Katsucon began back in 1995 with 500 attendees and guests like Steve Benett, artists like Jan Scott-Frazier and mangaka, Matsumoto Izumi-sensei. 20 years later, we have Katsucon XX going strong with over 10,000 attendees and even more guests like Steve Benett, prolific VA Richard Epcar, Chris and Greg Ayres, and mangaka Senno Knife-sensei. (Actually, except for a few years, I believe Steve has been a Katsucon staple very much like Maruyama Masao-san is to Otakon.) But to celebrate, the extensive comic and Japanese art guests aren’t enough, the Eastern WCS qualifiers are held that weekend and to encourage them are cosplay idols, Kamui and Yaya Han. Celebrating not only the anniversary of the con but showcasing the heart of any series, the music, we have the Symphonic Anime Orchestra. Throw in a maid cafe, a formal ball, the nightly raves and we have a party that can only be held at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center.
Plus it’s on Valentine’s day weekend. What can be better? Let’s get the party started!
Thursday, February 13
Our con adventures begin even before getting to the con. Most of the attendees will have a story to tell and it’s probably along the lines of ‘Flight got cancelled.’ ‘Bus got cancelled.’ ‘Booked a train, a car and horse to get here.’ As it was, I went through two bus cancallations and ended up on the Amtrak and got to DC at 9am. Definitely wasn’t alone in that respect. (Katsucon already stated that they were not cancelling the con and we’re going to get there!) I hopped into a taxi for the hotel. Since it was so icy, there was an emergency rate placed on them. $15 more than usual. The total price to the hotel was $42 without tip, but I’m glad I did it. I wouldn’t know how to get there either way. ^^;
con resort love
The Gaylord is gorgeous. It’s large and perfect to hold such an awesome con. There was another conference ending and due to the weather, there were tons of cancellations leaving DC. I took a walk around the hotel and caught sight of where the Press area should be…but the other conference is still closing up. Though there are tons of ‘other’ people, Katsu cosplayers have already started invading the area. ^.^
After dinner, I headed to the registration area where the pre-reg was going on. A loooong line. Press will only be opened tomorrow so I picked up a schedule.
Friday, February 14
Caught some cosplayers on my way to the registration area.
Definitely, ‘Frozen’ can be a good theme for the con. Besides a reference to the weather, the song ‘Let it Go’ and Disney’s ‘Frozen’ cosplayers were everywhere.
While grabbing a snack, I bumped into an Amazon delivery guy, aka. our very own Anthony.
The size of the room seemed to be about the same size as AnimeNEXT, but the number of vendors seem to be less. Not in a bad way. It just felt like there was more room between vendors. More room in the aisles. No crowding feeling at all (though I don’t know if it’s just because its friday or because of the snow.)
(Vertical’s Marketing Director Ed Chavez is sporting an interesting mustache…since he is cosplaying Ramba Ral from Gundam Build Fighters.)
We joked that he should go around the Dealer’s Room now, buy a Gouf and start building one at the booth. So appropriate to the series. He stated that he will be original Gundam Ral on saturday for the Gundam panel. Definitely will look for him then!
Senno Knife-sensei no go
Since it was nearing 2pm, I headed to the panel room for Senno Knife-sensei’s Q&A. Senno-sensei specializes in horror with beautiful girls and detailed illustrations. He draws other genres as well, but is wellknown for his horrific and gorgeous designs. Really popular in Japan, but not as widely known in the English speaking countries. With only a few titles published several years ago, this would have been a wonderful opportunity to promote Senno-sensei’s work…if only Katsucon promoted him better. His artwork. A picture. Anything. As it was, with a strangely pointed TBA before Senno Knife’s panel name ‘TBA Senno Knife’ really confused people since I was the first one to show up.
Turns out, the panelists had a few mixups (they were heading for a meal at that time,) and so the panel was cancelled. But prior to the cancallation, there was only one other Japanese guy that was there waiting for the panel to begin.
voice acting is all about the acting
Since I had some time, I slipped into Bill Rogers’ ‘Voice Actors’ Weekend Workshop’ which had the different contestants read some lines after being given a character sheet. Then they are called to the front where they can perform their lines. Bill Rogers and Greg Houser will give their feedback, comments and the contestant and read their lines again, hopefully in a way that is more specific to the character and situation.
