Washington, DC, USA. February 15th – 17th, 2008
Chaos. It’s the term I affectionately use to describe the cons I go to, and for the most part, its pretty accurate- not much else can describe the experience of the noise, color, and sheer activity of an anime convention. Even the tiny cons I attend are usually a mess of people running around, back and forth between buildings. This was my first time at Katsucon, which is held the weekend closest to Valentine’s Day every Feburary, so I don’t know if it was normal for the convention, but the entire weekend was very well organized. With the exception of a few video panels having to be changed around or cancelled (because of technical issues or other panels running over), everything was on time and there were few issues.
All I can say about Katsu is that for a well-known, big name con that’s been around for a long period of time, it’s actually pretty small, which is rather impressive when you think about it. The entire con is contained within one hotel (granted, it is a very large hotel, though I heard rumors from the hotel staff that they’re changing locations next year to accommodate rising attendance). However, this was their 14th year of existence, and unlike AX, which celebrated its 15th year last year, it’s got little to show for its age. In this respect, it’s kinda nice- seeing how many people were calling out names in the lobby and recognizing each other from either previous years or other small cons in the area was a nice scene to walk into after a hectic journey down to the DC area. Plus, I got to meet a lot of new people, even though I didn’t know anyone going in, so I now have a ton of new contacts for next year’s Katsucon as well as other cons on the East Coast. Past that, though, Katsufalls rather short. Pre-registration is done through the mail, which is very inconvenient – thankfully I didn’t have to pre-reg, but I would’ve worried about that $45 check or cash going through the mail. I also didn’t have to stand in the super long pre-reg line, but judging from where people were when I went to Con Ops to pick up my badge and where they were when I came out 15 minutes later, it wasn’t moving very quickly. The badges were of high quality plastic, but it meant that the attendees were writing their own names on the front and back, which, as one of my roommates later demonstrated, was not very permanent, even if it was done in Sharpie. (The press attendees received both a regular badge and a press badge, which made for some interesting times when it came time for a raffle using badge numbers, as we had two.)
Aside from its size showing in almost everything, I had very few complaints. The staff was very friendly and knowledgeable; even though I had few questions about things, they were helpful, and I always got a clear answer. There were a few issues at the dance about glowsticks and glow lightsabers, but it was handled by staff well, and if I hadn’t been right next to the issue, I probably wouldn’t have known about it, which says something, as I’m sure we all know how quickly gossip spreads around a con.
The one thing I had heard about Katsucon before going was that it was a con with a reputation for excellent cosplay. In this, I was most definitely not disappointed. I saw all kinds of wonderful cosplays, and a lot of my really obscure fandoms had at least one person representing the series, which made me really happy. But that’s about all I was able to do – see them. The gatherings at Katsucon seemed to be less the traditional gatherings/photoshoots that are open to the public and more private photoshoots run by professional photography sites, and usually by the time a private shoot was over, or I flipped my badge to the press side and gathered up the courage to go ask for a picture, the cosplayers went to change into another costume. One nice thing that Katsucon does is set up various “photo areas” around the con, which are basically white backdrops in corners where cosplayers can get their photos taken without obstructing traffic or without having crowds or various things on the walls in the background.Katsu also had an area where groups could get their picture taken and come back to purchase the photos right inside the hotel entrance. The Masquerade, which Katsucon calls its Cosplay, was very impressive, with some incredibly funny skits, despite the year’s “horror” theme. (though I suppose the thought of tentacle hentai could go under the horror category)
While I heard other attendees complain about the caliber of the guests, personally, I didn’t mind. I’ll admit I’m very easy-going as to guests, and will take what’s offered. Although I only recognized the big three voice actors (Johnny Young Bosch, Tiffany Grant, and Greg Ayres) and some of the big name webcomic artists (Applegeeks, Dr. McNinja, Steve Bennett), when I attended the panels which the guests attended, I was very pleased and impressed with how nice and funny they all were. I wish Katsucon had a system set up where press could request one-on-one interviews with the guests. (If there was one, it was not very well advertised, and I never got a reply back from the press staff.) The plethora of webcomic guests meant that Artist’s Alley was well-stocked, and always crowded!
In closing, I’ll probably go back to Katsu next year- it’s a good way to get into the start of con season (after it, I’ve got at least one con a month, ending in September), and the small feel means you get a lot more interaction with your fellow con-goers. It’s a good convention for any newbies to the con circuit, since it’s not big enough to scare you off, but it’s not small enough to make you wonder what all the fuss is about. I’d recommend going in cosplay, but if you don’t want to, definitely don’t let that stop you!