07/21/2009

SHAME & SMELLS: Otakon 2009 Part 1

by Matthew Hawkins

So, Otakon 2009. How was it? Well, before getting to the goods… that being the copious amounts of cosplay pics taken over the three day weekend, a little over 600 in total, a very quick service announcement:

If you’re in the market for a brand new camera, do not get, and I repeat DO NOT GET the Nikon Coolpix S630. Never before have I had the intense pleasure of handling such a worthless image-capturing device. At the very top of the long list of issues, most of which will be illustrated in the pictures to come, is dulled color, nonexistent white balance, piss poor light detection, and a supposed ultra advanced anti-shaking system which apparently never kicked in for me. I also love how it forgets any adjustments you make to the settings, like deactivating the flash, whenever you power the camera down. Meaning you have to fiddle around with the settings EVERY SINGLE TIME you want to take an image. Which needless to say is annoying as f8ck. Plus the zoom feature is completely and utterly unusable. At least it snaps pictures fast enough, hence why I stuck with it throughout the weekend and didn’t turn towards my previous camera, which is slow as all hell, plus the battery life is actually respectable. Otherwise, Jesus, we’re talking cell phone qualities pics circa 2007 here (my Nokia N81 took better looking images, with better color and less noise), and nowhere near worth the asking price (it’s easily the most expensive of the compact, point and shoots available).

… Basically, after all the bitching and moaning about needing a new camera, I finally went out and got one. And coming back home from the long and exhaustive trip, only to discover that the one true highlight of the previous weekend, which was basically the prime motivation for it in the first place, were kinda crap was simply icing on the cake. Gotta say, never before have I ever been to a convention, strictly speaking as an attendee mind you, in which I had both such a grand old time and instances in which I seriously wanted to punch someone, all wrapped up in one.

Day 1

Going in, I had this gigantic, disgusting looking zit on my face, which more or less killed one primary goal from the get go, that being a picture of me taken with some cutie cosplaying as Chie (you know, from Persona 4, duh), which I wanted as a new bio image for the next zine or whatever else. The trip down was fairly hellish, due to several unforeseen circumstances and annoyances, which I don’t feel like getting into at this point (I should have honestly come down the night before, but that same Thursday evening was a big goodbye get-together for everyone involved in Nickelodeon Magazine that I really did not want to miss). Long story short, it was six by the time I finally got my badge (stupid me for not pre-registering), though that still meant a chance to catch a few interesting sounding panels, like “Japanese Modern Rock Music”, “Japanese Pro Wrestling”, and “I Can’t Believe You Haven’t Seen This!” and “Even More Rhythm Games You Haven’t Played.” Yet, passed them all in lieu of dinner, since the aforementioned car ride down, which should have taken 4 to 4.5 hours was like 6.5 hours, left me famished, so either I put food in my stomach or risk actually flipping my lid on someone. Plus, in the end, I have a feeling it didn’t matter, based upon the programming that I would end up catching, but more on that in just a bit.

Oh, also missed the majority of the Friday night screening of Oh! My Zombie Mermaid, which was a definite highlight of the New York Asian Film Festival circa 2006. But I caught the final few minutes, and was pleasantly surprised to discover a packed house! Along with how it’s coming out in the US on DVD later this month!

Now, before starting this post, I went back in time to see what I had to say about my first visit to Otakon, also in 2006, and was taken aback by my numerous complaints. I honestly didn’t remember so many issues going in, though I a select few still stick out. But in the end, I had such an amazing time that I knew I had to return, hence why I was so looking forward to the return trip. A few of the problems were practically non-existent, especially in light of my more recent cons, specifically the train-wreck that was this past spring’s ICON 28; things were fairly organized this time around, for instance. But much of this was off-set by some new, and flat-out bizarre issues, along with some of the same old, same old, which as it was pointed out by Katie while bitching to her about the show via the phone (Katie decided to pass on the excursion, since her head almost exploded from all the nonsense encountered at ICON, and given how Otakon ramps up the animu quotient by over 9,000… I really sorry, but I simply couldn’t pass the chance for such an obvious joke) how shitty panels is practically a given. And yeah, the panels were shitty alright.

