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Maid Cafe

Katsucon 2014: Cherry Tea Maid Cafe

Maid Cafe

Bamboo is really, really intelligent. There’s a thoughtful demeanor about him that conjures some mystery. He spent practically the entire time listening to my colleague Mori, rarely speaking unless a question was posed towards him. He was perfunctory.

That’s not to say he was a bad butler. In fact, just the opposite. He immediately sensed Mori’s gregarious nature and proceeded accordingly, serving the role of an engaged audience making succinct comments when suitable.

All proceeds from the Katsucon Cherry Tea Maid Cafe go to Relay For Life and the American Cancer Society. Even if it did not, I was perplexed by Mori’s reluctance to pay $1 per game. The maid cafe is the place where one visits to indulge. It’s silly to have money as an objection.

I played four games of Connect Four with Bamboo thanks to the generous funding from Mori.* Bamboo showed no pretense of letting me win. He won twice and we stalemated once. That was the highlight for me. The one raffle ticket from my sole win was just an added bonus.

Maid Cafe

The food proved better in appearance than taste but that’s never the focus at the maid cafe. The exorbitant prices mean the charity of choice benefit handsomely.

Katsucon changed venue from the bar restaurant upstairs to the Pienza located in the atrium of the Gaylord. The notable change in lighting may hold the most impact. Warmer and darker, it provided a more intimate ambience compared to the upbeat brightness of last year.

Unfortunately, the space seems to have shrunk. Located in the rear section of Pienza, it comprises roughly a quarter of all available tables. No doubt the parent establishment wanted to ensure it will not have to turn away regular customers. The section occupied by the Maid Cafe is fairly well hidden. Shrubbery blocks sight of the busy walkway infront while architecture elements does same from the rest of the venue.

The Katsucon Maid Cafe continues to exercise good judgement in requiring an advanced reservation. This allows the maid or butler to provide undivided service to the patron. It’s magical to have your very own servant all to yourself for an hour. And I am grateful that they honored our reservation, even when we were fifteen minutes late. That said, I was disappointed that we were not offered a choice of servant like last year. I really preferred a maid. Bamboo is still great though!

It’s a shame I only visited on Friday. Katsucon Cherry Tea Maid Cafe remains a mandatory stop for any attendee.

More pictures here.

Maid Cafe

 

 

 

* I had no cash on me.

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Katsucon 2014: Tom Stidman

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Tom Stidman is the first ever Fan Guest at Katsucon. A staple in fandom for over a decade and highly involved with local conventions, he had four panels this year covering various materials. He did an excellent interview with Otaku Journalist before Katsucon XX so I just wanted to catch up briefly with him.

The Paper: Tell me about your Katsucon as a fan guest.

Tom Stidman: It’s my best Katsucon. Absolutely fun. I only had to do panels so [it was] very relaxing. It also served as a testbed for me in making better panels. It’s a great place to learn to make panels for bigger cons.

TP: In your interview with Lauren (Otaku Journalist), you set out to provide “high quality programming” and being “a good representative to fandom”. How did you think you did?

TS: I did well on programming. I didn’t just want to do a Q and A, I wanted to bring more…I should do more. I promoted the con beforehand by reaching out [to the media]. I donated items to the charity auction. There’s always room to improve. It’s a learning experience.

TP: If you could do it again, what would you change if anything?

TS: [Exhales and ponders a bit] I may not change anything. I learned stuff that can translate into conrunning. Definitely won’t change the experience.

TP: What specifically did you learn that can translate over to running a con?

TS: I am sorry I cannot disclose details.

TP: No problem. Last question. What was the best part or moment of Katsucon for you?

TS: It’s hard to pick a best moment. There’s so many…. best to interact with folks, meet people, the other guests. Freedom is also great. Besides panels, I could do other things. Time is not on your side as a conrunner. It was much easier… I got to relax with friends.

Readers can find out where else fandom takes Tom via Twitter.

