Every year my husband and I look foward to Otakon like a kid does Christmas. This was the first year it was held in Washington, DC; rather than Baltimore, MD. For us it would be a whole new adventure because we usually stay with our brother who lives in Baltimore and knows it like the back of his hand. This year we booked a room in The Westin, a .6 mile walk from the convention center, and our brother caught the train from Baltimore. The trip was great. There were some bumps in the road but the excitement of Otakon was more than enough to cover that. Here are some of the highlights of our trip!
The two places we spend the most time during Otakon are the game room and dealer room. There are long tables on one side of the massive room with chargers for handhelds as well as phones. This is perfect for charging my phone, resting my feet, and even taking a little nap. My husband usually finds Naruto or Injustice; our brother, Halo, Gundam, or some cool retro gaming system. As for me I don’t game a lot. I may play around on a fighting game like mortal combat, Naruto, or Injustice, but I get serious when it comes to Just Dance. We had not bought the newest, Just Dance 2017, but I still dominated whenever I came over. I play different than most. I don’t just play to win, I play to groove. Otakon ain’t never seen a nerd with rhythm like me. I usually play for an hour per day, that along with all the walking gives me a decent calorie burn to offset the extra eating.
This year we did not get a lot from in the dealer room in terms of quantity. I usually go to find some unique graphic t-shirts that will stand out from my normal JC Penney and Old Navy collection. I also look for my traditional Harry Potter gift for my sisters birthday in September (which I did find, but am not going to disclose just in case she reads), a gift for my son, and some kind of Sailor Moon collectible for my cousin. The dealer room seem to be a little lacking this year. They had some awesome stuff, but it didn’t feel like there was as much. Maybe some of the dealers that usually come to Baltimore couldn’t make it to DC. But what we did find became the highlight of the whole trip. We got stainless steel wedding bands engraved in…..ELVISH! They were an early anniversary gift for each other as our anniversary is TOMORROW! It was perfect; we condensed the Dr. Seuss
quote from our wedding program: “We’re all a little weird and life’s a little weird. And when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness called love.” The perfect description of our relationship. Our brother also got a ring engraved in Draconic.
I am usually the one that finds the good panels. Maybe its because I am the newest to anime so I am eager to learn. On Friday we attended “Anime vs Hollywood”—Whitewashing. It gave some interesting perspectives. The most profound being how World War II affected American comics vs Japanese manga and anime. America was the “winner” and therefor comics showed incredible heroes but was also heavily censored only showing positive images. Whereas, Japan was the “loser” and their animation was deeper and darker, a quality I enjoy. Saturday we wen to “Skin Deep: Diversity in Japanese Pop Culture. It mentioned some of the same ideas, but also broke down how different groups are stereotyped in anime, manga, and video games. They included: East Asians, Europeans, Americans, Blacks, others (hispanics, muslims, etc.), LGBTQ, and persons with disabilities. Once again eye opening. These were sadly the only panels I was able to attend due to time overlapping with other events and meal times.
One day I’ll start cosplaying myself, I’ll start with sometime simple like punk Storm with a white “fro-hawk. My family jokes and says that if I cosplay they aren’t waiting for me while people take pictures. I hope to cosplay good enough that people will want pictures. Until then I’ll just marvel at the creativity and hard work of others. There’s not much a can say about the cosplay, so I’m just going to include some of my favorites below. Enjoy!
When Otakon was in Baltimore we usually tried to eat as much as possible as our brothers house and maybe get some snacks here and there. Being that the Baltimore convention center was with next to the ball fields there were the hot dog vendors that usually sold at the baseball and football games there available for a cheap lunch of hot dogs, sausages, fries, or chicken sandwiches. In DC we were able to find some reliable places. Our regular breakfast and lunch spot was the West Wing Cafe. They had sandwiches, wraps, soups, and plenty of vegan options for me. For breakfast I’d get a smoothie and lunch I got a Korean Bibimbap salad with tofu. For dinner Friday night we went to a burger spot called Bolt Burgers. They had the best french fries EVER! I got a black bean burger with added curry spice and it was divine. I’m not sure if it was because of all the business they were getting but they seemed to be giving everyone (with regular burgers) double patties. My husband and brother got two, even though when asked they said they only wanted one. Oh well, I’ll accept a freebie anytime.
Saturday nights meal, though an adventure, was another highlight of the trip. In Baltimore our signature Saturday evening dinner had been “Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.” on the harbor. We wanted to find something in DC that could replace it and were leaning towards an Asian spot. After searching Google maps for reviews of nearby places when decided on a place called “Chaplin’s”. We did not realize it was the Saturday evening hot spot. We walked through the doors exactly as a thunderstorm dropped all the water from the heavens only to find that without a reservation it would over a 2 hour wait. We waited in the crowded entrance trying to figure out our next course of action. My husband was getting “hangry” and said lets just get an Uber and go to the burger place. I was disappointed and did not want to settle for that. We got an Uber to the burger place, but decided to walk to nearby Chinatown. The rain had died down an we had a back up restaurant there in Chaplin’s didn’t work out. We got there only to discover that it had been rented out for a private party. Across the street was a small restaurant Reren Lamen & Noodles. I was assuming that Lamen meant “ramen”, so we decided to check it out. It was PERFECT we found our official Saturday evening dinner spot. My husband got the Kung Po beef lamen, I got the Buddah style tofu lamen, and our brother got Shrimp fried rice (basic I know, but it was the best). We ordered some dumplings to share as an appetizer and my husband and I ordered alcoholic drinks. The price was VERY reasonable and the food impeccable. My only change will be to next time ask if I can get some of the spiciness of my husband’s beef based broth in my mushroom broth. I saw that they had an article in the Washington Post so I looked it up, the article explains the owners Chinese roots and why it calls their noodles “lamen” rather than “ramen”. Check it out if you have the chance.
All in all it was an epic trip. Somethings I will do next time are possibly flying or taking a train and using cabs/Uber rather than dealing the garage parking or getting tickets. We will also be leaving Monday rather than Sunday so we can take advantage of all 3 days. My husband and I will do Otakon boot camp so we can wake up earlier and stay up later in order to maximize our time to hit all the events we want. Until then I will fill the void soaking up all the anime I can and attending local statewide cons. Now I will begin marking my calendar until Otakon 2018, August 10th-12th.