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Con Report: Otakon 2012

2012.09.08

Otakon is a very important convention for East Blue Cosplay.  It was at this con, one year ago, that we finally decided to join together not only as a group of cosplaying friends, but as an organized cosplay group with bigger dreams and plans.  Though Mei and StolenValkyrie couldn’t join us this year, we still managed to cram a ridiculous amount of fun into the weekend.

Thursday:

If you’ve never attended Otakon before, we strongly recommend you get there on Thursday!  Otakon is one of the few conventions that allows you to pick up your badge on Thursday, allowing you instant access to the convention center right away Friday morning.  Thursday is also a time to catch up with friends, finish off remaining costume bits, get comfortable in your hotel room, and explore the Inner Harbor.

This year, for the first time since it opened, we didn’t stay at the Hilton.  Due to price increases, we opted to try out the Sheraton City Center, just a few blocks up the road from the Baltimore Convention Center.  I was so impressed by the service at this hotel!  For the first time in over a decade of conventions, I encountered cheerful, friendly staff who treated con goers and cosplayers like customers instead of nuisances.  Everyone I spoke to was so polite and so helpful!

Hazard and I settled into the room with our friends Chad, Joe, and met-kun while we waited for repto, placidmage and her boyfriend to arrive so we could go pick up badges.  I changed into Koyori, finishing up just as folks showed up.  We joined up with Brad of Chibodee Cosplay and went to get in line.  Hazard and I also picked up our panelist ribbons, and purchased a bottle of ice cold water from a local celebrity:

If you paid more than one dollar, you got ripped off.

After registration, we headed out with our friend John and his crew to Ra Sushi for a pre-con dinner!  The food was delicious, and the company was unparalleled!

Pre-Otakon dinner at Ra Sushi Nothing like sushi and fancy drinks to whet your pre-con appetite!

Sadly, Hazard and I had to skip out early for a little panel preparation with Brad.  The weather was not on our side, though, and as soon as we left, the skies opened up and it started pouring rain!  A good portion of my Koyori costume is made from dyed fabric, and after a few minutes in the rain, my white undergarments and apron were decidedly purple-tinted.  Luckily, I was able to bleach the dye out back at home, but at the time, it was very upsetting.

After running through our panel prep, Hazard and I went back to the hotel room, dried off, and began the long wait for Otakon 2012 to really kick off.

Friday:

The first day of Otakon is always crazy-busy with cosplay, and since most of us have multiple costume changes during the day, it pays to start early!  While Hazard opted for street clothes for the first part of the day, I debuted my Natsume Masako [Mawaru Penguindrum] cosplay.  I’d made this to match with BlurryEyes and Rootboy, two of my best friends and favorite cosplayers.  We’d agreed to meet for photos that morning, but first, Hazard and I took Esmeralda to breakfast.

Esmeralda at Breakfast

No need for a menu; this is a penguin who knows what she wants.

We met up with BlurryEyes and Rootboy in a side wing of the Hilton’s second floor, near the sky bridge.  With Hazard at the camera, we were able to get some wonderful photos (and have a great time taking them).

Friday Penguins

BlurryEyes as Takakura Kanba, Rootboy as Takakura Shouma, and Emmacchi as Natsume Masako.  Takakura penguin trio by BlurryEyes, Esmeralda by Emmacchi.

Esmeralda the Stalker

Love and Penguins

Penguin Toss

Comfort me with apples (for I am sick of love)

Forbidden Fruit

Masako is one of my new favorite costumes.  It’s comfortable, not too heavy, and that wig!  That fabulous wig!  She’s a marvelous character too, which just added to the fun I had walking around in the costume.  It seems like Mawaru Penguindrum didn’t really catch on in the US, which is too bad.  The series told a beautiful story, and I recommend it.

After Penguindrum fun, I ran for a quick wardrobe change before joining up with placidmage for the CLAMP gathering.  We’d worked hard to finish two costumes so brand-new that the OVA they were from was debuting in Japan that day: Nunnally and Lelouch Lamperouge from the Code Geass: Nunnally in Wonderland OVA!  (It should be noted that Code Geass is not a true CLAMP series, as CLAMP only did character designs and no story or writing for the series.)

CLAMP Saturday Gathering at Otakon 2012

The Saturday CLAMP gathering!

You really have to hand it to CLAMP cosplayers; they are very dedicated to their craft!  It was nice to see some more old-school CLAMP love here, including Angelic Layer (look how cute they are there on the left!), Magic Knight Rayearth, and even a Subaru and Hokuto pair from Tokyo Babylon!

Subaru and Hokuto from Tokyo Babylon

My hat goes off to these two cosplayers for wearing such an iconic pair (and wearing them so well).

Lulu and Nunnally at the meet-up

Emmacchi as Lelouch Lamperouge, placidmage as Nunnally Lamperouge.

Elysiam Entertainment also made a showing during the CLAMP shoot, photographing some of the cosplayers.  Kayhettin is an incredible photographer and is one of the best out there when it comes to capturing the impact and beauty of cosplay.  I was so flattered to be photographed!  Check out Elysiam’s gorgeous shots of me as Lelouch here and here.

We ended up leaving the CLAMP gathering pretty early to make time for the photo booth.  Traditionally, Otakon has been a pair-costume con for me and placidmage, and we always prioritize getting a few nice shots.

Wonderland!

Wonderland!

Our awesome friend Melissa met us at the photo booth, wearing her impeccable Olivier Armstrong [Fullmetal Alchemist] costume.  Have I mentioned how much I love this costume on her?  It’s one of my all-time favorites.  There’s no not loving the Armstrongs:

The Armstrongs

Melissa took a few photos for us at the Sheraton too:

Lamperouges in Wonderland

Skank on, Lulu

Where did the time go after that?  Hazard, placidmage and I ran back to the hotel for yet another wardrobe change.  This time, we were heading to the Friday Umineko no Naku Koro ni meet-up!  This was a nice reprise for our costumes from Taiyou Con 2012, our first con competing together as a group.

It's Witchcraft!

Witches and Furniture and Ushiromiyas!  RivenWings as Beatrice (full gown), Hazard as Ushiromiya Battler (middle), Emmacchi as Eva-Beatrice, and placidmage as Bernkastel (left).

New furniture?

A Magical Chorus Line

Serious Magical Business

It’s important to remember to have fun in your costumes, and to never, ever take yourself too seriously.

We had so much fun at this meet-up!  RivenWings, who did the organizing for the Friday meet-up and photos, was a marvelous Beatrice and a great hostess for our gathering.  I was really impressed by the turnout!  We made one snazzy-looking group.

After parting ways with our new witch friends, Hazard and I detoured for about half an hour to shoot with Mistah Dozo, another well-known presence at East Coast conventions.  He was a pleasure to chat with and shoot with!  At this time, his photos from Otakon 2012 aren’t up yet, but you can be sure I’ll post them once they are.  Photo editing is very time-consuming!

A quick costume change (into my favorite spoilered experiment, Alma Karma from D.Gray-man) was in order (for me, at least), followed by my favorite of all con activities: drinks with Baroque Works!  Hazard and I were joined by C, and met up with Kara, Mel and Josh at the Sheraton’s bar.  I’ve said it so many times before, but these folks are some of my favorite people in the whole world.  After the crazy pace of the con earlier that day, it was so nice to just relax and enjoy the company of some wonderful friends.

Our last stop for Friday was literally the last thing we could do: a D.Gray-man midnight get-together run by my friend Christine.  I met her at Otakon 2010 at the D.Gray-man meet-up, and though she’s grown into a very diverse (and talented!) cosplayer, she’ll always be Lavi to me.  Even though we were only there for a quick hello, it was nice to see her and some of our other D.Gray-man friends.

D.Gray-man, still going strong

After a few photos and a little catching up, Hazard and I headed back to the hotel room to collapse in an exhausted heap.

Saturday:

Every once in a while you come across a cosplayer (or two, in this case) who really know how to take everything up a notch.  MoonNeko and Coral Snake have been rocking the One Piece world for years with awesome cosplays of beloved but under-represented characters, and I was really honored to shoot with them Saturday morning.  These two twins had pulled out all the stops to bring Otakon Bellamy and Sarquiss, and I just /had/ to smile it up with them as Doflamingo.  Our friend Zhanyi agreed to shoot for us a little while in the morning, and provided us with some really awesome shots:

Put a smile on, bitches!

CoralSnake as Sarquiss, Emmacchi as Doflamingo Donquixote, MoonNeko as Bellamy.

Pirate Rock

Why so serious?

Post-shoot we hightailed it over to the outdoor fountains for the big Saturday One Piece gathering.  There, we met up with Hazard (wearing Crocodile), Repto (in Kuma), Brad (debuting Fisher Tiger), and our Baroque Works and Center of the Universe friends.  I’ll let the photos speak for themselves:

One Piece @ Otakon 2012

Alabasta friends and foes

Alabasta friends and foes, featuring Hazard as Crocodile, Kara as Vivi, and Kortni as Lady Croc.

Luffy and Luffy and Luffy and Garp

So many Luffys!  Much love for Alli (top row, second from right) and Kate (top row right, in Time Skip Luffy)!

Do four Brooks make a river?

The Brooks, including the inimitable Kenae as Soul King.

Sanjis and Namis

Sanjis and Namis.  That center pair is one of our favorite cosplaying couples, Sami and Geoff.

Fisher Tiger versus the Marines

Brad as Fisher Tiger takes on the Marines.

Shichibukai

Shichibukai, past and present!  Repto as Kuma, Emmacchi as Doflamingo (about to take a bite out of Gecko Moria), and Kortni as Lady Croc.  If you squint, you can see the white fur of Hazard’s Marineford Crocodile coat!

Service with a smile!

The pirates who smile!  Doflamingo and his minions.  MoonNeko as Bellamy, CoralSnake as Sarquiss, and Emmacchi as Doflamingo (center).  So many pink feathers!

Croc and Doflamingo

Emmacchi and Hazard, representing East Blue Cosplay at this year’s meet-up.

Friends and Frenemies?

Our small contingent: a little Marineford, and a slice of Mermaid Island.

After the One Piece meet-up, I got changed (this time into Alibaba Saluja from Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic) to photograph two pairs of my favorite cosplayers: Mel and Josh of Baroque Works, and Mari and KimiDori.  Mel and Josh were dressed as Groose and Ghirahim from the most recent Legend of Zelda game, Skyward Sword.  I am totally in love with these two in these costumes!  They look phenomenal:

Josh as Ghirahim

SWANK ON, GROOSE

PHOTOBOMBED.

Groose and Ghirahim in the garden

Are you awed?  I was and still am.  Shooting with these two is so much fun!

Speaking of fun shoots, I had a great time with Mari and KimiDori too, who were dressed as Ririchiyou and Karuta from Inu x Boku SS (which is an adorable series).  There have never been two cuter cosplayers!

Lollipop Lollipop

Someday I want to cosplay with both of these pairs.  They’re so much fun!

After shooting, Steve changed into his brand-new Sindbad (Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic) costume, and we headed out to the Magi meet-up.  On the way, we bumped into a Masrur cosplayer who sadly couldn’t join us at the meet-up.

At the time, the Magi fandom was just taking hold in the US, and we were really surprised to see so many dedicated, amazing cosplayers!  Everyone was cheerful and friendly, and running the meet-up was easy and so much fun.  There’s also always something wonderful about a gathering where you make new friends, especially one where everyone looks so gorgeous:

Magi at Otakon 2012

Top row: Emmacchi as Alibaba, Tora-Rin as Judal, Kikkun as Aladdin, Cindy as Morgiana.  Bottom row: Hazard as Sindbad, Rocky as Sindbad, and ChibiFlora as Hakuryuu.

Four Friends

Four Friends and a Spear

Hail to the Kings

Oh Baby

The Whole Gang

BEST. CROSSOVER. EVER

BEST. CROSSOVER. EVER.

Sadly, we had to book it soon after the shoot started; Brad’s panel was starting!  He almost single-handedly created and constructed a really intense game show called “Anime Price is Right.”  Brad, our host, was dressed as Franky from One Piece, and did a great job working the crowd while explaining the different games and leading contestants through each stage.  The room filled up completely, and there was a huge line outside!  It was unreal.

Our host (center) getting chummy with two contestants.

Hazard and I didn’t really do a whole lot with the panel.  He was the prize wrangler, dividing up prizes and helping to hand them out.  I brought contestants up from the audience and helped get them ready.

What prizes?

The most difficult thing we had to do was entertain folks during the intermission, which we did by dancing hideously:

I throw my hands up in the air sometimes---

Dancing fools.

WE CAN'T HEAR YOUUUU
Special thanks to Chad and Joe for taking photos for us during the panel!

Overall, I think the game show was an enormous success.  Brad really knows how to get a crowd going while making contestants feel comfortable in front of so many people.  We’re hoping he’ll bring it back again next year.

Our next stop was the Masquerade, where we met up with the rest of our gang.  I hear that this may have been the last year that Otakon’s Masquerade will be held in the Mariner Arena, as the arena will be undergoing construction in the near future, and I have to say that I’m more than okay with this.  While the seating options are excellent, the arena acoustics are terrible!  Sometimes it’s hard to understand what the folks on stage are saying.

