This year was actually my first time attending Otakon in Baltimore, Maryland. It’s a massive convention, so in addition to the big name guests and awesome concerts, I was on the lookout for a bigger BL and yaoi presence at the convention. Overall, Otakon proved to be a decent event for fujoshi but not necessarily one of the top I’ve attended (excluding Yaoi Con of course, since it’s their entire focus). For fujoshi wondering about the event highlights, I’ve put together a summary of what went on.
Sadly, for the second-biggest anime only convention in the nation there wasn’t nearly as much industry presence as I expected all around, including the BL portion of the industry. None of the publishers with major BL presences held panels or announcements at the convention, but Yaoi Press did have a booth presence in the dealer’s room with a lot of material from fellow BL publisher DMP. In addition to plenty of manga from both publishers, Yaoi Press also had a supply of their new Happy Yaoi Yum Yum book, a yaoi coloring book (which they had some notable problems getting printed) and a yaoi themed poker deck. Happily, they seemed to be doing well. Media Blasters also had a booth, with plenty of their BL manga and anime releases available—albeit lacking any really compelling deals, a problem I noticed with the dealer’s room overall.
Of course, fujoshi attending Otakon were able to find plenty of doujinshi to get their fix, if at the usual high markup. A few vendors here and there had small selections of books—some priced quite steeply—but the central source was doujinshi and bishoujo game specialist vendor Hen Da Ne. Their selection seemed a bit better than I’ve seen at previous events, with good numbers of books for recent popular fandoms including Hetalia Axis Powers, Gundam 00 and Code Geass, with plenty of leftover stock in Phoenix Wright, Final Fantasy VII and VIII, Hikaru no Go and more. Those attendees who could manage to browse the selection through their vendor screaming about buttsex to everyone within 50 feet were able to pull in a good haul. Though as usual, fujoshi like me who collect less popular fandoms were out of luck and left to friends attending Japanese events or online auctions.
Though not generally a BL publisher, J-List was also in attendance with copies of their domestic BL game releases Enzai and Absolute Obedience. I was eager to have a chance to speak with Peter Payne in relation to the recently announced partnership between JAST USA and bishoujo game company Nitro+. For those of you who may not know what that has to do with fujoshi, Nitro+ publishes top quality BL games under the Nitro+CHiRAL label. None of the Nitro+CHiRAL games have been announced through the new partnership, but Peter was able to tell us that both JAST USA and Nitro+ are interested in releasing the BL games domestically if they can get a feel for purchasing interest among fans and work out the right logistics. Those of you who want to see Togainu no Chi, Lamento or Sweet Pool in English should contact JAST USA through their forum or Twitter and let them know!
The most pleasant surprise of the convention, and one that sadly I don’t think many people found, was a beautiful Chinatsu Kurahana artbook sold by MangaGamer, a company that generally specializes in bishoujo games. The book collected several original illustrations, as well as some of Kurahana’s art for COMIC BLADE Avarus, Aquarian Age and light novel covers. Though not explicitly BL, it was full of gorgeous bishonen and well worth the $15 price tag.
In terms of panels, Otakon had an average showing. BL and yaoi panels rarely make up much of the schedule, both due to their niche audience status and the fact that adult-oriented panels are necessarily restricted to a small time frame late in the evenings. Otakon featured two BL focused panels both on Friday evening: the Yaoi-ing Game and a BL Games panel.
The Yaoi-ing Game, run by Viga of the Otagal Podcast, was a yaoi themed game show intended to crown the biggest fujoshi of them all at the con. Five contestants competed across a couple of rounds to answer yaoi trivia questions. In addition to the standard trivia was a round where contestants had to guess which of two yaoi couples would garner the biggest audience response. The event was a big hit, with lots of fans attending and a ton of screaming to be heard.
Second was the BL Games panel, hosted by two Togainu no Chi cosplayers. The panel mostly served as an introduction and overview to a few professional games rather than an in-depth discussion of the genre. Several intro or advertisement videos were shown for both licensed and unlicensed games including Guisard, Togainu no Chi, Sweet Pool, Enzai and Lucky Dog. Demo gameplay was also shown for an unlicensed Langmaor game called Teikoku Sennenki, and some choice CG images were displayed from the Sweet Pool and Enzai. There was also a good overview of the different styles of game play that can be found in different games, from standard visual novel style text selection to full RPG systems. Sadly, there wasn’t much of a chance to discuss the doujin side of games. Overall, the presenters seemed to know their material and the panel was entertaining if short on content owing to a derailing while the room discussed the potential JAST USA releases of Nitro+CHiRAL games.
There wasn’t particularly much cosplay directly from BL works. One of the BL related panels was hosted by two women cosplaying as Akira and Keisuke from Togainu no Chi, as well as a couple of folks still doing costumes of Shuichi from Gravitation. As usual, most of the cosplay was from standard works that are popular among the fujoshi crowd and probably the biggest notable change was an increase in the number of Hetalia: Axis Powers cosplayers (who I sadly never managed to get pictures of, as we always happened to be going opposite directions in a hurry or on opposite sides of a crowd). There was also at least one Sengoku Basara group, which will hopefully increase once Funimation begins releasing the anime here. Kuroshitsuji (Black Butler) also made an appearance. As always, fujoshi favorites like Gurren Lagann, Death Note, Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts could still be seen all over the convention, though some at lower levels than previous years and events.