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Otakon's 20th anniversary proves successful

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Otakon celebrated it's 20th year over the weekend of August 9-11. Held in the Baltimore Convention Center, this year featured many high profile guests that drew in fans from all over the United States. Big names such as T.M. Revolution, Tomokazu Seki, Yoko Kanno, and Masao Maruyama visited the convention to talk about their work, perform their biggest hits, and sign autographs for their fans.

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Musical guests T.M. Revolution and Yoko Kanno had some of the most driven fans of the convention. People started standing in line for Kanno's autograph session at 6PM the day before the tickets became available. TMR autograph hopefuls stood outside starting at midnight with the same goal in mind. Only a limited number of passes were made available for either signing. Even their concert tickets were in high demand with people lining up hours in advance. For those not lucky enough to score a ticket for Kanno's concert, a simulcast room was made available so that more could enjoy the event. The concert was considered "Breathtaking" and "beautiful" by many that were in attendance. In a statement released by Kanno she said, "Thank you for not leaving me by myself on the stage. I was very happy we could make music together. To the people who were waiting for me, to the people who gave me this opportunity, to everyone I met through "piano me", Thank you!"

TMR was last at Otakon in 2003 and his concert, which was opened by the band "Home Made Kazoku", marked his return after ten years. Held in the Mariner Arena, thousands packed in to see him perform songs from animes such as "Gundam Seed", "Kenshin", as well as others. It was an enthusiastic crowd, many of which got in lines hours before in order to be close to the large stage. It was an electric evening, closed by a duet with the men of "Home Made Kazoku".

For some it meant spending about nine hours in the Mariner Arena, as another main event was held immediately after the Saturday concert. The Masquerade started late because of cleanup from the concert, but it held a full evening of skits from various genres and shows including "Inu Yasha", "Voltron", "Kingdom Hearts", and "Fairy Tale". Best in Show went to Last Minute Cosplay with their comedic skit, "A Hitman Reborn Skit." The Voltron skit as well as a skit known as "The Shipping Song" took home multiple awards as well.

One of the main draws for fans to a convention is a chance to meet their favorite voice actor. When Carey Ownby found out that Tomokazu Seki was going to be at Otakon, there was no question that she had to be at the con. Bound and determined to get his autograph, Ownby had a special plan for what to do with it. "I didn't want to try and keep track of a piece of paper." So instead, she decided to get his autograph permanently placed upon her body as a tattoo upon her right shoulder.

There was a tense moment on Friday as a long line stretched beyond the barriers for Seki's first autograph session of the weekend. With a ticket in her hand that would not guarantee her a spot in line, Ownby waited anxiously to see how fast the line would move. With 30,000+ people in attendance at Otakon, it is necessary to get in line early for autographs from the big named guests. Even though she was almost an hour ahead of time, the line was still cut off. The autograph would be hers though, as she was ushered in and given her signed paper that would soon become a piece of body art.

"It's about being a fan of his, but also about being a fan of all of it in general. I figure this is a better 'I'm an anime fangirl' catchall tattoo than picking any one character or logo. Besides, I'd never be able to make up my mind!" said Ownby. With the autograph in hand, she traveled several blocks to "Saints and Sinners Tattoos" so that they could prepare the design. Her actual session would not be until the con ended on Sunday but through the rest of the weekend there was a worry that they might lose that precious piece of paper.

Saturday morning found Ownby back in line for Seki's second autograph session. This time in aid of a friend who had failed to make the cut the day before. With poster in hand, Ownby presented the item to Seki and found her hand embraced in his. With a smile and a shake from her idol, Ownby was on cloud 9. "He touched me, and it was his idea!" A true shining moment for a fan.

Throughout the weekend many events took place that were unique to the 20th year of the convention. On Friday night, a 21+ swing bar allowed convention attendees an escape from the normal rave. Held in the Hyatt, this event featured swing dance lessons before the actual event took place. An overwhelming success, bouncers in charge of handing out the wristbands were forced to replenish their supply twice before the night was over. They originally had 500 to start. It was an event that had people dancing, laughing and enjoying a unique treat from the con. There was even an opportunity to buy a commemorative glass to remember the evening.

There were intermitant rainstorms throughout the weekend that often caught cosplayers off guard. Stranded beneath hotel entrances, walkways, and various other covers to wait them out. Even the Thursday Matsuri was rained out for a brief period. Just before the inaugural running of the Yukata Contest, a storm blew through the area, leaving many cosplayers a little wet if they were unable to escape to the cover of the welcome center or various tents in time. That didn't deter the attendees, however. As soon as the shower was over the Yukata contest began. Sixteen entries paraded in front of judges, including well known cosplayer Jezroth, who was also in charge of running the Hall Cosplay Contest throughout the weekend.

Many come to Otakon prepared to stand in line for something. Registration lines stretched around the building and wove back and forth in areas. Hours spent waiting to get their badge so that they could enjoy everything the 20th year had to offer. There was no shortage of panels, concerts and other main events to keep the attendees busy. And lines were inevitable as official numbers have unique memberships sold at being over 34,000. The biggest Otakon by almost 4,000 people.

As Sunday rolled around, the convention came to a close but one attendee had a piece of unfinished business to take care of. Ownby had an appointment with a tattoo parlor. There were some frantic moments as the artists realized the piece of paper with that precious autograph on it was missing. After some scrambling and searching it was finally located and the process could begin. After about an hour in the parlor, Ownby was done and her ultimate omage to Seki was proudly displayed upon her shoulder. Wrapped up with instructions on how to care for the new tattoo, Ownby's Otakon adventure was over and successful.

Otakon has received mixed reviews from attendees. Issues with crowded, information about passes being hard to find, and various other complaints have come to surface. But for some fans, like Ownby, this was a convention they will not soon forget.

For more information on Otakon, visit their webpage at http://www.otakon.com

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