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Otaku Summit 2015 Report
Try if you would to imagine that you had crossed the street without taking the time to look both ways….
Unaware that the overhead crossing light was not in your favor you proceed out into the middle of the intersection with your nose an inch deep between the pages of the latest volume of “Akame Ga Kill!” while the awesome mash-up of the Supercell and Hatsune Miku album blared in your headphones.
You continue to vibe at your own pace and read on until suddenly you hear a roaring “MEOOOOW!” and before you can pull the buds out of your ears and turn your head you’re already met face to feet with the heaping paws of a screeching Totoro Cat Bus!
There’s an echoing “POW!”, “ BLAM!”, And a “SQUUUUUUISSSSH!”… (followed by perpetual darkness)…
And unfortunately for you you’ve also just met with your untimely death…
(poor sap… didn’t your mother always tell you to look both ways before crossing the street?)… Tisk, tisk, tisk…
But the ride isn’t over just yet…. Once the darkness has subsided a powerful beam of light shoots down from above a before seemingly voided sky and through it 10 of the hottest cosplay vixens swoop down on nimbus clouds and Omni-Directional Maneuvering Gear, clutch you into their bosoms and carry your soul away to an otaku paradise…
That otaku paradise, that heaven for fallen otaku heroes my friends, would be the Otaku Expo.
For those of you who don’t know me, any of my writing or previous bodies of work just know first and foremost that I am not easily impressed (at all).
I don’t like “things” very much…. That goes for food, people, animals, stuff, hip-haps, events, and what-nots…. With that being said, please read very closely and carefully the following sentence I am about to type…
The 2015 Otaku Expo in Kaihin-Makuhari was friggin’ AMAAAAAAZING!
The foundation and construction of the entire event was built upon sheer awesomeness and sprinkled with senzu beans, sugar, spice, and everything nice(plus glitter)!
This event had everything a self-proclaimed or knighted otaku could possibly hope for and was ran, organized, and piloted by friendly and helpful volunteers and enthusiasts of the now world renowned sub-culture.
No matter how otaku ye may consider thy self, this event literally had something for everyone from the fresh manga and anime padawans to the well seasoned veterans of the many genres therein. Not that in this case there was any official or formal competition, but this Expo easily competes and ranks highly amongst all other expos that may dub themselves the premium in premiere “Otaku havens”.
Seeing as the expo was so enormous, both figuratively and literally I think it’d be best if we broke things down into a few sections… First let’s talk manga and artwork
Manga & Artwork
Just like most expos there were plenty of manga and art pieces to feast your hands and eyes upon and there was definitely something for every range of reader. What I personally enjoyed most about this specific event was that not only did you have the opportunity to meet with some of the greatest artists and writers in the industry but also had the opportunity to meet some of the latest up and comers to the game. Both sets of peddlers seemed equally helpful and excited to talk about their works as well as share a bit of advice and perspective to anyone interested in entering the manga industry or simply those looking for something new or old to pick-up, read, and collect.
Though the expo was fairly well organize I will say that aside from the heavy Hentai section there weren’t specific areas set up for various genres (example: Adventure, Fantasy, Noir, or Sci-Fi) which made navigating through the expo an adventure within itself. You definitely don’t want to skip or overlook anything (there were some great writers and artists out there) so for those of you looking to attend the expo next year; be sure to be patient, keep your eyes open, and you’re sure to come across some amazing work as well as meet some great people.
But, as I mentioned prior, the Hentai section was pretty heavy, pretty extensive, and seemed to be the only genre boasting its own section, (with a few other Hentai vendors peppered throughout the expo as well) so for those of you who are uninterested in “that type of thing” or perhaps plan on bringing small squeamish children along for the ride be weary and tactful in avoiding those areas at the expo (most will be fairly easy to spot).
