The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games and life converge

Otafest, with a side of Montreal smoked meat

It’s one of two anime conventions in Alberta: first held in 1999, Otafest is a three-day anime convention that aims to promote anime and Japanese popular culture. The fact that it is set on University of Calgary grounds makes it a prime choice for those in the Southern Alberta region, and after three years of observing from the shadows, at the last moment, I decided to hit the frontlines and see for myself what Otafest was about. I would not be disappointed. Yesterday, I had weaved my way between the Otafest crowds en route to the parking lot after a long day of trying, to little avail, to get a CSS/JavaScript driven GUI to update. However, despite missing the first day of events, my decision was now set in stone: I would attend Otafest 2013. When I had awoken today, the sun was shining and the skies were blue, contrary to the weather forecast, and remained thus as I arrived on the University of Calgary grounds at around 0950. Within minutes, I had completed the registration process. Having been given an Otafest wristband, I proceded immediately to the vendors in MacEwan Hall, where I would browse around all of the vendors for materials of interest. I would eventually find a vendor selling card decks adorned with K-On! art; having resolved to get something K-On! themed, I made the purchase and would return to the registration hall to await a friend who had originally persuaded me to attend Otafest. We consider that had I not received a message said friendtwo days ago, I likely would have spent much of today trying to make my way through the Battlefield: Bad Company 2 campaign.

  • I originally found out about Otafest via word-of-mouth back in 2007, although I lacked the inclination to visit until 2010, when one Superslinger2007 posted a series of videos on YouTube, piquing my interest. His videos detailed various aspects of Otafest, including the special guests panels and some of the unique events occurring on campus grounds. I thus resolved to visit Otafest in the future: owing to various circumstances, I would not have the opportunity to do so until now. Having attended Otafest, I find it to be a fun experience to really understand and interact with other anime fans. I have hitherto assumed that on this side of the world, anime fans were far and few, and as such, watching (and talking about) anime was a hobby undertaken alone in front of a computer screen. My assumptions are incorrect, of course: it remarkably fun to experience a more social approach to this hobby.

  • Dear parties who do not approve of my favourable reviews of K-On! and dare to challenge those who hate the series: you know my current location now, having heard that Otafest is in fact readily accessible to me. So…have you the courage to settle this where I have the home field advantage? Fortunately for me, I am totally and completely familiar with the floor plan at the University of Calgary, allowing me to visit events and avoid traffic by picking the optimal routes, including hidden tunnels and secret passages.

Upon rendezvous at the rally point, we initially intended to attend the maid café. However, the bookings had already been filled to capacity, and as such, we resolved to explore some of the panels offered. After sitting through an AMV panel (for all of 15 minutes), we decided to see what the food trucks were about: the food trucks are an initiative by the city to encourage street food, contrasting more traditional options available in Calgary previously. Out of curiosity, I went with the smoked meat hash from the Red Wagon Diner; I was under the impression that it was a sandwich of sorts, but realised that it was, in fact, a dish with bread on the side. The dish had all of the look and quality of something I expected from a Man v. Food episode: the Montreal smoked meat was particularly delicious (and is, in fact, the same meat used in the smoked meat sandwiches in Pure Pwnage!), complementing the potato and vegetables nicely. Eating said dish turned out to be a Man v. Food-type challenge. As we opted to check out the Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, I would have needed to eat things at a slightly higher pace to ensure that we would be on time; my friend would recommend this series as a solid anime with good story and comedic value. I would agree, although I myself are not a fan of supernatural elements. This could change, however.

  • In previous years, Otafest registration and events were centered around the Social Sciences/Science Theatres open area. As of last year, construction has moved Otafest to the ICT (Information and Communications Technology) building, the home of the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science departments. It is my favourite place on campus, being located reasonably close to the bus station and MacEwan Student Centre, where the vendors are located. Most of the major events, anime screenings and panels happen in ICT, the adjacent Earth Sciences building, Science B and Science Theatres. Contrasting previous years, the Social Sciences and Science A buildings are now deserted.

  • I am not certain of the Prairie Chicken’s purpose, but, like the countless other abstract sculptures on campus, the Prairie Chicken does liven up the landscape around the University of Calgary. The cosplay is quite diverse, with individuals dressed up as Chell from Portal 2, K-On!‘s Nodoka Manabe and Sena Kashiwazaki from Boku wa tomodachi ga sukunai, among others. I lament the fact that I can recognise some cosplay, and take solace in the fact that I do not readily recognise all of them.

After one episode had elapsed, we capitalised on the weather and headed towards the infamous “Prairie Chicken”, one of many unusual sculptures on campus grounds. Normally, a crowd of students breaking from their studies may be found relaxing out here, and in winter, students bypass the statue without a second glance. A windmill-like structure supposedly mimicking the flipping of textbook pages in the wind, the Prairie Chicken is featured prominently in the web series “Revelation” as a significant entity of sorts. Today, under sunshine, cosplayers hung out around the area for relaxation and photo opportunities. At around this time, we would return to the registration building, where I would purchase a handful of Otafest-related trinkets. We would then attend a voice actor autograph session, where I would encounter Michael Daingerfield, who provides Johann Trinity’s English voice in Gundam 00, amongst several other voice actors involved in Zeta Gundam. With their autographs in hand, we would revisit the vendors and artists’ alley, where my friend would make his purchases. I would also check out the gaming room (noting that there were no FPS games going on), before making my way home.

4 responses to “Otafest, with a side of Montreal smoked meat

  1. ninetybeats May 19, 2013 at 01:34

    Alberta looks mighty impressive from the looks of it.
    Maybe you could provide some pictures of the convention, giving us a little tour to build your story. But I think you have an interest in architecture as well:p


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