Karuta Forever: At a Real Life Karuta Demonstration

karuta

I was reading about a reporter’s visit to Chernobyl a few weeks ago. It’s fascinating for many reasons, especially given the fact that one probably wouldn’t have the opportunity to experience it. I felt the same way about karuta after having seen Chihayafuru. It’s a sport played in the land of the Rising Sun that I figured I would never have the pleasure of playing or spectating.

That is, until this past week.

Braving the snow and freezing temperatures, a few dozen people gathered at the JICC on Wednesday for a karuta demonstration. I sat in the front row and toyed with my shiny new karuta cards when it caught Ms. Stone’s attention. She became more intrigued at my getup as I was wearing a medical mask. I sighed heavily inside, like all the other times where no one recognized my Arata cosplay at conventions.

Her voice was fading in and out, but a sudden tilt of her head coupled with a twinkle in her eye ignited a glimmer of hope in me. She continued to nod her head and at that moment, my heart probably skipped a beat. She got it!

Ms. Stone heads the DC Karuta Club. Yes, there is such a thing. She began with a lecture about the origins of karuta. It was highly informative but I was getting impatient staring at the tatami mats behind her Powerpoint presentation.

Thankfully, I didn’t have to wait long. Entering on stage was Kyoko-san and Nanami, both attired in hakamas. It’s as if Chihayafuru magically materialized before me! I had to pull my mask down to intake more oxygen.

What proceeded next is best told in motion pictures. (Kyoko-san is on the left.)

Sugoi ne?! The only complaint I have feels unfair. Ms. Stone aims to educate the audience on karuta so her interruptions are only natural. It did interfere with my enjoyment of the match given that I am familiar with the sport.

After the lovely and amazing demonstration where I witnessed karuta in person (yeah, I am still excited), Ms. Stone insisted on dividing the audience into two groups, where those who could read Hiragana would play kyogi karuta, and those who couldn’t moved outside for Obosan Mekuri.

prizeThe latter is a karuta variation that requires pure luck. Fortunately for me, luck is just one of my many skills. Round one included three groups where the winner advanced into the championship. Needlessly to say, I trumped two others to take first place ^_^ The best part was the prize, as shown on the left.

I take that back. The best part was learning the game from Kyoko-san, who just flew in from Japan the day before. And my insistence on explaining my cosplay after she inquired about my shirt. I think I took her apathy for misunderstanding XD

This would be the end of the story except the reader can see that more words follow.

Anohana sold out before I got to the theater, so my Saturday began on a sour note. Mere hours later, I got an email that would not only turn around my day but bring more delight than I ever thought possible. Kyoko-san wrote hoping that I could attend the New Year’s celebration hosted by the JCAW on Sunday where she and Ms. Stone would have another karuta demonstration. An invitation one cannot refuse.

Once again I will let the motion pictures do the talking. (More here.)

I want to express my gratitude towards Ms. Stone and Kyoko-san, as well as Nanami and Ms. Stone’s son (the reader!) for giving me the opportunity to experience karuta first hand. It’s a dream come true ever since Chihayafuru entered my life. Speaking of which, at the conclusion of Wednesday night, Ms. Stone mentioned that she had a dream.

“I hope in an year or ten, the U.S. will hold a karuta tournament and the winner would go on to compete in Japan.”

I am going to try to make her dream come true, just like she did for mine. But we need your help. Let’s spread our love of karuta!

12 Days of Christmas: Otakon Cosplay Fail?

Chihayafuru

This anime moment is not exactly a fond one. It was Saturday night at Otakon and I was hanging out with Linda at Jenag’s and Hazu’s hotel room where a who’s who of anibloggers were throwing a party. It was rather amusing because someone had to remind the group to keep our voices down every five minutes so we didn’t get busted.  Unexpectedly, I ran into Yuyu there of all places, which was cool. (We did get busted eventually but that’s not the sad memory for me.)

