The anime convention Otakon 2018, which took place Aug. 10-12 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, is considered to be the largest gathering of anime fans in the region and one of the largest in the country. The event had historically taken place in Baltimore for years, but since has moved to Washington, D.C.
Many of the convention’s attendees were local to Montgomery County, while others came from as far away as Los Angeles to attend. Some of the locals take part in the hobby known as cosplay, which is the practice of dressing up as a character from a show, movie or book, and heavily relies on its roots in Japanese culture.
A 19-year-old Germantown native who identified herself only as “Sammy,” said she has been cosplaying since she was 11. Her interest in cosplay stemmed from her interest in Japanese anime. She said that it’s not only, “being able to make the cosplay, but also meeting a bunch of people who are the same as you, who value the same things.”
Sammy said she felt that conventions provide a rare space that allows people with potentially niche interests to find others who have common interests.
She also said that these values don’t stop at just the shared enjoyment of video games or a show, but also extend into other aspects of life. She said was “pissed off and really angry” about the planned “Unite The Right 2” rally in D.C. during the same weekend.
Sammy said she was upset for a variety of reasons but especially because the rally “eliminated many ways for people to attend the con.” Sammy said that the Metro is the primary mode of transportation for convention-goers, and the rally made using the Metro seem “much more dangerous and eliminated a lot of people’s ability to attend the con.”
She explained that this is a bigger issue because the convention provided a safe haven for fans of various franchises.
Overall, Sammy said she didn’t feel as though the rally changed the actual climate of the convention very much. She did, however, recall seeing a few people in the video game room wearing anti-Trump stickers, but thought none of this was directly connected for or against the alt-right.
Sammy went on to say, “Conventions are very liberal. Especially in D.C. and Maryland. Most people are for gay rights, and liberal on the social justice spectrum.” In the end, she said, she thought the “Unite The Right 2” rally “didn’t stop anyone from having fun.”
Yasmin Nawrozie, a 21-year-old Germantown local, has been attending conventions for about five years, “for the atmosphere” and enjoys “meeting people with similar interests.”
She said she felt “there wasn’t much of a change” due to the rally going on at the same time. She did note that a few more police officers were circling around the convention center, but said, “There weren’t any major changes.”
Similar to Sammy, Nawrozie found a major issue when confronted with how to actually attend the convention. She said she also felt intimidated about using the Metro after Friday morning and that she “didn’t want to use the Metro because she didn’t want to run into any of the people attending the rally.”
Nawrozie didn’t hear much about the rally while at the convention. However, she did have some trouble finding somewhere to eat on Sunday night as some of the nearby restaurants closed in what Nawrozie assumed to be fear of the scheduled rally.
A Silver Spring native using her cosplay stage name “Cherry Cos,” has been cosplaying and attending conventions for nearly 10 years now. She, much like Sammy, started cosplaying because she wanted to bring some of her favorite characters to life.
She enjoys conventions because that’s where she can be herself and be “surrounded by hundreds of people who have the same interests” and are “as passionate about their hobby” as she is. She said she also believes conventions to be a good chance to meet friends, both new and old, and connect with people.
The rally made Cherry Cos a bit nervous, she said, and she “did extra planning to ensure safe traveling.” But she didn’t worry too much, Cos said, because, unlike Sammy and Nawrozie, she didn’t attend the convention on Sunday. She said she believes that made things easier as well.