Rogers reminded aspiring voice actors that acting is the key to voice acting and attending lessons just for making demo cd are not helpful and can be hurtful. “Don’t make a demo until you’re ready.” You only get one chance to make an impression. “They’ll listen to it and maybe ‘meh’. You go ‘No ones calling me, what am I going to do?’ You go and take classes and you make another demo and you send it in. There is a chance that that studio will go, ‘We already heard this guy.’ and won’t give you that second chance. You want to put your best foot forward.” Upon inquiring about the feed back that is given during this workshop, Houser notes that unfortunately, getting this kind of feedback at an actual voice acting job is improbable and not done.
They encouraged interested actors that there are many roads that can lead towards voice acting. (Houser was an English major.) However, most of all, learning to express with the voice and garnering that experience, the journey with no shortcuts is most important.
artist alley break
After the panel, I headed down to the artist alley to check things out. Amongst the beautiful artwork is a cosplay photography book by photographer Ger Tysk. Besides showcasing the beautiful photos, each cosplayer is highlighted and given due attention and info. The book is only sold at cons and via the site store. The book is quite large and beautifully made. Definitely a wonderful addition to any cosplay photography collection.
I headed back to the Dealer’s Room to scope out more items.
Definitely, Free! and Kuroko no Basket cosplayers were everywhere…as was Shingeki no Kyojin cosplays.
Funimation Industry Panel
Social Media Manager, Michelle Lee was MCing the Funimation panel. “You should totally be watching.”
Would you like to dance?
The formal ball was soon underway. On my way to the hall, I found a recently formed cosplay dance crew, CosStarDance. While we were watching them dance, a wedding proposal took place by the fountains. *applauds*
Katsucon ball is serious business. No sneakers or informal wear allowed, but some informal sorts of cosplay can get through. Its fun for the fans so it’s a time where everyone pulls out their most dressy cosplay to dance on the showfloor. Which means several Kuroshitsuji characters are around along with tons of Utena. The music varies, but mostly slow music to balldance too. (The fast music is for the raves. ^_^)
There was another wedding proposal, this time upon the stage. *more applause* It was followed by ‘Let it Go’…a song that was constantly heard throughout the con. (Why though…it’s such a sad song. XD)
The cosplay photoshoots were still going strong after 1am. It was pretty amazing…but not surprising as the hotel lights don’t close and afterall, it’s a con.
Saturday, February 15
Viz Media…not present
I woke up early to attend the Viz panel..only to find that it has been cancelled. I caught sight of cosplay idols Kamui and Yaya Han though.
Senno Knife Q&A
At 11am, I went to the Senno Knife-sensei panel…and found that it was again, just me and the Japanese fan from the day before. During the Q&A session, two others came in. The guest relations staff also joined in the Q&A. All in all, for those who were really interested in the Q&A at the panel, it seemed like I was the only one not fluent in Japanese. They were mostly translating for me. XD
Voice Actor Panel Q&A
The panel spawned a lot of interesting info and advice towards the question of becoming a voice actor. A truly impformative voice actors panel from prolific actors…because as Vas, acting with voices is what they do.
I headed to the Dealer’s Room to check out Vertical’s own Ramba Ral.
After circling around a few times, I found the Vertical Booth again and Ed Chavez as Ramba Ral, original Gundam. Kyaaaa…
I had to ask him for a shot with the Gundam: Origins manga and of course, volume 3 was chosen. Mobile Suit Gouf is on the cover and Ral is a main focus in this fantastic volume. Since I missed it the day before, I headed to the back area of the artist alley where the charity auction for Relay for Life for the American Cancer Society was being held. Uncertain about the photo policy for press (and too lazy to ask,) I didn’t take any pics. But there were lots of nice art pieces there along with decor items, jewelry and hair pieces. The pieces from the modeling contest was also placed there.
Out of the blue, I saw a Tarturus drive by in a K-9. o.O Too many Dr. Who references there. ^^;
Aniplex Industry Panel
Marketing Specialist Joanna Metoki started the Aniplex panel with the usual Aniplex photo request for their facebook site. They opened with the video showcasing the many Aniplex titles. “Welcome to my world” indeed!
evening of cosplays
a bit of SAO…
I headed to the Symphonic Anime Orchestra performance that was going on and caught the last half of it. It was a wind quartet with a trombone, trumpet, a french horn and a clarinet. They did a wide range of music renditions. They played (and restarted) Hare Hare Yukai, a theme from My Little Pony, a theme from Final Fantasy (Chocobo Theme?). A favorite has to be the ending song to My Neighbor Totoro. To hear these pieces live, created transcriptions from fans, it truly is a moving experience. (I truly am sad that I wasn’t able to attend the concert.