Mike Toole was there. He had no shortage of those seeking conversation with him. I waited until there was a lull before approaching him. I placed my medical mask on before proceeding to fish out the karuta cards AnimatedInk generously lent me earlier that morning to complete my cosplay. I showed Mike the cards. There was a quick twinkle in his eye before he cheerfully announced to the room that I had karuta cards on me. The room did not care. Still, this did not bother me. We introduced ourselves and I waited for him to comment on my cosplay.

Instead, he stared blankly at me. He had been drinking the entire time so I guess that had an effect. I was still very downtrodden. At a con as enormous as Otakon, it’s already depressing enough that no one cosplays the anime of the year but I can grudgingly accept that. Mike, however, is a big Chihayafuru fan. He tweeted about it regularly when the show was airing. Of all the people, I expected him to recognize my cosplay. Maybe it sucked and he didn’t want to hurt my feelings XD After all, GendoMike didn’t recognize it either ;_;

Anyone who is still wondering about my cosplay should watch the show again!

12 Days of Christmas: No Katsucon Cosplay Photograph

Katsucon

My first memorable anime related moment from this year would have to be Katsucon. I already wrote about it here so I won’t repeat myself. Instead I am taking this chance to mention something that occured at said con that was overshadowed previously.

It’s actually a miniscule moment. It lasted maybe ten seconds at most yet, needless to say, it held a lot of significance for me.

It was the first time someone declined my request for a photograph.

I don’t even know what she was cosplaying but the effort was obvious and I wanted to recognize it. She felt apologetic which she shouldn’t have to be. Similar to the cosplay != consent campaign, cosplaying does not automatically obligate one to allow photos. This is why I am really annoyed by those tourists staying at hotels during a con and taking photos from afar. To be fair, they don’t know better but it’s really common courtesy to always ask before taking anyone’s photo. I digress.

I simply said ok, hopefully accompanied with a smile. I didn’t think much of it at the time at all. It wasn’t until sometime afterwards that I realized that it was the first refusal I got and that definitely brought on a smile. I consider it one of the rites of passage as a con attendee. I would wear the moment as a badge.

Tigercon 2013

Tigercon

Tigercon is proof that awesome things can come in small AND FREE packages. I regret that this past Saturday was my first time. A convention organized by the anime club at Towson University, it occupies most of two floors of one campus building. It’s not small. It’s tiny. The turnout, however, beguiles expectations. All seven hundred badges were gone roughly three hours after start.

The amount of fun also defied expectations. Besides the band, there were no “guests” to speak of. Half of the panels featured topics I had no interest in. The only thing left to do were the dealer’s room, video game room and video programming. With so little to do, I am trying to determine how I still managed to thoroughly enjoy myself.

The concert is a good reason but that deserves its own article. Perhaps my expectations were too low? Or perhaps I have never been so flattered! It happened all too suddenly. Within my first hour of arrival, I received more hugs than my entire con going career. I think it was six. That’s one every ten minutes. (One friend even half mock shoved her friend away in order to get her turn.) I am fairly confident that the final tally (ten?) will prove greater than the number of hugs I will ever receive for the rest of said career (not counting this amazing con).

It wasn’t just hugs. I also received more compliments on my cosplay than all the other cons combined. And more people requested photos. I even got dragged into my first photoshoot. The avalanche of attention was a pleasant surprise.

Tigercon

I had just read Charles Dunbar‘s impression of NYCC the day before so I can’t help but feel, if I may be so bold, the Dunbar Phenomenon. In every respect, Tigercon is the opposite of NYCC. Except one. It is still a convergence of fandom. Just much, much cozier and without the claustrophobia.

This has more to do with Towson University than Tigercon but the building featured ungendered restrooms besides the typical binary! I knew I should’ve taken a picture. Really, really sugoi. The two panels are adjacent so noise pollution was a problem on several occassions. While the video rooms share the same setup, I did not encounter the noise issue there.

Considering the scarcity of space, there wasn’t really any traffic congestion to speak of. Of course all bets are off when people decide to take photos by the stairs. That said, there are multiple stairways so it’s literally seconds to take the long way. There’s a gigantic balcony of sorts on the second floor that serves as a good photo gathering besides the pond formation out front.

