I got to go to my first big anime convention this year: Otakon in Baltimore, MD. I went with my wife (who is not an anime fan, but is always supportive), my brother, nephew and neice. All in all it was really exhausting but I loved every minute of it!
Front gathering space where a lot of the cosplaying took place.
I said this is my first "big" convention, but I have been to the smaller Youmacon here in Detroit. The one thing I noticed in comparing the two is that Youmacon had a lot more unlicensed fansubbed titles showing while Otakon had titles that were either already released or licensed but not-yet released. I assume that's bcuase Youmacon is lower-profile so they can get away with more (not that I'm complaining).
But Otakon had a much bigger dealer room -- MUCH bigger. I ended up getting a Samurai Champloo t-shirt, a Shoji Kawamori mech design book, the Death Note art book, three CDs (the Innocence and Madlax soundtracks, and the new Pillows album), one DVD (the latest Tenjho Tenge), and two manga (Hellsing 4 and Trigun 9). There was also this Ghost in the Shell keychain that I wanted to get that had the Laughing Man symbol on it, but the shop that had it sold out (though I did end up ordering it online later -- I'm such a geek).
Sure it's not anime, but this Marv from Sin City cosplayer was just too cool to pass up.
So what anime did I actually see there, you might ask? Well, I saw the premiere of the Hellsing OVA (review), which kicked all kinds of ass. I also saw the premiere of the Fullmetal Alchemist movie (review), which kicked just as much ass. Then I saw the Densha Otoko movie (review) which was good but not quite the ass-kick level as the other two.
Cloud from Final Fantasy VII cosplayer.
Other than that, I saw a couple of episodes of Baki the Grappler, which was a strait-out nothing-but-fighting anime series. Not exactly high on story, but it had the analysis-of-fighting-strategy element that I always seem to like.
Fullmetal Alchemist cosplayers.
I also saw the first 4 episodes of Basilisk. Acutally I missed half of the first episode, but my brother -- who had gotten there early -- filled me in. I'm not sure what I was expecting with this series, but I was pleasantly surprised. It had good story, characters, and animation. So I'm definitely planning on collecting the DVDs when it's released August 8.
Resident Evil cosplayers.
Then there was A Tree of Palme, which was long and boring. The animation was good, and I'm sure there was a point somewhere in the story, but it really just made me sleepy.
Not sure who these guys are supposed to be, but their costumes are cool anyway.
I also saw the Dragonball Z 13 movie, for no other reason than the I wanted to be sure I had a seat for the FMA movie which was showing next in the same room. I'm not a DBZ fan at all, but I still got a kick out of the movie which was kind of goofy but fun.
No Face from Spirited Away cosplayer.
The only thing that I was disappointed at not having seen was the premiere of the Blood + TV series. But since Hellsing Ultimate was showing at the same time, I didn't get a chances to see it. Crap.
Mechazawa and Gorilla from Cromartie High School cosplayers. The poor kid wearing the Mechazawa costume had to peek over the top to be able to see anything. I think the Gorilla was the kid's dad.
As far as panels goes, I saw the one with Hellsing manga creator Kouta Hirano. It was really cool to see him and he seemed like a great guy, but the audience just kept asking all these really stupid, and sometimes even insulting questions. One girl basically asked "Do you realize how messed up you are?" I guess I could have asked a question myself, but I couldn't think of anything. Other than that there was a panel with the FMA english voice actors and ADR director after they showed the movie. The questions there weren't much more insightful than the ones at the Hirano panel. I also breifly saw the Ghibli panel (which was just fans discussing the show) but I left after they started talking about the number of panty-shots in My Neighbor Totoro. -_-;
Kouta Hirano, creator of the Hellsing manga.
Of course, over and above anything else there were the cosplayers. Miles and miles of cosplayers! Some were awesome, others were just disturbing (like a butt-naked guy with only cardboard blue dot covering his privates...?). There were of course a lot of Naruto characters with headbands every which way you looked. There were also a lot of people playing a character carrying a huge key that I didn't recognize but who my nephew said was supposed to be someone from Kingdom Hearts. I also heard that there was a Light and Ryuk from Death Note, but I didn't see them! :( But I did see a Motoko and Laughing Man while waiting for the Hellsing Ultimate screening. They were probably my favorite cosplayers there. Finally I saw a Doc Ido from Battle Angel Alita, and I had to have my wife pose with him for a picture because I always tell her that she looks like Alita. :)
Motoko and Laughing Man from Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex cosplayers.
At the end of the day Sunday, we headed home. I was exhausted by the end of the convention, but it was totally worth every minute and am looking forward to going back next year!