Ed at Otakon 2009 — Saturday and Sunday

by Ed Sizemore

Continuing from my previous Otakon report, here is a list of Saturday’s panels and events.

9:00 AM – 10:00 AM Lost in Translation

This was another panel where I forgot to record the moderator’s name. The essence of the panel was to discuss things that can’t be directly translated into English and look at how anime companies have handled such phrases. One thing I learned is that in Japanese the verb is usually the last element of the sentence. That means when a sentence gets cut short, all the translator has is subject and predicate, but no idea of the relationship between the two. Since a phrase like, “Jim, ball” doesn’t make sense in English, translators have to supply verbs that might fit the circumstances. So they might translate the sentence fragment as “Jim got the ball” or “Jim hit the ball” or “Jim, look, a ball!” Other topics discussed were cliches and colloquialisms, gendered pronouns, use of familial language with strangers, and spelling names in English. This was the moderator’s first time running a panel, and she did a great job.

10:30 AM – 12:00 PM Phoenix

This is the new animated TV series based on Tezuka’s manga series. The animation is gorgeous, and the story closely follows the manga. It’s on my must-see list.

3:00 PM – 4:00 PM Frederick Schodt Q&A

Fred, as he likes to be called, was one of the first translators of manga. He has written several books on manga; the most famous is Manga! Manga! The World of Japanese Comics. Currently, he is co-translating the Pluto series by Urasawa. This was an unstructured panel that allowed attendees to ask any question they desired. Mostly, Schodt endedup talking about how he got interested in Japan and manga and his experiences as a translator. Most of what he discussed can be found in this interview from Electric Ant magazine. Fred is a great speaker, and the hour flew by.

5:00 PM – 7:00 PM Ghost Slayer Ayashi

This is an animated TV series about a group of ghost/demon slayers set in Japan around the first half of the 19th century. It’s a good action series with a great cast. The animation is excellent. I will be renting this series.

7:00 PM – 9:00 PM Masquerade

This is one of the main reasons I go to anime conventions. The masquerade is where fans play instruments and perform skits, dance numbers, and stand-up comedy in costume. It’s been maligned and misunderstood by the mean-spirited, but for me, it’s the quintessential fan expression of love. I adore the masquerade. What sells it for me is the sincerity of the performers. Are the jokes cheesy? Yes. The acting and writing bad? Of course. Is it wonderful? Unquestionably. If you pardon the puns, it’s awfully charming and charmingly awful. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

It’s three parts anime, two parts video games, one part manga, one part American pop culture, a sprinkle of high school drama, a pinch of high school band, and a dash of randomness all put in a blender set on puree. One routine had a couple in costume flag twirling to a Broadway song, another routine was five girls dressed up as modern Sailor Moon Scouts singing a Spice Girls medley, and another routine was a costumed couple doing ballet. How can you not love such diversity and creativity?

I only stayed for the first two hours, which means I only saw about 2/3 of the acts. I was getting tired and knew I had just enough in me to make the drive back to where I was staying. If I had been staying in Baltimore, I would have stayed for the entire show.

Sunday Events and Panels

9:00 AM – 11:00 AM Resiklo

This was a low-budget, live-action Philippines post-apocalyptic sci-fi film about humans trying to survive after aliens have wrecked havoc on the Earth. It’s definitely a B movie, but I love B movies, so it was right up my alley. You can learn more at the official movie site.

11:00 AM – 12:00 PM The Roots of Japanese Anime

This collection of pre-World War II anime shorts is almost impossible to explain. These were made before the anime industry was trying to copy American animation styles. The shorts are steeped in traditional Japanese culture and story telling. You really have to see them for yourself. You can see a trailer for the DVD set at the official site.

12:00 PM – 1:00 PM Osamu Tezuka, Astro Boy, and the Manga/Anime Revolution, moderated by Frederick Schodt

Schodt is currently giving this presentation around the country. He begins with a short biography of Tezuka and early experiences that influenced his writing and art. Schodt then goes on to show how with Astro Boy, Tezuka founded the modern manga system. Simply put, Tezuka demonstrated that you could take a popular serialized manga, collect the stories into trade paperback books, then license the property for animation and merchandising, and finally license the series for overseas distribution. The Astro Boy manga began its run in 1952, and the anime began in 1963, the same year it was licensed for US syndication by NBC. Astro Boy was the first weekly, half-hour, animated series in Japan. Astro Boy became a national icon and a symbol of scientific knowledge and advancement.

Overall Impressions

I enjoyed this year’s Otakon tremendously. The biggest change for me was going as press and meeting lots of new people. This is also the first year that I spent more time in panels than in the anime rooms. I used to go to conventions because they were the best place to see and sample a larger variety of anime. But with Netflix and Rent Anime, I have access to everything currently on the market and a large percentage of older series. So this has allowed me to shift my focus at conventions.

The shift in focus has given me a renewed enthusiasm for convention going. Truthfully, I half went to Otakon looking for excuses not to go again, but I failed. Instead, I came away with panel ideas for Otakon and maybe myself.

The only sad part of Otakon is the fact it happened the weekend before San Diego Comic Con. Even as I’m typing this, Otakon has already been forgotten by the public. Everyone’s attention is focused on the news coming out of SDCC hourly. Hopefully, Otakon can be scheduled further from any of the other big conventions to keep it from getting lost in the crowd.

With any convention, your attitude going into it greatly determines what you can derive from the experience. Large-scale cons like Otakon really are a culture unto themselves, and you have to have an open mind to see and experience the unexpected. There really is something for everyone at Otakon, and for serious manga and anime fans on the East Coast, I suggest you go at least once. You especially have to attend the Masquerade when you’re there.

Here are links to con reports by my dining companions and a couple others.


  1. […] Sizemore reports on his experiences at Otakon (part 1, part 2) at Comics Worth Reading, and Scott VonSchilling reports on the highlights at The Anime Almanac. […]

  2. […] November 13, entitled “Introducing Astro Boy”. This was similar to the lecture he gave at Otakon. Tezuka, born in 1928, is called the God of Manga in Japan, and some are also referring to him as […]

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