Team TokuNet staff writers Brody Salzman and Alex Hartzog attended Otakon 2022 in Washington D.C. to bring you the latest in tokusatsu-related announcements, merchandise, and events from the largest anime convention on the U.S. East coast.
Originally held near Penn State’s main campus in Pennsylvania, Otakon is well known for being the largest anime convention on the east coast of the United States. It was held in Baltimore, Maryland from 1999 to 2017 before it was moved to the nation’s capitol. This year’s convention, held from July 29 to July 31 and located in the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, was the largest in Otakon’s long history with total attendance surpassing 40,000 attendees.
While con staff seemed unprepared for the demands of a crowd approaching twice the size of last year’s event, Team TokuNet was graciously granted press access to cover tokusatsu announcements and happenings. This year, the majority of those happenings were led by passionate fans on Friday, the first day of the con.
Friday Morning: Tokusatsu Cosplay Photoshoot
Our day started with a lengthy registration process. After that, we raced to the tokusatsu cosplay photo shoot which featured some impressive civilian and transformed cosplays which included Kaito Goshikida, Zocks and Flint Goldtsuiker, and Stacey (all from Kikai Sentai Zenkaiger), Aruto and sukeban Is (“delinquent Is”) based on the characters from Kamen Rider Zero-One, Ryoga Shindai from Kamen Rider Saber, and Ultraman himself.
All cosplay photos in this article were taken by Keychain Photography. Please do not repost or alter in any way without permission and proper credit.
Seeing such passionate cosplayers organizing and posing so well together really set the mood for the day. Where tokusatsu is concerned, Friday was all about passionate fans gathering to preach the gospel of their fandom and to just have fun together. I can’t sum up the energy of this cohort much better than with a photo of all the hero cosplayers T-posing over a fallen Apollogeist from Kamen Rider X. (Pictured below)
Friday Afternoon: Tokusatsu Panels By Fans, For Fans
Our next matter of business was to prepare for the afternoon. Of the four tokusatsu-focused panels at Otakon, three were held that Friday afternoon. First up, JAC Productions presented two panels in their “Henshin Heroes” panel series. Though they were scheduled in reverse order, it didn’t make much difference since both “On Steel Horses They Ride” and “Super Sentai, Not For The Colorblind” were broad overviews of both the Kamen Rider and Super Sentai series, respectively. For those in the know, these panels were trips down memory lane. For new fans, these were useful crash courses.
The highlight of the day had to be the “Kamen Rider Ryuki – 20 Years Later” panel. Presented by a group of cosplayers and Ryuki super fans, this panel opened with a brief explanation of Kamen Rider Ryuki and then broke out into a Jeopardy!-style trivia game where four of the Kamen Riders in the show are the categories AND the teams! We could have joined Team Ryuki, Team Knight, or Team Zolda, but we had to go with the sinister Team Ouja. The prize for winning? Additional tickets for the free lottery everyone in attendance got to participate in!
Apparently, this panel was the group’s first time presenting together, and they did a fantastic job! Each panelist and panel crew member was in cosplay as a character from Ryuki, either acting as a leader for each team or providing other support for running the panel. Each team had a single buzzer to press when it wanted to steal a question, and boy, handing me the button was a mistake. When given any serious responsibility, I always take a page from our heroes’ books and take it seriously. When you hand me a large noisy button? Our team was gonna be taking every chance we could get!
