Katuscon XX 2014

On St. Valentine’s Day February 14th, I attended Katsucon XX for the first time. The actual con and the journey to get there were both something that I will never forget. A lot of my friends had originally planned on getting to their respective on Thursday, but the sudden change in weather especially for the Northeast forced a lot of people to move their plan up and leave on Wednesday. 

In NY we’d been getting hit on and off with snow storms, but I figured that since my bus was leaving at 3:45am I had a better chance of avoiding any storms and the roads would be clear by then. Unfortunately the impending snow storm had other ideas. On the night of my departure from NYC it rained a bit, but no snow had fallen. On that same night I had forgotten something very important for my trip, but luckily for me the subways were running smoothly enough that I was able to go back and forth between Brooklyn and Manhattan with ease. On my arrival back into Manhattan, the entire city was already blanketed with snow with no end to the snowfall in sight. It was basically the worst surprise party ever. 

Thankfully I was lucky enough to be traveling with my good friend and cosplayer/photographer Becki Ortiz, so I at least had some company. I had met other convention attendees who had been at the Port Authority since Tuesday/Wednesday, including another photographer friend of mine Gerardo Flores. The inability of the Greyhound bus company to get us on a bus or even update us appropriately really made our entire night and day a horrible experience. Mind you buses to Canada and Syracuse left hours ahead of us, while the storm was still in effect. When a bus finally arrived, everyone that had a bus ticket to DC for 7am that day was allowed to board the bus while the rest of us had to wait for the next one. I swear a riot was about to break out if Greyhound had not gotten that second bus in the station almost immediately. While being able to sleep on that bus never felt so good, it was not the best way to start the trip but we got there safe and sound.

One thing I should note, ss of Monday March 3rd, I regret to inform everyone that Katsucon 19 committee chairwoman Christine Larson suffered from sarcoidosis, an auto-immune disorder that diminished her lung capacity by 30%, which is why she was in a motorized wheelchair. Because that's a genetic auto-immune disorder (i.e., you can't "catch" it), she had to take immuno-suppressants to prevent her own immune system from attacking her lungs, which made her very vulnerable to things that normal people would only call "a cold." She was recovering from a bout of pneumonia before the convention, but caught the flu a few days after the convention. It was a combination of those four factors, plus a few other autoimmune disorders her family suffers from, that finally did her in. As it was, the doctors didn't give her more than a few more years of life anyway. She worked Katsucon as a labor of love, and her last memories among the fans and staff she loved were happy ones. If you would like to help out her family with the medical bills here is the link to their GoFundMe.

Checking into the Gaylord National was nice, easy, and surprisingly quick. I thought for sure that there would be a wait for our room to be ready. Once we were checked in, I was amazed by all the cosplayers wandering and hanging out in the lobby. But seeing the Atrium of the Gaylord from the elevator ride up was just incredible. It was definitely a sight to behold. Unlike last year, this year Katsucon did not share the Gaylord with another con. However, there was a wedding party floating around the convention taking their wedding photos in the Atrium of the Gaylord. What I found amusing about seeing this happy couple take their wedding photos was that it almost felt in place with everything that was going on. But I’m sure for the couple they must have been just as amused to be surrounded by all the costumes/cosplays. Cosplayers and con goers probably thought that the couple were cosplaying as well. 

I found my accommodations at the Gaylord to be excellent, but for some odd reason I had horrible reception in my room, the Wifi was just ok. While the area surrounding Katsucon was great, I thought it was weird that there weren't a lot of places that delivered food. There were places to go out to eat, but with the way I was feeling for most of the weekend, I really did not want to go wandering around looking for a place to eat. But with a convention heavy area, one would think that there'd be more than just 2 or 3 pizzerias. Cooking was an option if you were lucky enough to score a hotel/suite that had stoves.


The main event that everyone talks about at Katsucon, the Gazebo, was very beautiful in itself. Whether you were shooting in the Gazebo or in the general area, it was a great spot for photographs, and had an amazing view of the entire Atrium. Me personally I preferred the Atrium level. The fountain was amazing, especially at night. The way it was lit up, made for some amazing background colors at night. The very cool thing about the fountain was that it danced, so a few Legend of Korra cosplayers got an opportunity to showcase some fancy waterbending moves. The area around the fountain is like a mini village with bridges connecting areas together, brick layout walls, stone floors, small shops around, and garden areas within. Going out through the back of the hotel led you to the docks which had some cool decor itself.

