We're back with another convention article as we head toward the end of 2023. Not to mention, we're only a short ways off from attending Anime NYC. Otakuthon is probably my favorite Canadian anime conventions just due to the location and ambiance.

One of the big draws is bilingualism as the event is conducted in both English and French, Canada's two official languages. The event is held annually in Montreal, Quebec, where both English and French are generally spoken. The venue is the Palais des congrès de Montréal in Downtown Montreal right in the heart of the International District surrounded by other historical sites within the city.

As with most conventions, entering through the main entrance leads to registration where we picked up our press badges. The lines were well organized and there is a shipping option for badges. It's worth the extra to have it shipped and avoid the hassle of waiting in line if you buy a regular badge. The good news is that lines are a good sign for conventions and it means Otakuthon 2023 had great attendance numbers

Just like in previous years, Otakuthon is still using RFID-enabled badges, which has made for a smoother con experience. Doing so means they can do away with extra tickets for events and it also makes it much simpler to track attendance and deal with capacity limits. We chose the shipping option for our regular badges, since we had bought those before our press pass was approved. Besides, it never hurts to support the conventions you enjoy attending.

Once through with registration and having our badges o̶n̶-̶h̶a̶n̶d̶ on our necks, we headed into the main Dealers Hall and Artist Alley. We still had some questions from last year regarding setup and dealing with lines. You'll often hear the phrase: "one step forward and two steps back." This was likely the case for this year. The line management was better for autographs and the like, but that was because Nijisanji guests didn't do autographs. (Hard to blame them after the previous year.)

Another issue was with the Artist Alley area, where the walkways were too narrow. Some of the walkways had pillars in the middle, which made them a pain to walk through. Overall, this area needs work as the Artist Alley was just too packed and required a lot more room. They tried to solve the autographs problem by giving them more room, but they also had fewer guests doing autographs this year, so in trying to solve a problem from the previous year, they created a new one, which was rather unfortunate.

Still, even with the narrow halls and some of the setup issues, the Dealers Hall and Artist Alley were enjoyable and there was something for everyone. The place was buzzing with people and some major booths were around, including Yostar and other gacha gaming companies. Notice how the modern-day anime convention is showing off more and more gacha games? Well, I for one don't mind. I mean, just look at the plot in Azurlane. (Look up some of their PVs.)

Looking around at the various gacha game booths, it reminds me a bit of ACGHK, where it felt more commercial. I mean, that tracks, since they use it as a promotion while selling limited goods.

When it came to vibes, it was a major improvement from last year. The halls were much busier and people were clearly excited to be there. The general attitude was like the standee of March 7th, extremely excited. :) Also, one of the upsides of such a large area is that booths were spacious, leading to rather large promotional areas for photos.

Panels at Otakuthon 2023 were held in differing locations throughout the convention center. The major events took place in bigger rooms like the one pictured above. I'd say a large number of events saw huge attendance, given what they were. It also helps that a lot of the Q&A panels were well run and lines formed in a generally organized manner.

Did we mention Nijisanji guests were there? Well, they were and those events were quite popular. Though unlike the previous year, they did not have an autograph session, so the autograph area was pretty barren.

So were improvements made this year? Definitely! After all, they tried to solve some of the issues and made improvements to the Dealers Hall and the Autograph area. Unfortunately, one issue that lingers is the lines. The line for the Nijisanji concert was especially egregious. They used chairs and ropes to create barriers to control the line, which in itself isn't a problem, but then you had staff/volunteers who kept having to tell people to not sit on the chairs. Why would you use chairs to create the barriers if you didn't want people to sit on them?

The problems were further amplified by the delay in the Nijisanji concert, too. It was supposed to start at 3:30 PM, but unannounced delays with no communication led to the concert not starting until 5:00 PM. Imagine if you made plans for the evening. :(

After an unannounced and very long delay, we made our way into the concert venue. Just like the previous year, the venue still had acoustic issues. I'm not sure this is a solvable just due to the location, however. If you ignore the fact that there was just a random wall on the right, this might be a decent concert venue.

To top off the other issues, the mixing this year was not well done. The music was much louder than the singers and it was very difficult to hear them. It's hard to tell if this was due to technical problems or if it was just the mix they (Nijisanji) used. It was a bit jarring to basically hear BGM and what sounded like whisper-singing.

If you look at some of the issues with this year, you might think the convention was not very enjoyable, but honestly, that was not the case. These were just things that needed improvement that come with running a convention post-covid. It'll take a while to adapt back to what is regular and how things should be run, and I hope to see changes next year. And hey, all things considered, the convention itself had a great vibe, which overshadowed most of the nitpicks we had.

Would we go back in 2024?

Almost certainly! There are things to improve, but the convention was still very enjoyable. And hell, it sure is nice to visit Montreal, Quebec.

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