Madrid Otaku (2019)
Last weekend, 15th & 16th June, Pabellón de Cristal in the Casa de Campo played host to a convention for the city’s otaku.
We arrived on Saturday morning, nearly an hour after opening to find a massive queue, which we dutifully joined. About ten or fifteen minutes later, without the line having moved at all, my better half dispatched me to go see what the holdup was.
What I discovered was that we had been in the wrong queue, as it was for those who already had tickets, and we should have been in a different one further up on the other side of the road. The only sign pointing out the ticket queue being just after the front of the queue for people who already had them. The said ticket line was about 100 to 150 metres long, an only slowly moving, due to there only being one window of the ticket office open.
Those who had their tickets then needed to join the line we’d been stood in, which by this point was somewhere around 300 meters long, and not moving. This took you to the security point where you flashed your ticked or weekend wristband and had your bag searched. Nobody was getting let through.
Past security was the line to actually get into the building, which was another 100 metres or so. That line was actually moving, but only very slowly.
I went back and reported this. My partner decided she wanted a look at this, so she walked with me back to the front of the line, before deciding it would take forever to get in. Three more hours queueing in the open, at around midday didn’t sound great, so we decided to come back on Sunday, before opening. As we walked back past where we had first queued up about 40-45 minutes earlier, we noticed that the people in front of us were still in the exact same spot as when we arrived, but now there were about another sixty or seventy people behind them.
On the plus side, there was some great cosplay, with many anime characters, a few superheroes, and even a Forrest Gump (from his beardy running across America period) who not only looked great but was jogging up and down the lines the entire time we were there.
I arrived alone (my significant other deciding she didn’t want to risk waiting hours to get in) twenty minutes before the con opened. At this point, there’s probably around forty people ahead of me. None of the ticket office windows had opened yet, so I assumed they weren’t selling tickets until the event began.
All the windows remain closed until over twenty minutes after the opening time. The queue still doesn’t move for some time, but a short time later a member of the event staff wanders up to take a photo of the line.
Eventually, an hour after opening, I finally have a ticket and can join the line to get through security. Fortunately, the queue to get in is way shorter than yesterday and actually moving, so that only takes about five minutes.
The line to actually get in the building is as long as the previous day, but moving noticeably quicker (though still not quickly). Periodically people in cosplay get pulled out to queue-jump. Part of me doesn’t mind this benefit to those who’ve put the effort in to dress up, part of me doesn’t like people behind me getting in first when I’ve been waiting so long.
Eventually, about an hour and three quarters after I arrived, and just over an hour and twenty minutes after the event opened, I finally get into the building.
I was prepared to hate it after the shambles that entering had been. Fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised.
Inside was an event not too dissimilar to Mangadrid, but with enough differences to not just feel like a rehash of that.
You had the various stalls of anime, manga, and K-Pop merchandise, plus artists and illustrators. Many of these stalls were the same as at Mangadrid, but that’s hardly surprising given the similar nature of the two cons. Instituto Kojachi were present again, advertising their language courses and giving free taster sessions. An art school also ran drawing classes throughout the day, as well as promoting their more illustration, video games, and concept art related courses.
Where things differed were that a couple of Japanese illustrators attended, plus the lead vocalist from the band Iron Attack. Also, the video games selection available to play was a little more extensive than at the previous event and had more rhythm games. I’d say there was more cosplay in evidence than at Mangadrid too.
There was also a stall with Japanese model kits, and Padis had a booth. I was a little disappointed that Padis didn’t have any Japanese War of the Spark packs among the MTG on offer, given both the nature of the convention and the recent interest in them due to the exclusive art on some of the cards in the Japanese version of that set.
I had also hoped that there might have been someone selling Japanese language manga, but as it turned out there was only one small stall (other than a couple of artist stalls) with any manga at all, and all of that was understandably the Spanish translations. Mind you, it’s not exactly hard to get manga in Madrid, so I can’t fault there not being many vendors of it present.
A LARP combat area allowed those with boffer weapons to square off against each other, dancing occurred to both K-pop and J-pop. A small games library was present, also with a few tabletop RPG sessions run throughout the day (none of which were Japanese TRPGs, though). There was even karaoke of favourite anime theme songs.
While I’d have liked, given the ‘Otaku’ label, some manga in Japanese, and at least one of the RPG sessions to have been a Japanese game, my only real criticism from inside the event relates to the eating arrangements.
I purchased curry rice, some karaage, and a melon ramune from the main food stall. Then I looked around for somewhere to sit and eat it. The nearest tables, which were an aisle away from the back of the food stall, were for gaming on and I was told you weren’t allowed to eat at them pretty much as soon as I sat down. The only place you could sit down and eat at, other than sitting on the floor at one of the edges of the hall, was right in the far corner, by the café belonging to the venue. So about as far from the food stall as it was possible for them to be.
All-in-all, I enjoyed the event itself, but frankly, heads need to roll over the delays. It took me far too long to get inside on Sunday, and Sunday was a lot quicker and smoother with far shorter and much speedier lines than Saturday. I don’t know how much of the blame lies with the event organisers, and how much with the venue, but if the venue was behind the problems I’d like to suggest to the organisers that they use IFEMA next time.
Official website: https://madridotaku.com