If you found yourself staring at groups of very odd-looking characters patrolling the District’s Penn Quarter last weekend, you may have stumbled upon some of the 20,000-plus enthusiasts for Japanese anime attending Otakon 2017, Aug. 11 to 13.
After 18 years in Baltimore, Otakon, the three-day anime convention celebrating Japanese and East Asian pop culture, moved to D.C.’s Walter E. Washington Convention Center. Anime, the Japanese term for hand-drawn animation, is a distinct art form that has gained international popularity. Thanks to the rise of English-dubbed programming, Japanese anime has spawned a multibillion-dollar market in the U.S. that encompases film, art, music, literature and video games. Many of those in attendance at Otakon dressed up as their favorite anime and comic-book characters in a hobby known as “cosplay” (for costume-play).
The name Otakon is derived from “okatu,” the Japanese term for people with obsessive interests. Since its start in 1994 on the campus of Penn State University, the conference has been managed by the nonprofit Otakorp, Inc., staffed entirely by unpaid volunteers. Funding comes largely from the fans themselves, who paid $80 to $100 to attend.
The convention was massive, occupying the entire center and part of the nearby Marriott Marquis Hotel. Activities included workshops relating to Japanese culture, film screenings, autograph sessions and discussions with anime directors and voice actors, free video game sessions, art displays, dance parties and costume contests.
If you’ve missed this year’s event, Otakon will be return to the District Aug. 10 to 12, 2018. Get those costumes ready.
View Jeff Malet’s photos of Otakon 2017 by clicking on the photo icons below.