Otakucon 2004
Convention Report

Or, "It could be that your existence serves only as a warning to others."

Observe the March 22 update on Maboroshi's site regarding Otakucon. Read all that about Manny threatening him? Well, sorry if you did - IT'S A LIE! According to reliable sources in attendance, Maboroshi was going around trying to propagate this statement, which he pulled straight out of his arse. The great thing about the Internet is you can say just about anything you want on it. The worst thing about the Internet is that you can say just about anything you want on it. I try very hard not to make such statements about people, but... sorry, you asked for it: Maboroshi, you are a colossal prick. Thank you very much. However, you are a colossal prick who takes nice photographs - just... lose that swirly blue background you destroyed people's portraits with at Megacon this year. Photographic studio backgrounds are featureless for a reason. Also, a f/1.4 or f/1.2 lens wouldn't hurt. That's what's used in shooting fashion shows, as opposed to what's used shooting... swirly... messes... from hell.

This is the LAST time I'm going to comment here. I swear. THAT'S IT! GO READ A BOOK! (Or, if you just happen to be in Miami on July 9, come to Yasumicon!)

Before you go forth and read the horrid mass of garbage I wrote here, I'd like to just mention that I feel bad about all the crap I wrote here months ago. Many people spent lots of time and effort trying to make this con an amazing event, and I could not apparently find it in myself to be greatful. I can also understand, on the subject of registration numbers, that mistakes could have been made. In fact, it's very likely that they were. See, they had a computerized registration system that went down, requiring a switch over to handwritten passes at one point (ow!), and it's possible that some recordkeeping errors took place in trying to determine the counts. Oh well... as much as I now HATE this bunch of flaming, I'll leave it up here so you out there know just what sort of flaming troll I can become sometimes. Remember, take my comments with a grain of salt. But yeah, just to be silly, I wish now to suggest Hexane's nifty composition as alternate audio for the mention of Papa November.

Update, January 2005: It gets worse. Subarashii Nation (formerly either D20, Inc, Kunicon, or whatever else they were called, is horribly inflating the supposed attendance numbers from Otakucon. I feel this is EXTREMELY dishonest, as they may try to market future events to advertisers and dealers based on the supposed attendance of Otakucon Miami. More on this can be found in Maboroshi's report. Due to the fact that Anime Fury Studios (which seems to be led by Otakucon's chairperson) is going around trumpeting these numbers they pulled straight out of Papa November, they get a nice <strike> tag in the following.

With apologies to:
Anime Fury Studios, Anything Goes Anime, KRR Radio, Orange Anime, Wasabi Anime, and all the other organizations and individuals who tried to make this convention the excellent event it *could have* been. Thanks for your efforts.

So, here's where my weekend went:

Some time back, I was invited to volunteer for an anime convention being held on Miami Beach, well, this weekend. Oh baby, did I ever fall for it hook, line, and sinker.

I've attended Yasumicon both years and volunteered last time around, and it's been awesome. I've done various positions there, and it's really quite enjoyable. Of course I've had time to also attend the panels and other interesting events, so it's not bad at all, the whole volunteering thing. All weekend, I was overhearing con attendees commenting that they really liked Yasumicon better. All Hail Yasumicon! IT IS NIFTY AND FREE TO ATTEND! *beams*

And here I am going to totally massacre the English language because my brain is suffering hopefully temporary spikes of entropy caused by what I experienced this weekend.

First of all, I had originally heard of this convention some time back before Jacon this year. The first thing I'd heard about this con was that they had planned for its existence... but not for any specific events. I suppose that might sort of make sense, but trust me when I say it does not.

At AGA's Halloween party, the convention's chairperson was recruiting volunteers. I believe that gave them all of a month or so... and we kind of never heard from him again. The only other time I was aware of recruitment for Otakucon volunteers was, paradoxically, at Jacon. Yes, that's Jacon, in Orlando. SURE, it makes perfect sense to recruit volunteers IN ANOTHER CITY but not your own, right? Of course it does! Who cares if you wind up understaffed - volunteers can survive for many days at a time on no sleep or food!

Which is, exactly what myself and most of the other volunteers wound up doing! If anything good could come of this, it's that this convention experience could have been marketed as an amazing diet plan. Lose 10 pounds in four days, GUARANTEED! (Wow, I sound like a spammer! *tap tap* is this thing on? potato articulated defenestrate jackpot plecostomus)

Perhaps for the remainder of this, I shall break things up into different topics for no reason other than my own lack of concentration...

The Venue:
Teh suck. I'm sorry, that was just WRONG, and I feel sorry for D20 if they actually paid for facility rental on the place. The venue was the Fontainebleau (no, I don't care if I misspelled that) resort on Miami Beach, and the place was in such horrid disrepair that I'm surprised anyone actually books it for convention space. As an added bonus, its location places it out of walking distance of all restaurants in the area, and they charge a stupendous amount for parking (which I didn't do, of course... ha ha.) Now, the building? Horrid. I discovered a wiring fault which could have killed someone (seriously) within ten minutes of arriving to start setup, and it took the engineering staff over an hour and a half to rectify it... in a very half-assed manner. Yuck. Meanwhile, the dealer's room was bisected by a movable divider that wasn't, and the engineering staff had managed to somehow detatch it from one of the two supports it hung from on the ceiling, leaving it dangling in a comically dangerous looking manner over the dealers who were setting up. Anyone want 400 pounds of metal on their head? Let's see what else... air conditioning set to deep freeze mode constantly, freight elevator of death... check. (Funny story on that - I was warned first thing when I came in that the doors on that had killed people and/or removed their limbs. Then the hotel security guy who insisted on operating it Sunday night nearly brought the doors down on top of me.) I'm not done complaining yet, of course. The acoustics in the ballroom were horrible - it was like a giant echo chamber. The dividers, unlike the movable dividers in EVERY OTHER convention center/meeting room space EVER constructed, have no sound insulation. Oh, and the hotel, for some reason, had a complete and total lack of ability to create *working* room key cards. See, hotels used to have actual keys, and they Just Worked. Then hotels had Ving Card systems with the plastic punch cards, and those Just Worked. Now, the card key systems in hotels have never, EVER worked right for me on the first try. Either the battery's dead in the lockset, the cards don't read or aren't programmed right, or the damn thing just hates me. I've come to expect it when staying in hotels, but here, they just couldn't get it right for us... ever.

