Monday, August 1, 2011

Otakon 2011

This past weekend my husband and I drove to Baltimore for Otakon 2011.

It was my fourth trip and each year seems to get better and better. This year my goal was to meet Bob Shirohata, an Anime director who recently worked on the Anime adaption of my favorite web-comic, Hetalia. For those not in the Anime loop, it's hard to arrange for Japanese Anime industry professionals to attend conventions in the U.S. This was Shirohata's second U.S. convention and it was on our side of the country. I had to be there.

We arrived a little later than planned on Saturday morning, missing Shirohata's solo autograph session. Luckily we were just in time to get in line for the Hetalia Season Three Premiere which included a Q&A session with the Japanese and English voice actors and directors. It's always hard for us older fans to deal with the younger screaming fan-girl crowd, but I was able to endure and enjoyed all of the festivities provided by Funimation, the English distributor of the series. Charlene Ingram, the brand manager for Hetalia at Funimation, is my marketing hero. I love watching her use social media, rainbows and sparkles too keep us fans happy.

Saturday evening I finally had my chance to approach Shirohata at the Hetalia Cast signing. While waiting in line I saw Charlene looking in our direction. At last year's premiere of season two I hoped to have the chance to thank her for all of her hard work in person but she never got close enough for me to address her. She did manage to catch me watching her like a creeper when she took a photo of the crowd. I was so embarrassed when she posted the picture, even though she didn't point it out. I didn't want to repeat that so this year when I saw her looking our way I waved. She waved back with a smile then unexpectedly walked all the way back over to us. We talked for a bit and I finally had my chance to meet my girl crush in person and say thanks.

The wait didn't feel as long as it was. We were ushered in and managed to be in the third row of autograph seekers. I wanted everyone's autograph, but seeing Shirohata in person was something special. I had thought about what I wanted to say to him for days before we left for the convention. I wanted him to know that I was there because of him. I tweeted that I wanted to shake his hand, thank him, tell him that I loved watching his commentaries and that he has awesome hair. As the line moved I wondered if the man standing next to him was a translator. Did I mention Shirohata doesn't speak English? I quickly wondered what if he isn't a translator? What should I say? What about the cultural differences?

It was my turn and I handed Shirohata my copy of the Hetalia Animation Official Guide Book to sign. He threw me by saying "Hello." I don't know why it threw me. I know a few Japanese words, it's not at all surprising that he'd know an English greeting. I hesitated then made my decision and settled on telling him that I really enjoyed his commentaries that were subtitled extras on some of the DVDs. The next thing I knew the man next to him was translating and I smiled. I've never had my feelings translated to someone before and that really hit me in a profound way. He smiled and said Arigato. I wanted to say more, but did not want to hold up the line. I thanked him both in English and Japanese and moved along to greet the other guests.

I was casually cosplaying as the character France so I greeted the English voice actor who did his voice, J. Michael Tatum, with "Bonjour" which lead to him speaking to me in French and me staring like an idiot because I failed French in middle school. At least he joined me in the character's notorious "honhonhon" laugh. My husband, who does voices for fun, commented that he heard a lot of Maurice Chevailer in Tatum's version of France and got an amused response. He also teased Scott Freeman, who voiced Britain, about English food. I couldn't think of anything other than to tell Patrick Seitz (Germany), Scott Sager (Egypt/English Director) and Akira Sasanuma (Japanese voice actor for Austria) that I really enjoyed their work and thank you. I truly do love and appreciate everyone's hard work on the series.

I was on cloud nine the rest of the con. It might not seem like a big deal to most people but meeting the professionals that work so hard to entertain us and to have the chance to tell them how much their work means to us, how much they mean to us, will have me coming back to Otakon for years to come.