Otafest 2017 – Overview

While most of you were enjoying the celebrations around the city during Canada Day weekend, I was enjoying my time volunteering and checking out the events at Otafest 2017. In case you aren’t familiar, Otafest is an annual anime/gaming convention that has been running since 1999. Although it was first held at the University of Calgary, the venue has since moved to the Telus Convention Centre in Downtown Calgary. It was my first time ever attending this convention, and I have to say that I have been missing out on this wonderful event for the past few years. Otafest was a great event to be a part of because…

1. It is fit for all anime/gaming enthusiasts, whether amateur or experienced.

One of the panels at Otafest! This was the Q&A session for Jerry Jewell, the voice actor for Viktor from the anime Yuri on Ice.

Despite its growing popularity, anime is still a pretty unfamiliar topic in Western culture. Anime conventions like Otafest might seem to only be fit for those “hardcore otakus” – someone obsessed with Japanese culture – but that’s not the case at all! If you’ve only watched a couple of anime based on your friends’ recommendations, Otafest is a great opportunity to check out new animes through their scheduled viewing shows or their panels. The panels ranged from competitions with prizes to Q&As about specific anime.

There was an entire hall for board gaming and video gaming!

Otafest has also transformed into a convention fit for gamers; an entire hall was dedicated to video gaming AND board games! Not only could I enjoy playing new board games with my brother, but there were tournaments going on and casual video gaming on consoles for the public to try. Overall, I was able to experience a lot of new games and anime during my time at Otafest.

Two new games we learned! Tanto Cuore is an anime-themed deck-building game and Patchwork involves earning points through creating a quilt within a 9×9 square!

2. The attendees are some of the nicest and most inspiring people you will meet.

Cosplayers are probably one of the few types of strangers that you can approach, ask for a photograph, and have a great conversation on a whim. Cosplay is an art in of itself; all of the characters- from those simple, “lifehack” DIYs to intricate and extravagant cosplays- were inspiring to look at because it showed their passion and dedication to the con experience. It’s always satisfying to see one of your favourite characters on the screen come to real life – shoutout to one of the attendees who cosplayed Zero, or Lelouch Lamperouge from Code Geass! We had a great conversation about the anime and its upcoming third season. Check out the Otafest 2017 Photobooth album to see the great cosplays!

Winners and some runner-ups for Miss and Mr Otafest, a cosplay contest!
A cosplay of Lelouch/Zero from Code Geass!

3. It is an appealing marketplace that goes towards a great cause.

What would a convention be without its merchandise? The biggest site of attraction at Otafest is its Vendors Hall/Artists Alley, where shops and artists are given an outlet to sell anime and gaming merchandise. Over the course of the convention, I developed a love-hate relationship for this area, because the art was AMAZING but once you started to buy, it was hard to stop. Guilty pleasure of splurging on anime merchandise: check.

However, I really appreciate Otafest giving these artists the opportunity to sell their art, and for the attendees to buy high-quality prints and other merchandise of their favourite characters without having to travel to Japan to get them. Otafest also raised over $11,000 for the Tom Baker Cancer Centre this year through donations, admission tickets, sketch drive, and charity auctions!

An artist at Otafest’s Sketch Drive! Just pay a small fee and get a personal drawing within 15 minutes!

Mishaps and all, Otafest 2017 was an amazing experience for both my volunteerism and my interests in anime. If you are a potential anime enthusiast, I highly recommend getting together with friends and attending next year – Otafest 2018 has already been announced, with the convention being on the May long weekend so you don’t have to miss out on Canada Day celebrations! Furthermore, the guest of honour is Matt Mercer, who you might know as Levi from Attack on Titan, Kiritsugu Emiya from Fate/Zero, McCree from the game Overwatch, and more! If it’s your first time attending one of these conventions, Otafest has announced a “Season of Otafest” for its 20th anniversary, with free community events leading up to the 2018 convention!

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Ticket sales for Otafest 2018 will be coming out this Wednesday July 12; however, if the admission price was a reason that barred you from attending previously, then volunteer! As a volunteer, you are entitled to free admission over the 3 days so you can wander the venue outside of your shifts. This is a great opportunity for us, as youths of Calgary, to expand our volunteerism — even outside of Youth Central. I hope to see some of you there next year!

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