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Otafest returns with winter anime festival

By Connor Sadler, November 27 2014 —

What started in 1999 by the University of Calgary’s Dedicated Otaku Anime Club as a one-day anime festival, has grown into an annual three-day Japanese cultural festival known as Otafest. On Saturday, Nov. 29, Otafest will hold their winter festival, Otafest Aurora.

The festival started with anime screenings, but Otafest has grown to include anime-themed art, cosplay competitions, volunteer-run panels and live music from local and international artists.

Gareth Lypka, a member of the Otafest executive planning committee, calls the festival “another way for people to show off their geeky side.”

Since its first year, Otafest has grown from approximately 700 participants to almost 8,000 attendees during last year’s spring festival.

Although Otafest focuses on Japanese anime and culture, it now includes western fandoms such as Harry Potter and Assassin’s Creed.

“We try to do what we can to cater to our attendees and to make sure there is something for everyone if anime is not their number one thing,” Lypka says.

Otafest Aurora was created in 2012 in response to community requests for a mid-season festival. In addition to the regular Otafest panels and events, Otafest Aurora features a holiday theme and a formal gala to end the night. The gala offers a chance for attendees to dress up or show off formal versions of their costumes.

“We wanted to do more to try and differentiate our winter event from our festival in May,” Lypka says.

Although the artists, contests and events bring a lot of people to the festival, the community fostered by Otafest is the main draw for many attendees.

“Our community is extremely loyal,” Lypka says. “They come to all of our events and love what we put on. For a lot of these people it’s like being in a different family, one they’ve never had before.”

Otafest Aurora will be held on Nov. 29 from 10:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m. at SAIT.

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