I have a confession to make. I’m NOT an anime guy, at least not in modern terms. I remember fondly Astroboy, and Robotech on tv, and having to trade VHS tapes of varying quality. I’m old. Yet off I go to Otafest, Calgary’s biggest anime festival.
Otafest takes place on the beautiful grounds of the University of Calgary, which while beautiful makes finding your way around as a first timer a little challenging. They had ample signage, but it was sometimes placed awkwardly, almost to the point of inaccuracy. That aside, I eventually found my way to pickup my badge and I was on my way.
First stop for me was the Vendor Hall. There I found a collection of props, costumes, DVDs, and a personal favorite of mine The Attic & Attic Raiders. Combined, they offer a broad range of steam punk gear, everything from antique telescopes and compasses to handmade costume pieces. (Full disclosure, I’ve been a fan of Attic Raiders since the beginning, you can find her Facebook Page here: www.facebook.com/LadyWartenberg and vote for my photo of her to be on a Jones Soda label here: www.jonessoda.com/gallery/view.php?ID=1388265&search%5Btext%5D=David&offset=1 )
Soon I made my way to the Fallcon room, where the organizers of the Fallcon Gaming Convention ( www.fallcon.com ) hosted games of “Giant Sized” King of Tokyo with 1’ foam dice, and 3’ character pieces. Tables across the full length of one wall full of board games available to play, and throughout the room people were happily rolling dice.
As Saturday rolled around I took in my first panel. Cosplay Photography 101, a primer panel for photographers (even those with just a phone), and cosplayers alike. Tips were given on everything from photo basics, to etiquette, to posing and being posed.
Then it was off to the other end of the festival where I heard tell of a guerrilla tea party taking over part of the food court. Sure enough when I arrived steam punk enthusiasts from The Calgary Steampunk Assemblage ( www.facebook.com/CalgarySteampunkAssemblage ) had laid out linens and good china, and were brewing their little hearts outs for guests. I declined a good cup of tea (shame on me), in order to make it back across to the room I had just left where an Iaido panel was starting. Hosted by special guest Dave Rathnow from Shin Ken Kai Nobara ( www.skknobara.com ), we were treated to some history of Japanese warfare, weapons, and Iaido. Following that were demonstrations of 2 separate forms of Iaido, and a short Q&A.
Later I found myself chatting with another photographer, and getting myself invited to a large group photo shoot. I got some great shots from some great cosplayers, and then rushed away to grab food before the main event for the evening.
What was the main event you ask? UCHUSENTAI:NOIZ ( www.uchusentainoiz.com ), a high energy and very flamboyant band from Japan Outer Space. I spent the next hour experiencing a show that was unlike anything I had seen before, a show so intense that the stage could barely contain it. In fact it didn’t, as at one point the band came right off the stage and into the audience! It was a great closing to the day, as I skipped the dance that night, and went home to rest up for the next day.
Being May Long Weekend, in Calgary, the inevitable happened. It snowed. But Sunday morning rolled around and the snow was gone, and the outdoor party that makes Otafest so special was on. First stop for me was Cosplay Battle Chess, where 2 moderating players pick cosplayers out of a surprisingly large crowd and use them as human (“human”) chess pieces that improvise a battle each time a piece is captured. I was shocked at how big the crowd was for this one, so big in fact that I couldn’t even get any good pictures.
Next on my wish list to see was the Pokemon Fashion Show, which either moved and no one put up a sign, or just failed to happen. In it’s place continuing battles for the Otafest Pokemon League on the Nintendo DS.
So back outside I headed for a performance by Midnight Taiko ( www.midnight-taiko.com , a local Japanese drumming group. I love Taiko drumming, so was enthralled by the beats, as was an ever-expanding crowd. At the end of the performance they had an audience participation portion where anyone could try out the drums. I passed on that part.
I closed out my Otafest experience with another high energy performance of UCHUSENTAI:NOIZ. I even got to pick up a tee shirt, and get it autographed.
I’m not an anime guy, but as with most big conventions/festivals I missed more than I caught, and Editors willing, I’ll be back next year for more.
Check out my photos on Geek-o-Rama here: COMING SOON
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