Bilingual Otakuthon Convention Review

This past August 3rd-5th saw a unique invasion in the streets of Montreal as geeks and cosplayers flocked to La Palais du Congres for the 6th annual Otakuthon anime convention with Nerd Reactor writers in tow. The convention, which was started up by the Concordia University’s anime club, averages 11,000 attendees and is the largest fan-run convention in Quebec. It has all of the fan-run convention norms: panels, a masquerade, dances, and lots of cosplay, but it does have a major feature that sets it apart from other cons, and it’s really something that can only be achieved in Canada. Although Canada is technically a bilingual nation, most conventions have a tendency to greatly favour the most common language in their area; at Anime North in Toronto everything is in English, and while Gatineau’s GAnime does have some English panels, the organizers much prefer their events to be exclusively French. Even Ottawa Comiccon had only a handful of French panels and no French announcements despite being in a city that’s pretty 50/50 English/French native speakers. This is where Otakuthon breaks the mould. Despite being in the very French province of Quebec, Montreal is home to Quebec’s largest native speaking English population while still being a predominantly French city. So, to appeal to everybody, Otakuthon is Canada’s biggest bilingual convention with English and French panels, all major events like the Masquerade having bilingual hosts, and all information being available in both English and French.

So, in celebration of Otakuthon’s uniqueness, this article will also be bilingual. For every section that I, Genevieve LeBlanc, write in English one of our newest writers, Eric Escaravage, will write his own in French. The English and French sections are not direct translations of each other, so don’t go calling foul on us there; it’s just each of us expressing our own opinions about the convention. And with the exposition out of the way, let’s get started!

 

Venue/Emplacement/Lieu

 

Genevieve scores it: 4.5/5

I have nothing but good things to say about La Palais du Congres itself as a convention location. The convention is on three floors of the building with elevators and escalators for easy flow. Right in the heart of Montreal’s Chinatown, it is surrounded by great places to eat and entertain yourself should you decide to wander off from the convention. However, if you’re looking for something a little speedier, you need only go down to the bottom floor of the building to find a Subway, Tim Horton’s, NooBox, and other restaurants, as well as a convenience store. And one should never underestimate the importance of easy Tim Horton’s access for Canadian convention goers. Best of all, the entire site is air conditioned and there are lots of little places to sit down and relax within the convention space.

However, being in downtown Montreal for a con does have its drawbacks, which is why I can’t give it a perfect score. You will get a lot of strange looks for your cosplay because the majority of people in the area are not there to attend the convention. Also, while there are three hotels within a comfortable, close walking distance, two of them (the Travelodge and Holiday Inn) are terrible and the prices leave a lot to be desired. Also, the Osheaga Music Festival and Rogers Cup have a tendency to occur on the same weekend as the convention, resulting in the entire city being booked up hotel wise. If you don’t plan ahead months in advance, chances are you won’t be able to find a room that’s cheap, let alone close to the convention centre. However, there is a metro station nearby.

 

Eric l’a marqué: 4.5/5

Je peux utiliser qu’un seul mot pour décrire le Palais des Congrès : WOW. Dès la première fois que j’y mis pied j’étais très impressioné. Situé au centre ville de Montréal, le palais compte de nombreuses salles sur plusieurs niveaux, plusieurs espaces où relaxer ou prendre des photos et offre accès a plusieurs restaurants.

Comme nous étions au centre-ville,dans le Quartier Chinois, l’atmosphère était parfait pour un festival d’animé. Comparé au festival Anime North qui dit être situé à Toronto mais se trouve réellement a Mississauga près de l’aéroport , l’emplacement du festival Otakuthon offrait aux gens plusieurs options pour la bouffe,le magasinage et le logement.

S’ il fallait dire une chose négative au sujet de l’emplacement du festival , c’est que dû au fait que nous étions au centreville nous avons reçu plusieurs regards étrangers et a quelque reprise des cris ou des commentaires.

 

Events/Évènements

 

Genevieve scores it: 4.5/5

Otakuthon has grown a lot over the past few years and that is predominantly because of the incredible understanding they have of their audience. Otakuthon’s events are primarily volunteer run panels, meaning that any extrovert with an opinion can sit for an hour and talk about their favourite show/game/manga/etc. This leads to an incredibly wide range of topics being covered and with the size of the convention and number of rooms available nobody is left out. However, Otakuthon also holds three mini-cons within the larger convention named Yaoithon, Yurithon and Dollfest which have their own rooms, areas, and events within the convention to focus on their particular muse. While providing attendees with the benefit of having extra events focused on these topics, it’s also a relief to anyone who has ever had the last 10 minutes of their Resident Evil panel invaded by a swarm of girls trying to get into the Gay Sex 101 panel. While many of the Yaoithon and Yurithon events, as well as the late-night anime screenings, can have mature themes there are age-restrictions on certain events with convention staff checking I.D’s at the door. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you how warranted these age-restrictions are on things other than hentai screenings, where the need is obvious, as media were not permitted to attend any 18+ events. But I can say that my entire group, of which the youngest of us was 20, was carded when we tried to get into a 16+ panel, so they do follow-through on their restrictions. So no, worried parents, your child in not going to accidentally wander into some tentacle porn while at Otakuthon.

As I mentioned earlier, all major events also have bilingual hosts. There was a significant improvement this year at the Masquerade in the MC department, as this year’s host was fully bilingual and 2011 saw two hosts, one of which spoke only English and the other only some English. She also did a very good job with pronouncing the names of Japanese characters with which she was obviously unfamiliar, with the exception of the Tohou Project which she insisted on pronouncing “too-who.” The Masquerade itself seemed well organized, but it’s not the only major event at the con. As well as hosting a concert by Tomoe Ohmi, their Japanese guest of honour, there is also the Otakuthon Idol Competition, a live singing contest where J- and K-pop fans strut their stuff on stage and compete for prizes, a skit competition, a Japanese inspired fashion show, and a gaming room, manga library, and multiple dances.

