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The hotel I stayed in...nice enough ^_^

Day One, July 2nd, 1999! Already feeling the burn. Now, I took about 50 pictures on Friday alone (180 throughout the entire weekend), but, unfortunately, due to my bad photography skills and the horrible concenter lighting, only a third or less are actually worth posting here. So, there won't be as horrendous an amount of pics as I planned ^_-. Plus, I had been using an Advantix camera all weekend and somehow managed to leave the setting on "Panoramic" for most of my pictures, leaving me with a $60 development bill and lots of wasted photo paper =). Because of that, and the fact that I manually resized all my pics, I've been having trouble deciding on how to lay the pics out on the pages. In the end, I've decided to screw organization, neatness, all the things that make a webpage good and pleasant, and just slap everything together mismatchedly, with my commentary on the right, pictures on the left, and final thoughts on the bottom. Sorry ^_^. Well, sit back, enjoy the eternal loading, and prepare for many a rambling.

After a small, initial car problem (burnt tail-light)my travelling companion, close friend, and trusty driver, B^2 (Brian) got us started on the trip down from NJ to Baltimore, MD, at around 8:30 am. Not a bad ride really, and we passed our time listening to a LOT of JPOP/Anime music, and by singing along to the quite-hilarious Xena musical soundtrack (he makes a wonderful Gabrielle ^_-). Despite the excitement I had been feeling for months, I was strangely at ease ^_^. We arrived in Baltimore at around 11:30 am.
After a frightening experience at the Hyatt hotel check-in (we were not going to be given rooms, after making reservations back in April o.o)we finally succeeded in getting a room (#929!) and dumped our bags off. I would have slept in the lobby if I had to =). After that, we made the first trek over the skywalk and to the concenter, a walk which would soon become quite a nuisance in the unbearable heat. We stopped by the pre-reg booth and picked up our badges (I chose Kamui from X, but I didn't really like most of the choices) and received our nifty Otakon baggies. Ah, it starts. My apologies to the guy in this picture, whoever he is ^_^.
Though the concenter wasn't quite full yet when we entered(and man, was it freezing), I was already getting antsy, and had my camera at the ready. I spotted only a few cosplayers in the first hour. Here's a pic of a very cute Miaka and Tamahome couple. Great costumes (great odangos!). There weren't as many FY costumes as I anticipated, with the US release and all. There were a couple Miakas, *several* ChiChiris, a Mitsukake, this Tamahome, and one Nuriko. I think that's all. Picture taken in the Video Room corridor, if you can call it that.
Lime and Cherry from Saber Marionettes! These girls not only had excellent costumes, but very bubbly personalities, making them quite popular during the Con. There showed up everywhere throughout the weekend, and were pretty hard to miss! There was also a Bloodberry, which I unfortunately didn't get in this pic. This pic was taken at the bottom of the escalator that led into the Artist's Alley/Main Events hall.
Okay, so they're not from an anime, but I thought this Star Wars group (the other half is in another pic)was very impressive. They had great costumes, were very friendly, and seemed to be having a lot of fun. Also, I *love* Qui-Gon Jinn, and this costume was perfect. Looked like a younger Liam! *o* Pic taken in the dealer's room, after we finally got in at 4:30 after waiting on the endless line.
Tetsuro from Galaxy Express 999. A very good costume, too bad many of the con-goers probably wouldn't recognize the character. Ran into this guy a lot on Friday, but didn't see him the rest of the weekend o.o. Picture taken while relaxing on one of the many concenter..err..."chairs", looking through the schedule and trying to plan out the day, while also waiting for cosplayers to walk by ^_-.
A nice guy dressed as Yohko Kurama from Yuu Yuu Hakusho. Now, I'm familiar with the red-haired Kurama, but didn't know anything about his 'fox-form' or whatever, so I intially thought this guy was dressed as Inu-Yasha ^_^*. I even asked him that (and he said others had asked the same thing!). Me and my one-tracked mind...ah well, he was nice about it, and now that I've seen pics of Kurama's other side, I must say this costume is very good! Picture taken while waiting on-line for the Dealer's Room to open. Yes, my pics are out of order. -_-
The infamous Heather-chan, dubbed the "Queen of Cosplay", also a special guest judge of the Masquerade. This girl was everywhere during the weekend, in different costumes, and normal clothes. Most of the con-goers seem to know her by name, as she's been a long-time con-goer and veteran costume maker. I don't know who this character is supposed to be, but it's an amazing costume. I'm guessing she's from a video game maybe? Love the monkey!
Star Wars Part Deux! The other half of the group, this time Obi-Wan and Darth Maul. That's some facepaint job o.o but doesn't he know to hold a lightsaber with TWO hands? ^_^ Hope he didn't scare the little kiddies wandering around. Pic taken in the dealer's room, in front of the impressive but horridly overpriced "Asylum Anime" table (one of the few tables I didn't buy from! =P)
Muu-Muu-chan! This excellent and friendly Mousse (from Ranma 1/2) was actually the first cosplayer I ran into, coming up the escalator from the registration area. Also the first person I rudely stopped and accosted for a photo ^^. Happened a lot over the weekend. Love the wig, Mousse!
When pigs fly! The amazing Porco Rosso, one of the lesser-known Miyazaki heroes. Many people found this costume quite humorous. It's an excellent character portrayal though! Picture taken while coming out of the little eating area setup in front of the Video Rooms corridor (where soda sold for $3 a pop. yikes).
Woah! An Eagle Vision (from Rayearth 2) cosplayer! Never thought I'd see one of those. Great costume, and the wig is pretty perfect. This Eagle told me he plans to be Lantis (also from Rayearth) next year. Err, yay? (no Lantis fan here!). Picture taken on the way into the Artist's Alley, on what would be my first of many trips there to drool over many a talented artwork.
One of the several Ikari Gendou cosplayers. Not only was his costume excellent, but he was quite in character. Maybe a little too much ^_^. I was coming up the escalator and saw him leaning against the railing in the classic Gendo pose, and ran to the side to take a picture (along with many others). There were also quite a few people casting curious glances at him and talking amongst themselves. Gendo never budged. Bravo, Sir!

