Earlier in the summer, I posted a recap of three weeks of consecutive congoing. This, alas, was neither unusual, nor the end of my con season. Summer, particularly June and July, are busy months for East Coast congoers. So while on the one hand I was able to get a few weeks rest after three straight, the busiest weekends of the season were still in the cards.
I will preface what follows simply: ConnectiCon and Otakon are two very different shows. One is a multi-genre con with a huge internet and gaming presence, situated in a (mostly) dead city in the middle of the year. The other is thrice as large, located in one of the largest metropolitan areas in the Mid-Atlantic and focused on a diet of pan-Asian culture. They are separated by a thin barrier of weeks, during which time (generally) the same attendees prepare for both. I have been attending them for the exact same amount of time, and have had both amazing, and awkward, years there. But if you asked me to choose between them, I was steadfastly refuse. They are NOT the same con, nor should they be thought of as such.
Let the reviews begin.
I’ve written many critiques of the city of Hartford, none of them particularly positive. I’m fond of saying that CTCon is the best part of the city, a point that anyone who has actually been there will likely agree with. But that does no real justice to the scope and breadth of the actual con. Started as a webcomic-focused convention, ConnectiCon has grown into the largest multi-genre event in New England. While attendance lags noticeably behind Anime Boston, the con more than makes up for it in community and content.
I started attending in 2009, and have made it a point to return each year. Unlike many other fan conventions, CTCon takes it’s mission statement to heart: their goal to present a “massively multi-genre” event, coupled with a huge space at the Connecticut Convention Center, allows them an unprecedented flexibility in scheduling panels, tournaments, interactive events and vendors. When the con succeeds, they do so splendidly. But when something goes wrong, it becomes more visible.
Much like Katsucon and AnimeNEXT, CTCon was hit hard by the “line effect:” a huge jump in attendance that forced the fire marshal to shut down panels at capacity, relocated the registration line outside into the summer sun, and caused backups in the halls as attendees lined up to (hopefully) grab a seat in panel rooms. More than once, the top floor had to be completely shut down to accommodate crowding for Main Events. Events ran over, panel rooms filled long before the start time, and traffic had to be re-routed in the vendor spaces. This led to grumbles and complaints online and in person. Which was a shame, considering the wealth of options attendees had to choose from.
However, those options ended at the vendors. While CTCon had a huge artist and dealer space in previous years, reshuffling forced the number of exhibitors down visibly this year, resulting in more complaints and grumbles from both vendors and attendees alike. The visible devotion to gaming space effectively capped merchandise, and left some people going home with less stuff and more cash.
For my part, I caused several of those pesky code violations with over-capacity rooms, and spent little money anywhere, but the weekend was a rousing success. Looking past the lines and lacking selection of goods, was a well-structured weekend full of panels and gatherings for any type of fan. While I hope CTCon manages to correct some of the flaws in execution that hit it this year, it’s still one of the best conventions in New England, and one that I highly recommend.
Otakon: July 27-29. 5 panels, 32000 attendees, 1 purchase.
Otakon. The granddaddy of east coast cons. 19 years going strong. The second largest anime con in the country. This behemoth of an event has come from humble roots into one of the more dominating of culture festivals. And all I could think about going in was “there are HOW MANY seats in Panel 3?”
See, this year I was selected to be part of the featured panelist programming track, which right off the bat scared me. While I give panels at upwards of 10 cons a year, and have been a guest at about 8 of them, there was something different about Otakon. And I’m not just talking about size here. Yes, this is the largest event I’ve ever presented at. Yes, this con has a long, glorious history that I am now a part of. But imagine trying to live up to that legacy, when you’re used to presenting at small-mid size cons.
Otakon is more than just a con. Otakon is a way of life. People have been known to spend all year looking forward to JUST this convention. The variety of cosplay, programming options, Japanese guests, vendors, artists, and PEOPLE is greater than all the other cons I go to. Combined. Otakon is not a convention for fans of anime, it a gathering for fans PERIOD. There are no easy words to describe the power and appeal of Otakon, though I’ve tried repeatedly to do so before. It’s something one must experience for themselves- hollow words just cannot convey the scope. It’s such a powerful concept that after it was done, it practically erased ALL the emotional connections I had to the four cons that directly preceded it, until only Ota-memories remained. AMA, for all my love, feels like a lifetime ago, compared to what I experienced last weekend.
And now there I was, with everything I had to offer displayed before tens of thousands of people. You can imagine the stress there.
But I survived.
I wish I could say more about the con than just those words, but there really is no other way to describe the immensity of the Dealer’s Room, or the hordes of costumed attendees that arrived on Thursday decked out and left Monday the same way, or the snaking lines and energetic high that permeated the weekend. I can’t elaborate on the laughter booming through the room during “Anime’s Craziest Deaths,” or the cheers during “Beyond Miyazaki.” I can’t put into words the exhaustion from arriving as the doors opened and leaving when the BCC closed, grabbing ice cream before heading back to my room for an impromptu party. That was my Otakon, and mine alone, one of many stories going on that weekend.
Oh, and Panel 3 had 1700 seats, most of which were full when I took the stage.
And with Otakon, my summer of cons came to a close. My year isn’t over, and I have between 2 and 4 more left to attend before November is out, but looking back on where I’ve been…Fall is going to be so easy.