That's me in the above picture dressed as a character from Bioshock Infinite; my friends and I were exhausted after an afternoon spent scouting the various Las Vegas locales for decent spots for cosplay photos. We were already tired, frustrated, spent, and far too eager to hop in the car and head for home.
Otakon Vegas is an interesting idea. Otakon, one of the largest conventions in the US, decided to literally roll the die and spread its tendrils from the East Coast to the Mojave desert, setting up shop on the Mezzanine level of the Planet Hollywood (formerly the Aladdin) hotel. I hadn't been to Las Vegas as a proper adult in my life - I went to the strip as a 17-year-old lad on a class trip, which is decidedly not the proper way to potentially enjoy a city as firmly rooted in the sins of man as Vegas.
To Otakon Vegas I went. After my girlfriend bribed the guy at the checkout booth for a "complimentary upgrade," I saw some cool things but experienced a lot of pain. So here are 3 cool things I did at Otakon Vegas! Plus 6 awful things I now realize I hate about Las Vegas!
First, the good...
1) Cool Guests and Fun Panels
The plight of many a first-year convention is a lack of strong resources, which makes it difficult to attract top-tier guests. 'Course, Otakon Vegas has the massive war chest of Otakon proper behind it, so they were able to amass cool folks like Masahiro Ando (director of the insanely violent and super-cool Sword of the Stranger), Kaworu Kurosaki (the novelist wife of Rurouni Kenshin creator Nobuhiro Watsuki), and famed anime and manga historian Frederik Schodt. They also flew over TR's own Mike Toole, who entertained crowds of drunk yokels with panels like The Worst Anime of All Time, and his evergreen chronicle of insanity, Dubs that Time Forgot.
Two highlights: getting drunk in the green room with Masahiro Ando and drawing him a crappy doodle that praised his amazing animation skills, and a Mike Toole-presented clip of a woodenly-acted bishounen version of Zorro saying "BEFORE I LEAVE, I'D LIKE TO THANK THE DOG."
2) The Dub Premiere of Space Dandy
It's always cool to see things before the rest of the world! Although in the case of Space Dandy, the rest of the world had already seen the subtitled version of the first episode since it got leaked a day before the convention. Also the dubbed version aired mere hours later on Adult Swim. No matter. Still cool to see one of the bigger anime releases of the new year in a crowded room with a bunch of like-minded dorks.
On that note! Space Dandy is equal parts infuriating and revolutionary. It's an amazing show with a psychedelic, tripped-out visual style that takes its cues from pulp '60s comics like Barbarella instead of decades of worn-out Star Wars and Star Trek tropes! And on the other hand, half of the episode was dulled to the point of irritation with a flat repetition of toothless, crass boob jokes. And then the final fifteen minutes or so was a fever dream of insanely creative animation from some of the best in the industry.
3) The Only Time In Recorded History When a Convention Was Less Annoying Than the City Outside It
I'll get to the annoyances later, but I will say that this was the very first time in my ignominious life where I vehemently dreaded leaving the convention hall for any reason. Hunting for food filled me with dread. Being stuck with any downtime for any reason meant that I'd head for the gaming room for a few rounds of Smash Bros. instead of braving the ballyhooed VEGAS EXPERIENCE.
Say what you or I will about anime conventions, or cons in general, I guess. They are stacked to the gills with socially awkward teenagers and obnoxious behavior, sure. Yeah, Homestuck cosplayers leave their patented grey greasepaint on the public toilets. But as the weekend slowly crept onward, I'd often find myself making any sort of excuse possible to stick to the convention floor, with all of its writhing mass of a few hundred nerds spouting terrible memes, rather than descend to the casino floor. Or worse.
Click onward for all the bad stuff.