What’s Up: Otakuthon 2018

Dear Otakuthon Staff,

I’ve been an attendee of Otakuthon, the largest fan-run convention in Quebec celebrating all things anime, manga, anime-related gaming and Japanese pop culture, for a good number of years. In particular, this year marks my eleventh year attending this three-day festival.

With this in mind and having a blog related to my interest in anime/manga/etc., I thought, hey, why not write down my thoughts on the new changes that occurred at this year’s edition, what I liked and what the convention can improve upon for next year.

And what better way to explain some of my points, then through lists?

A. Keeping It Fresh With New Changes

Over its thirteen editions, Otakuthon has expanded to match the ever growing number of attendees. This year, the convention welcomed 23,226 attendees coming from Quebec and abroad to the downtown Montreal area. The convention takes place at the Palais de Congres which is located near Montreal’s Chinatown and a few blocks away from The Old Port.

Otakuthon has partnered up with companies such as J-Rock North Promotions Inc. to book Japanese musical artists such as fhána, MAN WITH A MISSION and FLOW (This band’s energy and performance was absolutely FREAKING fantastic!!)

The convention has also booked various other types of guests over the years, varying from North American and Japanese industry guests, whom are all mostly involved with anime and video games such as voice actors and directors of video game companies, anime youtubers, comic book artists, and popular cosplay artists from abroad.

With this edition’s festival, here are a number of new changes I noticed:

  • Out with the old badges of which attendees could personalize with their name or pseudonym, the new badges possess an RFID chip to make the registration process faster. Towers were stationed at all the entry points into the convention premises. These towers could read the RFID chip so that attendees were required to sign in and out of the convention premises for security purposes.
  • In addition, any tickets purchased for the concerts occurring during the three-day festival are programmed into the chip as well. Bye bye tiny shiny stickers.
  • In the pre-registration process for Otakuthon, it was made possible starting this year to receive your badge by mail (with extra fees applied). However, children’s badges couldn’t be mailed because it was required to see the child onsite to verify their age.
  • Age-restricted events required an attendee to get a green water-resistant wristband to enter the 16+ and 18+ panels or screenings.
  • Otakuthon encouraged attendees to download the Otakuthon 2018 guidebook app onto their cellphones. The app contained the programming schedules for all three days of the festival and provided short descriptions of each activity at the convention.
  • If Otakuthon attendees did not download the app onto their cellphones for whatever reason, then the convention provided a daily programming schedule flier presenting information in an Excel sheet style.
  • The photo-op display environments appearing for the first time in the eleventh edition of Otakuthon were now stationed on the second floor at Hall Viger. Hall Viger is nowadays the meeting place for cosplay photoshoots.
  • Seemingly, less volunteers working compared to past editions of Otakuthon.

B. In My Mind… The Highlights of The Thirteenth Edition

Otakuthon has done some pretty amazing and cool things over the years and here are the things that I felt were great:

  • The new badges and the sign in and out security procedure is a good solution to the decreasing number of volunteers working at Otakuthon this year.
  • All the entry points were left open for heavily populated areas including the board gaming room and the infamous exhibition hall Dealer’s Room. In the past, as I’ve mentioned previously, attendees could write any name they wished on their badges. Volunteers would be tasked to stand at two major doors, one leading into the room and the other out, to scan all attendees for their badges. Because of the new system, no volunteer had to be stationed at the doors.
  • I decided to attend only one of the Japanese performance guests’ concerts. I went for Lia and I was not disappointed! Her concert was delayed but lasted an hour in which she sang songs from her latest album, Revives.
  • Otakuthon also provided attendees with a free glow light stick for the concerts. I am not going to lie, I was expecting a glow light stick from the dollar store to swing around, but it is a nice quality stick that uses two AAA batteries to function. The stick itself has two functions, either to glow one colour or to glow multiple colours every 5 seconds or so. #ColouredMeImpressedIndeed
  • It’s been a while since I’ve done the pre-registration line-up for Otakuthon on the first day of the convention, but the experience wasn’t as painful as having an eye surgery or pulling out your wisdom teeth. This year, volunteers checked the pre-registration line for those who did not have one and moved them to the correct line. This was an issue that needed change from last year.
  • Glancing over what panels were scheduled at this year’s Otakuthon, I liked seeing the variation of topical panels added such as the Anime and Drag Culture panel and a panel called the Philosophy of Truth in Anime (I may have remembered the name of this panel wrong, but it was cool to see it existed).

C. Some Things To Bitch About Because I Love You Enough To Want You To Change and Grow Into Something Beautiful

The title of this section is sufficient enough. Enjoy my #shitlist, you’re welcome:

  • Remember the green water-resistant wristbands I mentioned earlier? Well, the sad thing about them was that an attendee could only pick them up at the ticket booth starting at 7 PM on Friday and Saturday night, which meant there was an extremely long line to pick these little things up. The fact that it could have been distributed to adult attendees at the pre-registration or registration area when they first picked up their con lanyard and customary gift bag (which contained the convention booklet and other freebie goodies). Or you know, the wristband pickup could have started earlier during the day as to avoid monster line-ups. But what’s a convention without monster line-ups to cause everyone a headache, am I right? As instructed by Otakuthon, the new badges would require attendees to have their photo ID on them anyway (if they ever needed to verify if an attendee was the real owner of the badge), the bracelet is pretty useless.
  • In past years up until last year, Otakuthon used to have an accompanying programming booklet detailing all the activities with descriptions. The app has replaced this booklet and was free to download onto the attendee’s phone. The app required WI-FI in order to see any changes (such as cancelation of panels) occurring in the schedule. However, the names of panels in the convention booklet were not sufficient in understanding what they were all about for impromptu planning during the day, considering if you are an attendee who doesn’t have a data plan or didn’t bother downloading the app in advance because you’re a working adult. The only solution to the problem was to run over to a digital screen located outside the panel rooms in order to read a proper description of the activities, which can get pretty annoying quickly.
  • Otakuthon did need more crowd control in large public spaces such as Hall Viger on the second floor because of the fact that the weekend was REALLY hot and everyone thought it in their best interest to stay indoors with the AC. The issue here was that there were not enough volunteers to do the job.
  • Which transitions to this specific point, there were less volunteers working at Otakuthon this year. I cannot fault the convention staff for being smaller than previous years, but damn. Having worked as a volunteer once in my eleven years of attending Otakuthon and speaking to volunteers over the years, the shift hours are tough, especially if you do not have the money for a hotel room for all three days of the convention and have to commute by public transportation. A “general” rule of thumb for attending conventions in order to maintain one’s health is the “6-2-1” rule. The rule states that anyone attending the con should “Sleep six hours, eat twice and clean yourself once” everyday over the course of the convention. The hours can impede on this general rule.
  • Palais de Congres is wheelchair accessible as the building has many elevators and is a generally wide and large space. I think it would be helpful if a few volunteers could assist attendees needing the wheelchair service around Otakuthon, especially when there is a lot of traffic in public areas and very little crowd control being done. I think that a new question should be made on the registration form, asking if the attendee requires the wheelchair service and then assigning a number of volunteers to the “Otakuthon Mobility Squad” (Just thought up the name right now) based on how many attendees require a wheelchair. It is extra work, but I think it would be a great service.

With all this written down, I hope that some of these points and words of praise can help Otakuthon grow into a better version of itself in the next edition.

See you next summer!

With love,

Emiko

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