The fans attending Katsucon 2010 had to suffer several hardships on their journey to the event. After several snowstorms hit northeast America in the previous week, many flights were canceled on the days leading up to the convention. Even those close enough to drive had to deal with icy roads and bad traffic. However, those who made it safely to the Gaylord National Hotel seemed in good spirits as soon as they arrived.
Part of that might have to do with the hotel itself, a gorgeous venue featuring a beautiful atrium of fountains, gazebos and foliage on its lower level, all safely enclosed in an enormous glass wall looking out onto the Potomac River. With many of the hotel rooms equipped with balconies that looked inward over the lobby and atrium, it wasn’t too long before shouts and cheers erupted between those in their rooms and those below.
But even if you could see the room from below, getting to it might be a problem. The four sets of elevators looked similar enough that it was easy to get confused when heading up. In addition, the third floor did not connect in the middle, meaning that each set of elevators only reached half the rooms. Discovering this and having to ride back down, drag all your luggage across the lobby and go up another elevator was fairly frustrating. Another odd issue was the size of the bedframes. With square wooden posts extending past the mattresses at the foot of the bed, more than a few people were walking around with bruised knees and sour dispositions by Friday night.
Unfortunately most of the food solutions within the hotel were pricey and closed early by con standards, but luckily the surrounding harbor area was full of shops and eateries. A particular favorite amongst the anime crowd was the Potbelly Sandwich Shop which had decent deals on hot specialty sandwiches. It didn’t hurt either that this shop was next to the official Peeps candy store, full of candy related merchandise. The store even had a special deal for Katsucon attendees, granting them a pound of candy for a penny with any purchase over thirty dollars. For some attendees that might be a meal by itself!
The weather also affected the convention registration as the badges hadn’t arrived Thursday, delaying all pickups and purchases to Friday. But thankfully the registration lines weren’t nearly as bad as some other conventions. The pre-registration line was significantly longer than the walk-ins, as is typical for the first day of a convention. The staff was efficient, passing out clipboards with forms to fill out while people waited in order to cut down on processing time at the head table. The badges were printed nicely and allowed for the real name to be written on the back for privacy’s sake.
The guide to the convention was adequate, showing in detail where all the panels and events would be held. There were events being held well into the night, some scheduled even up to one or two in the morning. All the main floors of the convention were accessible by escalator and elevator so human traffic jams were minimal. Both the dealer's room and the artist alley had their own space which seemed just big enough before becoming overwhelming. Otaku USA shared front booth space with our friends from TenBu Productions, including Unicorn Table and Yunmao Ayakawa. As a guest of Katsucon, Yunmao was also involved in several events including cosplay panels and the Cosplay Maid Café.
The Katsucon Masquerade began a little late, but most costume contests do and once the event started nobody seemed to mind. The event started out with a skit where several different hosts momentarily tussled over who would be the announcer this year. In the end, two Dead Or Alive cosplayers won out. These ladies were charming and seemed to have a related comment or joke after every cosplay skit. One of the most interesting things about Katsucon’s cosplay contest is the use of a video screen which many of the acts used to improve the impact of their performances. Several of them also involved large scenery pieces for the cosplayers to pose in or change clothes behind. Despite all this complexity the time between skits was minimal. Only two technical errors caused delays and both times the announcers were able to ham it up enough to keep the audience preoccupied.
In between the cosplay contest and the results, Katsucon played the AMV winners. This format has been successful at other conventions and is usually a great way to keep the audience patient as the judges discuss the awards, however this time almost half the audience left. This didn’t seem to be the fault of the staff; perhaps congoers just had somewhere else they wanted to be?
They certainly weren’t going to sleep any time soon. The tables in the atrium and the lower level bars were full of congoers. At the same time, the hotel was hosting an event for decorated military veterans, leading to some interesting encounters. For some of those cosplaying, nighttime meant their third or fourth costume change of the day, with some more mature and darker costume sets appearing. Those in the classiest attire and an appropriate ID and room number could take a secluded elevator to the 18th floor lounge, Pose. Even at three-thirty in the morning there were still crowds of people standing around the atrium level chatting and goofing off.
The hotel staff was kept busy escorting at least three people out by handcuffs (though for the record, none of the arrestees looked like anime fans). The next morning there were rumors circulating that Katsucon attendees had broken a glass table in the lobby and an elevator. Hopefully they turn out to be false or exaggerated, since it would be nice if the convention could return to the Gaylord. But those on a budget might disagree considering the price of the rooms and hotel food.
Overall, the event was a success despite the weather and hotel change. Otaku USA would like to thank all the people who stopped by the booth, who bought subscriptions, and who entered our contests each day. Also, thanks to our advertisers who supplied the "free stuff," including Funimation, Right Stuf, Kotobukiya, and Sakura of America. We hope to see you at Katsucon next year and at other upcoming conventions!
More photos from Katsucon 2010 available here: