August 12th, 2016 marked the beginning of the end of an era that for many nerds, including yours truly, helped jumpstart a life filled with fighting giant robots, magical girl transformations, and excitable Pokémon. I am speaking about Otakon’s last year in Baltimore, Maryland. True, this grand convention located on the East Coast would simply be relocating to Washington, DC next year, but Charm City holds a special place in my heart as being the very first anime convention I ever attended.
I remember all those years ago, with my bright eyes shining, loving the crowds of people lining up outside of the Baltimore Convention Center wearing cosplays of Inuyasha, Sailor Moon, and Dragon Ball Z. My confused and protective parents insisted on attending that convention alongside my older sister, who to me, was the original nerd. While she went off traversing with her friend, I tagged along with my parents as we wandered along this behemoth of a palace, marveling at the wonders of the Dealer’s Room, awing at the break dancers in the halls, and gaping at the signs people had on their butts (“Come on, you know want to slap my ass.” It was a different time, before signs were banned). This was where my parents bought me an Ein plushie (Cowboy Bebop), which was later used for my first ever cosplay as Ed (which also debuted at Otakon). My God, this entire place was a wonderland for me.
Fast forward. Final year in Baltimore, before the big move to the nation’s capitol. I’m prepared to say my final goodbyes to Narnia, to the Bebop, to the Castle. The weather is hot as hell in Baltimore, the kind of hot where you’re surprised you haven’t melted into a puddle on the sidewalk. Despite the sweltering heat, the air is thick with excitement (and sweat) from fellow con goers. The Baltimore Convention Center is packed with Voltron cosplayers, Disney Princesses, and Eeveelutions. The Dealer’s Room, once again offered a wide variety of merchandise, from real swords, to Captain America’s shield, body pillows, plushies, and Lolita outfits. Artist’s Alley is definitely more my preference. I appreciate the skill and craftsmanship that I witnessed among the array of paintings, prints, plushes, and clothes. You are almost always guaranteed a fascinating time strolling along in the Artist’s Alley.
[quote_right]I like anime as much as I enjoy getting a McDouble and Chicken Nuggets for lunch[/quote_right]I had the beyond brilliant opportunity to also witness the artistic magnificence of the AMV contest. This contest is held every year, in a huge ass auditorium. People line up outside to try and get in. Luckily, there is usually enough room for everyone. The contest is split up in several genresbut I was really there for the comedy set. Still, I’ll be damned if that sentimental/romance section didn’t have me feeling all sorts of emotions (Pokémon and sappy music can get to you).
Now, I like anime as much as I enjoy getting a McDouble and Chicken Nuggets for lunch (that shit comes out to be $3.90), which means I dig it quite a lot, despite it damaging me on the inside. I had the amazing opportunity to interview several fabulous voice actors and artists, who are currently flourishing in the anime and cartoon industry, most notably in shows such as The Boondocks, Sailor Moon Crystal, Fruits Basket, and Pokémon. I had the opportunity to interview LeSean Thomas, Robbie Daymond, Lisa Ortiz, and Aaron Dismuke. I tremendously enjoyed asking them questions detailing their journey in this world.
Aaron Dismuke is young voice actor who stepped into the ring when he was nine years old, voicing the character Hiro Sohma and young Akito Sohma in the hit anime Fruits Basket. I had a lovely conversation with them, discussing how fans had written drawn comics featuring him.
Lisa Ortiz was the voice of Serenity Wheeler in Yu-Gi-Oh!, which made me immediately want to fangirl. Ortiz told me a great story on how she entered into voice acting because her brother in back in the day, stole her car. When she confronted him, she ran into an acquaintance that was looking for a voice actor, which snowballed into what she is today. Her advice voice actors encouraged them to go out and do more within the industry they want.
LeSean Thomas is an almost legend. They worked on The Boondocks and Legend of Korra. They’re a renowned comic book artist, director, and writer. They were very humble and kind when I was interviewing them, and when I asked what advice they would give to their younger self, they said to finish all your projects. No matter what the end result would be, you need to finish everything you start. “You have to big okay with sucking.” I personally think that is wonderful advice for anyone trying to perfect their craft.
Robbie Daymond, who voices Tuxedo Mask in Sailor Moon Crystal and Eighth Brother in Star Wars Rebels, spoke with me about how in the industry of voice acting, it sometimes helps to just be in the right place at the right time for potential roles. His advice his younger self states to treat yourself better, physically. I can imagine that means don’t work twenty-four hours straight, and make sure you’re doing all you can to keep yourself healthy while working long hours. The biggest lesson they have learnt since becoming a voice actor is to be good with the people you work with. I feel like that makes sense; don’t burn bridges unless you have to.
Otakon, fare thee well, until next year. I’m sure Washington, DC will be a wonderful home, but Baltimore will always truly have a spot in our hearts forever. May the nerd shine within, now and for eternity.
Photography Credit: Athel Cosplay Photography | Otakon Press Relations
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I will also miss Otakon in Baltimore. Otakon was my first con and one of my favorites. I know they outgrew the Baltimore Convention Center, but there are so many other cons in DC (and at the Gaylord Hotel which is RIDICULOUSLY expensive) that I hope the magic of Otakon doesn’t get lost.