Katsucon 19

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Katsucon 19 2013

15 - 17 February 2013 | Written by Maxxum

Katsucon was the second convention that I was advised to attend when I first began coverage of events in the DC area. As one of the more established conventions here, it's common for me to meet cosplayers from other parts of the country who have attended, or at least heard of "Katsu". The event brings with it anime, gaming, and cosplay celebrities who are equally well-known, and it is host to numerous merchants, dances, music, games, art, writing, and many other facets of Japanese entertainment. This year, I had a chance to speak with Grig Larson, who co-Chaired Katsucon 19 with his wife, Christine.

Why was Katsucon started?

Katsucon was started at another anime convention, a small one down in Virginia Beach - basically it was a bunch of people that, y'know, were fans of anime, wanted to do their own convention. Keith Mayfield, who is the Chairman for K-20 [Katsucon], he was one of the founders, along with Paul Blotkamp ... and after Katsucon 3 they moved everything up to the DC area, and then we've gone between DC and Baltimore for a while, but the reason we stated it, basically is to do anime, and anime stuff for the fans of anime so we're like fan generated content, we're always keeping our pulse on what the fans like and what-not, trying to gear our stuff to it and be on the bleeding edge. Every anime convention has their own goal, but ours is to keep it really family friendly, and to give people what they want and we're always listening to our public.

What were some of the difficulties Katsucon faced in its beginning?

Defining ourselves from other conventions, because it's sort of like, why do you need another anime con. Now, back then, there weren't a lot of anime cons, and they were very small. But, I think that our popularity grew because of our target, and we're 501(c)(3) non-profit charity, so we have an auction, everything like that, and so we try to keep the charity thing going, and also we're focusing on education - you saw me give out those books from No Starch Press, and we started the Japanese Cultural Institute (JCI), we work with the [Japanese] embassy. So, we want to be more than just anime and manga, we also want to teach people about Japanese culture. We have a lot of people from anime and manga who get interested in Japan, we have a lot of people that go on to work in Japan for the Jet Program, and just for travel, to learn new cultures; and we have a certain kind of geeky niche that fits into that as well.

How does the Katsucon Board determine programing/events for the year?

Well, the board actually doesn't. We oversee the Chairman, who does all those decisions - it's up to each Chairman what they want to focus on. ... we determine the programming based on what people ask for. There are some certain things we watch the numbers, like for a while 'My Little Pony' was really big, and we thought that's a niche thing; we had a small room, and people were pouring out in the hallways, so next year we get a bigger room. And, then maybe in a few years, nobody cares about it anymore. For a while, we had a steampunk thing going, and then steampunk started having their own conventions, and then they disappeared from here.

Was Katsu always a children's show, general audience? I noticed this year there was a lot of adult content.

It's general audience, we do have some adult content because there's always a high demand for that. But, we have the [18+] wristbands, we have the rules. We also have "chibi" [Japanese slang: short person/small child] because a lot of the anime fans from back then now have kids, and they bring them, and we want to have something for them; we try and provide both ends so everyone has a really good time.

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As you'll see from the photos, I photographed the adult side of things mentioned in the interview. Although, as Mr. Larson provided, there is a substantial amount of programing for every age group.

Cosplay Burlesque

On the final day, I walked through the merchandise room, and was surprised to see much higher quality anime costumes and accessories compared to last year's selections. I've been attending conventions for years, but this year has demonstrated that suppliers are doing their best to meet the expectations of cosplayers, with some willing to spend thousands on the unique costumes that are ubiquitous with Katsucon.

Depending on whom you ask, Katsu's capstone is a toss-up between the musical guest, and the latenight Rave. I attended the former, with this years' musical entertainment presented by Sound Bee HD.

Katsu is an easy event for me because it has everything I need within the hotel, a fact also noted by Mr. Larson. Generally, I feel rushed at conventions, and each one has a certain level of stress that it induces, but I haven't had that with Katsu - and I would wager that it has something to do with the staff stressing themselves to make sure that attendees are happy.

Which reminds me... Chad, I still owe you that beer.

Photos by Maxxum