Anime, manga and Japanese pop culture at Baltimore Otakon Con

The west coast has Comic Con, but the east coast has Otakon - con for anime fans. Photo: A. Phillips

WASHINGTON, August 4, 2011—The setting is mid-July, downtown Baltimore and the city is in the middle of a heat wave that would inspire even the most conservative to walk around in a minimum of clothes all day. Your destination is the convention center to cover a conference that is the talk of the web.

Otakon (pronounced Oh-dah-con) 2011 is taking up residence at the Baltimore Convention Center for the next three days. As you get closer to the convention center a funny thing happens, normal city wear of business men and tourists gives way to men and women in capes, leather, hoods, elaborate masks, leotards, wigs, and full make-up carrying an array of weapons and props that would normally bring out a the city SWAT team.

Congratulations, you have arrived at the biggest, most well-attended anime conference in North America.

Crazy 88 group cosplay at Otakon 2011

Crazy 88 group cosplay at Otakon 2011

Billed as a “convention for fans of Asian popular culture”, the event “originally began as an event for fans of Japanese animation but has since expanded to include fans of all Asian culture entertainment.” Otakon is where those who love Japanese culture go to mingle with other fans.

Don’t confuse Otakon with the Comic-Con in San Diego. Comic-Con is all Hollywood, and fans now play a minimal role in that conference. Fans of comic culture now complain that Comic-Con has turned into one long press junket. Otakon, by virtue of taking place on the East Coast, is a conference that is truly for the fans.

The first thing a new attendee will notice is the cosplay. Cosplay is short for costume play, and is simply the act of dressing up as your favorite character. But the outfits are far from simple. Many attendees plan their costumes for up to year, and the detail enthusiasts put into dressing like their favorite character would earn even Tim Gunn’s approval.  While it’s true that Otakon has cosplay contests, many attendees dress up, well, because they can. Even if you don’t recognize the characters, the outfits are stunning.

Then there is the conference itself. Events include a dance called ‘The OtakuRave,’ panels and workshops, dealers of anime and Japanese items, gaming tournaments, and several screenings of popular anime. The event started in 1994 with an attendance of 350 people. This year, the three day convention drew over 31,000.

Walking through the crowd at the convention center, it is not uncommon to see Daleks (from Dr. Who), Supergirl, characters from Narauto and Durarara (popular anime series), and even the odd Batman.

It’s rare to see conferences that are still geared toward the fans, and where the fans seem to enjoy every minute they are there. Otakon is one of definitely one of those events. If you get a chance to go, go. But make sure you have a costume; the only way to feel out of place at an anime conference is to go in street clothes. Take it from this reporter on that point!

For more information on the Otakon con visit

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Amy Phillips

A former military wife armed with a political science degree and an abundance of opinion. By day, I am SharePoint developer for a large Management Consulting firm. By night, I am blogger, social media junkie, and stressed out single parent. I believe in seeing the humor in any situation and if no humor can be found, then a heavy dose of sarcasm will have to do. 

In addition, I chair the Social Media Club for the Baltimore area. In this capacity, I work with some of the most influential media people in Baltimore and bring social media practitioners together in a productive setting.

I am also the creative force behind Blogger Body Calendar 2011 and the operator of a boutique communications firm Social Pollen – focusing on Blogger PR, content writing, and social media management. 

Contact Amy Phillips


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