I’m just back from Anime Expo 2009, and despite the jet lag, I’m going to try to share the differences between Anime Expo and Otakon (at least, based on my experience with AX 2009 and Otakons 2001-2008):
- AX’s L.A. Convention Center feels slightly larger than the Baltimore Convention Center. This means more walking, but also the crowds never got densely packed as they can be at Otakon.
- The LACC isn’t as nicely situated in the city as the BCC is. At LACC, you have to walk a few blocks to get to any restaurants, and there’s really nothing scenic nearby. The BCC’s got restaurants across the street, and the Inner Harbor is just a couple of blocks away.
- AX is more laid back, as befitting California. Folks walk a little slower, expressions aren’t as intense, and there’s little of that simmering frustration you see in folks stalking around the Baltimore Convention Center.
- It’s rare for an Otakon panel to be completely full. Happened several times just for the panels I was interested in at AX.
- AX has somewhat more Asians, and definitely more Asian guests than Otakon.
- The AX dealer’s room has a slightly larger selection, but it’s ultimately like Otakon in terms of what you can buy. So, while an Otakon dealer might have 40 different Gundam model kits, an AX dealer might have 50. But there was nothing there I felt I couldn’t possibly buy at Otakon (and I could certainly get any of it online).
- There was way less video gaming at AX than Otakon. Otakon has a huge room with literally dozens of consoles and video game machines running. AX’s video game room had two DDR machines, a Para Para Max machine, a few copies of Street Fighter 4 and a few other games, a wall of crane machines (?!), and an air hockey table (?!?!). The console game room had a grand total of four games running while I was there (Smash Brothers Brawl, Blaz Blue, a Japanese SNK vs. Capcom, and Guilty Gear). Both rooms were small.
Otherwise, the two cons felt the same. There was about the same number of events, the same kinds of panels and events (guest Q&A, a concert, an AMV contest, etc.), the same amount of cosplay as a percentage of guests, about the same quality of cosplay. Most panels started within about 10 minutes of the scheduled starting time. Everything went as smoothly as a fan-run con ever goes.
All in all, they’re more similar than different.