Okay, not every single one I checked out was totally worthless, which was already a fairly small fraction of the whole, but most of them were complete wastes of time and effort. Take “Live-Action Whack-a-Catgirl”, the very first one I managed to check out for example. With a title like that, how could it go wrong, right? Well, it was basically every other annoying anime convention panel; a bunch of folks on-stage, way too many in fact, who are all friends, just screwing around and having a great time with everyone in the audience just looking on. I was only there for a grand total give minutes I will admit, but there should have seen at least one catgirl on-stage, getting spanked, during this timeframe. Didn’t happen. They also didn’t seem very organized (I honestly had no idea what the hell was going on), but at least there was no PowerPoint for anyone to not be able to operate, like the vast majority of others. I mostly concentrated on the game related panels, and not surprisingly, almost all were absolutely wretched, which once more I will be detailing in a bit. Though I unfortunately missed the one on Shin Megami Tensei, mainly because it was that Friday morning. Despite the potential awesomeness there, maybe it was for the best? On the other-hand, gladly passed on the one run by Disorganization XIII that same evening… those were the same chumps that started that totally disgusting anti-gay chant at the last New York Anime Festival, as some might recall. Can’t believe they managed to land another show to stink up (and I would hear from folks who did check it out that it was as wretched as expected).

Then again, I should not be the least bit surprised. As I have learned at conventions passed but forgotten, and again reminded once again this past weekend, panels are absolutely not about introducing something new and exciting to an audience that might appreciate it. No, it’s about going over the same old sh*t, and without adding any sort of insight. Because that’s what the people want, to hear the same stupid jokes, to watch the same stupid YouTube videos, yet again but in a group setting. To basically share those experiences with others in the same room at long last. Mostly because many of the attendees, I hate to say, are not able to share their passion for anime with those in their immediate surroundings, let alone express it without fear of ridicule or the such. I have to constantly remind myself that being able to openly profess my love for putrid soul caner like Strike Witches without anyone giving a rat’s ass is yet another benefits of living in New York City, where positively everyone is into totally bat-sh*t insane nonsense, so who the hell cares. Though the total lack of social skills (you have to really be careful when having a conversation with a friend about anything, since so many are attention starved and lacking of friends back home, and therefore live for the chance to throw their two cents regarding the topic at hand and make a new friend) is far tougher to swallow, especially the general lack of hygiene that many Otakon and similar animu con attendees are infamously known for. All I can say is that those who think cosplayers are insane weirdoes have never actually been to a convention, since they are the most with-it people at a show, generally speaking. First off, you have to have some basic motor skills to put these elaborate costumes together in the first place, as well as wherewithal to be presentable, along with the ability to deal with others when they ask to take your picture.

Speaking of cosplayers, they were the main reason to be there, and greatly helped one to forget about the program-related woes. First off, here we have a pair from Resident Evil! It’s Rebecca Chambers and… you know, to be totally honest, I forget who the guy is. Been ages since playing the first couple of installments…

And here’s everyone’s favorite Street Fighting, Russian bastard!

While on my way to the console gaming room, ran into… Dr Forrester from Mystery Science 3000?

But back to gaming, the console gaming hall at Otakon is, to put it bluntly, mind-blowing. It easily puts all the other gaming rooms in any other convention to absolute shame; not to beat a dead horse, but I’d have to say it’s the one found at this past year’s ICON, multiplied by 200, and that is seriously no exaggeration (which to be honest was fairly respectable and on par with one would find at most other shows, me thinks)..

… That one pic simply does the entire spectacle zero justice. One can find EVERYTHING there, from Street Fighter 4 to Super Puzzle Fighter to even Street Fighter The Movie: The Game. Whatever a hardcore gamer’s preference might be… FPSs, music titles, shumps, or anything else really… it’s guaranteed to be satisfied and then some. Though fighting games was far and away the most popular offering. Practically every single Naruto title for the GameCube that came out in Japan but not out here, which is like six of them, were in attendance and heavily played. BlazBlue was the new hot thing, while Soul Calibur 4 had a surprisingly large number of players crowing around its monitors (also making it all so wonderful are the gigantic 60 inch plasmas that certain titles are lucky to have). Didn’t see Tatsunoko vs. Capcom, but I’m certain was there. Though I did look for Sengoku Basara X and Hokuto no Ken/the Fist of the North Star fighter, yet neither was to be found.