Atrium view from the Elevator
Fountain at Night

I am sure I am one of the few that can say getting my pass was easy, but that’s only because I was press. The lines I saw for just regular and VIP passes was a “Holy Sh*t” Moment. There were 2 halls filled with people waiting in lines that did not move. According to a lot of my friends and other attendees there were on these lines for hours at a time and that included both Friday and Saturday. A great thing that I loved about Katsucon was that throughout the entire con was that I able to run into my friends without having to play phone/text tag. A cool surprise was getting to meet Yaya Han and her Fiancé hanging out in the dealer’s room out of cosplay and out of booth, just walking around browsing. An even bigger surprise was meeting Kamui on Sunday in her beautifully crafted WarriorTier 5 World of Warcraft Armor right next to the Gazebo. Saturday for me was the best day.

 I wasn't 100%, but I felt a lot better than I did on Friday. Unfortunately, my roommate Becki got worst as the weekend went along and could only enjoy the con for a few hours each day. I started my Saturday off at the café buffet. The price of the café buffet was kind of high like $25, but I felt, at least in my opinion, you got your money’s worth. The group shoots going around the convention were just impressive. The amount of work that went into everyone’s cosplays was amazing. And they went on from morning all through the night. Some shoots were going until 3am, and others were starting up at 5am. Made me wish I had 2 more of me to cover everything. But that would mean 10 times more work for me in editing. One of the most memorable moments of Katsucon, for me at least, was seeing a cosplay couple in the middle of a photo shoot and out of nowhere a marriage proposal. I assume she said yes by the loud shriek she let after he popped the question. 

One big group of cosplayers that I’d like to give a nice shout out to are the guys at Geeklurv. Geekluvr is a dating site dedicated to We're a dating site dedicated to helping you find love and long-lasting relationships in a safe and friendly environment regardless of your gender identity, sexual orientation, race, religion, political outlook, fetish, fandom, or OTP. Founded by Quincy McCalpine, Geeklurv employs cosplayers as a way to market their geek dating site to other fellow geeks and cosplayers. Geeklurv cosplayers that were in attendance and spreading the love:  KO Cosplay, Byndo Gehk, Melfina Cosplay, Electric Lady, JouninK Cosplay, Miss Gidget, Pwnstar Cosplay, Sarah Fong, Sistercacao Cosplay, Miss Marquin, NYC Assassin, Amanda DawnCosplay, Miramay Cosplay, Spectra Marvelous, Lockhart Productions, ChelphieCosplay, and Cozpho Photography.
GeekLurv Katsucon Banner 

Of course outside of cosplay and the sites of the Gaylord hotel, there were a ton of great panels hosted by some great people. One panel I regret missing was the Invader Zim panel on Friday that was being hosted by the voice actors of Zim and Gir, Richard Horvitz and Rikki Sims. I still re-watch those old episodes on Nickelodeon, and they are still as awesome as I remember. For those that were looking to be more informed in their panels, The World of Vocaloid hosted by Aki Glancy a.k.a EmapthP, an illustrator for the Vocaloid Avanna. So for those who needed a Vocaloid guide here is where you would start. For cosplayers looking to do more with their cosplays, there was “Dyeing for Cosplay” a panel that taught you how to dye fabrics. Going through basic step by step dye processes and even some advance techniques such as using your washer to dye clothes and not stain the rest of your laundry. An early morning panel on Saturday featured internationally known cosplayers Kamui and Yaya Han, discussing cosplay culture in other countries. Kamui hosted 2 other panels: one on Prop Making and another on making armor, going over important steps and of course taking questions. Other panels of note:

  •  For those of us that don't cosplay but are very into Japanese culture or just want their picture taken in a very beautiful fashion, Kimono photo shoots were being done in the Japanese Cultural Institute (JCI). Photos were being taken by Kuniko-san. Everyone wishing to participate in the photo shoot must abide by a few simple rules: 1) Participants must be smaller than XXL, as to not stretch the fabric; 2) Participants must be showered and not wear any deodorants, colognes, perfumes, or anything with a strong scent. This event was open for everyone; male, female, and kids.
  •  For those of us that do like taking photos of cosplayers and for cosplayers who like cosplaying but having trouble posing, there’s “Posing for Cosplayers and Photographers”. A panel hosted by photographers and cosplayers Ger Tysk, Han Pan, and Lizzy Denning discussing posing and lighting basics as well as poses that are specific to character types.
  • For anyone looking to get into voice acting or were interested in seeing how it was done, Bill Rogers and Greg Houser were hosting “Voice Actors’ Weekend Workshop” parts I-III. Pre selected participants will go through the same process most voice actors go through and in front of panel attendees; train, audition, and work on a voice acting project. They go through each step with detail and really gave the audience and the participants a great time. Getting to see how little things make a big difference in how a person should convey a character. In one session the character on screen was counting his steps up this huge staircase, and for most of us we would think tired, but for this scene they wanted the voice actors to portray the character more in shape and gearing up for more steps to climb. Seeing how big a difference that made was very cool in my book.

