Category Archives: Katsucon

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.

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.

Katsucon 2014 – Lolita Dark Concert

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Lolita Dark gave a tight performance to an unimpressed audience Saturday night at Katsucon.

Guitar work was solid and unremarkable. Vocals were indistinct, taking on an almost shoegazer-like quality. The bass and drums worked together well on some of their older songs, interweaving their notes to create a driving beat. The meter of songs was instantly recognizable, even classic, though the chord progressions were anything but. In many ways, that exemplified Lolita Dark – a technologically and culturally hip reworking of a rock formula as old as the Rolling Stones.

Media-savvy and brisk-paced, the band paused for the briefest of explanations of their songs and reminders to like their Facebook page or visit their website before launching into more. Lead singer Ray’s harmonies were operatic, even shrill at times. Where her gestures were sharp, imperative, forceful, keyboardist May’s movements were bubbly and effusive. Bassist Rain played his part to the hilt, contributing no vocals but strutting along the stage. Drummer Joey and rhythm guitarist Patrick, while technically flawless, were also flavorless.

In many bands, the effect would seem overly prissy, even sophomoric, but Lolita Dark delivered the occasional apology without giving away their hard-edged passion. Alas, the audience’s lack of familiarity worked against the band. Though visually flawless, bearing costumes inspired by cyberpunk and – what else – gothic Lolita, Lolita Dark struggled to engage the con-weary audience. Cosplayers leaned on props, texting, and only seemed to muster up the energy to engage in fist-pumping or baton-waving when prodded by the band, or for the final song, a cover of Rage Against the Machine’s ‘Killing in the Name.’ When the set was over, over 80% of the fans filed out, not even waiting for an encore.

Lolita Dark has the potential, and they are developing the connections. They lack only the audience. Time will tell if there is truly support for US-based J-rock.

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.

Katsucon 2013: Cherry Tea Maid Cafe

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Katsucon’s Maid Cafe, only accessible from the elevators near the first floor lobby, used the Gaylord National Harbor’s 18th floor nightclub as its venue. The location of the nightclub offered a beautiful view of the harbor. These elevators were far away from the rest of Katsucon’s programming, making it a commitment to attend the Maid Cafe. In fact, The Paper and I reserved a table in advance. For those who weren’t as fortunate to reserve a table, the Maid Cafe accepted walk-in reservations.

We were quite glad to have made an advance reservation, as we were able to skip the line of attendees waiting to get a walk-in reservation. However, The Paper wished that the Maid Cafe would not accept reservations until Katsucon’s schedule is revealed to avoid conflicts with other programming. After checking in at the Maid Cafe’s ground floor lobby, we were quickly escorted into an elevator up to the Maid Cafe. I wondered what kind of atmosphere Katsucon’s “Cherry Tea Maid Cafe” would have, as each Maid Cafe is different, and this would be my first time at Katsucon’s.

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As the doors of the elevator opened, a group of maids greeted us in unison, who had apparently been anticipating us. Unfortunately, I hadn’t anticipated such a reception, so I failed to get a picture! We were asked whether we wanted a maid, butler/host, cross-maid, or cross-butler. While I didn’t have much of a preference, The Paper really wanted a maid. Katsucon’s Maid Cafe didn’t allow patrons to pick their maid, and so we were assigned Akiko as our maid at the Cafe.

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Akiko mentioned that we had 45 minutes for our reservation, so we ordered our food rather early so we wouldn’t run out of time halfway through our food. The menu contained Japanese snacks and appetizers. I asked Akiko who prepared the food, as these were not the usual items on the Gaylord’s nightclub menu. She told me that the food was prepared by the Gaylord; apparently their chefs knew Japanese cuisine!

As we waited for our food, Akiko offered to play some games with us. Offered at a donation of $1 per game, The Paper decided to play Toggle, a game involving balancing plastic pieces on an unstable platform. I offered to take photos to record the game for posterity, and was informed that each picture taken at the Maid Cafe was $1. Raffle tickets for a chance to win manga and DVDs were also offered at $1 each. A cheery maid carrying a gigantic donation jar collected all donations. This year, Katsucon’s Maid Cafe contributed 100% of donations to Relay for Life.

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The Paper won the game, although it was a long and drawn out battle of wits! The timing couldn’t have been better either, as our food became ready moments after the game finished. The Paper ordered gyoza (dumplings), while I ordered onigiri (rice cakes). For a few minutes, I waited for Akiko to leave our table before eating, but to my surprise, she continued to chat with us. A harp player for fifteen years who was into League of Legends, she was planning a very appropriate cosplay as Arcade Sona (a League of Legends character who plays a musical instrument).

