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Otakon for dummies

Ota-what?

Otakon is an annual celebration of Japanese and East Asian popular culture, with an emphasis on music, movies, and fashion. The three-day convention is entering its 17th year. It has been held in Baltimore since 1999.

What is cosplay?

Short for costume role-play, cosplay is when people dress up as a character from anime, comics, video games or other popular media, and act like the character.

What is anime?

Anime is an abbreviated pronunciation in Japanese of "animation." Anime was invented in Japan in the early 1900s.

Some people wear the same costume the entire conference. Ew! Seriously?

"Don't contribute to the problem," the Otakon website says. "Anytime you have a lot of people in one place, and it's hot out, you're going to get the occasional whiff of B.O. Please shower (with soap!) at least once every day and change your clothes. No matter how cool your outfit is, the acrid smell of pleather and human sweat will ruin the effect by the second day, we guarantee it. Make sure your sleeping arrangements allow for proper hygiene."

Leave the real weapons at home!

Although Otakon organizers encourage authenticity for costumes, weapons are not permitted — at all!

That means no swords, bayonets, knives, star knives, shurikens, metal armor (including chainmail), guns of any kind (water guns or water pistols are included), crossbows, dart guns, and blowguns, stun guns, Tasers, paddles, explosives, and chemicals.

Staves, bo sticks, bokeni, and wooden swords are permitted as long as they are handled responsibly.

"The policy is strict to ensure your safety and for compliance with the rules and laws we must follow," according to the Otakon website. "Our weapons policy is developed in conjunction with the BCC and with local law enforcement. Unfortunately, we live in a world filled with real dangers, and the last thing anyone needs to worry about is trying to tell whether your gun or sword is real or fake. Public safety is more important than cosplay aesthetics."

Don't waste the time of the special guests

Otakon organizers have also devised a list of tips for interacting with their celebrities. The list includes these don'ts: don't ask them questions that are answered in their Wikipedia entry or Otakon bio; don't ask questions that can be answered with a yes or no; don't ask for hugs, kisses, or their hand in marriage; don't ask for autographs or other favors; don't waste everyone's time; don't ask deeply personal or invasive questions.

john-john.williams@baltsun.com

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