My picture of him didn't turn out well, so I'm posting (with permission!) a pic from the amazingly thorough Fan's View site. Thanks, Kevin! (Notice the dramatic improvement in picture quality over my own? Ah, if I only had a clue about photography ^_^. Or a nifty digital camera!)

Yuffie, Aeris, and Tifa from the Playstation RPG 'Final Fantasy VII'. (Like you've never heard of it!). This group of girls was everywhere! They also cosplayed characters from Escaflowne (Merle, Hitomi, and Millerna), and a Bust-A-Move group, as Shorty, Kitty-N, and another character. Whew! Picture taken in front of the Video Rooms corridor.
It's the mahou-shoujo dream team! Sailormoon, Card Captor Sakura, and Hikaru from Rayearth. True fan-favorites. A shame that this picture came out so awful. Sakura-chan even had her Clow Cards with her, how's that for completion? This group performed a skit with the infamous giant Kero-chan! Picture taken in the Video Rooms corridor.
Another Ikari Gendo cosplayer. Yes, this is a completely different person! There were about three such costumers that I saw over the weekend, and each one of them were identical, which just shows you how superb their costumes were. This particular Gendo was the least intimidating of all three...still very often in character like the others, but I *did* see him crack a smile several times, miracle of all miracles! ^_^ Picture taken from my little 'people-watching' seat in the Video Rooms corridor.
The BEST ChiChiri I've ever seen, with a female Himura Kenshin. The ChiChiri costume was very impressive, he even had the smiling, removable mask, and squinted one eye closed for all pictures! His hair was brown, but that's forgiveable, the hat made up for it! (Where DO they get those staffs?) Picture taken in front of a Video Room.
A group from the videogame "Rival Schools". Don't know much about the characters, but the costumes are very good. The girl on the left, Alisa, and the guy on the right, Derek, also cosplayed as Lum and Goku (two costumes they've shown up in many times at other cons, and are quite well-known for). Picture taken downstairs near the escalators down into the Dealer's Room.
A lovely Shampoo. Also male, but still lovely! Great hair! I had assumed this cosplayer was male upon taking the picture, but afterwards began to have doubts. o.o It's so hard to tell sometimes. However, many others assured me he was male and I've since seen many pics of him at various past conventions, always as Shampoo. Must be some reputation he has! Picture taken in front of the 'cafe' area, and next to my 'people-watching' seat.
Dead Aeris! A very creative spin on a much-done costume, this artsy girl cosplayed as Aeris, from Final Fantasy VII, in the latter half of the game-meaning, dead! This costume brought a laugh out of most everyone, as well as admiration. There's even seaweed and mold and etc in her hair ^_^. This costume probably made the other Aeris' say, "Why didn't I think of that?!" Although, there was another Aeris cosplayer with Sephiroth's sword stuck through her. Ahh, I love it! Picture was taken (I'm guessing) in the hallway with the Art Auction Gallery, which I spent much time drooling in over the weekend.

