Earlier this year Otakon asked for donations, saying they might have to permanently close because of the constraints put on them by COVID. In 2020 Otakon held a virtual convention, and this year they returned to an in-person con with 25,543 attendees.
Their last con, in 2019, had 28,430 attendees. Otakon described itself as the “first major convention event to be held as D.C. reopens.”
Safety protocols were put into play. Masks were mandatory the majority of the time. There were a few specific instances where people were allowed to remove their masks temporarily: as they ate meals in assigned areas, as they got cosplay pictures (as long as they were socially distanced), as they spoke on a panel (again, as long as they were socially distanced), and for anyone deaf or hard of hearing to read lips.
Attendees did not have to be vaccinated, though Otakon encouraged it, saying it was “highly recommend[ed] all eligible individuals are vaccinated if attending.”
The event took place August 6-8, and so far there are no reports of COVID spreading. Brian Cutler, Otakon 2021 Convention Chair, wrote on the con’s website, “We did it! Thank you so much to all our attendees, volunteers, guests, and industry representatives, and also to those who joined us remotely through our first Otakon Connection livestream event. We had a great year, and cannot wait to start planning for 2022!”
This was a much more upbeat note than Otakon shared earlier this year, when it thought it might close: “We use the proceeds from each year to plan the next Otakon and make sure we survive until then. So without the income from Otakon 2020, and the early pre-registrations we would normally see at this time of year, we are in a very precarious position. Put simply, in the next few months we will have to make a decision to continue planning for Otakon 2021, or potentially close our doors forever.”
Danica Davidson is the author of the bestselling Manga Art for Beginners with artist Melanie Westin, and its sequel, Manga Art for Intermediates, with professional Japanese mangaka Rena Saiya. Check out her other comics and books at www.danicadavidson.com.