Ultimately, all I cared about were the shumps, and lo and behold, there was Otomedius, aka that loli Gradius…

… Unfortunately, never got the chance to play it; was gonna save all my game playing for the next day, Saturday, but it was replaced by something else by then. Wonder why. Anyway, here’s a dude dressed as Eddy from Tekken I found in the vicinity…

Elsewhere I found these two girls in fantastic looking Odin Sphere attire (along with the very first pic to have it’s colors totally butchered by the aforementioned piece of sh*t camera)…

Hello lady Solid Snake and Psycho Mantis!

Hatsune Miku was definitely one of the more popular costumes of the show, and this particular girl’s rendition was easily one of the best I personally encountered…

My next stop was the dealer’s room, which is equally as impressive as the gaming room, though still not as much since much of what was on-hand can be found online. But you know, it’s nice to see everything that’s out there in person, plus dealing with mail order can be a real pain in the ass. Anyhow, there’s where I spotted this Faith, from Mirror’s Edge, which was also another fairly popular costume, and a surprising one at that…

Hey, it’s that gothic lolita robot from Soul Calibur 4!

And here’s the blue-haired, one-eyed girl from Ikki Tousen, which in America is known as Battle Vixens. Hilary says the manga and anime are both cringe worthy, but I’m only familiar with the PSP, which is an absolutely superb Final Fight clone (with plenty of T&A)…

It should come to no shock to anyone that going in, Persona related cosplay was high on my list of priorities, primarily P4, and here we have one of my favorite cosplayers from the entire weekend; it’s Rise’s shadow!

… And once again, holy f*cking sh*t am I pissed that my brand-spanking new camera was such an epic fail. The colors and overall vibrancy of the entire get-up just doesn’t come through in that picture I’m afraid. It was also here that it finally dawned on me how truly amazing the character designs from the game are, a point that would be re-enforced throughout the weekend.

Yet another MST3K cosplayer, here’s some girl dressed up as Crow!

Thus far, it’s only been pics of ladies, which I know might seem a bit odd, but then again, I’m a dude after-all. But here we have two guys with some equally fine Persona cosplay, this time from P3…

Yet another person who is in my top ten from the entire weekend, as Travis Touchdown! Note the totally custom made and totally dead on shirt from the game!

Back to bitching about my camera; can you believe this pic of Fallout boy (that’s a girl in there, btw) was taken outside, under the sun without a single cloud in the sky?

Hey, it’s Mega Man 9′s Splash Woman!

Eventually I made it down to the artist’s alley to hang with Hilary for a bit. Along with the usual awesome assortment of mini comics and prints, she had these wonderful custom bento boxes covered with random pages from some manga…

And a very yaoi-iffic fan…

That’s also where I ran into the girl from Left For Dead…

My first Chie sighting! YES!

… Every Chie I met was just so awesome. And this particular one was a friend with a female Teddy!

Check out this wacky pairing: first we had Ikutsuki from Persona 3, carrying with him Tom Serve dressed as Edward from Fullmetal Alchemist?!

Hey, it’s King Hyrule from Zelda: the Wand of Gamelon!

What’s an anime convention without a bunch of EVA characters, huh?

Two girls from Valkyria Chronicles…

Not sure where this dude is supposed to be from, but his whole get-up was fairly impressive…

According to this guy dressed as Tiger Mask, the panel of Japanese Pro Wrestling was pretty decent, but was he simply biased since he was more than likely featured in it?

Speaking of panels, already mentioned how lame “Live-Action Whack-a-Catgirl” was. Next was “The Yaoi-ing Game”…

… And it was surprisingly decent! The reason why it succeeded while most of the other failed was because of how well organized it was. Or should I say, it was actually organized, period; basically, various clips from assorted yaoi shows were shown and audience members had to guess what the name of the show was. So right off the back, if you’re gonna do anything like that, one has to have their act together. But I was equally impressed by the sheer amount of clips they had on tap. And the presenters actually had some funny one liners (FACT: most animu dorks have the worst sense of humor imaginable), with my fave being “Look, somebody is happy!” Unfortunately, one has to see the accompanying clip to see the humor, which was a dude, in the process of being ass and mouth raped, all of a sudden getting an erection.

