Otakuthon 2015

What is it?

Otakuthon is an anime convention held annually in Montreal, Quebec. Inaugurated in 2006, it’s also the province’s largest con for anime, manga and Japanese pop-culture.

Montreal’s annual celebration of all things anime and manga

Every summer around August, Otakuthon takes place, much to the excitement of anime and manga fans across the city. The experience includes numerous talks, live performances, special guest appearances and so much more over a three day period. This year marked the 10th anniversary of the convention, which took place the weekend of August 7th to 9th.

The second floor of the venue: The best place to meet up with friends and to see all sorts of cosplay.

I’ve only attended the event the past two years (I was not aware of its existence until 2014) and both years, I’ve had a blast. It’s the one time of year where I don’t mind breaking out my very, very small collection of anime shirts and wearing my fandom. I much prefer Otakuthon over the larger and more popular Montreal ComicCon, which is more focused on North American comic culture and media (Though both conventions are enjoyable in their own ways). I’m quite subdued when it comes to my anime and manga obsession, so I have a fond appreciation of the many Montrealers who are openly enthusiastic and genuinely excited about these media. It’s just a great, fun weekend. The three highlights that I look forward to each year include:

  • Panels and workshops: Otakuthon’s panels cover a wide range of topics in both English and French. They vary in terms of fun (Which is obviously subjective) and presentation style (Some panelists simply sit and speak while others have slides and other accompanying multimedia). Certain panels are series specific, like the ones about the Persona and Tales series of video games (Both of which appear to be so popular they happen every year). Others are more generalized consisting of broader topics such as cosplay or Japanese culture. My personal favourites are the informative panels where you have the opportunity to learn something new. For example, this year offered a panel on journalism, another on how to start a podcast and a handful of others on what it’s like to work within the anime industry. I think it’s always good to learn from other working professionals and their experiences. Not only to apply their advice to help your own career but also to become a well rounded individual.
  • Dealers’ area: Every year, the convention offers attendees a chance to buy all sorts of anime and gaming related goods from various retailers. It can be overwhelming to see countless figurines of your favourite characters in-person, as well as out-of-print copies of your favourite videos games from your childhood. Even more so if you have the means and disposable income to buy as you please. Despite trying to show restraint, I always lose track of time here. However, the prices are exorbitant, especially when compared to online retailers. You’re paying for the peace-of-mind of not dealing with shipping and the opportunity to see the product first-hand before purchasing.
  • Artists’ area: Otakuthon also offers aspiring artists a chance to not only showcase their work but also sell directly to con-goers. Placed beside the Dealer’s area, numerous prints and posters of anime and video game fanart are available for purchase. I’m usually more interested in commissions, where for a fee that can vary greatly between different artists, you can request a drawing of a fictional character or non-fictional person of your choice. Typically, it’s an uncoloured sketch, given the small amount of time available to these artists over the three days of the convention. But all the same, a commissioned sketch feels immeasurably more personal and satisfying compared to the printed pieces available to everyone.

ART CREDIT: Batosail

Commission work is one of the best parts of the Artists’ area and a way to get one-of-a-kind drawings of your favourite characters or, in this case, people. Pictured are models Cara Delevingne (LEFT, MIDDLE) and Suki Waterhouse (RIGHT).

While the convention experience does revolve around the anime and manga subcultures, there are style-related activities as well, specifically the cosplay and the annual fashion show.


Cosplay, an activity heavily associated with the anime and manga fandom, is essentially dressing up in costume as your favourite character. There is a role-playing element to it as well, which is at the discretion of the cosplayer (From my experience, it’s more predominant in cosplay contests than anywhere else). Part of the charm of cosplaying is buying the raw materials and creating the costume and related props by hand, as opposed to buying the outfit wholesale. Some of these cosplays can be quite elaborate in size and detail, which speaks to the skill and artistic ability of these individuals. There are even professional cosplayers who travel the world attending conventions as participants or as special guests.

Manga series Attack on Titan is a very common cosplay choice, befitting its popularity.

I used to have a negative impression of cosplaying. I thought it was a waste of time and quite strange that people would willingly dress up in costume outside of Halloween activities. Over time, I realized how hard working cosplayers are and how not everyone could do what they do. Not only in creating their costumes but also having to constantly stay on guard to avoid harassment at conventions. And in the end, cosplayers are just having fun and that’s hardly something to criticize others for. I would never cosplay personally, but I love seeing people in costume, hopefully spotting my favourites characters to see if they were done justice. One of the more popular costumes at this year’s convention was that of a Hydralisk from the popular video game series Starcraft. It built by hand by Montreal cosplayer Dadboy.

