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Katsucon 14 (2008) Review
Writen by Ciello
Posted on May 01, 2008 at 01:04:53 pm
Click [Here] to visit the gallery of pictures for Katsucon number 14!

Overview:

Our nation's capital is weird. It's strangely clean, full of diplomats, and lacks any of the edge that makes me love my home city so much. So I tend to avoid it whenever possible. But the one event that will make me trek 6 hours to visit it isKatsucon. This year was the 14th iteration of said convention: and it continues to serve as a forum where anime, games, and webcomics unite under a single banner for three straight days of 24-hour awesomeness. Anime episodes were displayed, Smash Brawl (yes, the game that is not out yet) tournaments were held, American movie premieres were displayed, and awesome concerts rocked the house. TheKatsu staff continued to be a shining beacon for which other conventions should adhere to, and the schedule was epic enough to keep me running in circles all weekend. The only real downside to this weekend was the moment I discovered that next year, the convention will not be held at theOmni Shoreham hotel, but rather in its original venue of Crystal City. There also may be some major changes in store for our beloved president's-weekend-hoedown, but worry not! If anyone can take something good and totally change it to make it better, it's these folk. Read on to find out why!

Staff:

    Katuson Entertainment Inc is officially the entity that runs the con. Unofficially, it's a bunch of groovy folk who come together from all walks of life to make this shindig happen. Over the course of the weekend, I got to talk to a varied group of staffers that ranged from local new jersey office jockeys to employees of large game corporations, one of which may or may not be the creator of our country's most popularMMORPG. The employee of said company trucked all the way out here to help out, and he brought with him a donation to sunday's cancer charity auction that raised enough money to make the audience do a double-take. That's just the kind of people the katsu staff are, and it showed all over the place.
    The staff were highly visible everywhere you went, and even wore color-coordinated vests to help you spot out someone who can give you a hand. Any even popular enough to have a line was shadowed by medical staff to make sure everyone wasfeelin ' fine and plenty hydrated while they camped out. Seriously, you'll never feel so loved by con staff as you will here. They went so far as to print out a message on each con badge saying that any problem that might arise could be solved directly by asking for Colette. That's pretty much saying if you have a concern, you can go almost straight to the top and make your voice heard. I could go on and on about these people, but you get the point. A plus plus plus.

Game Room:

    I mentioned in last year's review that the game room includes a robust contribution from a local arcade box museum, and this year it was back with a vengeance! Well, a smaller vengeance. Many of the quirky games that I tend to discover while wandering through a convention game room were conspicuously absent. Sure, there was Guilty Gear, Gears of War, Halo, Smash,Wii Sports, etc. But if you showed up looking to find something new (or at least something old that you didn't know about) the odds are: you didn't!
    So they didn't have as much as last year, this is true. But what they did have available was pretty flipping sweet. I saw a Mecha simulation game that was one step short of a VR system. The controller itself was huge, with buttons and dials and all sorts of shiny things. It looked like it'd be real fun to play, though I'd make a safe bet that the peripheral for this game cost more than the game itself. Also, thanks to a generouswebcomic guest, this year's attendees got to play Smash Bros Brawl. That's nearly a month before the game is released stateside (this was, of course, an imported game). I didn't get to play, but merely watching all those new characters battle it out almost made me wet myself. The arcade had some really awesome classics too, too numerous for me to mention here. How often do you get to play on original arcade boxes? Last time I touched one of these was last year's convention. These guys keep us hooked up.
    I have to give an honorable mention to the ET game they had set up in the arcade room. It's without a doubt the worst game I have ever touched. But I couldn't stop watching people play it. It was like watching a train wreck. A funny train wreck. Maybe a train wreck full of clowns. Or something. Also I should give an honorable mention to 'Professor Layton and the Curious Village'. It's a very fun puzzle game thatnintendo has been advertising the heck out of. The game room had one of those interactive floor displays to help propmote the game. They even had people in costume running around on segways. Segways! Any game that uses segways to advertise itself is worthy in my book. So I tried it out, and yes, it is indeed worthy.