Though what made it especially enjoyable was all the girls in the audience going bonkers every-time a guy rammed his tongue down another dude’s throat, or shoved his dick in the other’s ass…

… Not exactly my cup of tea, but hey, it was still loads of fun nonetheless. I actually was going to check out “How To Draw Yuri” which ran at the same time, but for whatever reason, my instincts told me to pass. Hilary ended up checking that one out instead, and basically confirmed my suspicions afterwards; at one point she apparently asked the gaggle of idiots running the panel if they were actually going to teach the audience actual yuri drawing techniques or just continue screwing around like everyone else seems to do , and one of the dudes took serious offense, by pulling out the “but we were really popular last time!” card. lol.

Then you had the “Return of the 21+ Cosplay Panel”, but I already knew that the line to get in would be a mile long, plus it spilled past midnight, which was no good since I had an important gathering to attend…

TO BE CONTINUED!

  • http://www.disorganizationxiii.com Angelo D’Argenio

    Dear Fort90,

    My name is Angelo, president of Disorganization XIII. I have read your comments regarding our panels at NYAF, and feel that I must respond to them. First of all, I myself am Bi-sexual. My co-president Robert Bauer is gay, and several members of Disorganization XIII identify as queer. That being said we have been doing our Kingdom Hearts panel for 4 years now, and the last performance at NYAF was our last Kingdom Hearts panel we will ever do. The reason? We make it a point to give the audience what they want, and when the audience responded with joke after joke about sexuality, we realized that NYAF was not the correct audience for a Kingdom Hearts speculation panel. That, and there simply hasn’t been enough new information to fill an hour’s worth of time. Now, I would like to point out that when a point was risen to talk about some serious speculation, we switched gears as soon as it was requested to serious speculation, however once again we were only giving the audience what it asked for.

    You are free to dislike our panels, and you are free to call us unprofessional, however, I take serious offense to being called anti-gay. At no point did we start an “anti-gay” chant, and the very notion of us spreading such bigotry is disgusting. As I said before many of our members are gay, and we actually look at kingdom hearts as one of the first and few games to provide actual gay role models for the young queer community. We feel the same way about Persona 4, and other games who have ambiguous to completely outed homosexual characters. We make jokes about the character’s sexual orientation, because they are funny, but at no point did we put down characters because they were gay. We made fun of Kairi’s lack of characterization as evidence of a homosexual relationship, we made fun of the way the game was written, and we made fun of Nomura’s intentional allusion to the homosexual relationships in his games. At no point was homosexuality brought up in a negative light.

    Now as I said before, Kingdom Hearts was pulled from our panel roster due to it simply not having enough content. Spoiler, our panel at Otakon, is a shock comedy panel in which we spoil the endings to peoples favorite animes and videogames. I would not ask you to like or even come to see this panel, or any of our other panels, but I do ask that you stop spreading such hateful messages about us. If you do have a problem with us, I would feel happy to speak with you about it at NYAF, Otakon, or any other convention we perform at to clear up any and all misunderstandings. We at Disorganization XIII are proud of what we do, and would never EVER wish our message to be misconstrued as anti-gay or prejudiced in any way. We greatly apologize that our Kingdom Hearts panel was taken in such a fashion, and we are truly and deeply sorry that anything we have done could be taken that way. We are however adults, and professionals, and as such we would like to address any concerns you have in a grown up fashion. We do not wish to slander you, and we ask that you cease slandering us in order to reach a civilized conclusion.

    Once again we apologize the intent of our panel was misconstrued, but frankly we are not bigots, far from it. Much of our lives are spent fighting for equal rights for all people regardless of race, religion, gender, or sexuality. The fact that we ran one panel which happened to have a profundity of Kingdom Hearts jokes of the queer variety does not change that.

    Feel free to contact me at DisorganizationXIII@gmail.com, or as I said before, simply approach me at a panel. I will gladly discuss our policies with you either in private, or in front of our panel audience. This is a very serious issue, and I sympathize with you and how you feel about it. That only means we at Disorganization XIII must work that much harder to clear up our misunderstandings with our fans.

    Thank you and I hope to hear from you soon.
    Angelo M. D’Argenio
    President of Disorganization XIII

  • http://www.fort90.com Matt

    Hello Angelo.

