I’m used to having to go down to the U.S. in order to experience a big and epic Anime convention. But maybe in the future I won’t; I just came back from Otakuthon in Montreal this year and it was amazingly well-run. Honestly, give the organizers a few more years and I can see them being the next Anime Expo of Canada!
Otakuthon already made itself a destination for big guests and shows taking place, such as the World Cosplay Summit. And the convention has everything a typical con has to offer, including the Masquerade, Otaku Idol contests, dance parties, board games and much more. The cosplay repair station was a bonus too!
But to me, this year it felt like the organizers took a HUGE step forward. To start, they brought a ton of international guests including the artists Lia and Fhána. And Capcom held an official live video game concert. Pretty big things happening if you have international guests and a video game publisher performing at your con!
By far the most interesting experiment this year was the RFID badge; basically, every badge was electronically-coded so each one was unique to every single attendee. Sort of like a library card. So before entering the con, everyone had to go through a checkpoint where they “tapped” in with their badge. See this video by my friend, Sandy’s Creations:
Thinking about it, they must have spent big money implementing the RFID badge system. But I’m sure the benefits from keeping people who didn’t buy a pass away from the con; knowing how many people come in and out is also wonderful for collecting statistics.
From an organizer perspective, there was a bunch of small things I noticed during the con that blew my mind:
-LED TV screens for every panel room indicating what’s going on. Definitely big budget, and definitely helpful!
-Efficient bag check run by the congress centre. Not everyone can afford to stay in a hotel. Otakuthon is one of the few conventions I’ve noticed that take bag checking seriously. Other cons treat it as an afterthought.
-Very handy information on the back of your badge, including the map of the convention, rooms sorted out by number and the hours of various activities (e.g. dealer’s room, bag check). This reduces the need to pull out your guidebook or your phone for information; just flip your badge to find out!
-Most panels were only allowed to run 45 minutes long. I think this was a great idea, in order to keep things on schedule. Once I hosted a panel at a small convention, but because the previous panel went over their time slot AND had to clean up, I lost a good chunk of time on my panel slot. Keeping it to 45 minutes is a great way to ensure everyone has fair amount of time. That extra 15 minutes ensures the current panelists and attendees get out of the room on time so that the next panel can start on schedule.
All these little things make you appreciate how well-organized this convention is.
Was Otakuthon perfect this year? Of course not. A lot of attendees had to wait HOURS to get their badge, even if they preregistered (probably because of the new RFID badges). And although the gaming room was decent, I’ve been to larger ones at different conventions.
Despite those setbacks, it’s amazing to see how much Otakuthon has grown over the years. My first time attending was back in 2009; I probably was the one of the few that travelled from Toronto at the time! Now it’s one of the largest Anime conventions in North America, and a good amount of my cosplay friends attend every year. Of course, bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better. But I’m so happy to see an Anime convention in my country become significant. It’s going to be exciting the next few years in Canada!