Dealer's Room / Artist Alley:

    The dealer's room was chock full of good stuff, as always. If you're looking for anime figures, manga, posters, towels(!?), bags, dvds, omnibuses, props, weapons, games, costumes, artbooks, pinups and whatever other geeky things you can think of, you could probably find them there. Especially if you don't live near a big city with access to rare supplies like this, the dealer's room atKatsu is a gold mine for you.
    The artist alley, being open 24 hours, is one of the most welcoming spaces in the convention. People tend to gravitate there and hang out, and a few hardcore artists are willing to stay at their booths just in case you want to stop by and say hi, or maybe buy a comic at 2am. During the day, that place is overflowing with talent. On top of your usual selection of fan works, buttons, and commissions that you'll find in any typical artist alley, there were copious amounts of original beauties. For lack of a better way to describe them, I will draw uponJoss Whedon's Firefly and declare the whole lot 'shiney'. And directly attached to the shiney selection in the artist alley is a small hallway (perhaps we can call it a sub-alley) where most of the webcomic guests were stationed. Like previous Katsucons, there's a large number of webcomic artists to be found all over the place. This year, NPR even had a reporter shadowing some of them, for a piece they're doing on the online comic medium. If you're a public radio fan, keep your ears pricked for that!

Relay-for-Life Charity Auction:

    The Relay for Life charity that is hosted on Sunday holds a very special place in my heart, and I was glad to see them bring it back this year. Even more heartwarming was seeing all the stuff that was donated by artists and vendors from the merchant's hall. Everyone pitched in, some of us walked away from the auction with some nifty swag, and Relay for Life gets a healthy wad of cash to help fun their research to fight against a very powerful foe. You might go to the auction in the hopes of finding a rare item for your collection, but you'll stay till the end because it's just so darned heartwarming.

Anime Screenings:

    One of the biggest advantages of a 24-hour convention is the non stop stream of anime that churns out of the anime viewing rooms. Aside from the usual selection of shows (both current and old) to watch, there was also a healthy selection of live action and animated movies. There was even a premiere of the most recent One Piece movie, which should be arriving in select theaters near you (unless you live in the boonies) sometime soon. There were a couple last minute schedule changes, which threw me a bit for a loop. For example, I walked into a room expecting to seeGurren Lagann. Instead, I saw xxxholic. Now I'm not saying that's bad, I actually ended up liking xxxholic quite a bit. And I usually avert CLAMP works as a matter of principle. But the last minute schedule changes did prevent me from seeing some of my preferred shows!

Location, food, and other vitals:

    It's hard to beat the Omni Shoreham in terms of location. It was relatively easy to drive to, and I know from previous years that mass transit is a breeze (so long as the busdoesnt break down on your way to DC) And one of my favorite Indian restaurants is only two blocks from the hotel.
    But next year, this con will be in a different location! Will there be good food? Will everything be centrally located and easy to get to? Will the con remain 24-hours? I don't know! We shall have to wait and see.
   

Masquerade:

    Katsucon's emphasis on fan-oriented content is probably best described through their masquerade. Where some cons seem to dump all they've got into musical guests, or foreign guests, or commercial ventures,Katsu seems to focus a great deal on the quality of their masquerade. And in response, the submissions to the masquerade appear to be the cream of the crop. This year had 18 acts, and there wasn't a single one that my picky self didn't like. Not only was there a great deal of though put into the ideas behind these skits, but they also had an added technical element that I believe is unique to this convention.Cosplay skits are given the option to use a video backdrop behind the stage as part of their act. Fusing technology and art! Of that, I approve. There were so many wonderful acts that I actually heard the judges complaining that they didn't have enough awards to give everyone. It must have been a very tough call to make. So here's a rundown, with the awards that each won:

The MC Started with a short little Vader/Sith gag, where Vader showed up hung over and in his robe. Rather than let the show go on, he simply commanded the sith to host the masquerade for him. Man, it must be great to have your own personal servant. Maybe I should join the dark side too.
  1. "To Catch a pervert" - a short skit about an online child somethingorother sting operation. Spooky idea, muddy execution.
  2. "Momma Mia" This won the Best Novice Award, it featured a bunch of timed dancing (perhaps to a DDR song? I'm not sure) and excellent lip synching, along with some nifty bleach costumes. This one was great!
  3. "We're so much cooler than Rangarok Online" This was a pretty ambitious short that used a lot of props and focused around how people can be so much cooler online than inRL. A funny idea, though the dancers spent a lot of time milling about on stage. A promising act, for sure.
  4. "Deathnote" This won the Best Overall Performance. It had puppeteering! PUPPETS. That's enough to win in my book. But they didn't stop there. This was a full on deathnote summary dance sketch, and they even had an awesome song. It was very well done, even not having seen the show, I understood exactly what was going on.
  5. "Secret Dowar" This won an Overall Craftsmanship Award. This was a Chevalier De'on skit. The costumes were victorian and very pretty, but the sound effects weren't timed well with the action. It had nifty dancing, but the previous deathnote sketch was a tough act to follow.
  6. "Chocobo racing thing" This one sadly had some technical difficulties, but after that was sorted out it was a hilarious chocobo/horse racing skit, complete with happy gay moments every time the characters one. Great idea!
  7. "Romantic Musical" This won Best Journeyman and a Craftsmanship award. The judges were impressed, but I wasn't, the audio was very tinny sounding and they tacked on a 'Rent' song to the end of the skit for no obvious reason. Meaningless dancing does not equal good skit!
  8. "Good Idea Bad Idea" This was so cute, I may have gotten diabetes just from watching it. It's a young group of cosplayers that I'm pretty sure I've seen before, doing a very clever take on the animaic's 'good idea bad idea' gag. It was very clever, and the best part is, these little troopers delivered their lines live, in front of a huge gawking audience, PERFECTLY. My hat's off to you, kids. This one rightfully won a Judge's Award.
  9. "The Importance of Never Teasing a Kitty" This was a short and sweet skit with one tekken character (a human girl) playing with the tail of another tekken character (a giant cat thing) It was funny, and the character actions were clear yet not overdone. I was very amused!
  10. "Tales of the Abyss" This won a Judge's Award (I think it was the 'Ironic RPG award') And best in the Masters category. It had a full video backdrop, and featured an epic story with coreographed stage fighting and the whole nine yards. Very complex, and well done.
  11. "Cowboy Bebop the Planet Plan" This was a character introduction skit, and a celebration of bebop's decade of existence. It showed pretty much all the major characters and all the major plot points, with incredibly well done choreography and it captured the character's personalities perfectly. This won the Audience Capture Judge's Award.
  12. "Death Counts" This featured a couple deathnote characters killing random anime characters and dancing for no real reason. meh.
  13. "La Chevalier D'eon" This was a boring plot summary sketch, that pretty much went through the first episode in the most hum-drum way possible. They even went into details like having one character reading from a sacred script in the anime. And that's where Rick Astley's lyrics popped up. Yeah, that's right, the sketch rickrolled the entire audience. It was an awesome idea, and I'm glad someone thought of it. Well done guys! They won Best Journeyman Award for presentation.
  14. "Ballad of La Resistance" This was my favorite. It had a full on AMV in the background to start, set to the south park song about La Resistance and fighting Canada, etc etc. The AMv was cool, the actors lipsynched perfectly to the song, and as the song built up, more and more anime characters appeared to sing along. It was truly epic. Hands down it was the best, and they rightfully won the Best In Show Award and a Judge's Award for inside jokes.
  15. "I enjoy being a CLAMP girl" This was a good skit, very detailed costumes and good lip synching, but I'm fairly anti-clamp so I tuned it out almost instantly. If you like clamp, you'd have loved it!
  16. "Dawn of a new Voyage" I believe this was a skit to reflect the opening of One Piece, set to the anime's opening song. None of the actors on stage knew the lines of the song though, so it was kind of awkward turtle.
  17. "This one's for Ed" Featured Roy singing to Ed, both of FMA fame. It was amusing, but also had some wobbly acting.
  18. "Tentacle Hentai Skit" This was a very prop-heavy skit that featured a life-sized black sensor bar on stage. It was pretty clever, was chock full of 4th wall breakage, and was well executed. For it's awesome use of props and tentacle-related hilarity, it won the Tech Award and Best Master Presentation Award.


Final Thoughts:

    While Katsucon's changes might make next year's event a bit of an unknown, you can rest assured I'll be there. The people behind these yearly shindigs are doing some really fun things, and I wouldn't miss that for anything short of a large lump sum of lottery cash. Even if it means I have to drive to DC again.


Location: [10/10]
The con is easy to travel to, located smack dab in the middle of the east coast, and it's open all night for the insomniac anime fans out there. That's really hard to beat.
Cosplay: [9/10]
I think a lot of cosplayers make this their target con for their big costume projects, because I always see such amazingly creative ones here. Everything from random game characters to unique character creations, chances are you'll find a handful of costumesthat'll make you stop and stare. The main hallway for the hotel was cleared out, and this year even had a highly sophisticated photo studio set up.
Masquerade: [9/10]
All of the acts were very good. I wasn't completely blown away by any act in particular, but I had a great time watching the show.
Events: [8/10]
There were a lot of fan-centric events, such as photoshop tips and webcomic how-tos. Considering how large of a webcomic audience this con brings, that's an excellent bonus. There were a few cancellations that made things a little tricky, but it's unlikely you'll find yourself bored this weekend.
Con Organization: [10/10]
The con staff were well organized, helpful, professional, and I'm STILL blown away by the "call Colette" policy. I challenge you to find a better example of devotion to attendees. Honestly, log onto this site and send me a message with a better example, because I doubt one exists.


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