    First off, thanks for taking the time to address the various matters at hand in a straightforward and adult-like manner. Not going to lie; after what I saw and heard at the NYAF, I initially felt compelled to contact your organization for perhaps an explanation, but in the end, didn’t believe it to be worth the effort. Why? Because based upon the conduct and antics of either you or other members of your group that I witnessed, not just at your KIngdom Hearts but at least one other game related panel, I simply felt that anything I had to say would fall on deaf ears. As silly as it sounds… at least to most others out there, but perhaps not to someone such as yourself, given what you guys regularly do at conventions… I easily envisioned a scenario in which I would become dragged into some kind of crazy online war of egos, my site against yours, mostly because similar incidents do go down for other people.

    I myself, as you may or may not already know, also speak at conventions, giving presentations that are designed to get a reaction from the audience by pushing buttons, and sometimes people will take things the wrong way. Basically, I took you or your fellow member’s “shtick” too seriously. I too will act in a certain manner when on stage, to enhance the desired effect of the presentation, and which is not necessarily reflective of how I normally behave in regular discourse. So shame on me for that.

    Now, someone recently posted a comment in my NYAF report, regarding “the incident” and my supposedly misguided take on it, plus this individual also made mention of the fact that you are bisexual. Unfortunately, because it came at a really bad time, not only did I never get the chance to properly address his points, but I never got around to actually approving the comment (anything said by anyone new automatically has to be green-lit by myself), so I really hope that person didn’t think I was avoiding a debate. Anyhow, my first reaction to this, to be completely honest, was basically “so?” It sounded to me like the “well, I have black friends, so I can say this about black people” defense. I myself am Korean, so how would it sound if I told a room full of people “all Koreans should be lynched”? Even if I made it loud and clear to everyone beforehand that I was a Korean myself and was just joking around? Don’t get me wrong… I often poke fun at my own ethnicity all the damn time, but there’s a time and a place.

    The truth of the matter is, my memory of the incident has become rather hazy since it was quite a few months ago, and even when it actually happened, I still had no idea how the chant got started in the first place. I gather from your heartfelt apology that you and your group would never advocate a message that embodies so much hatred. Still, and not to lay another guilt trip, but the one thing I do remember with crystal clarity was the look on not just my friend’s face (who herself is bi btw) but others around us, as those words were being echoed in the room. But that’s in the past, and hopefully a lesson was learned. Unfortunately, as comfortable as you might be with addressing characters with assumed homosexual traits, it’s territory that’s quite tricky to explore, even in an ultra progressive city like New York and at an anime convention, where numerous comics and cartoons that specifically cater to those with gay tastes are openly bought and sold. That’s just the way it is, totally sucks I know, but that’s just the way it is.

    Now regarding my comments about your group’s most recent appearance, from this past weekend, all I can say is that I simply repeated what I had heard. Despite my rather negative attitude thus far, it’s not in my best interest to make stuff up. If I was told that you guys had the best video game panel of the entire weekend, as difficult as it would have been to personally believe, I would have stated as such. And again, I’m not the only one who rolled my eyes when I heard you guys were at Otakon, that same friend from before felt the same way.

    But then again, you guys clearly have a routine that works. It’s hard to say if I would have enjoyed your most recently panel. I’m willing to bet that I probably would not, mostly because it’s become quite clear, perhaps from my comments about some of the other panels from the same show, that my philosophy regarding what makes a good panel is quite different from many others. Anyhow, I wish you and your group the best of luck and thanks again for taking the time to talk.

  • http://www.theotagal.com Viga

    Thanks for coming to The Yaoi-ing Game! Your comments made me very happy.

    Surprisingly a fair number of attendees came to that panel despite not really liking yaoi and walked away still laughing. Crossing that barrier says something I think.

    Drawing panels at convention needs a major overhaul. It’s up to the programming staff to make that happen. I think any artist that wants to do a how to workshop should at least submit a short portfolio and talk to the people before hand. As someone learning to create better manga inspired art it is disheartening when the panels is nothing but bad jokes and worse skill. I got burned by a how to draw yuri panel once. Maybe it was the same people?

    Anyway thanks again for the feedback. Look out for The Yaoi-ing Game 2: Pen Fifteen. I’m planning on changing it every year to keep freshness and present it at conventions throughout that year. I hope Katsucon will accept it again. Then it will premiere there.

  • Anonymous

    Kudos to any man who cosplays Ikutsuki. <3

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