The 24th annual Katsucon anime convention was held last weekend from February 16-18, 2018 in National Harbor, MD. Unofficially they may have surpassed the 20,000+ attendee mark for the first time, but of course we won't know until the official numbers are released. Even if they didn't reach that milestone, the halls were definitely more crowded this year compared to last year, and that's certainly a healthy sign for what has become the premiere anime con in the DMV region.
With more attendees comes more amazing cosplay and they were simply everywhere you looked. Katsucon as usual also invited a lot of awesome industry guests such as voice actor Steve Blum and a few of the voice actor cast members from Overwatch. This convention continues to be a phenomenal place to come together and celebrate our inner geekdom.
One of the best things that Katsucon improved upon versus the previous year is the fact that they finally seemed to figure out how to streamline the pre-registration badge pickup process. In previous years it was always a slog to wait in line for hours in order to get your badge, but this year the line was able to move much, much faster. The reason for this is that they moved the convention packet pickup, badge labeling, and lanyard pickup off to the side of the registration hall in order to cut down the amount of time that you spend at the actual registration table where the staff members verify your ID and registration. The registration table is traditionally the bottleneck that holds back the line and by moving some of the responsibilities off of the front table it helps to streamline the process and it really showed.
Of course, not everything was rosy as there were some issues throughout the weekend. The most egregious issue was line management, or lack thereof, for the panels. There were no designed lineup areas or markings to show you where to line up for a panel and most of the staffers were not exactly very helpful in getting the word across to attendees on where to go to line up. The Overwatch cast panel on Saturday night in particular was really bad with Katsucon staffers rather vehemently telling attendees that they couldn't line up until 15 minutes prior to the start time which obviously didn't sit well with hundreds of attendees trying to secure a spot in what was predictably a very popular panel.
A couple of other nitpicks being some things that I would like to see Katsucon change up but are not necessarily issues that would affect a lot of other attendees. These being the fact that Katsucon continues to be the only convention in the area that forbids attendees from bringing large bags and backpacks into the video game room and the fact that they scheduled the start time of the Masquerade contest really early. I understand why Katsucon would want to ban large bags inside the video game room in an effort to curb theft but that policy just makes it extremely impractical for people like myself who lug around a backpack with photography gear. I really don't have the time to go stow my gear away just to go into the game room and then have to retrieve my gear afterwards. What Katsucon could do is to implement a bag inspection for anyone leaving the video game room that is carrying a large bag. This wouldn't affect any of the attendees who either don't have bags or only carry small bags that isn't currently banned and would allow people with large bags to enjoy the services of the game room.
And concerning the Masquerade contest, they scheduled the start time for that event at 2pm on Saturday which is essentially prime time for everything else going on at the convention. Despite it being my favorite event at every anime convention, I had to skip it this year (and also last year for the same exact reason) as the early start time simply conflicted with a ton of other events. There's generally a good reason why other conventions tend to schedule this event towards the late afternoon or early evening. It helps ensure a larger audience turnout and probably would give the event and performers more time to get prepared and set up.
Issues and nitpicks aside, Katsucon continues to be an amazing experience that will surely keep going strong for many years to come. Now if only the National Harbor people will build additional parking garages in order to satisfy the continued growth.
Click here to go to my Facebook photography page where I uploaded the photos that I took at various cosplay photoshoots that include the Tales of Series, Disney, RWBY (Friday), Persona 5, Fate Series (both Friday and Saturday), Overwatch, Final Fantasy (Saturday 1pm), and BNHA My Hero Academia (Saturday).
Click here to go to my YouTube channel where I uploaded the videos that I recorded from various voice actor Q&A panels which include the panels for Robbie Daymond, Jonny Cruz, Sonny Strait + Steve Blum + Tony Oliver, and the Overwatch cast.