Katsucon is one of the largest east coast anime conventions located at the Gaylord Hotel in National Harbor, Maryland. Because of its sheer size, one person couldn’t cover this convention alone. Mansa Herndon and I decided to divide and conquer to cover Katsucon; giving you the full experience from both sides.
Mansa Herndon as Attendee
It’s been a little while since I had the pleasure of attending Katsucon. To be honest, it had been 3 years since my last one, so needless to say I wasn’t expecting the sheer number of attendees to the con. I mean it was wall to wall cosplayers and general Anime fans all over the Gaylord Hotel/ Convention Center. It could be a bit overwhelming to any normal person but to me it felt like home. I remembered being shunned for loving anime, even within the comic book community, but watching these fans come out en masse was truly heartwarming.
I was given the awesome task to attend panels and report on them, so I chose to mostly do the industry panels. In days past, these were the panels that would give fans the inside scoop on upcoming Anime to be licensed for the US market.
The first panel I went to was the Crunchyroll Streaming Panel. Unfortunately, due to the fire evacuation at the Gaylord, it took forever to get people back and the Crunchyroll staff just never came up for the panel.
The next Panel was the Aniplex Industry Panel. The Aniplex panel told fans about the anime currently streaming from Aniplex which were Erased and Durarara x2 Natsu, which you can catch on Hulu, Crunchyroll, Funimation, and Aniplex.com. Also it was announced that the final volume of Fate Stay/Night Unlimited Blade Works was released. The voice cast for anime Your Lie in April was announced as well as the trailer for the anime film Kizumonogatari Part 1. This is the prequel to the Monogatari series of anime from Aniplex.
Connected to the Aniplex Industry panel was the English dub premiere of Your Lie in April. This panel showed the first three episodes of the anime and then had a Q&A with voice actress Erica Mendez.
Next up was the Funimation Online Panel, followed by the Funimation Industry Panel.
The Funimation Online panel told us about the 16 various anime they have the streaming rights to including Divine Gate, Luck and Logic, Snow White with the Red Hair, Fairy Tail Zero, Dagashi Kashi, Dimension W and more. Also announced was that Snow White, Dagashi and Dimension W, which will be airing on Toonami starting the 27th, were getting Broadcast English dubs. For those that are unfamiliar, broadcast dubs are the English translated version using the broadcast materials which are altered versions cut for time and censored. Also, the turn around time from broadcast in Japan to being dubbed in English is one month, which to me is unreal. The biggest announcement was the name change of the Funimation Apps to Funimation Now.
The Funimation Industry panel was a different story. The Funimation Industry panel started off by hyping the release of the movie Evangeleon 3.33’s Blu Ray release. Also the complete series limited edition Blu-rays for Terror in Resonance, Lord Marksman and Vanadis were announced. The biggest news was the English voice casting announcement for the Rage of Bahamut and Black Butler: Book of Circus. It still seems as if the Funimation panelists still continues with a set program they follow for all the conventions they attend. Also the company gives them concise (read as: limited) information to disseminate to the fans. All the industry panels I went to followed the same pattern. Get the crowd hyped, show videos, have giveaways, then a 5 to 10 min Q&A, and end. There was a minus, however, with this panel. As the Q&A progressed, it became totally apparent that every question we would ask the panelists, they had no answer for. This completely deflated the crowd, who were hungry for knowledge about lost licenses on anime properties or new and upcoming Anime. In the end it was boring and a bit disheartening.
My final panel which took place on Sunday and that was the Give Back to Your Geekdom Panel. This panel which was presented by voice actor and long time con attendee Greg Ayres. He listed examples of how he and his friends are finding ways to volunteer at conventions, starting organizations to bring awareness to various topics, such as bullying or bootleg merchandise for sale and even depression. He also went into examples of how sometimes passionate fans will hurt others due to simple disagreement in fandom, and how to have better outcomes.
The panel was only an hour but it was the most meaningful. He explained how to get involved with cons or even just starting an anime club of your own and more. I was able to take more information from this than all the industry panels combined. This panel was also so much more engaging, that even though no prizes were given, everyone left with a new purpose in their fandom. All who attended exchanged numbers in order to begin networking with each other. This was truly an amazing panel.