This picture also taken from A Fan's View!

My highlight of Friday? Stopping by the Artist's Alley in the evening and meeting the talented artist Jennifer Quick, whose prints I had purchased earlier in the Art Auction room. She had a great portfolio of works that I enjoyed flipping through, and, after she sketched a simply *gorgeous* picture of Deedlit for B^2, I took a chance and asked for a Nuriko picture. Happily, she complied, and my eyes glazed over as her hand flew across the page and produced THIS within two minutes flat! Ah, I've never felt so much gratitude for a stranger ^_^. This picture is pretty bad, since I didn't get to scan the sketch before I matted and displayed it on my wall ^^ but it's enough to give you the general idea of it. How I wish I had some of her talent!
Sometime in the later evening, a fire-alarm went off, and being the good little con-goers we are, everyone filed outside onto the rooftop area and waited in the unusually hot night air, until fire-trucks showed up, found it was a false alarm (gee whiz!) and let us re-enter the concenter. This was only the first of, oh, four such alarms during the con. As for who it is in this picture...I don't know! I saw this person frequently on Friday, they were always silent, and alone. I even followed him a few times...he mostly stuck to the gaming room. Mr. Mysterious Loner, if you're out there, let me know, I'll strike my comments from the record ^_^.
Soon after, the Friday Night 'Rave', as the otakon guide called it, was underway at 11 pm, and I was there. It was held in the kareoke room, with a pretty generous dance floor, plenty of chairs in the back, and the DJ's huge setup near the front. At first it was just blaring music and a lot of people standing around bopping their heads, but eventually things kicked off. The promised 'hot mix of anime/JPOP music' was nowhere to be seen. During my 90-minute stay in the dance on Friday, I counted only TWO anime songs, and the rest of the music was your standard techno-crap.
How do you get 50+ anime fans of various ages to stop feelin' shy and bust out on the dance floor? Call in the Saber Marionettes to drag them out! Yes, the two peppy girls dressed as Lime and Cherry actually began *pulling* people out onto the floor and making them dance with them. I found it quite funny. When they pounced on B^2 and me, we laughed, played along, and then resumed bopping our heads when they moved on ^_^. Some people reacted a little..err..harshly to their aggressiveness, but for the most part, people were loving it, and these two were the life of the party. It's quite fun to watch people in costume bop around.
The Saber girls cuttin' a rug again. About a half-hour or so into the dance (oops, I mean, the 'rave') smoke and laser machines were set off, and it got so that you could barely see the people in front of you, much less across the floor. So, I began snapping pics blindly, holding some vague hope that they would turn out. Amazingly, they did, and I wound up with some hilarous shots of folks dancing up a storm, when I wasn't even able to see them during the actual dance. Ah, the wonders of fog. Of course, though, Lime and Cherry were the ones in the midst of the crowd again.
Another shot of a group whom I couldn't even see. Kitty-N, Shorty, and Kurama. Unfortunately, Kurama stayed towards the edges of the floor so I didn't get many pics of his dancing moves. =) Kitty-N, however, was *quite* the dancing queen, and when little highschool-ish circles would form (a bit too often, IMO), Kitty would frequently burst in and go all out, performing entire dance sequences from the Bust-A-Move game her character hails from. The actual highlight of the dance was, for me, when the Bust-A-Move characters would gather and dance together, which was quite entertaining, if not a bit disturbing to see their dead-on imitations of video game moves!
After the first day of Otakon, this was pretty much all I had to show for my labors in the Dealer's Room. I only visited it twice Friday. The first time I went in, right when it opened, I was overwhelmed, not only by the amazing size of the room, number of dealers, plethora of items, and etc, but by the equally item-hungry crowd which too often resulted to petty rudeness by pushing each other at the tables. With wallet full of money and a credit card at arm, I was quite shocked to find it *hard* to spend money in the dealer's room. However, later that night we went back, and the crowd was MUCH smaller, and I was much happier. I took my time and stopped by about half of the tables, picking up a lot more than I had earlier. I didn't spread my stuff out on the bed for this pic, I had just sat down on returning to the room and noticed the mess on the bed as I had dumped things off a couple times that day, and decided to take a pic.

