The Katsucon 2017 anime convention was held this past weekend from February 17-19, 2017 at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, MD. Katsucon was just as good as past years and once again reminds everyone why it's the premier convention for cosplay. The amount of cosplayers strutting their stuff was staggering and the quality and creativity continues to be mind-blowing. There's no question in my mind that Katsucon has firmly supplanted Otakon as the must go-to convention in this region, especially when cosplay is concerned.
I honestly don't have much to say about this year's Katsucon. They were great in almost every aspect (although the nitpicks will come later below). And unlike last year when Katsucon suffered a fire alarm in sub-freezing temperatures with howling winds, this year Mother Nature decided to grace us with balmy 60+ degree weather all weekend. The biggest surprise for me this year was the presence of voice actor Darin De Paul. I'll be honest and say that I didn't know his name coming into the event, but after reading his bio in the guest list and seeing that he is the voice of Reinhardt from Overwatch and of Ardyn Izunia from Final Fantasy XV, I knew that I wanted to attend his panels. While I couldn't make it to the "Video Game Voice Acting" panel, I was able to make his Q&A panel on Friday evening. Without exaggerating, that had to have been one of the best and most fun panels that I've ever been to during my 6 1/2 years of going to conventions. Darin was just amazingly funny, open, and receptive to fans. The impromptu orgy of hugs that broke out during his panel was the stuff of legend. Darin also made an appearance at the Overwatch cosplay photoshoot on Saturday to take selfies with Overwatch cosplayers and to express his thanks and love to the Overwatch community. And finally, Darin tried to one-up himself during the Closing Ceremonies on Sunday by running down the stage and then proceeding to give high-fives to a bunch of people in the audience. I don't know where Darin De Paul gets all of his energy from, but I could sure use some of it!
This year marked the first year that Katsucon organized a large group meetup coordination effort (basically an official cosplay photoshoot coordination). It followed in the heels of Otakon after Otakon started during the same thing a few years ago. it's great that Katsucon is now putting in the effort to help coordinate the large cosplay photoshoots at the atrium fountains and at the gazebo. And of course the unofficial photoshoot coordination at cosplay.com will continue to supplement the efforts. I hope Katsucon continues this trend, and was thankful that their staff put in a lot of effort to help make the Overwatch photoshoot on Saturday a huge success. The Facebook event page of the Overwatch shoot listed 400+ people who signed up to attend the photoshoot, and another 500+ people who said they were interested in going. Naturally, when the day of the photoshoot came there was just a massive gathering of cosplayers. The group took up the entirety of the lower fountain area and the upper fountain atrium floors. Despite the enormous size of the group, the photoshoot's host along with the Katsucon staff were able to run a very smooth photoshoot.
And now comes the constructive criticism and nitpicks. First and most pressing is the parking situation. Last year it was announced that the parking in the National Harbor area was filled to capacity and many people were turned away in disappointment when they couldn't find anywhere to park. I don't think that this has improved any this year. They did partner with Parking Panda to offer discounts on two parking lots, one of which is the South Point parking lot which I bought tickets to and turned out to be what looks like a temporary, dirt and gravel lot in the boonies behind the convention center (I don't recommend using this lot in future years unless you have to, especially since it's not the safest to walk to at night). But the Parking Panda partnership doesn't actually help solve the capacity issue. Unless the National Harbor organization is able to building more parking lots and garages, I fear that Katsucon will be constrained in future years in terms of growth and can lead to a negative backlash or impression on its image (the same way Otakon suffered a backlash from the overcrowded nature of the Baltimore Convention Center). I'd really hate to see Katsucon suffer from such a thing and have to be forced to move to a different location because of the limit in the amount of parking available there.
Pre-registration pickup this year on Thursday night was once again good, but still needs improvement. Like last year, they utilized the entire front table in the hall to process the pre-reg (which I had criticized in previous years how they only used half the table). However, I feel as if they could still get the line moving faster if they place a table on the side wall to open up additional registers just for Thursday pre-reg pickup. It would help people get in and out of line faster instead of having to wait 2 hours in line. And just a side note, someone had a seizure attack while I was in line. I hope that guy was okay and got the medical help that he needed.
And finally some nitpicks. This year I had to make the agonizingly difficult decision to skip out on the cosplay Masquerade event because it was scheduled to start really early at 3pm (which is very unusual for a Masquerade event) and it ended up overlapping with lots of other events that I wanted to go to. It would be nice if in future years that the Masquerade event can be started later in the evening like it is in most conventions. And of course I harp about it every year but Katsucon once again continues to enforce a "no bags allowed" policy for its video game room. That policy is just incredibly stupid and I do believe that they are the only convention in the region that I know of that actually has such a rule. Even MAGFest which takes place every year in the same venue doesn't have that policy. If Katsucon is worried that people may steal games or systems from the video game room, I really wouldn't mind it if they set up a procedure where all bags have to be checked when you leave the video game room. And not so-much a nitpick as just a suggestion that perhaps they could invite a musical guest to have a Sunday concert performance. Sundays are always the dead days of a convention and it definitely helps to bring more people back on Sunday if they had a concert or some other major event going on that day.
In closing, Katsucon was once again an amazing experience and is one that I always look forward to every year.
Check out the hall cosplay photos that I took here.
You can find my photos from the various cosplay photoshoots that I attended during the weekend on my Facebook photography page here. They include photos from the Tales of Series, RWBY (both days), Fate/Type-Moon (both days), Tales of Zestiria, Final Fantasy, and Overwatch.
And finally you can watch the videos that I recorded of events that I went to including the Cosplay Fashion Show, Darin De Paul's Q&A panel, Brittney Karbowski's Q&A panel, and Monica Rial's Q&A panel here.