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Anime Key Player Interview #5
Ethan Kick, Division Head of Guest and Industry Relations, Otakon Part.3


So I would love to talk about Otakon’s present and future. What’s the present and future vision of Otakon?

So the present vision currently is to fill out our space in D.C.. I told you earlier that I grew up with strategy games so in my mind it's really about filling the space we have and utilizing it efficiently so attendees can have fun. There are so many conventions in the U.S. now and they all are really cool at what they do whether it’s big or small. But for our long-term goal, what I would really like the con to do is to reach a few different fandoms and build experiences that fans can remember forever that other events can't necessarily replicate. Of course, I don't think we'll ever be able to reach every fandom. But let's say you see a concert for a band, but that band also worked on a movie, it would be cool if you can see the vocal cast and the directors as well as having an intimate conversation with them. It's always fun to see panels and talks for sure but sometimes you want something more visceral and you want something that you can rock out to. It would be awesome if you can go up and just talk to the director and the cast. Something cool that I’ve realized recently is that the personalities of some of the directors are very comical and energetic. We can have them play games like cards against humanity or jack box where they like draw crazy pictures on screen the audience gets to see their personality, not just the works.

That sounds really cool!

That's really fun. So in the U.S., when we bring over amazing talent, our fans will already know their works but they might not always associate the name with the face so we can show the characters they've done. That will resonate a little bit more and then once they get to have that experience with them, they'll carry it with them and with the knowledge and education they now have, they can spread it amongst their friends. Their friends can get into it and it will become something that's more accessible which is always something we like to have. It's fun to have more people into what you're into.

That makes me want to go to Otakon.So have you guys already booked artists yet?

We did a lot of anisong stuff last year which was very fun. It was cool because the floor actually vibrated. It was so loud and cool, but we got a noise complaint down the hall.

Wow! Who was performing?

It was T.M. Revolution, FLOW, Yousei Teikoku, and JAM Project.

So you guys got complaints?

In a good in the way. So we had noise complaints down the street from people that weren't with Otakon that had businesses because we're in the heart of D.C. and the government is not far away. People would come down, not because they're angry but because they had to check. We had police officers come to the event and we had to tell them we were having session there. So they figured there was a concert and asked if there’s anything they can do. We told them by the time they come, it would be over so they were just like “Ok, do your thing.” People were having a great time. 

I remember when we were in Baltimore, we had a concert outdoors with BACK-ON. They came and performed outside. It was really fun and they were super energetic. We were on the harbor but the noise carried very easily across the water and the sound carried to the other side of the town and there were noise complaints. But we were rocking out and it was awesome. Everyone was jumping up and down and really getting into it. To see everyone so excited that's what I enjoy the most.

Wow that’s crazy! How do you choose which anisong singer to have over?

Sometimes it can be something that's just popular. Right now Man With a Mission is very popular in the States. SPYAIR is very popular but there's a lot of other artists that are popular as well. It's a mix of how their availability is like. Our event lands on an unfortunate date. We're on the same week as Comic Market. Our event is in August as well so it can be hard to get certain guests sometimes but that being said, not everyone can go to Comic Market either so we have a lot of people come to Otakon. We haven’t done this as long as some of our predecessors, but it surprised me on how many people in Japan want to come to America. I know all of our audience wants to go to Japan but I didn't know it works both ways.

Do you have any specific anisong guests that you really enjoyed?

So there were many different performances and they were all amazing but I think for a more intimate concert CHEMISTRY was really enjoyable. Home Made Kazoku also had such an amazing presence live. BACK-ON was fantastic too. They were actually one of the first major bands I helped bring over. I was part of the team that helped bring them out and it was great to see them live especially outdoors. I remember the band members were telling us that it was one of the biggest concerts they have ever done.

That’s amazing. How big was the venue?

It was outdoors in Baltimore Harbor. Our capacity there was probably about two thousand or so and it was all standing. It was packed. Everyone had to squeeze into every possible space there was.

That’s really big! So what do you look forward to for the future of Otakon?

I would really love to see us do more big events. Because there's so much that goes on in the world today and the internet, it's hard to keep trends up especially when you plan something nine months back. It might not be as popular when the event actually comes but I think what can help that a lot of times is bringing events that are so special people are excited for it all year round. They know it will only happen once or maybe twice or if it happens in Japan then this time it’s happening in America. Those are the type of events that I think are the coolest. The ones where you take a picture of and always remember and the ones you'll have to buy the t-shirt for to remember the experience. 

Actually, for my first time at Otakon, I bought the Distant Worlds t-shirt because I wanted to remember my first experience at a convention. I never thought I would be here, which is so cool.

That is cool! What can Japanese artist expect from performing at Otakon?

I think when teams like ours come over to Japan, we can get a better sense of understanding on how businesses are here and how things work here as well as experiencing something different. I think the same works in reverse. So different Japanese companies or singers will have an idea of what does well from their own experiences. They will ask “will this resonate in America?” and we'll say, “I think it will but you'll have to experience our event first.” They can get a grasp with that. A lot of guests come over and experience something they never expected in a positive way. Some guests never realized they had so many fans in the States. I think it gives them a different perspective. It's not just the Japanese audience, they're popular worldwide and that's only gotten even bigger with streaming.

Are there any new animes or anisongs that you’re interested in right now?

I'm really excited for Code Geass. I never thought I would get another season. That goes for Full Metal Panic! and Cardcaptor Sakura. They're all shows I'd loved growing up. I finished it and thought they will never have a sequel and then you get a new season this year or even last year.

Yeah! All the old animes are coming back!

I’m just super excited personally and then to have newer generations get into it too. It’s awesome!

It’s like living your childhood again. So what are some of the important things Japanese artists should prepare for when they come over to the Otakon?

I think the biggest thing to expect is to have a big crowd and expect them to be very excited. Music booking is very complicated, not every event can do it. There's a cost to it and I think our attendees recognize that there's only a few events around the country that are able to get artists over but we're lucky enough to be one of them. But every event can only get so many artists and there's so many great artists. 

So let's say for example, if SPYAIR was able to come over their fans probably have been waiting for years. They would know what anisongs they did and really wanted to watch their show but can’t go over to Japan. If they come to Otakon it will be their only chance to watch them live. The really cool part that we've noticed is companies are willing to work with us and artists are willing to work with us. They told us they know that the American fans are really into them so not only are they going to perform their latest album, they would perform their whole backlog of songs fans really want to see. That always means a lot to us because they might not perform those songs in several years.

That’s cool! So we launched a business matching website called Japan Anime Music Lab. and you can contact Japanese anime music professionals through it. Do you have any impressions on our site?

I haven’t seen it yet but I will say after seeing you guys in Anime Japan I definitely have seen you now. You guys are so energetic and I've heard a lot of other people talking about you as well. It's very positive and I look forward to it.

So this will be the last question. In one word, what is anisong to you?

Fun! I know that's a little bit of an easy answer, but I think so many things happen in life. Life can be short or it can be long and if you don't have fun, it won’t be a fulfilling experience.

Awesome! Thank you very much!

Thank you very much!

staff photo in 2017


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