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Katsucon 2011: The Experience

Another year gone by since the last President’s Day weekend and we have once again come upon…Katsucon, the itinerant wanderer of anime conventions.  In the eleven times I have now been to this convention this is only the 4th time it has been in the same place it was at the year before.  That’s a lot of wandering.  Even stranger this year….it’s WARM.  Not just “well, it’s not freezing cold” warm, actually warm, like over 70 degrees today warm…in February.  Whaaaaaaaaa? Is this the same weekend as this time last year when there were over 2 feet of snow on the ground?

So, obviously, this is not last year’s convention.  For another thing, there’s more affordable food options.  There’s now a Baja Fresh for burritos and stuff and a CVS for dry goods, so more starving or living on only Pot Belly sandwiches if you can’t afford 50 bucks a meal.  That being said, this is still an ultra-ritzy place all in all for ultra-ritzy people spending ultra-ritzy money. Just the way this place was designed.  On the plus side it does mean that everything here is extremely nice and well-appointed if a bit ersatz.  The down-side, it’s very expensive as noted earlier, and more than a little fake feeling.  But that’s what happens when you build an entire city from theground up out of very expensive dirt.

That being said, the place Katsucon happens in and the convention itself are not an inexorable circle of one affecting the other in an endless circle.  Katsucon is still it’s same ole rowdy, slightly debauched and scantily clad self.  I mean that in a good way…think Madonna, not Kei$ha.  The costumes have been a awesome as always, though it tends to be a lot more steam-punk and gothic-lolita that years gone by.  Such is the way things change, and I must say the steam-punk costumes then to be quite awesome. The goth-loli….a bit less so imo, but others obviously feel differently.

Oddest thing so far, the crowds.  And by “odd” I mean “small”. For some reason the con feels a lot smaller than years past.  Even compared to last year in the same space it feels like there are fewer people.  Obviously it’s more than the old Hyatt Regency in Crystal City since that space had a cap of 5,000 people, but it still feel smaller. That’s a bad thing if the convention really is shrinking.  Hopefully Saturday will feel more full.Saturday will feel more full.

Saturday did turn out to be more crowded than Friday.  Visually it
wasn’t as crowded as last year, but last year the space was shared with a
Focus on the Family marriage something or another and a military formal
function of some type.  This year, just Katsucon for the weekend.  One
very windy weekend.  Seems we can never get reasonable weather.  Either
there’s 2 feet of snow and freezing cold temperatures, or it’s just
plain cold and windy, or we go from 70 degrees one day to 50 degrees the
next day with 50+mph winds.  Yes, 50+mph winds.  Made for some
interesting walking.

Katsu 2011 did feature a few notable changes from the 2010 version. 
This year main events was upstairs in one of the main ballrooms
featuring its own stage rather than the oddly low-ceilinged basement
area it was in last year.  In exchange, the dealer’s room and artist’s
alley got merged into one space in the old main events space and the
video game room and dance area got merged into one rather cacophonous
room next to the dealer’s room.  That is probably the reason why only
the downstairs really seemed to have much of a crowd while the middle
and upper levels felt far less populated outside a few times the top
level had room-filling crowds spilling down the hallway.  Ok, there was
one other area with a crowd at all times…..the ATRIUM!

And what an atrium it is.  200 some feet tall with flowing stream,
several restaurants and its own dancing fountain.  Basically it’s a
really small indoor version of that huge lake-fountain-thing in front of
the Bellagio hotel out in Las Vegas.  Ok, not quite the same as
Bellagio one since it is much smaller, but it is indoors and that counts
for a lot when the weather is making it hard to even open the door due
to the wind pressure.  Most of the people hanging out in the atrium were
doing various photo shoots for cosplay, the fountain making for an
especially dramatic setting with all the jumping water and the color
changes.  It’s certainly a unique setting for anime convention
activities being that the majority of cons take place in far less
aesthetically appealing hotels or somewhat faceless convention centers.

Sunday was, as always, less crowded than either previous day since
everyone’s going home.  Even with a con like Katsu where the crowd is
more local than the Otakon’s and Anime Expo’s of the world people still
have a “real life” to get back to.  While it would be nice if “real
life” were a bit more like life inside the walls of a convention, we all
do unfortunately have obligations we must meet to make the conventions
possible.  So, here’s to Katsucon and their home through 2015.  My each
coming year be better than the one that came before.

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