Florida can be a great place to attend conventions when the right weekend and weather sync up together nicely. But every now and then, things just go awry and you just have to deal with mother nature’s non-compromising plans. And yet that wouldn’t stop people from enjoying a weekend of anime and gaming goodness by attending OtakuFest in Miami, Florida in the shadow of Hurricane Dorain. The event didn’t go unscathed by the potential downfall of the storm’s arrival, but what was there did entertain everyone in attendance and provide a fun distraction. If you’re a fan of anything otaku related, then chances are you would’ve had a great time being at OtakuFest.
The event lasted two days, unlike a lot of other conventions that take place in South Florida and take up the whole weekend. The variety of special guests, cosplayers, and online entertainers was plentiful and gave attendees a great selection of panels and other fun activities to participate in. With the hurricane looming over the state a lot of attendees were hesitant to linger around for a long time, but the halls and panel rooms were always filled with something going on. You could walk through both the Exhibitor Hall and second floor and see lots of things happening, even if only a handful of people were gathered together.
Speaking of which, the Exhibitor Hall had a lot of different booths with all types of collectibles and artwork being sold throughout the weekend. Unfortunately, there were moments where many tables were empty on the floor because of cancelations from those worried about the incoming storm. Corners of the large room would be filled with empty tables and blank space, but regardless the event staff made due with everyone else in present and worked around some of these spots.
Even with this minor setback, you could still roam around and find a lot of great deals on retro games, anime collectibles, manga, and cosplay props for just about any kind of fandom. Though it would’ve been nice to see more people filling up the pathways with more to check out, it wasn’t anybody’s fault that mother nature had different plans.
Upstairs in the panel rooms and gaming lounge was a lot to do. Though much of the spectacle from other events hosted in the Miami Airport Convention Center was lost, mainly due to the reconstruction of the building and layout changes that have occurred over the years. The gaming lounge had a number of setups with multiple consoles and a large assortment of games to play. Tournaments took place throughout the day, but not a lot of buzz was happening around them.
Unless you were attending OtakuFest specifically to compete in video game tournaments, you’d hardly hear or see anything about what was going on with them elsewhere. Some people did voice their concerns about more units being around to play some of the more popular games, but there were many setups present. This could’ve been because a lot of space was taken up by spots set for games such as Just Dance, or a few units being open for other games outside of the competitive scene. Anybody being nitpicky could say some additional screens could’ve been placed in the empty spaces to address this, but people do need to move around as they go in and out of the area.
Panels were either hit or miss depending on what you were looking for over the weekend. Some panels on the second day were canceled because of people not showing up, but this was mostly due to the incoming storm and not the convention itself. Morning panels on Sunday suffered from this the most because of the constantly changing news and how early they were scheduled. Special guest panels at the event did happen at various points on schedule, as did their respective autograph and meet & greet sessions, but there was always a worry about things suddenly being changed.
The only major impact of this were for panels in the evening on Saturday, where the conflicting schedule of some popular panels took away from the momentum of a few guest panels scheduled around the same time. This is always difficult to manage and hard to get right, but it can always be improved for an event from year to year.
OtakuFest was enjoyable, even in the midst of a storm making everybody feel uneasy. The timing of everything wasn’t the best, but a lot of the insight and observations from this year will definitely inform and improve a lot for the event down the line. It may be wise for the convention staff to schedule the next OtakuFest at either a possible earlier or later timeframe away from hurricane season, but like mother nature this kind of thing is always changing. Those that have an affinity for otaku culture and everything associated with it, you’ll definitely find something to appreciate and enjoy here. Definitely not including the bad weather, of course.
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