Guests Uncensored 18+
A ‘don’t tell’ policy is in place for this particular 18+ panel. But what is the fun without little hints? The guests that starred in ‘Uncensored’ were Michael ‘Mookie’ Terracciano, Garth Grahman (though he introduced himself as Mookie XD), Steve Bennett (Steve! Steve! Steve!), Geek Comedy Tour, Super Art Fight…and Scott Summers from X-men. Despite the MC’s attempts to calm everyone down-no, not really. No details, but highlights include Mookie’s hair experiment, autograph turned tattoo (aka. possibly long lost daughter,) embarrassing celeb meetups, bad yaoi art, creepy fans (no touchie!), marry-f*ck-kill…and emo Scott. The lesson of the evening was that the guests are willing to sign anything…as long as staff doesn’t stop them. XD And they don’t need to be drunk to get the funnies on.
Sunday, February 16
I don’t think I ever saw the gazebo empty…except for maybe the early hours of the morning. But soon, all the cosplayers flock to it like birds to water. Appropriate analogy due to the shape of the gazebo.
One of the cutest cosplays of the day has to be this trio of mushroom heartless who when they bounced they made the squeaky sounds. They even had a choreographed dance (though I think the green one didn’t really know the dance. XD)
WCS East Coast Preliminaries
Though I had to miss the masquerade, the event that I wasn’t going to miss was the WCS preliminaries. Before the preliminaries were separated into East and West coast, Katsucon was one of the few cons that had held the US qualifiers for WCS. And upon seeing the level of cosplays that gathered here, I’m not surprised as to why that is the case.
last few moments
Also, caught sight of the gazebo! XD
Katsucon 20th Anniversary was still a blast despite the weather hindering travel to the con. Besides highlighting a plethora of voice actors and artists on it’s guest list, there was the famed mangaka Senno Knife-sensei and cosplay idols, Kamui and Yaya Han amongst others. A small con at one of the smaller Gaylord resorts, the event garners alot of nationwide attention, attracting attendees from even California…though many could not have arrived due to flight cancellations. This is truly a cosplay convention for the masses. The venue boasts many locations (besides the ever popular gazebo) creating beautiful backdrops for photos. And it has become the con for WCS Eastern qualifiers, attracting even more talented cosplayers to the site.
Being at a hotel/resort, the convenience at the con cannot be ignored…though the waiting game at 12 elevators is also a minor problems at the best of times. ^^;
The negative aspects of Katsucon can only be attributed to the hotel policies rather than the con itself. Two major changes were pointed by attendees. The biggest is obviously this:
Professional photography is only referring to photography with separate equipment. Speedlights, umbrella reflectors, tripods are not allowed…within sight of hotel security/staff. As mentioned, photographers that wish to continue to use their full equipment relocated to other places inluding the registration hall. The reasons for the new policy is in short, to prevent traffic and possibly accidents during photos. But the sign is confusing for both press and attendees, since not everyone with a speedlight is ‘professional’ and not all ‘professionals’ are part of press. The biggest hinderance is of course the result of the photos themselves: relocating to the warehouse of the registration hall means bland backdrops. The beautiful locations weren’t able to be used.
The second biggest qualm that people had was the luggage check in at the end of the con. Everyone was told to check in at the 2nd floor room, with no luggage tags and a singular staff watching over the items. However, with no tag for the luggage, anyone could just claim one as their own without verifying it. It’s a policy that works in Japan for cosplayers, but not in the US for an entire hotel. The room itself is not an issue. Even a singluar staff standing guard is not a problem. Just ticket the luggage as always and confirm the piece when they leave the room. The concept just boggles the mind that the luggage was not tagged.
Due to the storm, attendence have defnitely dropped a bit. But in inquiring with previous atendees, the con is not known to be very crowded. As I mentioned about the dealer’s room, the venue is large enough to move around in easily without any hindarance concerning larger cosplays.
A relaxing con with tons of beautiful cosplays. Unique events including a formal ball, the Symphonic Anime Orchestra and WCS. Again, Katsucon 2015 will fall on a Valentine’s day from February 13-15. Time to book hotels!