I know that the older you get the more time seems to compress, but wow did Katsucon 19 seem to fly by on President’s Day weekend. The weather was also erratic, but thankfully the Gaylord National is big enough that people don’t have to go outside for anything if they don’t want to. With the way National Harbour itself is setup, you can enjoy some adult beverages with friends and not worry about having to go anywhere else since everything is right there, even if it does still feel a touch fake. I can only imagine what it would have been like 10 years ago if the convention had been in the Gaylord when it was snowing back then, rather than the Hyatt Regency across the water.
That aside, this year the convention shared space with another group, a gathering of the B’nai-B’rith Youth Organization (BBYO). They used the same end of the building that Focus on the Family was using 3 years ago during the first Katsucon at the Gaylord, plus some space on the hotel side of the building. This made for some odd interactions at times, mostly because the BBYO staff seemed a bit uncomfortable with having their charges interacting with the cosplayers, but overall things seemed to work out – at least I hope so. I did not have any problems myself, but I did hear reports of some poor behavior from folks involved with both events. Hopefully it wasn’t anything too severe.
Of course Katsucon is an anime con attended by the thousands. What do you get when you cram over 10,000 folks into a building in the middle of winter for 3 days? Fun times!….and con plague *sniff sniff*. But mostly fun times! It’s been interesting to see the turnover is cosplay activities over the years. There was far less Final Fantasy than in years past, plenty of My Little Pony and Homestuck and the familiar representation Shonen Jump and Shoujo Beat properties. There was also a whole new programing track this year put on by the Japanese Information and Cultural Center, an offshoot of the Japanese Embassy in DC. They held several panels covering the history of Japan and the intricacies of the Japanese language, in addition to a Tea Ceremony presentation. Hopefully this is something that will continue at future Katsucons and spread to other anime conventions. Often they’ve felt a little light on Japanese culture, but the JICC programming was a wonderful addition to the offerings.
There was more panel space in general this year, which greatly reduced worries about any given panel being overcrowded. The fan panels covered a large variety of topics. Surprisingly My Little Pony was absent, but there were several Homestuck panels – apparently it’s rather popular. I got to be involved in the programming myself by hosting my own “Con Horror Stories” panel and helping a few other panelists run their panels, such as the really sweet girl who ran the “Racism in Cosplay” panel. Yes, apparently there’s racism in the cosplay community, which has to be one of the more brain-breaking things I’ve ever heard. I loaned out my computer when her Mac couldn’t talk to the projector and she did a great job running what was her very first panel. Late at night, some panels happen that aren’t really mentionable on an all-ages website. Sure, we’ve done reviews of some shows that drive a dump truck right over the edge of good taste, but all things being equal you’ll have to judge the contents from such panel names as “Of Duelists and Drunkards” and “What would Spike Spiegel Drink?” Of course, most of the panels are perfectly family friendly. Crispin Freeman talked at length about the ins and outs of becoming a voice actor and how it’s hardly about making funny voices, while Greg Ayres reflected on his years in the industry and how he learned that how fans see the industry and the way the industry actually is are very different things.
These last four years Katsucon’s presence in the Gaylord National has always been for the better, and in 2014 it will be back again. Here you can get immersed in the convention and just enjoy being there as if the world outside ceases to exist while it lasts, which helps enable the human connection and feeling you get from being at a smaller event.