Katsucon with Guest Author Robert Aldrich
Katsucon is an anime convention that is one of the east coast’s most storied celebrations of the beloved Japanese culture. Guest blogger Robert V. Aldrich, author of Rockaiju and Rhest for the Wicked, not only attended Katsucon, but actually participated as a vendor, filmed a reaction video, and participated on eight panels. Below are some of his takeaways from the event.
Each February in National Harbor Maryland, the Gaylord Hotel and Resort is home to one of the best anime conventions on the east coast, Katsucon.
More than merely a celebration of anime, manga, and all things related, Katsucon (Katsu, being the Japanese present-tense verb for ‘will win’) also has a strong emphasis on Japanese history and society, with their educational tract titled the ‘Japanese Cultural Institute’ (or JCI). The JCI is home to some of the leading voices on modern fandom and western-sources of Japanese myth, legend, and history, most notably Charles ‘the Anime Anthropologist’ Dunbar who was giving a host of panels this weekend.
Beyond the JCI, Katsucon is famous for ‘The Gazebo’, a picturesque gazebo in the heart of the Gaylord Resort’s stunning main foyer. It is here that cosplayers from around the world gather (in droves) for just a few minutes to have their picture taken in one of the most photogenic spots in all of geek culture. The Gazebo is so popular and so famous, it even has its own social media presence with followers.
Katsu is home to two giant merchants’ spaces, the Dealers’ Room and Artist Alley. Ostensibly, the Dealers’ Room is for businesses whereas Artist Alley is more for singular artists, the two have some bleed between, which keeps the crowds moving between them.
The Katsucon staff is one of the best staff working in conventions today. All conventions have turnover, with new volunteers come every year, and Katsucon is no different. Never the less, Katsu has proven to be a standout because of the amount of long-time veterans that have risen through the ranks of the organization and now head departments they volunteered for ages ago. Slipups happen, sure, but the staff is invariably quick to remedy what they can and to make services available to convention guest and attendee alike.
All in all, there are simply too few words in the English language to properly praise Katsucon. It is one of the best-run conventions today, with plenty to do and lots of fun people to meet. The vibe is exciting, the convention staff is capable, the hotel is spacious and gorgeous, the merchants’ spaces are huge, and the panels are engaging. Katsu is not just one to catch, but one to never miss.
Katsucon is famous for the extensive cosplay at the event. Cosplay guests of honor for 2017 included Allen Ryde, A.K. Wirru, and Jessica Nigri. Cosplay has been an integral part of Katsucon throughout its history. Cosplayers filled the Gaylord National Harbor as far as the eye could see. Over 17,000 attendees filled the hotel and convention center.
Cosplay-themed events abide at Katsucon. Saturday night features the largest event in the form of the Cosplay Masquerade. Masquerade attendees have their own costume contest. There is also a separate contest that takes place outside of the ballroom, the Hall Contest. The categories of entrants includes youth, beginner, novice, journeyman and craftsman. There is also a live-action cosplay game of chess, where the cosplayers are the chess pieces.
One of the pleasant surprises at this year’s Katsucon was the unending energy and presence of voice actor Darin De Paul. De Paul provides the voice of Reinhardt in the hit game Overwatch and Ardyn Izunia in Final Fantasy XV. He hosted several panels on voice acting. He joined the Overwatch cosplay photo shoot on Saturday. De Paul spent Sunday expressing gratitude and enthusiasm to everyone who participated.
Voice actors Bill Rogers (Pokemon) and Greg Houser (Evangelion 2.0) hosted three separate voice acting workshops. The goal was to help aspiring talent understand the industry. The first workshop featured an authentic recreation of auditioning for an anime role. The second was a scene study, where attendees partnered up and read lines with one another. Each person then received coaching from a pro on how to improve. The third workshop was a session on dubbing lines, working side by side with a director and an engineer.
With panels, contests, vendors, game rooms (and no late night fire alarms this year), Katsucon continues to grow in size and popularity. It is quickly becoming one of the premiere anime and Japanese culture conventions in America.