All in all, I had a great time at Katsucon, I met a ton of new friends and meaningful contacts. I also had a chance to catch a few movies, meet up with some old friends, and even read in a Manga library. Katsucon truly has something for everyone who is a lover of Japanese culture.
Britany Marriott as Panelist
Three weeks before the con was when I found out I was going to be hosting/co-hosting three panels; two on Friday and one on Sunday. I was excited to host some of my panels for one of my favorite conventions. This year was no disappointment, from an electrical fire to con drama, I am always leaving with new memories, new friends, and new experiences which leaves me eager for the next year.
Thursday was the typical meet and greet; finding your friends down at the sports bar so you can reconnect and catch up on what you’ve missed dealing with reality. My next day began with a bright sun hanging high in the sky without warming me one bit. My panel, Color Theory and Cosplay with Kurenai Kiba went by smoothly and the attendant who was my helper for the panel was both wonderful and attentive. I discussed how you can use certain colors and patterns to convey a character, or to invoke an emotion when someone sees your cosplay. During my lecture, while breaking down fabrication, lighting, makeup, and certain patterns that can be used based on the color wheel, I saw my assistant check on me almost every 10 minutes.
I will say that a highlight of my day was the panel that proceeded mine: Historical Fashion in Pop Culture by Emma Kaufman, aka Saffronian Cosplay. She took the time to delve deep into the designs of characters we know and love by breaking down their design’s origins. It was well thought out, passionate, and an interesting panel that costumers and cosplayers alike should attend. She focused more on formal attire, with promises of getting more background on the warrior clothing as the panel grows, but she really took her time to inform the crowd about how clothing truly looked and what is the difference between inspiration and period accuracy. I then had to leave the convention to go to work so I missed some of the day.
After returning that night, it was time for my second panel; Let’s Get Sexy: Read Doujinshi Outloud. This was my first eighteen plus panel I have ever hosted, where we call up people from the crowd and have them read as certain characters from a doujinshi. Whoever was the most convincing, wins a bucket of candy.
I was tired after working and I wasn’t feeling great about hosting a panel at 2:30 in the morning, but the sheer amount of people as well as their excitement woke me back up immediately. Unfortunately, we had technical problems which lasted 30 minutes into our panel, cutting it in half. It was a pain and they tried their best, but we walked out of there wishing our panel wasn’t rushed. We called it a night and vowed to start fresh the next day as we made mental notes to revamp the panel.
I woke up to get ready for the #29DaysofBlackCosplay photoshoot only to have it postponed. The screeching sound of the sirens was deafened by the chatter surrounding me. Honestly, I got caught up in the moment of seeing my friends. My fiance told me to get my jacket on and he dipped through crowd to talk to Harry. As I began to focus, the Katsucon staff were directing us accordingly and not a single person from the hotel staff was seen. Before I knew it, my fiance whisked me away and we were stuck outside for about thirty minutes, helping those who needed to use my charger as my fiance offered his jacket to cosplayers. It was a mess, and there was a lot of confusion, but we continued our day. We tried to regroup at the Wyndham where we were staying, only to find one of our friends had been missing. Because of the confusion, he couldn’t reach us until much later. With everything happening at once, it caused us to miss the photo shoot that we were looking forward to all weekend….again.
Even though we were feeling down about our Doujinshi panel, the 21 plus lounge was where our spirits picked back up. We made our way near the lobby where there are exclusive elevators that take you to the top floor of the Gaylord. Once you show both your badge and your ID, you were led to a small room where there were two elevators that took you directly to the top floor to the club lounge called Pose. Drinks were pouring, lights were flashing, and no matter how awkward, everyone let go of their insecurities and danced the night away.
I shouldn’t have drank so much at the lounge the night before because I had to make it to my final panel, which was Dress Forms for Dummies. It was in the afternoon on Sunday so it wasn’t too bad. I was armed with Mountain Dew and duct tape, thinking not many people will be able to attend as we went over the bases of creating your own dress form out of duct tape and newspaper. My co-panelist & I were expecting a small crowd, only to have an over abundance of guests at our workshop. Even though we did not have enough supplies to go around, everyone left happy with the panel we presented.
This convention was filled with ups and downs, but it was still a nice breath of fresh air; and a great mini vacation. It was the right convention to really start your con season with a bang as always. The one thing I learned is that I should bring my own bag cable for next year.