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It was around then that I realized that Katsucon’s Maid Cafe was different: the maids never left their assigned tables other than to get games or food, and each maid only served one table. A total of 85 maids and 8 butlers serve the 110 tables at the Maid Cafe. Since not all maids were working this shift, not all tables could be used, explaining the long queue at the Maid Cafe lobby downstairs. It also became clear why choosing a specific maid would have been difficult given how many the Maid Cafe employed.

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After realizing I hadn’t touched my food yet while The Paper had finished eating, I hastily ate my onigiri… it tasted pretty authentic, although the portions were small. As The Paper and Akiko started playing a game of Connect-4, I realized that the character of Katsucon’s Maid Cafe was more about the service rather than performances or dances. Rather, the way maids served only one table at a time, leading to extended conversation with our maid, resulted in a less restaurant-like experience and a more personal, memorable experience.

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But it wasn’t as if the maids wouldn’t do impromptu performances either! At one point of our stay at the Maid Cafe, Gangnam Style played back over the audio system, which had been playing various anisongs and popular Japanese tunes. Akiko found it irresistible to join an impromptu dance session with fellow maids and some patrons.

We tried to tip Akiko as we left the Maid Cafe, but tips to individual maids were not allowed. Instead, we could donate our tips to Relay for Life. Akiko was flattered even though she wasn’t directly tipped. I left the Maid Cafe a bit later than The Paper, so we didn’t get to discuss our experience at the Maid Cafe until after Katsucon. I didn’t realize that he was a little upset that he was never addressed as “Master” at Katsucon’s Maid Cafe.

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Even with a mishap like that, my impressions of the Katsucon “Cherry Tea Maid Cafe“ were positive. I haven’t been in a Maid Cafe that focused so much on service quality to the point of dedicating a maid per table. The pictures that The Paper and I took are available here, and I would go again next year!

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Katsucon 2013: World Cosplay Summit

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It’s rather fitting that my first time using a DSLR camera coincided with the World Cosplay Summit US Preliminary at Katsucon 19. This round determines the Eastern Qualifier that will fly to Anime Matsuri in Houston to compete in the WCS US Finals of which the winner will represent US on the world stage in Japan.

If that’s not intimidating enough, the lengthy rules and application process read like a formula. It certainly weeds out the amateurs which include me so I had no idea what to expect walking into the Main Hall. I did drop by the craftsmanship judging the day before but it was apparently closed to the public. In hindsight, I somewhat wish I had exercised my press privileges to observe the proceedings but it’s always better to err on the side of caution and not intrude.

Please forgive me for taking three paragraphs to introduce the host, Yaya Han, not that she needs any. She was lovely and engaging as Mistress of Ceremonies. Of course, her cosplay, like all her other ones over the weekend, begs for photos in its sublime magnificence.

TheYaya Summit proceeded at an efficient pace. Length between setups provided just enough time to make and send a tweet. Prefaced with a bio from each team, some of which were rather humorous, the MC would announce the body of work the performance is taken from. While I was unfamiliar with most of the sources, the skits remain entertaining for the most part.

Photos can speak to the craftsmanship of each costume so I won’t dwell on that. More notable are some of the props which rival or exceed the intricacies of cosplay. Every performance unfolded to music with well rehearsed timing. The timing of the curtain drop to dramatically reveal Saber in an reenactment of the summoning elicited a chorus of approval.

saberAt some point, I felt that the act of appearing from behind a prop became overused. That said, it’s fairly natural that distinct teams arrived at the same method given the alternatives. Unlike the Masquerade, points are awarded for faithfulness to the source so that places limits on the skit.

I have always wondered about the degree of creativity presented via art or mathematics. Art, without inherent rules, offers no boundaries for one to create. Mathematical laws force certain realities that one cannot escape. Is something more creative due to the restraints placed upon it? In other words, does it take more creativity to give birth out of nothing or to do so under strict structure.

Take a painting or a building for instance. Which is more creative? A van Gogh that blossomed from a blank canvas or Fallingwater that materialized within the confines of physics? In a related tangent, would the skit be easier if less or more time were allotted? All the teams deserve solid recognition for the hard work poured into the creativity demonstrated lavishly here.

Only one brief moment soured my experience. While a time limit is placed upon the staging of props, one of the teams gestured agitatedly with an impatient expression to a stage hand that made me frown. Perhaps there was miscommunication but it would have been more presentable to address the issue off stage.

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At the conclusion of performances, the judges retired backstage for deliberations. They took considerable time so all of the teams must have made great impressions. Meanwhile, WCS US performances in Japan from previous years were broadcasted on both screens to entertain the audience.

All the teams shared hugs after the announcement of the winners. And without further ado, the results are below.

