Have a penchant for people-watching? Looking for a cheap thrill? This weekend the Inner Harbor may be the place for you, as Otakon, the convention for fans of anime, manga, video games, and all things Asian pop culture, takes over the Baltimore Convention Center starting Friday morning.

If you don’t mind the heat, you can score a couple hours of free entertainment as you watch fans in (sometimes quite elaborate) costumes enter and exit the Convention Center. But, unless you’re one of the cognoscenti, don’t expect to recognize any of the characters being portrayed.

The name Otakon is short for “otaku convention,” otaku being a Japanese word of dubious connotation used in English to label obsessive fans of Japanese movies, comics, and video games.

The annual gathering has been held in Baltimore since 1999, with over 20,000 in attendance every year, and growing. According to the Baltimore Business Journal, Otakon 2010 piped over $15 million into the local economy.