That said, I think the contestants this year really brought their A games.  There were many creative skits with wonderful costumes, and a lot of talented dancing (which I really like).  Highlights for me were the Street Fighter Party Rock skit (which deservedly won Best in Show), the awesome mash-up dance-off of deceased characters, and the Princess Tutu cosplayer who combined moonwalking and ballet for “Smooth Criminal.”  Everything was really enjoyable, though, and we left the Masquerade in very good spirits.

Though we’d made plans to go eat dinner with those classy folks at Center of the Universe, Hazard and I ended up returning to the room to prepare for our upcoming Umineko no Naku Koro ni midnight tea party.  What better way to celebrate this franchise than with tea at the witching hour?  I packed up our iced tea (wild raspberry rose, my favorite!) and got changed into Eva-Beatrice.  Repto joined us and we headed back to the convention center.

Witches at the Witching Hour

Oh desire!

I think this speaks for itself.

After a few photos by the fountains, we headed up to the third floor to enjoy some tea and cookies!

Tea party!

RivenWings made these beautiful frosted butterfly cookies that were so delicious and so appropriate.  No one can ever say that Beatrice doesn’t know how to (tea) party:

Delicious!

And then the moustaches and sunglasses broke out, and everything got even fancier:

GORGEOUS

YES, WAVE LIKE THE QUEENS WE ARE.

After the tea party wrapped up, I went to shoot with Mistah Dozo again for about an hour.  We got back to the hotel room well after 1AM, changed, showered, and collapsed in a heap on our bed.  Saturday was over, and we’d managed to cram so much into the day that we were having trouble believing that it was only 24 hours.

Sunday:

Sunday was another day of Penguindrum for me, while Hazard opted to cosplay as our photographer.  I met up with BlurryEyes and RootBoy (wearing the Takakuras again) for a shoot with two lovely ladies they’d met earlier at the con: Zipchan (cosplaying the Princess of the Crystal) and Jenny (cosplaying Takakura Himari).  We gathered on the patios to shoot against the glass and steel that works so well for Penguindrum:

Zipchan and Jenny were two of my favorite people I met at Otakon this year, and I’m so glad BlurryEyes introduced me to them.  I’m really looking forward to seeing them again at future conventions!

After the shoot, I went back to the hotel to change, finish packing up, and get us checked out.  We had lunch planned at a nearby sushi place with John, Mari, KimiDori, Zhanyi, and a number of other friends, so for us, Otakon was pretty much over.  We bid goodbye to our friends and promised more fun and antics next year, then packed up and headed out.

A part of our Otakon group, from left to right: Chad, Joe, Hazard, Emmacchi, BlurryEyes, and RootBoy.

As always, we try to also photograph other cosplayers that we find really striking.  These folks have shown real creativity, dedication, and carry on the spirit of fun that we love about cosplay, so let’s give them their due:

Napoleon Bonaparte

Angela as Napoleon Bonaparte from Eiyuu*Senki.  Check out her blog for more photos of this incredible costume!

Lia de Beaumont

The most amazing Lia de Beaumont [Le Chevalier d’Eon]!  I wish I could find out who this cosplayer is, because credit is definitely due for this work of art.

Dark Crystal

Talk about kicking it old school!  Dark Crystal cosplay is always noteworthy.

Hannya

Our very own Repto in his fully remade Hannya from Rurouni Kenshin.

Up!

Repto’s Sunday costume: Mr. Fredrickson from the film Up!

Shiva

Cachalot as Shiva from Final Fantasy X.  Beautiful, /beautiful/ work here on everything!  

Center of the Universe Cosplay

Our friends at Center of the Universe, once again pulling out all the stops for an amazing One Piece cosplay!

Lunatic

The Cosplay Mechanic as Lunatic [Tiger and Bunny].  Her costumes are always show-stoppers!

Ponies!

Always lovely and regal, Kara as Princess Celestia and Ria as Zecora [My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic].

And that was Otakon 2012!

Conclusions:

Emmacchi: In a lot of ways, Otakon 2012 was one of the best cons I’ve ever gone to.  I saw a lot of the people whose incredible kindness, cheerfulness and general awesomeness float me through the rest of the year, got to photograph some of my favorite cosplayers, debuted two new costumes (Masako and Alibaba), and met a bunch of amazing new folks.  While there were some definite downers (including the Thursday night rain, some weird re-routing through the Hilton, general overcrowding and some other, unrelated drama), I still get warm feelings when I think about this con.  We definitely made the most of the weekend.

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