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’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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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!
It’s rather fitting that my first time using a DSLR camera coincided with the World Cosplay SummitUS 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.
The 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.
At 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.
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
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
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.
@lkon2 it's not blocked off, it's crowded and we just found out when we went, "ON NOES!" Don't worry, we outnumber them 8:1.
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.
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.
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.