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Otakon draws people together

August 05, 2008|By SALLY NEWLIN / Pulse Correspondent

Don't have anything to this weekend? Love anime, manga and Japanese culture as much as I do? Then I've got the place for you: Otakon. Otakon is one of the only places in the world where anime and manga fans can just let loose.

Otakon is a convention for fans of East Asian pop culture. It runs from Friday, Aug. 8, to Sunday, Aug. 10, at the Baltimore Convention Center. It features anime (Japanese cartoons), manga (Japanese comics), music, film and other Asian media.

One event highlight is the Masquerade, a talent show where people dress up as their favorite anime or manga characters and act out skits, sing, fight, dance and do anything you can think of in several categories. Later, they're awarded prizes by a panel of judges.

This year's musicial line-up will consist of JAM Project, The UnderNeath, MarBell and DaizyStripper.

But don't think these events are just what you should go see. There are also many voice actors and celebrities who will be there as well. Among them is Peter Fernandez, who's more commonly known as the original voice of Speed Racer from the hit anime of the same name, as well as Kappei Yamaguchi, who does the Japanese voices for Inuyasha, Ranma 1 1/2 and the recently popular Light Yagami from "DeathNote."

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But this is not just about voice actors. Peter S. Beagle and the Kano Sisters will also be there as well. Beagle is a novelist who brought us titles such as "The Last Unicorn" and "The Innkeeper's Song." He also animated many American favorites like "Star Trek" and "Lord of The Rings."

The Kano Sisters are two fashion celebrities who are outrageously popular in Japan. They started out as models in high-fashion magazines before their new success.

Not only are these events a must, but every fan goes to the dealers toom and/or the artists alley. The dealers room is a huge room (usually downstairs) that has many vendors inside selling anime and manga merchandise, Japanese music, Asian movies and more.

Many big companies go to conventions and set up in the dealers room to give away free stuff and have voice actors do signings. GaiaOnline, for instance, usually has a big booth where you can play games and have contests and, of course, buy merchandise.

A word of advice to newcomers: Do your shopping on Friday. I say this because on Friday everything is in stock and ready to go and it's fairly cheap. Saturday prices skyrocket and Sunday everything's really cheap because they want to get rid of everything, but not as much merchandise.

Now on to the artist's alley. It's also in a giant room that is bustling with tons of artists who want to sell their work. These artists include usually a lot of Web comic artists and sometimes American comic artists who don't even draw in the anime style. A Web comic is an online comic that can be seen by the public at any time for free. And sometimes in the artist's alley these artists draw requests from people for a small fee.

There's plenty more at Otakon, but you'd only get this experience if you go. Don't be shy - we're all nerds here.




IF YOU GO ...



WHAT: Otakon

WHEN: 9 a.m. Friday, Aug. 8, to 2 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 9, and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, Aug.10

WHERE: Baltimore Convention Center, 1 W. Pratt St., Baltimore

COST: $65 each day for Friday and Saturday; $25 for Sunday

CONTACT: Visit www.otakon.com for more information and for a complete schedule.

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