By Liz High
For a second year in a row I traveled a grueling 7 hour drive to National Harbor, MD in order to expirence my favorite convention, Katsucon. Even Snowmageddon couldn't keep me away this year, though it tried when I got stuck in gridlock for 10 hours on I-81 and was in the car for 26 hours, but lack of sleep and braving the elements was worth it. Popular opinion was Katsucon was not nearly as good as it was last year, and I happen to agree. There was mass disorganization, many ridiculous rules, lack of panel variety, and mass confusion, but other than that it was an enjoyable experience even for just being able to meet new people, as with any convention.
Registration was an utter nightmare. I luckily had to go to the press and panel registration booth and could bypass the normal registration and pre-registration lines. My two friends I rode with got into the line at 8:30am when we arrived and did not get out of the pre-reg line until 1pm. In a con of 15,000 people there is expected to be lines, but the cause of the delay was the fact there was only one person working the pre-reg line, while there was multiple for the registration line. The registration line was much longer, but it took people much longer to exit the pre-reg line because of this issue.
Events and Scheduling (The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly)
The Good: Once the schedule went life staff was very up to date on keeping the online schedule updated and the staff informed when a panel was moved or changed. All the panels I attended including the Funimation preview panel went off without a hitch and ran smoothly
The Bad: I could tell the schedule was going to be a huge cause of conflict and headache inducing when the schedule was not released until 2 days before the convention, and an app was required just to view it. Many people to not own smartphones and it was very frustrating that everyone who did have a smartphone or tablet was able to view it when some con-goer's are not that fortunate. In the future I think it would in Katsucon's best interest to release the schedule in the traditional online way's and also more than 2 days before the convention.
Also people who run panels were not informed about their panel acceptance status until very late. I had friends waiting until the schedule came out to see if their waitlisted panels got one of the overflow time slots.
The Ugly: While Katsucon did a wonderful job of updating the online schedule, schedule changes should not have happened after the printed schedule was released. There was a huge issue with scheduling conflict's and panel cancelations. The same people running a Hetalia panel were also running an Attack on Titan panel. Emails to the panels staff never recieved a responce. They informed the staff upon picking up their badges the panels were at the same time and to cancel the Attack on Titan panel... Instead the staff took the Hetalia panel off the schedule instead of the Attack on Titan panel which caused massive confusion when people lined up all that time to see an Attack on Titan panel when the panelists were under the impression they were still there to do the Hetala panel. In addition to this the formal ball was pushed back an hour without notice, which left people standing in line outside for upwards of 2-3 hours without any knowledge other than rumors of what was going on. Upon learning it was moved back an hour, leaving the ball to be only 1 hour long, I decided the wait in line was not worth it. This left everyone frustrated and I had spent 100s of dollars and month's of my time sewing a ballgown in specifically for this event.
Location, Venue, and surving the DC Area
The rumors are true. Driving in DC is a nightmare and if you are a slow and cautious driver you will get runover (figuratively of course) Luckily once reaching the National Harbor area where the convention center is, it is a small city within itself with many shops and resturants within a 5 minute walking distance to the convention center. Even the convention center itself is a world of it's own. Convention goer's who are lucky enough to stay inside the Gaylord hotel and convention center do not have to leave the convention the entire time they are there unless they choose to go off location for meals.
In the event you can not get a hotel close to the Gaylord Hotel and Convention center have no fear, there is a parking deck available for commuters and a metro stop that stops right by the convention center if you choose to take the metro in and save at parking. Also with hotels are out of the way there are shuttles to and from, but they stop at 10:45pm mostly so you would have to find a ride back or find somewhere to crash until the morning when you could get back to your hotel if you chose to stay for the rave.
Staying Healthy and Sickness:
During conventions you are around thousands of people and millions of germs, it's normal to experience con plague the few day's after the convention. Many people came from the convention with 103 degree fever's and having to call out of work for a week at the time. No, it was not a normal con plague just super sized. There was a legit out break of H1N1 flu that actually took the life of the Co-Director of the convention's wife.
Currently there is a GoFundMe started by a family friend to help with the massive medical bills the family was hit with while she was in the hospital which can be found at this link I can not stress how important it is to keep you and the people around you safe and healthy. If you feel sick before a convention please stay home! The convention will be there every year. Germ's travel quickly and not everyone has the same immune systems.
Some tips for staying healthy and avoiding con plague are:
-Don't share drinks with everyone
-Avoid giving free hug guy hugs. You know how many people have hugged him?
-Avoid games like spin the bottle and the pocky game
-SHOWER AND WASH YOUR HANDS
Katuson is well worth the money, and I plan to be back again next year, despite some things this year that left a bad taste in my mouth that was just simply rushed and poor planning on the staff's end. It was not like that last year and I am going to assume it will not be like that this year. Also with the giant snowstorm that came in that left many things up in the air and left travel difficult. Many flights were delayed and canceled, Greyhound and Megabus canceled their buses for Thursday, which left many people without a way to get to the convention. Would I recommend Katsucon? absolutely, but I would not recommend it as someone's first convention just for the sheer size and price. Katsucon is of course a lot cheaper than Otakon or SDCC but it will still leave your wallet sobbing at the end.