Gallifrey One wasn't the only major convention held over the holiday weekend: Katsucon, in National Harbor, Maryland, was a cacophony of sights and sounds, with press liaison Chad Diederichs expecting over fifteen thousand attendees to visit the Gaylord Hotel over the span of the weekend.
Certain events like screenings, panels, dealer's rooms and video game halls are commonplace at anime cons of all sizes, but as fun and entertaining as these things are, this year's Katsucon featured some unique events and activities that might have been overlooked for some of the more popular events. That's where I come in, to tell you about the ten events you shouldn't have missed at this year's Katsucon. And if you did? they should certainly be on your list - along with a return trip - next year.
10. What would Spike Spiegel Drink? Cocktail and beverage pairings for your favorite anime
I've found, particularly as I've gotten older, more mature and less interested in anime, that a good buzz can make anime a hell of a lot more fun. Little did I know that there are some pretty kick ass drinks inspired by anime. This year, a rogue bartending team known as Bad Bad Cake brought their "spiritual" stylings to Katsucon in a twenty-one and older event (which implies to me that people got to get their drink on). Any event that lets one combine anime and alcohol sounds good already, but this troupe apparently instructed attendees in the proper pairings of anime and alcohol. While I didn't get to see this one first hand, I will certainly be in line for it next year.
9. It Gets Better - Anime Con Edition
One of the largest epidemics terrorizing the youth of this country, particularly kids of the "nerdier" persuasion, is bullying. Over the past few years we've seen such stars as George Takei and others taking a stand against bullying with the "It Gets Better" campaign. This year at Katsucon, veteran voice actors Crispin Freeman and Greg Ayers reached out to youth with their own personal stories and lent their support to fans of all ages that have been made to feel like they don't belong. The lecture/Q&A session should be on the list of things to attend for any con goer, particularly one with children, as, sadly, bullying is something which one in four children will have to face in their lives.
8. Dub Your Own Hentai
I'm sure all of us at one time have thought that we could have a career in porn. Then we had sex and got laughed at, banishing all hopes of work in the erotica industry. The fact is, 99.9% of the population could not control our "outbursts" enough to succeed in that line of work. But there's good news for you, budding purveyor of smut! Welcome to the wonderful world of hentai - animated porn. You don't have to perform on camera; you just have to pretend to.
Of course, if you weren't quite ready to quit your day job, at the "Dub Your Own Hentai" panel you had the opportunity to try your hand at voicing some of the most infamous scenes in tentacle porn history, often with hysterical results. It's doubtful that anyone at this year's event found a new calling, but you never know who might just be the next cartoon Jenna Jameson. At least the clean-up on hentai sets is easier.
Note: The video above is from Anime Boston in 2009
7. Video Game Hall Charities
Most anime conventions feature video gaming, and at first look one wouldn't consider Katsucon's to be impressive. Sure, there was the obligatory rows of TVs and game consoles, the wall of dance machines and a handful of arcade machines. The things that made this game room stand out were its works of charity.
As important as video games are to Japanese entertainment, there is something that has entertained the island nation for far longer: Pachinko. Most Americans will never have the chance to mechanically hurl hundreds of metal balls on a vertical playfield, as the game has never taken off on American shores. Meanwhile, in Japan, the Pachinko industry accounts for over almost four hundred billion dollars a year in revenue. There is little doubt of the game's popularity there. But if you want to play Pachinko in the states, one of the few places is at Katsucon, where about a dozen machines of various eras and styles were available to play for just a small donation to the American Cancer Society. While not quite up to par with the parlors of Japan, the lines of anime fans to play this Japanese pastime were pretty impressive.
In addition to the fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, there was also an impressive display from an organization called Able Gamer. The group, which works with developers, hardware manufacturers and medical facilities, had on display a wide array of alternative control sets for gamers of varying levels of disabilities. Their goal is to open video gaming to all people, no matter what physical challenges they may face. The most impressive device they had on display was a control which allowed a completely paralyzed person to be able to play video games like anyone else by using strictly facial controls.
While most people take gaming for granted, it was fascinating to see able-bodied people playing games on these modified controllers, and on a personal level, as a parent of a child with physical disabilities, I found it wonderful to see that my son will be able to play games like anyone else with just some minor accommodation.
Between the Able Gamer Foundation and the Pachinko fundraiser, the video game room at Katsucon was truly something special.
6. Taiko Lessons
Any fan of Bear McCreary's Battlestar Galactica soundtracks is already familiar with Taiko, traditional Japanese drumming. McCreary used it frequently, and it's been featured in such films as The Hunted. While popular in Japan, there is practically no place to learn the ancient art, though the basics could be picked up at Katsucon. A demonstration and instructional session by the Chin Hamaya Culture Center gave con attendees a chance to get hands-on with Japanese drums for the first and quite possibly the only time. Men, women and children drummed and danced in time, and while they were mere amateurs, it was obvious that they had learned much in their one hour lesson and had an experience others couldn't beat.
The video above is from their performance at Nekocon.