The American anime convention, Otakon (“Otaku Convention”), begins with a costume parade before it officially opens. Last week I had a bird’s-eye view of the spectacle from my 14th-floor hotel room in Baltimore, Maryland. An endless army of imaginary characters trudged across the elevated concourse and down adjacent sidewalks to the Baltimore Convention Center to register and obtain entry badges. Most were instantly recognizable from anime series old and new, brandishing swords or other weaponry fashioned out of homemade materials, or wearing massive multicolored wigs, capes or sewn-on tails — or very little at all.

For three days the colorful mob overtook Baltimore’s downtown and Inner Harbor neighborhoods, and until they returned to their hometowns in 42 different states, you couldn’t walk 20 meters without bumping into, overhearing and/or following them.

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