From Academic Kids

Otakon is a fan convention focusing on the art of anime and manga, East Asian culture, and its fandom. The name is derived from the Japanese word otaku, which roughly means fanboy. Otakon is traditionally held some Friday, Saturday, and Sunday during the month of August at the Baltimore Convention Center in Baltimore, Maryland's Inner Harbor district. Run by the Pennsylvania-based non-profit organization Otakorp, Inc., Otakon is one of the largest and longest-running Japanese animation conventions in the United States.



Typical Otakon programming includes:

  • Several video rooms in which live action and animated movies and TV shows are shown on a big screen throughout the convention. Fans usually demand that the videos be shown in Japanese dialogue with English subtitles. Fan-produced anime music videos, in which anime film clips are set against the background of a particular song, are also shown.
  • Panels and workshops on subjects such as voice acting or how to draw manga. Expert guests discuss or show tricks of their trade and field questions from the audience.
  • A dealers' room in which commercial vendors such as publishers and retailers set up booths and sell their merchandise.
  • The Art Show and Artist Alley, in which amateur artists may sign up for a table and display, advertise, sell, and auction their artwork.
  • A video game room in which attendees may play a variety of console, arcade, and computer games, and participate in tournaments.
  • Musical guests and a rave.
  • Cosplay and live-action role-playing. Many attendees spend most of the convention in costume as their favorite anime, manga, or video game character.

Thousands of people attend Otakon each year. Attendees arriving in the morning on Friday or Saturday should expect to wait hours in line to pick up their registration badges. Attendees can arrive on Thursday to pick up their registration badges so they can gain instant access to all the convention events on Friday.

Otakorp maintains relationships with many hotels in the Inner Harbor area, allowing attendees to reserve a certain number of rooms at a discounted rate. These specially reserved rooms are usually booked well in advance of the convention date.


Otakon 1994

Otakon started in 1994 at the Days Inn hotel in State College, Pennsylvania with 350 attendees, 4 dealers, 9 American guests, and 16 staff members.

Otakon 1995

In 1995, Otakon moved to the Scanticon hotel in State College, Pennsylvania and hosted 450 attendees (a 29% increase from 1994), 25 staff members, 15 dealers, 2 Japanese guests, and 14 American guests. It was Otakon's first and only four-day convention. This was the first year to have an live-action video track and the first year to feature live-action role-playing.

Otakon 1996

In 1996, Otakon moved to the Hunt Valley Marriott hotel in Hunt Valley, Maryland and hosted 1,000 attendees (a 122% increase from 1995), 35 staff members, 20 dealers, 1 Japanese guest, and 9 American guests. There was a impromptu rave at Otakon '96. One staffer developed and released a custom Doom level based on the layout of the hotel.

Otakon 1997

In 1997 Otakon remained in the Hunt Valley Marriott hotel in Hunt Valley, Maryland and hosted 1,750 attendees (a 75% increase from 1996), 45 staff members, 22 dealers, 3 Japanese guests, and 15 American guests. It was the first year for Otakon's popular event "Mystery Anime Theater 3000" (based on Mystery Science Theater 3000). The "www.otakon.com" domain was officially registered, and the impromptu rave of Otakon '96 became an official event.

Otakon 1998

In 1998 Otakon moved to the Hyatt Regency hotel in Arlington, Virginia and hosted 2,500 attendees (a 43% increase from 1997), 60 staff members, 25 dealers, 2 Japanese guests, and 22 American guests. This was the 5th Otakon held. Otakon 1998 was the last Otakon convention to be held in a hotel and this Otakon had female characters on every membership badge given out to Otakon '98 attendees.

Otakon 1999

In 1999 Otakon moved to the Baltimore Convention Center in Baltimore, Maryland, which would remain its official venue for the next 6 years. Otakon '99 hosted 4,500 attendees (an 80% increase from 1998), 80 staff members, 30 dealers, 5 Japanese guests, and 22 American guests. Otakon's tradition of inviting musical guests began this year with composer Yoko Kanno.

Otakon 2000

In 2000 Otakon remained in the Baltimore Convention Center and hosted 7,500 attendees (a 67% increase from 1999), 114 staff members, 45 dealers, 6 Japanese guests, 20 American guests, 6 British guests, and 1 guest from Hong Kong. Otakon '00 was host to the British indie band Ba.

Otakon 2001

In 2001 Otakon remained in the Baltimore Convention Center and hosted 10,275 attendees (a 37% increase from 2000), 180 staff members, 65 dealers, 4 Japanese guests, and 14 American guests. This was the first Otakon to have the "Otachan" event, a children's programming track. One memorable event of Otakon '01 was the late-night, early-morning "explosions" along Pratt Street due to the July train fire that occurred just weeks before Otakon '01. The BCC was evacuated, and all of the Otakon attendees poured out onto Pratt Street. Fire hydrants were opened, and Pratt Street and adjoining streets became like a river. Many of the evacuated attendees took a break from the convention to play in the gushing streams of water. Pictures of Pratt Street when it was flooded and attendees were playing in the water are available on the internet.

