Be forewarned my voracious reader, I am not a vast anime fan, nor am I a regular cosplayer. I am, however, a dorky nerd, which usually gets me by in any geeky situation. Katsucon, for those who don’t know, is an anime convention that takes place just outside Washington DC. This yearly event is well known for its competitive cosplay. As a novice I had no idea how in-depth the world of hand crafted costumes and character performance could be.
(Picture courtesy of CaptainDonkeys)
Thanks to a brief rundown from a cosplay photographer, I’ve learned that cosplay can be an epic adventure of extreme artistry and performance. Costumes are judged on their craftsmanship, attention to detail, and overall structure. Judged skit performances are also done in costume depending on the convention. Finalists at premiere cosplay conventions are flown to Japan for a worldwide competition. Some artists have become so renowned that they are requested to attend conventions like this as guests of honor. Yaya Han is one such cosplayer who has captured audiences with her chameleon-like ability to adapt and create seemingly any costume in exact detail.
Katsucon is one of the places where cosplay rules all. However, with the growth of Kastucon in the last few years, the number of attendees has risen, while the number of serious cosplayers has stayed roughly the same.
(Pictures courtesy of Kanarae)
As a cosplay photographer, my hotel roommate lamented over what the con had once been a few years before; where her schedule was booked back to back with photography opportunities. In the past, she and her partner were even able to have a session with the goddess Yaya Han herself! Yet the current day Katsucon has become a seething swarm of competitive photographers elbowing their way to the best cosplayers in order to snap a few professional shots.
(This was too great not to show again. Image courtesy of Funtcase)
There are a number of risks involved with cosplay as it is, shoes that blister your feet, poor quality colored contacts that can infect your eyes, unwanted attention and touch, and wardrobe malfunctions Janet Jackson style, so the last thing a cosplayer needs is a pushy in-your-face photographer who is inconsiderate to their fellow professionals.
Sadly, much of the fun for my roommate was sucked away by the crowd of ruthless competition.
However, even if Katsucon is a place for high class cosplay it is also, let’s not forget, a convention. Having attended several conventions previously (SakuraCon, Pax Prime, WonderCon, etc) I had developed a certain level of expectations on quality and organization.
Oh, Katsucon, you poor, poor thing.
Perhaps it was simply my poor choices in panels, I mean I can always pick the slowest lines and break things that shouldn’t be able to break, but my time spent in conference rooms was physically painful. First panel we sat through was a great subject, but marred by terrible delivery. The construction of foam based cosplay armor was a topic I, and a mass of other con-goers, was dying to see. However, the first time panelists had not prepared more than queueing up a few time lapsed recordings of their work. Their monotone delivery of terms, not entirely understood by the audience, was sleep inducing and some simply walked out. Thanks to my stubborn nature, I stuck it out, asking as many questions as possible to understand the process and learn from their still unperfected methods. The panel was so disappointing that the rest of my group gave up on attending any other panels in favor of food, sleep, and booze.
Honestly, I can’t blame them, but in my personal family culture if we spent money on something, we make damn sure we get our monies worth. After realizing I would be on my own, I chose a Sailor Moon panel, which was a celebration of the new dubbed original anime as well as the continuing of Sailor Moon Crystal. Four of the voice actors were in attendance and prizes were given for answering trivia questions. Overall this was a much better experience, though I’m easily bought with anything free. However, with the exception of a few newly revealed voice actors for upcoming characters, there was very little content to the panel in general.
(Here I am asking a question to the voice actors for Tuxedo Mask, Sailor Mars, Sailor Jupiter, and Sailor Venus. This was the most well lit and professional panel I attended.)
The one event that didn’t let me, or my group, down was the Geek Comedy Tour. A selection of half a dozen very entertaining comedians brought humor from both real life and the nerd world on stage. After attending alone the first night I was able to convince my friends to join in on their second performance. This proved to be the highlight of the convention and I am very pleased to have it stored in my memory banks.
Other panels were not so lucky. Subjects on budgeting for cosplay, fanfiction writing, and others had the tendency to dissolve into fans gushing over their favorites while looking down on other less popular avenues. 90% of the panels I attended were run by a single individual who relied on their personality to carry the entertainment factor. I found this only worked about half the time. One woman running the Japanese Food panel was boisterous, energetic, overly knowledgeable, and extremely honest, captivating us with her tangents and experiences. She was an inspiration, where others had questionable authority on the topic at hand with little to no personality in the delivery.
I truly don’t mean to sound so hard on Katsucon, if you’re attending for Cosplay, or even willing to force your way into cosplay photography, then this is a great convention to attend. The hotel itself was beautiful and several eateries were within a quick (though cold) walking distance.
(The Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center has a large enclosed atrium that mimics being outside without weather concerns.)
However, if you’re interested in learning about new topics, attending panels, and even meeting a new group of friends I suggest caution. After being nearly followed back to my room by a couple of drunk men, I’m rather wary on suggesting anyone attend alone, but if you have a great group of friends like I do? Go nuts, give it a try, and who knows? Maybe next year Katsucon will undergo a magical girl transformation and come out all shiny and powerful as shit.