The 25th Katsucon anime convention took place last weekend from February 15-17, 2019 in National Harbor, MD. This marks the first year that Katsucon has implemented a “Closed Profile” policy which restricts access to the Gaylord National Hotel and Convention Center only to paid hotel guests and con goers with a membership badge. This new policy was definitely a hot topic of debate in the months leading up to Katsucon and surely will still be subjected to heated discussions in the following weeks.
The closed profile posture puts Katsucon in line with many other leading conventions across the country in an attempt to bolster security and safety. A side effect of this policy is that it squashes the practice of lobbyconning, the act of attending the convention space without actually paying the membership/ registration fee (usually to show off their cosplay, take photos, or just to hang out with friends). I am definitely in favor of this change. While the main attractions like the atrium and the gazebo area were just as crowded as ever, the rest of the convention space definitely felt less crowded. However, despite having more elbow room when walking around, the convention itself saw an uptick in attendance numbers that surpassed 21,000 (unofficial number announced at the closing ceremonies). Katsucon was able to see a healthy increase in numbers while holding a safer convention experience which is a win in my book.
Of course, not everything went as smoothly as it could have and leaves plenty of room for improvement. Those who arrived for registration were directed to a single entrance off the side of the convention building. While veterans of the Gaylord might not have a problem finding where that entrance was, newcomers probably had a much harder time figuring out where they were supposed to go considering that there was no signage posted outdoors to point in the direction that they should be headed. Some people also complained that they had a hard time getting through the main entrance even though they had a hotel key which speaks of miscommunication by either the Katsucon or hotel staff. And to make matters worse, Katsucon somehow inexplicably ran out of lanyards early Saturday morning which forced many con goers to repeatedly have to dig out their badge since they couldn’t wear it around their neck. I can’t even imagine how Katsucon could have possibly blundered so hard with the shortage of lanyards, especially since the lanyards were just generic black lanyards with no special logo/artwork printed on them.
I suppose another controversial policy that was new this year was the way Katsucon roped off the gazebo area and prevented people from approaching it to take photos except for those taking part in the scheduled organized cosplay photoshoot gatherings. This move was great for the photoshoots as it blocked off a much larger area where cosplayers could stand and wait for their calls but I can understand the frustration it must be for people who just wanted to take a quick photo of themselves with the iconic gazebo.
Other problems that I had during the convention include my usual gripes about the video game room prohibiting you from taking in a large bag (only convention in this area that I’m aware of that has this policy) and the fact that the cosplay Masquerade contest was once again scheduled with a really early start time at 2 PM on Saturday which really prevents people from attending since it’s smack in the middle of prime time when everything is happening at a convention. I actually saw a YouTube clip that someone posted of their Masquerade performance and when they zoomed out you could clearly see how empty the audience was. I really hope that Katsucon will wise up and move the Masquerade back to the evening time slot.
The final issue that I had was the decrease in size of the panel rooms. The panel rooms this year were much smaller in size compared to the panel rooms that they’ve used in previous years. In fact, one panel room in particular (Live Three) wasn’t even configured for a panel as it was filled out with large round tables and set up for a karaoke event. This meant that the room filled up extremely fast due to lack of seating which is completely unfair to attendees and also a disservice to the guests who got thrown into those small rooms.
In closing, Katsucon made some changes this year for both good and bad. However, the con experience was not diminished in my opinion. People seemed to be having a fun time and the number of mind-boggling amazing cosplays on display is always a treat.
Click here to go to my Facebook photography page where I uploaded my photo albums for all of the photoshoot gatherings that I went to which include SMT/Persona, Tales of Series, My Hero Academia (Boku no Hero Academia, three in total), Disney, The Legend of Zelda, Land of the Lustrous (Houseki no Kuni), Fate series (both Friday and Saturday), Overwatch, Uma Musume: Pretty Derby, Final Fantasy, Granblue Fantasy, and the Seven Deadly Sins (Nanatsu no Taizai).
Click here to go to my YouTube channel where I uploaded my video recordings of “The Last Q&A You'll Ever Need With Robbie Daymond, Max Mittelman, and Ray Chase“ and “Voice Acting For Anime with Trina Nishimura and Michael Sinterniklaas“ panels.