its glory days, struggling to get back to competitions. It speaks to me.

In between this was eating from a Korean-fusion food truck called, Koco.

IMG_7957A rice bowl with bulgogi beef.
IMG_7958Kimchi fries with cheese.IMG_7936 IMG_7935

And around us all three days were tons and tons of cosplayers.

Cosplay, for the unfamiliar, is dressing up like a character from a tv show, comic book, or movie: coming from the phrase, costume play. Like I said before, Ashley cosplays often, and I even considered it, but there are different levels to it. Some people spend a WHOLE LOT of dedication and/or money and/or time and/or effort on their cosplay. I totally respect and adore it. I saw children dressed up as Sonic and Chung Li, and tons of Links and Attack on Titan characters (honestly, if they were to make winter-proof versions of the Survey Corps cape, I’d totally buy one!). Here’s some photos I took of some of the many, many cosplayers.

Lulu of Final Fantasy X



Rikku and Yuna from Final Fantasy X-2
Cloud, from Kingdom Hearts


Link, from The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
Rose Quartz, of Steven Universe
Link, from the Legend of Zelda (Ocarina of Time & Majora’s Mask)
Sora, of Kingdom Hearts 2
Yuna, of Final Fantasy X
Ky Kiske and Sol Badguy, of Guilty Gear
Skullkid (with Majora’s Mask), a friend (with Majora’s Mask!), and Link in the Water Tunic and Mirror Shield from Ocarina of Time
Pyramid Head takes a break

You know what I’ve just noticed? I’ve mostly taken photos of videogame characters! There were a lotta anime cosplayers I enjoyed, including, most imporantly, this duo.

Sango and Sesshomaru from Inuyasha


You got that right! Sango and Sesshomaru from Inuyasha! The moment I saw that girl with her giant boomerang, I bolted into the room after her- not an easy feat with the density of convention-goers at Otakon. I felt like a giddy schoolchild again, this girl was literally living my dream of being Sango! To all my black cosplayers out there, keep doing awesome things and enjoying your passions! It’s so inspiring, because even the Otaku of the world can be super exclusionary when it comes to their anime. African Americans and people of varying bodytypes are often rudely told that they can’t cosplay because the original character wasn’t that tall, slim, dark or whatever! It’s awesome to see people go through the effort to pay homage to characters that they love, and I am all for it. These two I saw on the last day of the con, and I’m so glad I ran into them.

So yeah, Otakon was a great time. I wasn’t weird alone. I wasn’t weird at all there, in fact, I was quite tame. When you’re weird in a crowd of people all into similar things, you become just another friend.

Whew. Had to get a bit sappy there! In conclusion, here’s some thank you notes.

Thanks to Stephen and Ashley, who let me follow them around the ‘Kon. You guys were great guides, and I appreciate you letting me experience my first Otakon with you both. I hope my enthusiasm didn’t annoy you! I was so friggin’ into it!

Thanks to Cory who helped me out in line and kept me feeling safe through our ghost panel. Hope you come around next year!

Thanks to all the folks that played Guilty Gear with me, even those who beat me several times over! Hope to see you guys at a rematch at Magfest or something!

And finally, the souvenir haul.

Here we have two pairs of Pocky-styled chopsticks, a pair of origami earrings, and a Rilakkuma water bottle.


The water bottle and chopsticks are to accompany my burger bento box, or Japanese-style compartmentalized lunchbox.

And lastly, a Hunter Kigurumi.

hunterWhat? You don’t know what a Kigurumi is?

Well, it’s this.



See you soon! ahahahahhalenfgaoisrngoanirgjnaong’owngoanregoahr’lhawo’irhgoasnv’oianevoiahg!!!!!


P.S. – Since I ended the Magfest thing with a song, let’s end this one with one of my favorite anime songs. Here’s the pillows, with their song, “Ride on Shooting Star,” from one of my favorite anime series, FLCL.


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