It was my first time attending Katsucon - it was my first time on the east coast, period - and it was truly a special con that I won’t be forgetting any time soon. But let’s start at the beginning…Or if you don't have ample time on your hands to read my extremely long report, check out my con video at the end.
In 2011, I was pretty burnt out on cosplay and, after Fanime, I decided to take a 9 month hiatus. By the time Katsucon rolled around, I had finally regained my momentum and was more excited to cosplay than I had been in a long time. Also, WCS announced that they would be holding their preliminary competition at Katsucon and I was so pumped to get to judge alongside the past WCS teams, most of whom I had never met.
The icing on the cake was when my friend Krystal had made the last-minute decision to attend the con. With all of the WCS action going on, I don’t think I could have enjoyed it nearly as much without her by my side. All of that mixed with the anticipation of experiencing something completely new and meeting new people left me feeling pretty freaking excited.
Thursday When I finally got to the con, I was not disappointed. I arrived late Thursday night and, after puttering around for a while trying to figure out how to get from the airport to the hotel, I hopped on a shuttle and we drove the short trip to the convention center. My first real glimpse of the convention center came when I looked out the glass elevator onto the floor below – I think I said “holy crap” out loud – it was beautiful! The first person I saw was Laura, who met me up at my room. Although I had been keeping up with her online, I had not seen her since we left Japan in 2010 and I was so happy to see her! We chatted for a bit and wandered over to Baja Fresh to get some food. As we walked around, I was able to gain a better understanding of the enormous size of the convention center and the surrounding area. Did I mention I was excited?
Laura and I wandered back up to my room, where we hung out for a while by ourselves, until Ed(!) joined us. Shortly after, a representative from the Anime News Network stopped by to interview Ed and Laura about WCS. I just sort of waddled around awkwardly, unpacking my suitcases and trying to be quiet while listening to their conversation. That was one of the first moments I really thought to myself, “With all of this publicity, I really do not envy this year’s WCS contestants.” Although I was able to hide behind the security of the judges table this time around, the pressure and anxiety of trying out for WCS is something I’ll never forget and my heart went out to all the contestants. So dear participants, please know that a creepy girl was thinking about you at that moment, worrying about your sanity and saluting you.
As soon as the interview ended, I ran downstairs to meet up with the girls in my Idolm@ster group. We organized the group on facebook and had spent the past couple of months working as a group to coordinate our costumes, since we all live in different parts of the country. We also learned the dance, READY! We had no real purpose for learning the dance, other than being big weeaboos and just ~wanting to dance.~
Meeting the girls in person was one of those very bizarre, fleeting moments of “I’ve talked to you online but it’s so STRANGE that you really exist!!” We got over it very quickly though and Katie, Alli, Andrea and I ran through the dance, while Sam and Yoko acted as our Producer-san(s). It became obvious very quickly that, overall, our memorization of the dance was mediocre as best. We had a lot of fun dancing though so whatever - mission accomplished!
During our rehearsal, Chris arrived! Cue squealing and hugging. Shortly after that, we ran into James, Kevin and Sakura. What a broad variety of people in such a small space - Canadian, West coast, East coast, Southern, Midwest – definitely a “small world” moment. Around that time, Megan, Jessie and Aaron arrived so we went downstairs to help them unload their car. We only chatted for a bit, as they had some WCS stuff to take care of, so Chris, James and I went back down to explore the convention center. It was already pushing 2AM so we did a quick walk-through and went back up to my room. There, we found Sonnya who was one of my roommates for the weekend. I had never had a chance to really TALK to Sonnya before but I knew I loved her almost immediately. She, Chris, James and I were eventually joined by Laura and the five of us sat around talking until almost 5AM. It was only Thursday and my sleep schedule was already thrown to the wind.
