Katsucon is the first large convention I've ever been to, and while they haven't gotten around to releasing final attendance numbers, I think it's fairly safe to say there were at least 15,000 people at the Gaylord for this year's version. Given that this year's experience was pretty much a mixed bag, I'm not sure I'll be going back next year, especially if this year's roommates insist on taking a room at National Harbor, where rates start at extortionate and finish in OMFG territory even with the convention discount. On the other hand, considering parking fees and associated overdrafts ate $200 that I had other plans for, maybe staying at the Marriott Residence across from the Gaylord might not be such a bad plan after all...but I'm getting ahead of myself.
onsenmark and I had been talking about doing Katsucon since last fall, and at one point it seemed like deathquaker might come down from Baltimore for it as well, but in the end she had other stuff going on and didn't even manage to come down for dinner. Welp. I agreed to play landlord, booking a room at the Springhill Suites off US 1 in Alexandria since they offered a free hot breakfast, free parking, free wifi, and spacious rooms for much less than the ass-raping prices being quoted by other hotels actually located in National Harbor. ($200/night single occupancy at CONVENTION rates? Not only no but FUCK NO.) $144 a night was bad enough, thank you, even if we were going to be splitting the cost with two other guys (or girls; this was uncertain until literally the week before the convention) for Friday and Saturday nights.
The first day of the convention was covered here; Mark had hoped that we'd get to the con before registration closed at 2300 Thursday night, but despite pushing it pretty hard on the way back from Virginia Beach that didn't happen. Hell, we barely made it to the Springhill to check in before midnight.
The second day was Friday, and most of it was spent standing in line being unimpressed with Katsucon's registration staff. I understand that this is a regional convention, with members and staff coming in from all over the Eastern Seaboard, but do you really mean to tell me that your system is so fucked up that you can't bribe a shitload of people to volunteer and at least keep the people who pre-registered from standing in line longer than the people who are paying at the door? Goddamn, I thought things sucked at Detour the first year, but this was FAR WORSE by orders of magnitude. Twenty years in business and you still can't run a decent membership check-in? FAIL. After I finally got my badge I got the fuck out and went back to the hotel for a few hours, where I restored my damaged calm by reading Marko Kloos' Lines of Departure while eating a couple of bacon cheeseburgers from Checkers. Eventually went back for the Lolita Panel & fashion show, which was informative and featured a number of lovely young women in very nice costumes. I approve of this fashion, and of its steampunk & dieselpunk offshoots as well.
Saturday was largely a wasted day. I made it to the con early enough to catch half of bam2's panel "Why Your Fandom Stinks", which was less good-natured abuse of everyone's favorite things than it was a serious call for people to stop behaving like shitheads and start acting like reasonable adults. As usual, Greg gave good panel, and I got to hang out with him and Chris for a little bit before the next panel started. Spent the rest of the day wandering through Artists' Alley, to which I returned several times during the convention if only because there were a number of tables and chairs in the back where I could sit down and take a load off while people-watching. I did collect a bunch of business cards from artists, bought some stuff (a bee, some postcard-sized art, and copies of Ensign Sue Must Die and its inevitable sequel, Ensign Two: The Wrath Of Sue, which you were warned about here) before checking out the very small art show. How small? Well...it was tucked away in the back corner of Artists' Alley, in a space about one-sixth the size of the entire hall, and seemed to contain mostly stuff intended for the charity auction. I did see a couple of absolutely marvelous little pieces that I was VERY tempted to bid on, which were (so far as I know) unique Star Wars/Sailor Moon crossover paintings done in a style very reminiscent of the original Hildebrandt Brothers poster for Star Wars. After that, I headed over to Nando's for dinner, where I made the mistake of preceding dinner with eight ounces of a very kick-ass Portuguese Red, and after that I pretty much ate everything in sight, despite not being all that impressed by the Mozambican hot sauce they use there. :(
Afterwards, I wandered back to the Gaylord, watched several episodes of the cheesy but enjoyable Cutey Honey until I started to nod off, at which point I told Mark I was heading back to the hotel. We headed back, stopping at the 7-11 en route, and sure enough no sooner had we settled down to crash than I got a call to retrieve one of our roommates. That done, I finally got to bed around 0100.
Sunday morning we got all packed up and were actually out of the hotel by 1100, including time spent eating a leisurely breakfast. Made it in time to catch the last half of the only academic panel I made it to all weekend (the other one, on religion, was full up by the time I got there) which was about Japanese political history from the Meiji Restoration through the start of WW2, and it was okay, although I think the grad student speaker suffers from the mirroring fallacy and a severe misunderstanding of American military history in his assumption that had things gone slightly differently, WW2 would have stayed in Europe while the Great Pacific War would have been a series of short skirmishes between Japan, China, and the colonial powers over who got to carve up China and the Dutch East Indies. After that, Kevin McKeever of Robotech.com gave an excellent panel with the misleading title "Do Anime Conventions Have a Future?" Obviously, the answer is yes, just as we still have a number of the old-fashioned book & magazine-oriented SF conventions around, but McKeever and his co-panelist had a lot to say on the growing pains of big conventions like Anime Boston, Anime Expo, Otakon, Katsucon, etc. I tweeted a bunch of stuff while it was going on; looking back at it the things that particularly got my attention were the expansion of anime cons to cover geek culture in general (this was definitely on display in the hallways, dealers' room, and artists' alley, to say nothing of the programming schedule), the VIP badge controversy, culture clashes between traditional media con practices (where guests charging for autographs is okay) and traditional SF/anime con practices (where it isn't), and the consequences of getting bigger and needing to bring in the pros to handle things like registration. Good panel, which segued into some good post-panel talk and eventually a return to artists' alley, where I put down money on a couple of commissions, bought a WWBDD ("What Would Big Daddy Do?") clip-on badge, and then hung out on the second floor letting the phone recharge while reading The Road to Wigan Pier and doing some people-watching. Eventually Mark and I took off, picked up our bags from the hotel, and did the traditional post-Katsu buffet pillage (this year in Falls Church because the Alexandria Great Steak & Buffet was just too damn full) before heading downtown to Union Station to drop him off.
tl;dr - while there was a buttload of programming (six panel tracks, not including the three academic tracks or the kids' track or the three workshop tracks) and four enormous video rooms, not a whole lot of it was relevant to my interests, and it seemed that way too much of what I would have liked to have seen was at some God-awful hour of the morning, i.e. before noon. There was also (aside from the academic panels) not much in the way of adult programming that wasn't about sex. If I were going to be staying in the DC area past next summer, I might be motivated to get involved and change some of this, but I'm not. Going to have to think long and hard about whether I want to do this again next year, especially with the prospect of more expensive hotel space.