Otakon 2002

In 2002 Otakon remained in the Baltimore Convention Center and hosted 12,880 attendees (a 25% increase from 2001) and 6 Japanese guests, employed a staff of 285 (all volunteers), and attracted over 130 vendors from all over the world. This was the first year that Otakon occupied the entire Baltimore Convention Center, which is over one million square feet (90,000 m²) in size.

Otakon 2003 / Otakon X / Tenth Anniversary

Missing image
Picture of Otakon's 2003 T.M Revolution Concert

For its tenth convention in 2003 Otakon once again took over the entire Baltimore Convention Center. Major musical guests for 2003 were Kristine Sa and Takanori Nishikawa, also known as T.M. Revolution, a popular musical performer in the anime and J-Pop world.

2003 marked the last year of the popular fan event "Mystery Anime Theater 3000".

New at Otakon 2003 was Thursday Night Pre-Registration pickup, where the Convention Center was open the Thursday night before the convention so those who had pre-registered could pick up their badges in advance. An estimated 2,000+ did so.

In 2003, Otakon arguably became the largest anime convention in North America. Its official attendance count of 17,338 was 35% larger than that of 2002. The longtime holder of the crown, Anime Expo in southern California, had approximately 17,000 attendees in 2003 [1] (http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/article.php?id=4461).

Otakon 2004

In 2004, Otakon remained in the Baltimore Convention Center, hosting 20,899 registered attendees. Thursday Night Pre-registration pickup was again widely attended.

The Baltimore Area Convention & Visitors Association gave Otakon 2004 the status of a "citywide event".

New events at Otakon 2004 included a collectible card game tournament and a "manga library" in which attendees could read donated copies of various manga. A convention-produced manga magazine, Otazine, featuring original manga by U.S. artists, also made its first appearance this year.

2004 also marked the debut of the Otakon Post Office, a US Postal Service station with its own Otakon-themed commemorative postmark, only available from the USPS booth in the Dealer's Room during the weekend.

Japanese rock band L'Arc~en~Ciel made their first U.S. appearance as Otakon 2004's musical guest. Held in a separate venue, the nearby 1st Mariner Arena, the concert drew an estimated 12,000. In October 2004, Sony Music Japan, who had filmed the concert, announced that they would release it on DVD in Japan for 4,515 yen (approximately US$40). Tofu Records, Sony Music Japan's official American label, released the DVD on 31 May 2005, the price is $19.98.

Otakon 2005

Missing image
Official Otakon 2005 Logo

Otakon 2005 will return to the Baltimore Convention Center from Friday 19 August to Sunday 21 August. It will be the first Otakon to be held in the middle of August, which has raised some complaints from prospective attendees due to conflicts with the beginning of the school year in many school districts and universities.

For the first time in Otakon's to-be 12-year history, an attendance cap has been instated as a precaution against overcrowding, partly out of concern that the number of attendees might exceed the building's maximum capacity according to fire regulations. In 2005, registration will be limited to 22,000.

At-con registration will cost $55. An "early-bird" special rate of $40 will be available to 250 people at Katsucon (another anime convention), and during the first two weeks of online pre-registration. Group rates are also available to those who pre-register in groups of 10 or more. All registrations are non-transferrable.

This year, online pre-registration will offer two new features: a running total of the number of pre-registrations already accepted, and the ability for people to fill out the registration form online, then print it and mail it and their payment to Otakorp.

On 29 April 2005, Otakorp Inc launched pre-reg for Otakon 2005. The prices for pre-reg are as follows: Until 15 May, $40, Until 15 June, $45, Until 15 July, $50, Until, 12 August, Full priced memberships through online system, $55.

One of the reasons why an attendance cap was instituted for 2005 is the Baltimore Convention Center's maximum occupancy rate according to the Baltimore City fire code is 23,500.

The future of Otakon

In light of Otakon's consistent growth and the continuing popularity of anime in North America, it seems likely that Otakon will continue to be held for the foreseeable future. The Baltimore Convention Center is likely to remain the venue for Otakon in future years, mainly due to a lack of other venues of sufficient size in the area.

The possibility of once again holding a four-day convention, as in 1995, has been considered. With several years of experience and an established fan base, Otakorp is theoretically in a better position than ever to hold a longer convention. However, staff opinion is generally against such a plan. Most staffers are volunteers and already have to take a significant amount of time off from their jobs to set things up for and clean up after the convention. Thus a four-day convention seems unlikely in the near future.

Some Otakon staff members, notably Jonathan Harmon, have said that if Otakon outgrows the Baltimore Convention Center, the much larger D.C. Convention Center is under consideration as an alternative venue.

Video game link

In 1998, video game publisher Konami released the game Metal Gear Solid, part of its Metal Gear franchise. The game contained a character named Hal Emmerich, who had the code name "Otacon", an alternate spelling for Otakon. Otakorp, Inc., the non-profit organization that runs Otakon and owns the rights to the name, gave permission to Konami to use the name "Otacon" in all Metal Gear Solid games. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (2002) and Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes (2004), which featured the same character, were released for the Sony PlayStation 2 and Nintendo GameCube, respectively.

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