Otakon 2012

Baltimore, MD, USA. July 27 – July 29, 2012.
Reporter(s): Psycho Red

Another year, another huge convention that has come and gone. My involvement with Otakon was in more of an unofficial capacity this year, but I still cared enough to bring you some highlights.

The Guidebook app for iPhone and Android was once again incredibly useful, helping con-goers organize their schedules and ensuring that any changes were received far enough in advance to avoid major upsets. Ever since the con started using this app in addition to printed schedules, it has been one of the major advantages Otakon has over other cons.

Badge pickup on Thursday was not too horrible—the line outside looked a lot worse than it actually was. People were allowed inside in decent-sized groups. With over fifteen windows open for pre-registration alone, the wait time was short. In the three years I’ve gone to Otakon, pre-registration badge pickup has always been the fastest method. The only drawback was the hundred-degree heat during the wait to get inside, but as long as you’re sure to buy your “ice cold water” before you wait in line, you will probably be in good shape.

I spent Friday night preparing for a special Jason David Frank VIP Meet and Greet, an event for which my wife bought me a ticket.Otakon managed to host one of the biggest names in Power Rangers to come to Baltimore, and I felt incredibly honored that I was able to meet him. JDF did have an additional autograph session that day, but from what I heard, unless you got there three to four hours ahead of the scheduled time, you were pretty much screwed due to the popularity and had to try again on Saturday. However, the Otakon staff did a fairly decent job of crowd control and keeping the peace in the autograph lines overall.
If autographs and panels aren’t your thing, there were still plenty of other options: lots of video rooms, LARP, and of course, the dealer’s room. If you were absolutely bored or just looking for something to do, you could always get up and get going to a giant room filled with just about every kind of plushie, import game, or DVD you could possibly want.
Unfortunately, with more than 30,000 individual attendees in 2012, you really had to pick and choose what you wanted to do. Even for general panels, the lines were quite long. You often had to wait a bit to get in, especially if you only got there within thirty minutes of the start of the event, but you could still get in if you didn’t mind standing in the back. Despite the wait time, it was still worth the effort, so you couldn’t let the lines discourage you. On Saturday, after getting into a special VIP photo shoot for JDF in his full Green Ranger outfit, I was fortunate enough to be a part of one of the biggest Super Sentai/Power Rangers photo shoots I have ever seen in my seven years of con-going. At least thirty people showed up at the harbor (right across from the USS Constellation) for the event, with yours truly starring as the awesome Gokai Silver (as shown in this picture taken by Robert Hoang). People just walking along, whether out on vacation or going about their daily routines, stopped and absolutely had to take a picture of something they will probably never see again in their lifetimes.

Overall, 2012 was definitely a great year for Otakon. The only drawback for me was the hotel stay itself. I stayed at the Hilton Baltimore, and honestly, if it weren’t for the sky bridge directly connecting the hotel to the convention, I would have given up on it and gone to a Motel 6. The car attendants were oblivious to what they were unloading; when one of them took my costume totes out of the car, a box containing one of my helmets toppled off. Baggage took nearly an hour to get the cart up to my room, and I even had to go down and remind them that they still had my stuff. As a warning, before you book your hotel, be sure to account for an incidental fee. I’m not sure how it works at other hotels, but the Hilton Baltimore charged a $150 incidental fee. As of the time of this review, there are seven hotels that still have early-bird reservations open for Otakon 2013, most of which are more than half a mile’s walk from the convention center. I will be returning to Baltimore for next year, but I will be very careful about my hotel choice this time.