1st Place: Karmaluna
2nd Place: Fox Gloves
3rd Place: Kiwi Teacup Studios
Organizer/Best Résumé Award: Fox Gloves

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The teams are:

1. Karmaluna (chrono cross): lunadyoflight and karmada
2. Fox Gloves (fate/zero): Ali and Ashe
3. Kiwi Teacup Studios (RG Veda): Envel and Dustbunny
4. Lady Ava and Oshi (Castlevania)
5. Scarlet Mafia (Fushigi Yuugi: Genbu Kaiden): Erisaka Blu and Vicious Cosplay
6. Last Minute Cosplay (Tsubasa Resevoir Chronicle): Tohma and Shey
7. Saturday Cerebus (Monster Hunter): Ian of Saturday Morning Cosplay and Sharbuncle of Cerebus Productions
8. Make it Work Cosplay (Tales of Grace): Evenstar1 and Utai Mitsumo
9. Cosplay Awkward (Are You Alice): JavaChai and Smashley

Katsucon 2013: A Tale of A Gazebo

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To quote a line from Air, it’s not enough to make memories; make happy ones. My first Katsucon and visit to the Gaylord left me with more happy memories than the entire loot of the Merchant Hall. Before the good and bad, let’s start with the ugly. I am referring to the double booking of the convention center made by the Gaylord to both BBYO and Katsucon on the same weekend.

It was not ugly.

Katsucon first announced a possible conflict Thursday night on Twitter. Apparently, BBYO had reserved the Cherry Blossom Foyer which includes the coveted gazebo for photoshoots.

Going into the wee hours of Friday morning, another tweet foreshadowed a gloomy sunrise.

Then on the morning of opening day, it became official.

I personally did not think or feel this caused a detriment to my experience. In fact, I wasn’t even aware of the situation until sometime Friday night as I scrolled back through my Twitter feeds while resting my feet. The weather Friday bestowed a late Valentine’s kiss to Katsucon with sunny and relatively warm temperatures that provided limitless photo opportunity outside. Of course, those who had planned photoshoots at the gazebo Friday may feel otherwise but that’s a small percentage of the attendees.

I keep saying Friday because Katsucon got the gazebo back. When reached for an official statement, Katsucon stated:

While we had some unexpected overlap in common use areas on Friday that led to some tensions, by Saturday we had been able to work out an amicable solution. Katsucon appreciates the help the Gaylord was able to give us in order to ensure that both events were able to run alongside one another smoothly.

In other words, the foyer that makes up the walkway was divided in half. BBYO retained the side giving them entry to the Cherry Blossom Hall and Katsucon received the side where the gazebo sits. Taking photos there later in the weekend, I realized why it’s such a coveted spot.

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gazebo

 

It’s an universal fact that elevators are the most scarce commodity in a convention. This led to my only dismay at the double booking. Because I was lucky to have a room on the fourth floor, the stairs offered a viable option. However, on two occasions, hotel, BBYO and/or Katsucon staff prevented me from entering a BBYO reserved space in order to take the stairs even though the doors leading to it are mere yards away.

It proved extremely frustrating. With those two exceptions, the other BBYO or hotel staff, after stopping me briefly, allowed me to enter said reserved space and take the dozen steps or so. It did amuse me that they watched to make sure it was the stairs I was taking.

Riding an elevator late Saturday night with another attendee, I concluded that the segregation was unfortunate and wasted a good opportunity. The gentleman lamented the space restrictions BBYO placed on us and I reminded him that the reverse is also true. Why does it matter if one group enters another’s reserved space as long as it’s public? Staff is positioned outside each room so there’s no issue of people “sneaking” into events they did not pay for. Does it matter who photobombs? Does it matter who one has to fight through congested traffic bottlenecks?

Upon exiting the stairs on a particular occasion, I landed into a huge mob of BBYO attendees who were waiting outside an event. Embarrassed at my intrusion, I rapidly made my way out when a lovely lady complimented on my cosplay as I hurried past. I could only reply with a quick thanks. I believe Katsucon members would all appreciate the gesture and BBYO attendees would have welcomed the chance to do so.

My colleague Shizuka had a different experience however. She will elaborate in a future post.

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Best Ciel ever!

It’s easy to see why Katsucon is the premier choice for cosplay. Even at night, I was drawn to the atrium and fountain flaunting their beauty with splendid lighting and seductive music. The void I always feel at Otakon as night falls dissipated through the glass enclosure and into the sky as I strolled through, surrounded by the sound of laughter and memories in the making. I do wish Katsucon would consider moving the dates to a warmer season to take full advantage of the breathtaking views outdoors.

I think Katsucon deserves a deep bow for having non stop programming from Friday to Sunday. The staff necessary to accomplish such a feat demonstrates immense passion and dedication to maximize attendees’ entertainment. Speaking of which, the staff in Live Programming that I spoke with Sunday afternoon were promptly helpful.

In short, Katsucon 2013 was the best of times, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the spring of hope, and I had everything before me. It’s an auspicious start to my con season.