Though manga is probably the main article most closely associated with otaku culture it definitely isn’t the only thing, from here I’ll move into the other merch offered at the expo…
Action figures, vinyl figures, statuettes, key chains, plush toys, and those 5ft long pillow cases with the half (and sometimes fully) naked anime characters printed on them from head to toe, yes the Otaku Expo had all of those things and more, housing well over 1,000 vendors all packed together like sardines trying to move everything from t-shirts to fully functional battle armor (battle weapons sold separately).
This definitely wasn’t your run of the mill flea market, these were serious salesmen dealing with serious buyers, and woe was he who decided to bring along his Willy Loman-esque antics and ideals that day.
Don’t get me wrong, all of the vending seemed to run smoothly and of course everyone was polite and cordial, but there was visibly a clear and almost symbiotic relationship between the retailers and consumers, and I believe I can briefly sum up why.
Simply put; people knew what they wanted to buy, and the retailers knew exactly what they were selling. There was no heckling, no bartering, and not much conversation going on (especially from the buyers’ end) but I’d attribute most of that behavior to the simple fact that most otaku that seek out rare and limited items know exactly what they’re hunting for, what’s the average going rate for the item, and if there’s enough room on the shelf cradling the army of already 100’s of figures and collectible memorabilia they probably already do own. When it came to the “cash for goods” aspect of the expo merchandise definitely took the cake, and though manga is the product most associated with otaku, collectible toys and limited edition goods is definitely where you earn your stripes. Mangas are printed, reprinted, revamped, and again reprinted but limited edition merchandise of your favorite characters may only be released annually (and in small orders of manufactured units) if you’re lucky.
In short, if you have a heart made of vinyl and a soul full of plush, I’d highly recommend scooting over to next year’s expo as early as possible, be sure to make your rounds, do your research well in advance, and make sure you’re carrying enough cash.
Next up, Cosplay…
And the Cosplayers Came Out to Play
For those of us that know of cosplay or often participate in cosplay we know how diehard it’s followers can be. It’s no surprise to anyone who has ever attended any form of gaming tournament, comic book convention, large scale anime event, or otaku expo in the past to see cosplayers dressed head to toe in the likeness of some of their most beloved characters. Striking poses, screaming battle cries, snapping photos, etc, etc, and of course this year’s Otaku Expo was no different….
Well, maybe a little different….
As usual the “booth babes” and officially branded cosplay sirens were all in full effect, but honestly some of them couldn’t even hold a candle to the 8,000+ (Day 1) men and women of all nationalities, shapes, ages, and sizes in attendance donning their own handmade and store bought costumes.
All of your favorites were there, new and old-school ranging from the fan favorite Inuyashas, Chun-Lis, Megamans, Motoko Kusanagis, Narutos and Asukas, (just to name a few) to characters from various other television series, mangas, and video games I’d never even seen nor have heard of prior.
Again (just as was the case with the staff working the event, writers, and illustrators) everyone was extremely friendly, but especially this lot, and if you planned on attending this expo alone or with the “BAAH-HUMBUUGG!” intention of not making any friends, rest assured knowing that before your departure of the expo you will most likely leave with more new fiends than you can handle. You WILL meet people with similar common interest, you WILL have a great time, and you WILL slowly realize that you had no choice but to.
I mean come on, how can you not hit it off with the friendly group dressed like the entire DBZ squad who wants to split a bottle of sake with you, or fall for the girl with the great smile in the Yuzuriha Inori costume?… I may hate and stand in opposition of most things…
But I’m not stupid or too cold hearted to turn down a warm smile or great time!
To summarize things a bit, there were some truly amazing cosplayers out at the expo on Day 1 and I could only look forward to and imagine the heat that would be brought out on Day 2.
Moving on to the eats…
Food, Goodies, and Munchies
So, I bet you thought this was just going to be another article about how that thing you weren’t able to make it to was so great and without blemish, and about how much you suck because you missed it right?
WRONG!… No worries fellow haters, I did find a few things to nitpick on… SO LET THE HATING COMMENCE!