A lot of the questions were deep cuts for the most passionate Ryuki fans which meant I was only going to be able to get us openings with the buzzer. I know almost nothing about Kamen Rider Ryuki and its specifics. Luckily, I was surrounded by Alex and a few other big fans who all had some valiant guesses when the going got tough. Sadly, it was not meant to be as Team Ryuki won in the final round. Although, Alex did manage to snag two prizes from the raffle anyway. That was a funny surprise.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a panel that goes 100% smoothly, but I was very impressed by the fun energy this panel brought. The panelists and crew really brought a bunch of tokusatsu fans together whether or not they’d seen Kamen Rider Ryuki. The group has no formal team name, but the panelists are as follows:
- Heaven’s Gem Cosplay – Takeshi Asakura/Kamen Rider Ouja/Our team’s glorious leader
- Daemon_Blade Cosplay – Shinji Kido/Kamen Rider Ryuki
- Redcatscosplay92 – Ren Akiyama/Kamen Rider Knight
- Nicholas Bassett – Miyuki Tezuka/Kamen Rider Raia
- GaikotsuTantei – Shuichi Kitaoka/Kamen Rider Zolda
- Crossravenhearst – Miho Kirishima/Kamen Rider Femme and worked the panel’s tech
Saturday Night: It’s Toku Time With DiscoTek!
With that, we were free for about 28 hours. The next major tokusatsu-related event at the convention was the Discotek Media panel at which many projects were announced, and Discotek also provided updates on previously announced projects. Among the anime-related announcements, Discotek announced its new Toku Time sub-brand under which more tokusatsu localizations and physical media releases will be provided. The panelists even surprised the crowd with the announcement of Space Sheriff Gavan‘s English language debut! Of course, that’s already up for pre-order. A kaiju movie called Legend of Dinosaurs and Dangerous Birds was also announced for localization under Toku Time.
I’m not exaggerating to say that the audience was yelling and cheering as each announcement was made… maybe with the exception of Legend of Dinosaurs and Dangerous Birds, but Gavan got specially loud cheers as a historically significant tokusatsu work, and so did Mike Dent of Vintage Henshin when his historical essay coming with the Gavan release was announced. Our full panel coverage of Toku Time information also includes statements from Discotek’s Mike Toole not included in the panel or on social media.
The Discotek panel was a fun time full of exactly the kinds of news we are eager to cover in full here on TokuNet. Also lots of anime. And for me, anime is always a plus.
Sunday Morning: Dawn of the Final Day, One Panel Remaining
Otakon had a lot to see and experience while I was there. I learned how to make some of the best dishes from one of my favorite anime series, Laid-Back Camp. I treated- excuse me- I mean, I subjected Alex to my rendition of “Sorairo Days,” the opening to Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, in the karaoke room. I spent too much money on merchandise in the dealer’s room and artist alley, though I did find some cute tokusatsu stuff from an independent artist whose card I sadly missed out on. But the final stop on our trip was the final tokusatsu-themed panel of the weekend: “Powerful Rangers & Masked Riders.”
This was another simple panel, but it was full of laughs due to clever jokes, classic clips, and just a generally fun atmosphere. In this panel, the Baltimore Tokubros took us on a trip through the history of foreign iterations of tokusatsu shows from the Night Flight Dynaman dub to Saban’s Masked Rider and Kamen Rider Dragon Knight to France Five. If you find this panel offered at your local con, I can say it’ll be a fun time.
The panelists were entertaining, and it was especially nice to start the final day of the convention laughing over the ridiculousness of older tokusatsu adaptations and the mere existence of France Five. That one’s definitely going on my watchlist. If you haven’t heard of France Five, consider this your wake-up call to check it out.
With that, we’ve reached the end of tokusatsu coverage at Otakon 2022. There were some vendors selling tokusatsu merch in the dealer’s room and some Fuuto PI posters being offered at the Megaroad booth, but Sunday was a rather slow conclusion for Alex and I. It was great getting to see all the passionate tokusatsu fans and the energy they brought to their panels, and few things are more exciting than seeing a room full of fans reacting to a major tokusatsu news drop in person. The energy during this weekend was incredible!
I hope everyone in attendance had as much fun as I did. It was a tough weekend with the crowds and lack of organization, but the tokusatsu showing was strong in Washington D.C. this year at Otakon 2022. Here’s hoping Otakon staff will be better equipped to handle next year’s attendance.