Otakon 20

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Otakon 20

8 - 10 August 2014 | Written by Maxxum

Otakon, the massive Anime and Japanese cultural festival, celebrated its 20th year and featured some of anime's most well-known talent from shows like 'Sailor Moon', and 'Kill la Kill', as well as the revered musical artist Yoshiki. Although, if one were to walk past the Baltimore Convention Center (BCC), where Otakon is currently hosted until 2017, one could easily lose sight of the fact that Otakon is more than cosplay and otaku references.

For three days (not counting the Thursday Matsuri), 30,000+ people dominate the area in and around the BCC while experiencing a substantial cross-section of Japanese history, pop-culture, religion, music, cinema, clothing, art... the list is expansive and inevitably one will be forced to choose between two or more panels happening at the same time that he or she absolutely wants to see. Likewise for media in attendance when there are so many interesting people with whom to speak.

Given the time constraints, I spoke with the 3-man contingent from USA Sumo, and attended a round-robin press meeting with Dante Basco. Given the science and sci-fi topics I normally cover the choices might seem odd, however I am not without my own Japanese influences. As a child I practiced Judo at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, so speaking with Yamamotoyama Ryuta and Kelly Gneiting was as much out of personal fascination as it was respect for people who have committed to a life of practice, pain and the search for self-fulfilment through the warrior's path.

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To provide some context to the video, Yama was sitting on a two person love seat - combined both he and Kelly are approx. 1000lbs. And, though they appear to be obese, one must understand that what you're seeing is an abundance of subcutaneous fat over a substantial amount of a muscle. Kelly completed a marathon at 400lbs (a world record), and Yama... well, Yama lifts guys that weigh 400+ pounds and drops them where he wants.

Friday's interview with USA Sumo was my only scheduled event, Saturday on the other hand was the typical Otakon 2nd day... lots of walking, photography, and "OMG that's a cool costume". However, our start of the day was the presser for Dante Basco. Dante's attendance at Otakon was inevitable given his voice work on 'Avatar: The Last Airbender', although my interest in speaking with him stemmed from his role as "Rufio" in the movie 'Hook'. There were a couple college student reporters present, and I noticed that Dante was entertaining guests from two generations of people that had seen his two most significant roles during each of their respective childhoods - the student reporters who grew up knowing Dante's role in 'Avatar' would have been the same age I was when I watched 'Hook' in theaters. Follows the presser:

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What you can't tell from the video is that Dante is turning 39 at the end of August.

After the session, it was time to see what many come to Otakon to experience... the cosplay. Each year the ratio of street clothes vs. costume raises in favor of costumes. By my rough estimate, it's 10 cosplayers for every two regularly dressed people and of those half are going to be photographers. Wearing a suit as I do for these events, I was mistaken for being a cosplayer twice because it's easy to get into the mindset that if you're not wearing jeans, and someone doesn't recognize you, it must be a cosplay from an obscure anime.

Alas, Sunday was the last day but the most enjoyable for me as I was able to both watch and photograph the Yoshiki concert. Though not mainstream in this country, a rock star/concerto maestro abroad who can play with such a duality of styles that it raises the question of whether Yoshiki has two sides to his personality, or if he's concealing a deeper part of himself with the mask of starkly different and contrasting forms of musical expression.

End of line.

Photos/Video by Maxxum