I have one single complaint. There were no Stocking cosplay. Technically, there was a lazy one who just did the trademark hair. It doesn’t count unless…stocking! Also, seriously, bag check for dealer and video game room is really annoying. Camera, wallet, phone and two hands. You do the math. Don’t worry. There was a line (seven people including non con goers) while I was trying to get food so you won’t miss out on that beloved con past time. Didn’t venture off campus so no report on that alternative.

Tigercon is a gem. Tom volunteers for it so it’s a vet there. It’s COMPLETELY free. Even parking. On one hand I recommend everyone to attend, then on another, I want to keep this treasure all to myself. Besides, I wonder if the magic can hold if it grows too big. Going to show up earlier next year to guarantee myself a badge.

Tigercon

More pictures here.

Anime USA 2013: Happy Memories

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It’s been over two weeks since Anime USA and I am in withdrawal. As I try to will the memories to the present so I may live it all over again, I am unsure why I love the capital’s convention as much as I do. It’s like the Mona Lisa. It compels me immensely but I can’t exactly articulate the thoughts and emotions that make it so.

My Cup of Tea and Ikemen Paradise certainly play a huge role. The magic of make believe speaks dearest to my heart. Some people dream about living a fairy tale. The patrons of the maid cafe and host club live in one! The melancholy absence of my maid Shiori and my butler Mr. Stanley conjures a greater loneliness than the word can contain.

Then there are all the people that I met or ran into. My maid, my butler, Chris (Director of Properties and Publications), Ashley (Press Liaison), Chris (Press Coordinator), Tom, Jake (Social Media Associate,), Charles Dunbar, DJ SiSen, Hiroaki Inoue (who is trying to bring more Bubblegum Crisis to fruition!), Kit and Shizuka.

There’s also a koto and its magnificent owner, Kyoko Okamoto. Much like dressage, it takes a knowing eye to understand how incredibly effortless she looks performing when it’s anything but. As much as an engaging presenter as a koto player, she introduced the instrument beforehand so that we may better grasp the ensuing performances. The reader can enjoy one of several here. Beyond the lecture and performances, she invited members of the audience to try a hand at it. Sugoi!

Okamoto

And several panels presented by Charles Dunbar. Enough said.

The press room is much improved from last year. Spacious, elegant and efficient, it morphs beautifully into the ideal photoshoot setting as demonstrated by DJ SiSen. While I miss Lauren, the press staff handled things smoothly in their freshman year. I appreciate the increase in convention space. Cosplay Burlesque certainly deserves a bigger room than last year. Water remains as abundant as cosplayers.

Like Adam, the Vice Chair, said at closing ceremonies, I want Anime USA to grow. Meanwhile, I really welcome its intimate atmosphere that lends so well to a safe space. It’s a heartmaking sight to take in the wide array of fandom represented where judgements made involve craftsmanship not bodies, gender or the like.

food

Unfortunately, I experienced one black mark over the weekend. While waiting for the BACK-ON concert to begin, one of the volunteers I was conversing with made the choloroform rag meme. It was something mentioned at the Harumph Gentleman’s Guide panel. I told him it’s not funny at the time but didn’t expound on it further. The pepetuation of rape culture is simply not cool. I am not sure if it was brought up by the panelist or an attendee there.

Guidebook is the only complaint I have. It’s ironic when the paper copy is more accurate. I realize it was partly an issue on Guidebook’s part but precaution should have been taken to account for inevitable glitches.

I hear Anime USA has plans to move location due to the lack of parking nearby. It will be sad to have to relearn a new location after just getting to know the Marriott like a friend. The proximity of the hotel to food, public transportation and the National Zoo will be missed. The con has become like a lover that one hopes never changes.

Anime USA 2014 is October 3rd to 5th with a cosplay theme. I will treasure the memories of this year until then when I eagerly look forward to creating new ones.

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