Katsucon is a large-scale anime convention held annually over President's Day weekend at the Gaylord National Hotel and Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland. Surrounding the convention center is a downtown area offering an endless variety of shops and restaurants which makes getting food and supplies easy. The popular hotel boasts beautiful scenery both indoors and out, allowing attendees to mingle and take photos without blocking convention center traffic. Programing is offered around-the-clock, with some panels starting as early as 6am and running through 3am. Guests included voice actors Chris and Greg Ayres, Monica Rial, Steve Blum, Jamie Marchi, and Bill Rogers. Cosplayers were out in force and brought their “A” game for all three days of the convention, taking advantage of the photo-friendly location and Katsu’s wealth of cosplay programming which included a masquerade, two days’ worth of hall costume contests, and the United States Eastern Regional qualifier round of the World Cosplay Summit. Logistics, however, hurt what is otherwise an enjoyable convention; overcrowding forced security to cap entrance to the dealer's room on Sunday, whereas over the course of the whole weekend, Katsucon was forced to share hotel space with a youth leadership conference. Mishandling and a lack of cooperation by both Katsucon and the youth conference caused attendee griping, public areas being blocked, and reports of unfortunate confrontations between the groups. Better planning and execution on the part of the convention's staff might have avoided these issues.
Sketch and Shiva's Weekend Breakdown:
We had both wanted to attend Katsucon for several years; Shiva had never been before while Sketch hadn't attended since the mid-2000s when the convention was still being held at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C. We were both excited to finally check out the con now that it was located in National Harbor. Unfortunately Shiva had gotten sick the day before we left, and by the time we packed up the car to road trip to the convention on Thursday she had completely lost her voice. Despite being annoyed by her inability to communicate easily, however, we both had an enjoyable drive down and were pleasantly surprised to find such a cute and bustling waterfront community a stone's throw from the nation's capital as we pulled into National Harbor. There were shops, restaurants, a beach area, wharf - even a ferris wheel; plenty of places to explore outside the convention center itself, which made us even more enthused for the weekend ahead.
Our crew had decided to stay at the Hampton Inn across the street from the Gaylord, which was much cheaper than the host hotel and offered an incredible parking rate of $11 a day. We met up with Ellystar and Majodere at the room, and spent some time unpacking and settling into the hotel before walking over to the Gaylord to check it out. Despite being Thursday night, the Gaylord was already teeming with cosplayers, photographers, and attendees socializing, sipping cocktails, and enjoying themselves. The atmosphere was even more amazing than it appeared in photos with small lights twinkling and the fountain dancing with changing colored lights and classical music - everything felt almost magical! The only drawback was we could not pick up our badges; we both had press passes for this con for AnimeCons.TV, and they were not given out in the regular registration room so we would have to wait until tomorrow to retrieve them.
Friday morning after helping Majodere shuffle out the door in her My Little Pony wedding gown, Sketch got into Godric Gryffindor and Shiva got into her new Sailor Juno costume from Sailor Moon to join Gale, AkaneSaotome, and Erisakablu at the Gaylord for an Asteroid Senshi group. They did a really fun shoot with Lionel in the bar area of the Gaylord lobby, and then we all enjoyed walking around together and taking photos. By lunchtime, however, we still were unable to pick up our press passes and actually attend any part of the convention that wasn't hanging around the hotel lobby, much to our annoyance. After getting the run around from staff members and much confusion, Doug managed to finally get a hold of all of our AnimeCons.TV press badges and deliver them to us. It was ridiculous that we were unable to obtain press passes until after programing had already begun, which prevented us from covering any events that took place prior to Friday afternoon. In addition, the location to pick them up was almost impossible to find and no one on staff was particularly helpful in assisting us in locating it, which all around was a bad look for the convention.
That afternoon Shiva and Ellystar changed into Small Lady Serenity and Princess Pluto for AkaneSaotome's Princess Senshi group, and they met up with the rest of the group by the fountains. Shiva finally go to meet Tess after they had been fans of each other's costuming work online for almost eight years. Tess was Princess Serenity, and they had fun playing mommy moon and daughter together, though Shiva regrets her voice was such a mess that she couldn't actually talk much. They had a quick shoot with Lionel, after which they met up with Yenra Photography to do a longer one outside, and Majodere and Sketch trailed along. It was warm in the late afternoon sun as the group strolled along the beach, casually taking photos. It was the first time we had gone outside behind the Gaylord and we were blown away by the scenery: a topiary garden, fountains, a terraced grassy area, a beach, a pier, almost most every backdrop imaginable! We were amazed and wondered why so many cosplayers took photos in the gazebo when so many arguably better options available.
After the Senshi shoot broke up we strolled outside, enjoying the view and taking photos of cosplayers including a phenomenal Digimon group who had made plushie versions of all their characters! That evening we changed into our Blue Barracudas costumes to be comfortable for the evening. We visited the dealer's room and a very decent-sized Artist Alley, where we hung out with Alyssa, Mookie, and Chi for a bit before heading out to dinner at a neat little burger joint/nightclub called Ketchup. After dinner Shiva started to feel sicker, so she went back to the hotel and went to bed while Sketch and the rest of the crew hit up the game room and socialized for the rest of the evening.
Saturday morning Shiva felt worse, but after a tea with lemon and honey got up and into Riddel while Sketch wore Lynx from Chrono Cross. We had a great time wandering around in our classic video game outfits which were popular with the crowd and sparked conversations with several interesting people. That afternoon, Sketch and Doug volunteered to be cosplay wranglers in normal clothes while Shiva, Ellystar, and Gale finally wore their new celestial Magic Knights Rayearth costumes, which they had been planning to do for several years. Gale had commissioned Hikaru's sword from Sketch who showed it to her for the first time, and she was thrilled with her new prop. We braved the cold to get some photos outside before wandering the convention with the trio, who attracted some decent attention from photographers and videographers. We even met several other Rayearth groups!
That evening the cold has wrecking havoc on Shiva's illness, so we changed into regular clothes, bundled her up as much as possible and joined the whole crew at Harrington’s for dinner, a fantastic Irish pub with a live Celtic band playing. Afterwards Shiva was feeling sick enough that she went back to the hotel to pack up and go to bed, while Sketch and the rest of the gang went back to the Gaylord to interview attendees and hit up some panels before hanging out with Bill Rogers. Sunday we packed up and headed out; despite Shiva's bug we had a great time and really look forward to returning next year, where hopefully we can check out more panels and events!