Unlike Summer Sonic 2014 which also took place at Makuhari Messe, there wasn’t a huge offering of (sponsored) food or drink options available which made the lines extremely long (even more so than you might expect). That, heavily stacked against the fact that shelling out ¥800 for a slice (yes a slice, as in ONE slice) of Dominoes pizza accompanied by a small side of Karaage nuggets is utterly ridiculous and it kind of killed the food pitches for me for this particular event.
Of course there were a few private vendors retailing tons of delicious Japanese snacks, packaged goods, and other drinks such as craft beer, sake, and even some sodas and juices, but again (just like any other major event) these things didn’t come cheap.
In short, food and drink wise; assuming that things are conducted the same way next year as they were at this set, I’d highly suggest getting a solid meal in beforehand, be sure to pack a couple of bottles of water, and look forward to enjoying a few great snacks and drinks at the event throughout the day. For those of you planning on attending the late night live performances there will be a small break in between the closing of the expo and concert to grab a quick bite to eat outside of the halls, but it is a bit of a time consuming walk so be sure to spend that time very wisely.
Anyway, speaking of the concert…
The concert, where do I even begin….
Bass… There was lots of it…. And lights… There were plenty of them…
As well as lazers, synthesizers, dry ice, fog machines, skimpy outfits, crying middle aged “fan boys”, drunk teenagers, worn out staff and security guards, Japanese pop idols and other various icons, electric guitars, comedians, jumbo screens, almost every good anime soundtrack and video game OST feature you could possibly imagine, sweaty cosplayers, and me!
Me, right there in the thick of it all, dodging tears, spilled Chu-Hi cans, plastic light sabers and glow sticks of all sizes and colors…
And you know what?… It was GREAT!
I have never before heard of or been to that type performance in my life, and it truly was a spectacle.
The true red-blooded otaku enjoys a concert like no other being on this planet, the passion is there, the focus is damn near un-wavering, and the energy was unmatched. It seemed as if everyone stored up every last bit of effort to give it their all during that show despite having ran around the expo all day and I think that’s what amazed me the most. There were no breaks, no rests (even during the slow ballads) and no time to acknowledge the faint of heart… This moment, this concert, this entire day was what they lived for, every last bit of it… And for a short time I was able to be a small part of it.
Oh yeah, one more thing…
Just Do It
I suppose it goes without saying again that The Otaku Expo is a HUGE event and Makuhari Messe is an enormous site perfectly selected to house such an event.
There was definitely a whole lot to see and a whole lot to do, which in tell means that there was a whole lot of ground to cover…
Seeing as Japan is currently in preparation for the 2020 Summer Olympics, and Tokyo Big Sight (where the Otaku Expo usually takes place) will be closed until after the Olympics, next year’s 2016 Otaku Expo will indefinitely take place at Makuhari Messe and the event itself will most likely continue to be held there until further notice (known through a very reliable source). That being said; I’d highly suggest that you and any other close friends, family, or acquaintances that may be looking forward to attending the expo next year wear REALLY comfortable walking shoes and prepare to have a fun filled trek through the various displays and exhibits.
My final bit of advice would be that you cast aside your fear of asking questions and that you make it a point to trade contacts with a few writers, artists, vendors, cosplayers, and new potential friends.
I’d hope that all of you reading this article who plan on visiting this particular expo or any other convention or expo in the future make an attempt at trying some new snacks, splurge a little on that plushy you’ve always wanted, skim through a different style of manga you’d never considered, and above all aim to have a great time.
I can wholeheartedly say that Day 1 of the 2015 Otaku Expo at Makuhari Messe was no two bit dog and pony show, the entire experience was BEYOND AWESOME and 1 day definitely wasn’t nearly enough to enjoy it all…
Hell, I honestly can’t even imagine 2 days being enough to take it all in, so once you’re there, be sure to enjoy as much of it as you can, the best way you can, while you can!