Aside from the rave, if music is your thing then there’s nothing like a live concert and this year’s musical guest were California Band “Lolita Dark”, Chin Hamaya’s Taiko Drummers, and the Symphonic Anime Orchestra. Fronted by Shibuya-born singer/songwriter Rayko, Lolita Dark provides the soundtrack & visuals for a world where light & dark intersect, as well as East meets West. Band members include: Rayko as Lead Vocal, Rhythm Guitar & Keyboard, May also lends her vocals and is on Keyboard , Patrick Cabrera is your Lead Guitarist, Rain Balen on Bass, Joey Felix on Drums, and Kaoru Enjoji as Support Vocals and Keyboard. Their first album “Tokyo Status” was released in 2012 and featured a wide range of intensely personal, yet universal meditations on love, addiction, promise, and despair. You can hear more of their music in the upcoming Steam Punk web series “Tinker” where their song“Mad Times”, from the "Tokyo Status" album, has been chosen for the series theme and “Wounded Angel”, the recently released song by Lolita Dark, has become the official theme song for Anime California 2014. Lolita Dark's second album, “Queen's Decade”, will be released in the spring of 2014, shortly before they perform at Zenkaikon 2014 as well as open for Gacharic Spin at Tekko 2014. For those looking for something more classical The Symphonic Anime Orchestra also performed a melody of classic and current video game and anime music. The big piece titled "Video Game ADD" covered a range of video game music from Super Mario Bros, Legend of Zelda, etc. And for a mix of traditional and modern music, Chin Hamaya's Taiko Drummers' gave a great performance. They played the theme from Tron, the "Titanic" love song "My heart will go on" and allowed for audience members to come up on stage and perform with them as well.
Lolita Dark featuring Kaoru Enjoji at Katsucon 2014 Courtesy of Lolita Dark

The biggest cosplay events of Katsucon were the Cosplay Masquerade and the World Cosplay Summit Eastern Qualifiers. Both events require skits to be performed, but the World Cosplay Summit are teams of 2 people while Masquerades can range anywhere from 1-15 people. The World Cosplay Summit is exclusive to certain cons each year and it leads to a final showdown in Japan with representatives from various countries each competing for a grand prize. Masquerades held by almost every convention and are self contained, meaning that competing in one con's Masquerade doesn't have any effect on competing in another convention's masquerade. 

This year's MC for the Katuscon XX Masquerade was all around good guy and cosplayer Mario Bueno cosplaying as Attack on Titan character Jean Kirstein. But his reign as MC was cut short by Darth Vader's ruthless invasion and force choke. Even though he was met with opposition in the form of 2 sexy nurses and Big Daddy T, Darth Vader ruled supreme. To commemorate his victory he saw fit to gaze upon the audience with his own 2 eyes, revealing himself to be the original host of the Katsucon Masquerade Rob Lance. A lot of nicely choreographed skits this year, but one interesting skit that caught my attention was a Left for Dead skit. It started out as a trip to the movies to actually being in said movie, so it went from stage, to screen projection and back again. I found it to be very unique and funny in its own right. What was great about some of the skits at this year's Masquerade was their use of stage props. In a Godzilla skit they used ribbons to simulate Godzilla's fire breath and Mothra's webbing. In the FullMetal Alchemist skit they used pop up curtains decorated to look like flames. You could see how much work everyone put into their skits, but "Best in Show" went to Godzilla vs Mothra and it was a well deserved win. Great set, great cosplays by everyone involved. 
Best in Show Winner: Godzilla

 Even though "Vader" choked him out at the Masquerade, Mario Bueno, was able to continue his MC duties at the World Cosplay Summit. There he kept it laxed and high spirited, even throwing in some Gangnam style for extra fun. There were 8 entries in this Qualifier round, with each skit ranging from the dramatic to the comedic and all were very well done. Congratulations to Wild card teams: Kiwi Teacup and Kirayume and to first place winner: Bejitaballz. To the complete Masquerade and World Cosplay Summit check out The Fan's POV youtube or click these links: Katsucon Masquerade & Katsucon WCS
Wild Card Teams: Kiwi Teacup and Kirayume and first place winner: Team Bejitaballz (left to right in photo) 

This being my first Katsucon, and hopefully not my last, was a great experience, and a lot of fun. To see friends who I wouldn't normally be able to see because of distance is always a plus. There were so many ways to enjoy this con that it made braving the horrible weather and being sick kind of worth it. I'm hoping that next time the weather won't be as bad and I won't be as sick. 

Costume and Party SuperCenter

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