Friday Final Thoughts

Contrary to the seemingly common knowledge that Saturday is a convention's glory day, I found myself enjoying Friday the most overall. The initial excitement I felt was mirrored in most of the other attendees, and it just made the day more fun =). After registration and such, and when first inspecting the con schedules, I was happily surprised by the anime titles set to be featured in Otakon's 6 Video Rooms. Two of the titles being shown, Hana Yori Dango and Brother Dear Brother, being two of my absolute favorites, and as they're both relatively unknown and don't have much of a commercial future in America, I was surprised to find them on the line-up. The inclusion of these titles, as well as others I had written down on my registration form, including Sorcerous Stabber Orphen, Touch, Sailormoon S, Dog of Flanders, Cowboy Bebop, Fancy LaLa, and many more, left me much more chipper about the viewing schedules than I had anticipated. I didn't expect so many of my favorites to be shown and was happy to sit in on their viewings at times.

Unfortunately, I didn't make it to either the opening ceremonies, or any of the discussion panels that day. I did however make it a point to hop on-line for Mystery Anime Theater, an event which I'd heard numerous raves about and was eagerly awaiting. After shuffling into the warehouse-like Main Events Room (which couldn't have been more cold, dark, and unappealing, if you ask me) and taking a seat in the 90th or so row, I was all too quickly dissapointed with the program. The anime being featured was "Lensman"...and yes, the point of MAT is to show a particularly bad anime to make the jokes all the more fun. However, that was the problem. It wasn't my seat, but the sound system, which ruined it for me. I could honestly not make out most of the commentary being made. The sound was, IMO, too loud, making it hard to distinguish their words at times. And, since I wasn't going to sit around and watch Lensman just for kicks, B^2 and I left. Hopefully, the event will be a little smoother next year. It worked out well, though, as coming out from this was when I went to the Artists' table and received my Nuriko sketch =).

Another con issue...staff service. While I didn't have much interaction with the Otakon staffers, the few I did ask questions of or talk to were fine. A little impatient, somewhat curt, but thorough and helpful, unlike some other stories I'd heard. The hotel and convention center staff, however, is another issue. The concenter security, janitors, and employees in general were some of the rudest people I've encountered. Perhaps such a large crowd of generally younger people made them nervous? I'm not sure. Maybe it was just the heat ^_-.

Despite this, Friday was a fun day, the fans were excited, the costumes were plentiful, and events ran well into the early morning, as I finally returned to our room a little past 3 am. It was a first day of anime con-ing for me =).