Friday Krystal is crazy and took a red-eye from Portland and arrived at the hotel shortly after 9AM. After a quick shower, I went downstairs to find her – more hugs and squealing were had. We dropped off her bags in the room and met up with Megan, Chris and James so we could venture outside for food. For some ungodly reason, Potbelly didn’t open until 11AM so we went back to Baja Fresh. We just sat around eating and being silly for a while until I had to go back to the hotel to change into my Idolm@ster costume. Overall, I am pretty happy with my costume. It makes me look a little plump (especially standing next to the tall/thin girls in the rest of the group) but I’m happy with the construction. Also, the group was a blast! I totally lucked out getting to cosplay with such talented girls because everyone looked amazing. We spent half of the time hidden away in one of the rooms doing the dance because we were dressed like pinky sparkly idols - what else were we supposed to do? Oh yes, take pictures, we did a lot of that too!
After taking pictures for a while, Ackson offered to film our dance. I am such a freak because while I perform often, I get so nervous beforehand – my knees were shaking. D: We did the dance twice and gathered a small crowd. The nerves quickly wore off and I had fun and, hey, we didn’t look half bad! Eventually we parted ways but decided that we definitely want to do another Idolm@ster group in the future. Katsu 2013?
Afterward, Krystal (dressed in her new Utena costume) and I went back upstairs to change into our WCS judging costumes, Homura from Madoka Magica and Rise from Persona 4, respectively. We ran downstairs with Chris (who was working as press/staff for WCS) and waited anxiously in the room for the contestants to start filing in. There were 22 entries this year and we spent a significant amount of time talking with each team. We judged for several hours (wolfing down food in between entries – sorry!) and finally finished sometime around 11PM. When we were released, I made a beeline to EBK to grab some quick photos of Rise before heading back to the room to deliberate further with the judges.
Regarding the entries, I think we were all a bit stunned at the amount of work, time and money that went into many of the costumes. Dumbfounded, awestruck, inspired - I mean really you guys, it was unreal. There was so much talent right off the bat that we knew we would have a tough competition on our hands. After chatting about the entries for a bit, the conversation dissolved into discussion of WCS in general. I think we all bonded over our shared experiences, which is something I really haven’t done with anyone besides Krystal. And then Renee sang and my heart stopped and I fell in love with her. SO MUCH TALENT EVERYWHERE I LOOKED, SWEET JESUS!
After that, we all changed into regular clothes and headed downstairs. Although it was already quite late, there were large groups of people standing around, chatting and drinking. I was very surprised that I knew more people on the east coast than I realized. Well, “knew” as in “they are my friend on Twitter but we’ve never actually met.” There were a lot of those! It felt so nice to finally meet some of the people I had followed for years but had never had the opportunity to meet in person. I could list them all but this stupid thing is already long enough. Seriously though I’m already half way through page 3 and I’m still only on Friday?? Moving along…
Saturday Krystal and I woke up early to get photos of our Fushigi Yuugi costumes with Anna. Despite wearing the costumes a million times, we had never had a proper photoshoot and thought it was appropriate to pull them out one last time. After taking some photos, we went to the WCS general meeting where Laura flushed out the what/where/whys of the competition. Afterward, we wandered back to the room but we were locked out (Sonnya had our key) so we sat outside our room for a while, talking about WCS, while we waited for Sonnya to return.
Eventually, we got back inside and changed into some regular clothes to go in search of food. Surprisingly, although it was an odd time of day, every restaurant had nearly an hour wait. So again…back to Baja Fresh! That’s 4x now, for those of you keeping count. I just assume everyone is – it’s a very important detail.
After eating, I went back to the hotel with Chris to change into Rosette. I re-made nearly half of my Rosette costume for Youmacon 2010 but never received pictures from that con and was eager to finally get some of my own. Thankfully, Kevin agreed to take some photos for me and he found some REALLY great settings for Chrono Crusade – brick walls, lanterns, etc. Originally, Tess had planned to join me as Chrono but, due to some complications with her wig, she wasn’t able to join me. Next time!!
WCS Preliminaries Due to extenuating circumstances, a few of the teams were unavailable to be judged with the rest of the groups on Friday, so the judges showed up early to judge them before the competition. Sadly, none of the groups showed up (effectively wasting 40 minutes of our time) so Krystal and I called it quits and went back to the room to change. We returned wearing Mytho and Thage and hung out in the green room with the WCS teams, popping in and out of groups, being social. Right before the show, the judges were ushered into the main programming room to our table, where we took some photos and chatted excitedly.