 

Eric l’a marqué: 3.5/5

Otakuthon est le 2ième plus grand festival d’animé au Canada et le nombre d’évènements offerts aux publique reflète cette statistique. Il y avait plusieurs tournois de jeux vidéos, une salle de marchandise et plusieurs ateliers et tables rondes en Anglais et en Français.

J’ai eu la chance d’assister à un atelier qui avait pour sujet «La mauvaise Fan Fiction» . Toutefois j’ai eu le malheur d’être sélectionné pour lire un extrait de My Immortal (Une fan fic basée sur l’univers d’Harry Potter). L’atelier s’est poursuit avec d’autres lectures, suivit d’une discussion de quoi consistait une mauvaise fan fic.

Otakuthon 2012 comprenait aussi une compétition de chant , «Otakuthon Idol» (compétition que Genevieve a gagné il y a quelques années),des danses le vendredi et le samedi soir, un défiler de mode et une Mascarade impressionante. Cette dernière comprenait 60 participants dans plusieurs catégories incluant : débutant,aventurier et maître.

 

Guests/Invités

 

Genevieve scores it: 2.5/5

It seems almost unfair to grade a young, fan-run convention on their guests considering they don’t have the big names of the industry giving them financial backing. However, since meeting celebrities is a big reason people go to conventions, we do need to talk about it. Otakuthon divides its guests up into several categories: North-American Guests of Honour, Japanese Guests of Honour, Cosplay Guests of Honour, and Special Guests. All Guests of Honour this year, excluding those in the Cosplay category, were voice actors in anime and animation and included the likes of Yuri Lowenthal, Scott McNeil, Tara Platt, J. Michael Tatum, and Ohmi Tomoe, the Japanese Guest of Honour. The Cosplay guests of 2012 were Adella of Los Angeles, California and Alodia Gosiengfiao from the Philippines. While the list is short, Otakuthon earns its points in quality, not quantity. Most of the guests they invite are well known for being pleasant and accommodating towards attendees, especially Scott McNeil who we saw goofing around and taking photos with fans in all areas of the convention all weekend.

So when it comes to guests, Otakuthon is not the convention to attend if you’re looking for big name celebrities who will let you get within sniffing distance for a fee. However, if you’re looking to meet some voices of the heroes of your youth, chat for a few minutes, and not have to pay an arm and a leg for an autograph, its perfect.

 

Eric l’a marqué: 4/5

L’Invité d’honneur pour Otakuthon cette année était le talentueux Scott McNeil, un acteur bien connu au Canada pour ses rôles dans les séries Beast Wars et Reboot. Scott a fournit la voix de plusieurs personnages dont Rat Trap,Waspinator,Dino Bot et Hack. Son CV inclut aussi des rôles dans de nombreux jeux vidéos et animés, notament Duo Maxwell dans la série Mobile Gundam Wing. (Lire notre entrevue avec Scott bientôt).

L’acteur Yuri Lowenthal a aussi eu la chance de parler avec les fans et de répondre au questions durant son atelier. Vous pouvez entendre sa voix dans plus de 200 projets, incluant la voix du prince dans la série Prince of Persia.

Le groupe d’impro The 404’s, fondé il y a 10 ans à Anime North, ont fait plusieurs spectacles durant la fin de semaine incluant une performance «Last Pants standing» (celui ou celle qui perd le jeu doit enlever ses pantalons). Les 404’s sont très bien reçus a plusieurs festivals en Amérique du nord, et ont connu beacoup de succès avec leur style de comédie. (Écoutez notre entrevue avec les 404’s bientôt).

Le festival comprenait aussi :l’actrice Tara Platt, L’acteur J. Micheal Tatum, l’actrice et chanteuse japonaise Tomoe Ohmi, co-fondateur du site «cosplay.com» Sarah Quillian,l’illustrateur Eric Allard et L’auteure Mel Gosselin parmit d’autres.

 

Overall Experience/En Général

 

Genevieve scores it: 4.5/5

I have to admit, Otakuthon is my favourite fan-run convention of the year. While the location is awesome and the events are fun, the greatest thing Otakuthon has to offer is its people. The atmosphere of the convention is amazing; casual yet vibrant. People are friendly, the cosplay is beautiful and the events are fun. What more could you ask for from a fan-run convention? So if you’re willing to make the trek up to Montreal, Quebec, Otakuthon should not be missed if you’re looking for an awesome fan-run, not-for-profit convention where you can hang out with friends, make new ones, and chat about your favourite parts of otakuism.

 

Eric l’a marqué: 4/5

En conclusion, je me suis bien amusé à Otakuthon. L’atmosphère était très spéciale et j’ai vraiment apprécié l’effort que demande un festival entièrement bilingue. Les invités étaient super, l’emplacement du festival spectaculaire et les ateliers intéressants. Je suis très impressioné et même mâlgé la fan fiction de Harry Potter, j’ai déjâ hâte à l’année prochaine!

Genevieve’s total score: 16/20

Score total d’Eric: 16/20

Seems Eric and I are in agreement! À l’année prochaine!

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Genevieve LeBlanc
Genevieve LeBlanc 126 posts

Genevieve LeBlanc is a contributing writer for NerdReactor.com and lives in snowy Canada.