Jenn McDonalds poses for a photo outside the TELUS Convention Centre in downtown Calgary on May 21, 2022. (Photo by Joanna Mendoza/The Emery Weal)

Otafest went back to in-person events after the COVID-19 pandemic and with so much more to offer.

In response to COVID-19, Otafest was forced to cancel in 2020, and the 2021 event was streamed online.

“Changing government regulations made it very challenging to plan logistics for the festival,” said Jenny Chan, chair of Otafest.

“In the days leading up to the festival, we were down.”

This year’s convention was held on May 21 and 22, in the Calgary TELUS Convention Centre and the Calgary Marriott Downtown Hotel.

The event also included an exhibitor’s hall, maid and butler cafe, game room, and a cosplay contest.

In addition, there were panels dedicated to anime-related topics, and celebrity panels, like with Keith Silverstein who voices the character Hisoka in HunterxHunter.

Otafest is a non-profit annual anime convention held in May of each year.

The event was first started in 1999 by university students who wanted to showcase Japanese culture.

“Club members wanted to showcase anime to the wider population, so we booked a bunch of classrooms to show anime,” said Chan.

Keith Silverstein signs a poster for one of his fans inside the Calgary Telus Convention Centre in Calgary on May 21, 2022. Silverstein is a well-known voice actor in the anime industry, most known for voicing the antagonist Hisoka in HunterxHunter, which is seeing a continuation in the manga series. (Photo by Joanna Mendoza/The Emery Weal)

The days of yore

The University of Calgary played host to Otafest for many years; nowadays, it has since grown into a much larger event.

“It’s my first time being back at Otafest after 10 years,” said Teigan Tulsi, artist and vendor.

“It was really nice, really small. You funnelled in, and there was one big hall for all the art, and little rooms with PC’s and games. You walked into the [university] and it was like somebody was privately having this whole thing.”

Over 9,000 people attended this year’s convention. 

“Now this is like expo level. It is a huge deal. I’m really happy to see the anime scene grow this much,” said Tulsi.

This year’s event had a huge turnout and generally had positive feedback; however, attendees had some complaints about the long wait.

“Very long lines, but there’s a lot of cool things here,” said Saisrikar Surisetti, Otafest attendee.

“Often expensive, but we’re actually really enjoying it.”

Cosplayer’s paradise

The Pineda triplets Chanel, left, Alexis, and Amaya pose for photos at Otafest in the Calgary Telus Convention Centre in Calgary on May 21, 2022. The three cosplayed as Haikyuu!! characters. Haikyuu!! is a volleyball anime. (Photo by Joanna Mendoza/The Emery Weal)

There were also many people who were dressed in cosplay for fun and for the cosplay contest.

“I spent almost 50 hours on my costume,” said Makayle Green, who was dressed as the Minecraft streamer Technoblade.

“Just the cape itself took me 20.”

Along with the many attendees, the exhibitor’s hall was filled with artists and vendors showcasing their skills and promoting their stores.

“I have never been out here in Calgary,” said Nikki White, vendor and owner of Glitter Bones Boutique. 

“I’m from Toronto, I flew in for this. I thought it was a good excuse to meet other anime fans.”

Overall, Otafest received many positive reviews. Fans were pleased with their experience and enjoyed meeting like-minded people.

“This is an anime lover convention and I thought, ‘Those are my people,’” said White.

Furthermore, next year’s Otafest will mark their 25th anniversary and will be at the Calgary TELUS Convention Centre and the Marriott Hotel.

“We have announced that a cosplay formal gala event called ‘Aurora’s Gala’ will be part of the festivities,” said Chan.

Mishiko Fajita poses for a photo in her booth inside the TELUS Convention Centre in Calgary on May 21, 2922. Fajita cosplayed as the Pokémon Pikachu. She is a booth owner at Otafest. (Photo by Joanna Mendoza/The Emery Weal)
Nikki White poses for a photo a photo inside the TELUS Convention Centre in Calgary on May 21, 2022. White is a booth owner at Otafest, and came to Calgary from Toronto. (Photo by Joanna Mendoza/The Emery Weal)
Cosplayers Gin Hung, Ai Bukhara, and Hannah Zerr pose for photos while they line up to enter the exhibitor’s hall at the TELUS Convention Centre in Calgary on May 21, 2022. (Photo by Joanna Mendoza/The Emery Weal)
A group of maids and butlers waiting to start their shift at the Maid and Butler Cafe at the Otafest in Calgary on May 21, 2022. Otafest is an anime and manga convention that will enter its 25 year anniversary in 2023. (Photo by Iaman/The Emery Weal)

Iaman Nawaz is a first-year journalism student and Calgary-based writer. You can find her on Instagram @iamanslibrary.

Joanna Mendoza is a first-year journalism student and photography enthusiast. Follow her on Instagram at @joan_mendoza18.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.