When the show started, I started to lose it. Laura chose to use the introduction song from the WCS 2010 finals as the opening to the show. Something about hearing the music through the loudspeakers mixed with the nervous energy buzzing all around me was oddly reminiscent of my time at WCS - I couldn’t help but get choked up. I know some of you (the rare, special breed who has made it this far) have probably had your fair share of eye rolls at my frequent emotional outbursts to WCS. You see, one of the really great things about this whole experience was realizing that I’m not the only one! Looking at the judges in that moment, I knew they felt the exact same way. Hell, even the PARTICIPANTS had bonded over their shared experience. Let the trolls of the internet say what they want about WCS but it does a damn good job of bringing people together. Krystal put it perfectly when she said:
“I thought that I would never feel anything like I did at WCS Finals, ever again. I was wrong. Lightning CAN strike twice, and even if this was different, it had that same feeling. We all just bonded together from this common experience, and even watching all of the teams that competed this year, and from what I’ve heard talking to some of them, it was like a tiny encapsulation of the experience I had in Japan; people brought together by a common goal, and a common passion, so that in the end, sure, there’s disappointment from not winning, but the experience has brought you closer to so many others, in a way you don’t often experience in a normal masquerade environment."
The show itself was very impressive and the quality of the performances went above and beyond my expectations. Going into the experience, I had hoped that there would be one clear winner but that was not the case at all. Although the judges were in agreement regarding the top 3 teams, picking a winner was very challenging. We deliberated over the top two teams for a long time, considering every option, every detail. No matter who we picked, I knew that only one team could win, even though so many teams did an amazing job. That reality weighed heavy on my heart and it’s that same reality that makes every team deserving of praise because it takes a lot of freaking courage to put yourself in a situation where you have a 95% chance of walking away with NOTHING. As Krystal said in her <a href="http://sumikins.tumblr.com/post/18353689427/katsucon-2012">con report</a>, I don’t know if I will be able to judge again in the future, at least not any time soon. It’s so difficult!
After the deliberation was over, we filed back on stage, in agreement of our final decision. We all took hands, as Laura announced the Top 10...then 3rd…then 2nd…finally, the winner was announced: Katie and Diana with their Princess Tutu performance! Katie burst into tears at the announcement, causing Krystal and myself to cry, because we were so happy for them and because it was so similar to our reaction in 2010. We congratulated them and they looked beautifully befuddled as they tried to make sense of what had happened. We took some pictures and eventually filed off stage.
Afterward, we talked with one of the groups in the hallway for a bit, then I went to find EBK to get some pictures of Thage before changing. We all got into regular clothes and headed over to Leonard’s party, even though we were all exhausted. We socialized and I ate about a million french fries, which is pretty much the perfect night for me. Around 5AM, we went back to the room to get ready for bed.
My head was still swimming with thoughts about the competition and thankfully, Krystal’s was too, so we hashed it out for a bit. It has been such an emotional weekend I really just needed to take the time for it to sink in.
Sunday We woke up, checked out, and said goodbye to Krystal and Laura, who had flights to catch. I hate goodbyes! Afterward, we packed up Aaron’s car and he, Jessi, Megan, Chris and I headed to downtown DC to explore the monuments. It was a chilly day and we had an exceptionally hard time locating food but we still had a lot of fun. I had never been to DC before and I quickly learned that a large majority of our knowledge of DC was based solely on movie references. “Oh yeah, that’s where _____ happened so that means that the building we’re looking for must be over there!” Sadly this knowledge was not particularly helpful and we stumbled from place to place, unsure of where we were and unable to find the White House. We sure laughed at a lot of things though…like the Liberty Squirrel.
When we were out of time, Chris and I got dropped off at the airport and we said our goodbyes. Chris and I hung out for a bit but due to some horrible luck, Chris ended up missing his flight. I stayed with him as long as I could but eventually had to hop on my flight back to Chicago. I don’t remember anything about it…I assume I slept the whole time, per usual.
Final thoughts FANTASTIC CON! Yeah, that’s it – I’ve rambled enough already!
THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU to all the wonderful people who made this con memorable. I will see you all again next year!!