A few weeks ago I semi-seriously asked Keith if he could get me press tickets to Otakuthon. I had never been to an event like this and wanted to see what it was about, but I wasn’t sure I really qualified as a proper Otaku. Still, I feel my credentials are significant. I played the Robotech RPG in university; followed popular anime series like Bleach and Mushishi; have re-watched classic movies like Akira and Ghost in the Shell; and I know way more about hentai than I would publicly admit (Edit this before posting) but it’s not like I dress in cosplay or have much depth of knowledge.

I don’t know who you’re supposed to be, but damn.

Having done no homework whatsoever, I clattered into Otakuton after a long week of drab grey corporate drudgery. I found myself greeted by kids in costumes, fans in home-made cosplay, models wearing elaborate cosplay, and dozens of Pikachus and Mistys. As I bypassed the never-ending opening night lines, I started to realize out how seriously everyone was taking this event. This point was driven home after I was granted my press pass with a “Please wait in the media room, the director would like to meet with you.” I texted Keith and Sophie a quick “WTF am I doing?!” And instead of being tossed out for impersonating a reporter, the very polite and helpful organizers gave me the the rundown of how the con worked, and explained that I could arrange interviews and get priority seating at big events.

Incredible cosplay like this was surprisingly common.

The con itself is held in Palais des Congrèss and nearly everyone I spoke to was a volunteer. They obviously work their butts off, and it looks like a nightmare to organize all panels, movies, games, workshops, signings, merch, special guests, and all the logistics that holds it together. There’s a lot going on, and the variety and specificity of geek events kind of blew my con virgin mind. Eleven thousand attendees, seven panels an hour, eight rooms for watching anime, seventeen stations in a huge gym for video games and about a dozen more rooms for specific things like tabletop gaming and signings. Everything ran smoothly, but the complexity of the event made me feel like the everything could fall apart at any time. “But,” as I noted the next day to Sophie, as we marched meaninglessly through the long, serpentine, but ultimately empty cordon line after being chastened for skipping it, “If there’s one thing that geeks know how to do, it’s play by arbitrary rules.” In this world of excitable kids with inhalers, they wrote a core rulebook that runs a huge, successful and colourful convention.

Hunter and Soldier from Borderlands, are you as pumped as I am for September?

It was Friday and I wanted to walk around and take in the costumes and seeing what the setup was like. I was walking down a random hallway when Sophie texted me “Go see the Steampunk stuff!” I stopped in the hallway to look at the overwhelming schedule… room 523… I look up at the room …523. I text Sophie about the coincidence, and I slip into the Steampunk panel. It’s a quiet panel with three dignified steampunk aficionados in top hats describing their hobby. My cellphone bing bongs a text. Then another, and then another. A woman with a mechanical hat glances back in annoyance. I try to turn down my volume, but know it’ll take at least 4 more bing bongs to get it turned off… 1, 2… My telephone rings at full volume. I imagine the thoughts of those around me as I leave the room to quiet my howling technology, my modern tech interrupting the reverie. Bah, they’ll live, I’m sure they’re used to haywire technology.

These do not protect from a river of acid

Having played the Robotech role playing game, I couldn’t skip the Macross panel. And boy did I learn a few things! For example, midway through the lecture I figured out why I wasn’t finding any Veritech fighters on my Gundam t-shirt! (Hint: They’re not the same thing). It was a small panel, full of nerds of various backgrounds. The the end was full of highly specific questions, and those answers were usually fully and specifically answered by other members of the audience. The panelist seemed thrilled to answer my question about how protoculture and the Invid fit in to the greater canon, and I got an answer I was wondering about for a long time (The RPG ends with season three.) The nerdery was glorious.

 

As it turns out, Nerf guns are easily modifed into awesome steampunk “artifacts”

There was a hentai marathon on that night, but sadly for this column I had a guest visiting for the championship which was also that night. Cutting the night short did however give me a chance to meet with Sophie and sort our plan of attack for Saturday. (Also, almost lose my camera and probably about 10lbs of water weight in the sweltering arena.)

 

That’s me saying “You found my camera!”

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