Various hand-made outfits from talented cosplayers.

Also to note, Otakuthon has an association with the World Cosplay Summit (WCS), the largest international cosplay event in the world. As of this year, Canada is an Observer Nation to the WCS. For the first time ever, Canadian delegates (Two are selected each year) are officially participating in the events of the WCS except for its Cosplay Championships competition. Next year, Canada officially becomes a Participating Nation, meaning the chosen delegates will actually compete against over 25 other countries in order to be crowned the “Grand Champion” of the world. The Canadian preliminaries, where cosplayers compete for the honour to represent Canada at the following year’s WCS, have always taken place at Otakuthon since 2014.

The Fashion show

Every year, a fashion show takes place as a feature event of the convention. The fashion show is generally limited to clothes and style trends found in Japan, which makes sense given what Otakuthon is all about. I was not able to attend the show last year as it took place early in the morning and I had overslept. Fortunately, this year’s event occurred in the late afternoon and I made it a priority to attend. I love runway fashion shows and there’s nothing quite like seeing one in-person.

Just to preface this, I’m going on memory (Of which mine is atrocious) of an event that happened about a month ago. I didn’t take any notes of what I saw or of what brands were being shown at which moment, instead opting to take as many horrible and blurry cellphone photos as I possibly could. The event description was as follows:

Tokyo is known everywhere in the world for its extremely creative fashion and styles! Its crazy fashion center is Harajuku, a cool district of Tokyo. From gothic to sweet lolita with sides of fairy kei, gyaru and many other popular street fashion styles which evolved over the years, come to the Fashion Show at Otakuthon to see them for yourself!

There were two emcees for the show, “Princess” and Bridget, both of whom provided the audience with information regarding fashion trends overseas and outfit descriptions. The brands featured this year (Phosphorea, SA Design by Sasa and SKSS) are all local Montreal labels, who draw inspiration from and give their own take on Japanese street style.

The event featured a majority of female participants though there were a handful of male models as well. We were treated to models of all sorts of ethnicities and equally as refreshing, models of varying body types. It was great seeing all varieties of people all working together on a single fashion show (One of fashion’s biggest problems is how homogenous it can be).

I admittedly know very little of Japanese fashion trends, so I can only comment on what I saw that day. The outfits were striking and eye-catching, which included all sorts of different materials, graphics and patterns. A lot of the collections included frills, platform shoes and flowing dresses (Seemingly a staple of the Harajuku style found in the Japanese district of which it’s named after). Accessories were key components of the looks, ranging from the standard fare of handbags, glasses and bows to the unusual: Face masks, giant wigs and walking canes. Barring a few exceptions, the colours were generally bright and vibrant.

Just a handful of the many outfits shown at this year’s Otakuthon fashion show.

All in all, I loved the show. The outfits were great, the commentary was stellar and it was a good way to end the festivities before the convention’s closing ceremony. If the show truly represented what Japanese street style is, then I can only applaud the hard work and effort of those who choose to dress this elaborately every single day. I look forward to see what next year’s fashion show will bring to the table.

Fashion is everywhere…even at anime conventions!

I’m not sure where Otakuthon ranks among anime conventions of its size, though its attendance numbers have been steadily increasing with each passing year (This year’s attendance was listed at 20,210). Just last year, the event was ranked #10 in terms of size amongst North American anime conventions.

Hopefully, these increased numbers lead to more and more con-goers being introduced to the world of fashion (Through the yearly fashion show and via clothing brands set up in the Dealers’ area) as well as more exposure for fashion labels, especially local brands. Montreal is a fashionable city and there is so much local talent out here. On a semi-related note, this is one of the reasons why I miss Montreal Fashion Week. It was an excellent platform for up-and-coming brands to showcase their work. For myself, it was a great way to discover new clothing labels. Obviously, a convention on anime and manga can only go so far in introducing and promoting fashion given its very specific audience. But even a little exposure is always better than none.

Otakuthon takes place every year at the Palais des congrès de Montréal. The 11th edition of the event will take place next year from August 5th to 7th, 2016.

Please visit the following links to learn more about these Montreal fashion labels and their lines:

Special thanks to “Princess” for graciously providing me with some much needed information concerning this year’s fashion show. Please give her a follow on Instagram.