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Cool Cosplay, Art Displays and Other Reasons to Attend Otakon 2018 in Washington, DC
Check out the city’s celebrated annual anime event set to take over the convention center, Aug. 10-12
The National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, DC is one of the country’s largest celebrations of Asian culture. While it pays homage to the past and the 1912 gift of the cherry blossom trees from the mayor of Tokyo, there’s a newer event taking the city by storm that celebrates Asian pop culture at its most modern.
Meet Otakon, which is held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center on Aug. 10-12, and just might be the dedicated event space’s liveliest function (emphasis on FUN) all year long. The family-friendly convention is run by and dedicated to fans of Asian media, entertainment and pop culture, including anime, manga, music, movies and video games. The festivities range from cosplay contests, skits and live music to panel discussions with comic book (super)heroes, for-sale artworks and more.
Instead of offering tickets, Otakon sells memberships at different levels for entry to the three-day spectacle. Memberships help fund Otakorp, the non-profit that operates Otakon and is completely volunteer-run. Options range from a Sunday-only trial membership for $40, a Saturday and Sunday trial membership for $70 or a $95 full weekend membership. Children 8 and under can enter free with a registered adult while children 12 and under must be accompanied by an adult.
Are you ready to go all out in the name of anime? Here’s why you should plan on telling your friends, "Let's GO-takon!"
The best part of Otakon is the cosplay. For many attendees, the convention serves as the coming-out party for a year spent designing a complex costume and flaunting it in character for the amusement of their peers (if not the Hall Costume Contest). Unless you’re caught up on the latest Japanese webcomics, animated TV shows, light novels and other media from which obsessed fans have based their characters, you may have trouble placing who’s who. But cosplayers are kind and quick to bring you up to speed, so don’t be afraid to ask about their outfit or pose beside them in a picture – and please do commend them on their ensemble while you’re at it. You also won’t want to miss cosplayers in action at the Masquerade on Saturday night, which features two- to four-minute-long skits on stage.
Nintendo spawned the Final Fantasy franchise, which has grown from its first game in 1987 to a fifteenth installment released in 2016. Along the way, gamers and fans alike have developed a love with the game’s soundtrack. Otakon will celebrate the series with two concerts, Distant Worlds: Music from Final Fantasy, featuring the “Beethoven of video game music,” composer Nobuo Uematsu, and game conductor Arnie Roth on Friday at 7 p.m. On Sunday, attendees can check out composer Eric Roth orchestrate A New World: Intimate Music from Final Fantasy at 2 p.m. After leaving their large costume props at the hotel, attendees converge on the Otakurave DJ party on Friday and Saturday nights for a lively, thumping affair rife with glow sticks, elaborate dance moves and bass-filled remixes.
Many attendees marvel at incredible for-sale works on display in Artists’ Alley, where fan-made creations are sold. Browse the aisles for anime-inspired prints and plushies, and don’t be afraid to strike up a convo with digitally savvy artists selling their works. In doing so, you might just find someone partaking in Saturday night’s Super Art Fight at 11 p.m., which encourages artists to come up with the “most insane, offensive, ridiculous and hilarious concepts their brain can muster.” Hardcore collectors will want to head straight for the Dealers’ Room, where they spend their fortunes on manga, comics, action figures, books and other official merchandise.
Gambling is to casinos as gaming is to Video Gaming Hall. One of the most popular parts of Otakon is gaming, and there’s an experience for every type of gamer, from the novice to the nostalgic and the serious competitor to the early adopter. Work up a sweat while high-stepping to Dance Dance Revolution or take Chun-Li to the championship in Street Fighter V. The game arcade is open until 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights – remember to eat and drink in between games, gamers. Competitors can sign up for any of the six tournaments one hour before they begin (see: Super Smash Bros, Tekken 7, Dragon Ball FighterZ and more). The latest gaming tech will also have a presence on Friday and Saturday thanks to a pop-up of Augment VR Arcade, a local bar in the Shaw neighborhood. Expect new gaming technologies from brands like Alienware, NVIDIA, Intel and HTC.
Even if you aren’t an anime or magna expert, you still might find some interesting content at Otakon. Moms and dads can score cool points with their little one while also getting a crash course on ways to support junior by attending the So Your Kid Wants to Cosplay discussion. Origami experts and aspiring makers will have a field day at Otakon Makerspace, where they can create teru teru bōzu (mini dolls resembling sheet-made ghosts) or Buddhist-inspired omamori charms. Rounding out the hundreds of different programs are Kpop discussions and dance competitions, panels with comic voice actors and the Library of Congress, and even a café operated by maids and butlers to make guests feel like royalty. Check out the full schedule.
Otakon is all about meeting people, making friends and having a memorable time together. The staff works hard to put on Otakon – and remember, none of them are paid to do so. Bring an open mind and great attitude, and you’ll enjoy great vibes all weekend long. Pro tip: You can easily make someone’s day by telling them how great their costume looks – or simply by saying thank you to any of the volunteers. Pick up your Otakon membership now.
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