Staffing, or lack thereof:
I seriously believe that this entire convention with an estimated 7000 attendees (as I last heard) was staffed by an amazing 15 people, all of which wound up stuck, more or less, with all possible shifts. None of the volunteers, as I'm aware of, wound up having time to take off for meals or ANYTHING. I think I lucked out in having the ability to shower and get a grand total of maybe 6 hours sleep through the entire weekend. Friday, there were all of *TWO* people working registration, and many attendees waited in line for over three hours. The "solution" to that problem? Push all the events back three hours so that people could actually attend them! Fnording BRILLIANT! At least in the area I slaved in during the con, though, those three hours were quite useful... as the audiovisual equipment and setup were very badly mismanaged. See, they'd kinda just bought a whole mess of equipment off the shelf that they'd never set up or used or even SEEN before, and expected us to be able to get it all together and working. Riiight.

I can't say much about the events - I was only able to attend one of them outside of the room I was in, and it was awesome. Teh Chino Eye for the Otaku Guy was hilarious... though, curiously, for a panel that's supposed to inform guys of how to be presentable to members of the opposite sex, there were more girls than guys there. Perhaps they all wanted to witness the hilarity of the speech and demonstration on plucking of eyebrows. (yeah, I think this best goes unexplained too.) Now, as for the other events, I've heard that quite a few of them were absolute disasters. They were all off schedule and the presenters and equipment were randomly unavailable at many of them. Oh, that's okay, I guess - I was constantly hearing comments from con staff about how "convention panels are a dying art". Yup. Now, as for our concerts? All late, thanks to equipment difficulties. AMV contest? Late, and the sound was horribly noisy and only in mono because some genius only decided to purchase *one* audio cable for us, and to use the onboard sound on a Dell PC. DISCLAIMER: I am not an audiophile - I am a self-trained sound engineer. Now, with the power vested in me, I declare that to be absolute organic fertilizer. I later came to find that due to lack of coverage by the security staff of an amazing, what was it, *three* volunteers? - a lot of equipment was stolen, and to that I have to say, "ha ha, serves you right". Ya snooze ya lose! Someone out there's enjoying at least one new DLP projector, as I last heard before I bailed out Monday morning.

Awesome. They would have made it worth coming in as an attendee for the day on which they took place. The performers were Select Start, who may now officially consider me a fanboy, Eyeshine, who are pretty darned neat, and Monolithic/Midihead, who did some really awesome synthpop stuff and may now also consider me a fanboy. Yes. So.... half an evening of concerts, and this convention had billed themselves as being an anime/gaming/*music* convention. Ah well, short but sweet.

Dealer's room:
I never got to go in there much, but... er, ok, it was a dealer's room. What more can I say? Well, perhaps this... whenever I was in there, the aisles were blocked by people trying to take photographs. Meanwhile, just around the corner, there was a VERY LARGE empty room. I believe that conventions should establish a designated area for photographs and discourage the taking of such inside the dealer's room, as it blocks up traffic and the photos tend to suck anyway. All it'd really take is some kind of backdrop hung on the wall and some lighting set up (flash sucks, yes, it really does), and there you go.

Unknown. Never got to go up there except on a quick run to grab a bottle of Bawls.

Boil 'em, mash 'em, stick 'em in a stew.

Future plans:
Here's where this all gets very scary. See, Otakucon isn't just Otakucon. It's apparently the first in a series of anime conventions which will be known as Kunicon, and will visit (supposedly) 21 different cities nationwide in the next year. That's right, Kunicon may soon visit your hometown, and it may very well suck JUST AS BADLY as Otakucon did here in Miami. Being that they're based out of Miami, and from what I've heard, are going to depend on hauling their shoestring staff from city to city and relying on volunteer staff as well, I'd guess that there's no hope. No hope at all. Seriously - if you want to go to an anime convention, find a LOCALLY produced and organized con. Otherwise, don't bother.

Final words:
Dear Kunicon, I'm really sorry to have to summarize it in these words, but by definition, this is the only correct phrase... considering, first run convention, and all:


Late additions: First, special thanks to the dealer who gave away shiny things to the volunteers. If anyone can tell me who you are (or if you do so yourselves!), I'll give you a special mention of ultimate coolness here. I mean, dude, you gave us some kunai. (Yes, we are kind of guilty of being Narutards out here, but yeah. You guys rock.)
Second, I forgot to add... the only REVOLUTIONARY NEW IDEA this convention had that others might not have yet? A runway for the cosplay contest. Yep, a runway. In fact, they went to great lengths to instruct the contestants NOT to tell anyone about it at the judging, as though it was some great trade secret or something. You people truly have no.... bawls. Yeah. No Bawls at all. Right.

(Considering there was also supposed to be some kinda techno music aspect to all this, here, have some weirdness.)

And now you too may run away to freedom.