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Katsucon 2012: The Experience

Katsucon probably has the prettiest host location for any anime convention I’ve been to. The lobby of of the National Harbor Westin hotel looks out over the river, past the new Wilson bridge and on to the monuments of Washington DC; it’s surprisingly easy to get lost in the beauty of the area.

The most interesting part of the weekend for me was the return of the
academic panel. Looking for mental
stimulation at an anime convention may seem like an oxymoron, but a con
of
nothing but “Hetalia: Ask a Nation OMG SQUEEEEEEEEEE!” really wouldn’t
be all that interesting. So, having a more intellectual bent to some of
the panels is a welcome and refreshing alternative to the convention
scene. On Friday, there was the “Moe Moe What?” panel. For those unfamiliar with the term “moe”,
generally speaking (and this is a broad way to put it) it’s applied to a
subset of female anime characters that are considered emotionally
vulnerable in some way. The panel was an attempt at an academic-style
discussion of moe, and while that’s really hard to pull off in an hour
they did a good job. I highly recommend it if it’s being held at a con
near you. Another highlight was a Saturday panel called “We Con, Therefore We Are”, which got down into the nitty gritty of
how con-going defines the anime fan and vice versa. Obviously those
uninterested in taking a meta look at anime fandom wouldn’t like it, but
I found it fascinating.

There was also plenty of merriment to be had. Capping my Friday evening was a panel on the good, the bad and the ugly of
Saturday morning cartoons called “Saturday Morning Cartoons: The Good,
The Bad and the Monchichis”. It was a wonderful panel, though it does
seem to be outside the realm of what one would expect to see at an anime
con. It’s hard to get really good panelists for anime-related things
for an entire weekend though, and I really had a lot of fun at the
panel. On Saturday I saw the anime music video contest, which to me was
acceptable though nothing in particular stood out in either a good or
bad way. I’ve attended these for years and have seen some truly amazing
videos, so in fairness the fact that I only see this as “fine” says more
about my high standards than the quality of the competition. Right after that was the voice actor cattle call panel. The voice actors are always good
for laughs, though things also got serious when
J. Michael Tatum talked about how acting allowed him to come
out of his shell as a child an engage the world.
After dinner came two 18+ panels, “Staff Uncensored” and “Guests Uncensored”, which I am sworn to secrecy about.

Katsucon turned 18 years old this year. That’s a long time to be doing anything, much less a fan-organized event dedicated to animation from a foreign country, and lately it’s just kept growing (to 12,614 people compared to the record of 7,250 last year). Through it all it’s been through multiple venue changes and its fair share of weather emergencies and other maladies, but this year was notably stable. The weather cooperated as it was basically 50 degrees and sunny all
weekend, and only a bit colder at night. There was no two feet of snow, no strong winds making cosplayers lose parts of their outfits, no rooms so packed with people that it’s suffocating, no scheduling disasters that led to large blocks of time with nothing going on. It was just a nice, easy, well-run and completely positive convention experience.

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