Katsucon 2012 Review by Ross

KATSUCON - I don’t even know where to start. I had no idea what to expect never being here before but the pictures look nice.....maybe I should back up and try not to let all my excitement out at once.

This is Katsucon’s 18th year of existenace and is local to the Maryland area (specifically they state Washington, DC and we did have to drive through the district in order to get here). An instant pitfall to the area? Based on what looks like a peninsula and the Potomac to one side, there is not a lot of room for an efficient road system. People coming in late on thursday night fought some considerable traffic coming in. A small price to pay though....

The convention itself was held at the Gaylord National at the National Harbor www.gaylordnational.com . Upon walking in (from the Convention Center Parking) you are greeted to a wide and long hallway..which opens up into an extremely lit and airy atmosphere. Floors that are made of marble, a ceiling that goes up an additional 17 floors (19 floors in total) and an indoor town are among some of the initial sights that greet you. If its your first time there, the view almost makes you dizzy. This second floor which has a gazebo in the middle with a large ball room in front of it, overlooks an open bar area and 2-3 houses with fountain, indoor trees with lights and an open view to the Potomac. It’s simply surreal. In my recent and relatively short convention life I have never seen a view like this.

Many nooks and crannies that can be used for different types of photography make this a near dream come true for cosplayers and cameramen alike. Tired of using the indoor area? An outdoor beach and pier are a short walk away. There is also a small town like area outside and a bit away which had more reasonably priced food....eating inside this convention center can easily run you dry of funds, as dishes easily started at $10 for appetizers and quickly went to $40 for a main entree.

The vast majority of my time was spent in this open area. Walking between the 2nd floor and the atrium on the bottom level would constantly leave you with running into more and more people. Panels and actual convention events/workshops/main were in the convention center that was attached on multiple floors.

It’s been conveyed to me that there were long lines for registration. I do not think there is anything Katsucon could have done to prevent this. Reports of 4000 person growth (from 8000 to a little over 12000) would have left the the staff a bit light to adequately deal with efficiently moving people along. Lines were extremely short on Thursday night when we had arrived, but with expensive hotels in the area this option may not have been available to people looking to keep costs down by rooming for 2 nights. As for the process of getting my press badge, I was greeted to very fast responses from Chad (THANK YOU CHAD) even as close as a day out! He answered every question thoroughly and made the entire process extremely pleasant. I am unaware if other conventions work this easily, but if they don’t there is a bit they can learn from Katsucon. But this pleasantness didn’t stop here, at every corner I turned that required staff interaction I was shown nothing but courtesy, respect and patience along the way. Every person I spoke with had an equally positive experience.

The masquerade/World Cosplay Summit/formal ball were all held in the same ballroom on the convention center side. There was enough space here that the masquerade actually did not fill all the chairs. This also could be because of the World Cosplay Summit, which was held 90 minutes after the masquerade (which did fill up). I’m not entirely sure where the issue was with some of these events, but it seems the audio would sporadically cut in the middle of playing. On a personal note here, I would love to see better policing of front row behaviour. Being a member of press, it’s our job to help show you (through either a video/picture/written medium) the events on behalf of the Venue. However, when people ahead of the front row decide to use cell phones to attempt to record the event, this hampers our ability with equipment meant to do this, to properly present these to you. There were a number of personal shots that I had to throw away because of arms and small cell phone screens being in the way.

Katsucon is more well known as a cosplayers convention. Sure the convention space has panels/video and other standard events you would find at an anime convention..maybe its because of the WCS preliminaries for the U.S. ...maybe its because of the absolutely beautiful convention area. But this convention seems to bring out the best costumes and an extremely large amount of people with professional recording gear. Walking around on Thursday night I found that any cosplayers that were there early already had their own photographer, obviously taking advantage of the very low population of the convention to get the shots they want without the hassle of a crowded background.

This convention was a first for me and quite a few of my friends that I have made recently over the years. By Saturday morning we already knew: We did not want this to end. The environment here is the perfect storming ground for a utopia among convention goers. Friendly staff, a beautiful environment with space to move around. The atrium view rooms (if you were lucky enough to get one) had a balcony that overlooked the town area, so even if you were in your room, you were still in the heart of the convention..everything here is well thought out. I fear what will happen in coming years if everyone left with the same opinion I had.. my thoughts are that this 12000 attendance can easily be quickly dwarfed..Otakon, which has run nearly an equally long life but instead is over in Baltimore has about 22-24k people in attendance. There is only a 30 to 40 mile difference between these conventions however Baltimore has the luxury of easily available public transportation. Ever experience a point and time in your life that you didn’t want to end? For many of us that is and will be the spirit of Katsucon....approximately 50 more weeks to go.