Katsucon 2019 took place in National Harbor, Maryland from February 15th to 17th, 2019. Whenever I go to Katsucon, I always look forward to the beautiful Gaylord Hotel! It’s as beautiful as I remember it (although with my terrible sense of direction, I still get lost and have to ask for directions to event or panel rooms…). Luckily, floorplans and maps were in the Guidebook app, so I highly recommend downloading that app if you go to Katsucon and want a convenient map on the go.
I traveled to Katsucon on Thursday and arrived to National Harbor in the evening. This time, I carpooled with a friend to and from the con. It was really crowded with congoers upon arrival checking into their hotels on Thursday, many of which were already in full cosplay! I was impressed by the number of cosplayers who went all-out with their costumes on Day Zero.
There were no official events on Day Zero (unless you count pre-registration and registration), but there were some unofficial events on the con floor. One thing that was different this year versus previous years were the requirements to be in the lobby of the hotel. The con badge allowed you to enter the convention center as well as the hotel lobby and hotel areas, and a hotel key card allowed you to enter the hotel areas (including the lobby, gazebo, etc.). If you had a key card but no con badge, you could not enter the convention area of the Gaylord.
On Day Zero, my highlight was the Great Gatsby-themed party. The Great Gatsby party was hosted by The Brothers Cosplay from 8pm to 10:30pm on Thursday night, right by the fountain on the Atrium level of the Gaylord. During the party, we heard some classic music from the 1920s, as well as some Swing House music. 1920s fashion wasn’t mandatory, but tons of people wore amazing 1920s outfits as well as cosplays that re-imagined characters as if they were in the 1920s era. I loved seeing everyone’s beautiful outfits at this party!
On Day One, I had a photoshoot in the morning with Sumikofoto Photography. We were able to snag some quick shots at the gazebo before moving down to the pool/fitness level of the Gaylord to shoot in the hallway by the elevators there. Other cosplayers wanted to shoot there as well, and everyone politely waited our turns to get shots against that pretty wall. This area right by the elevators also had great lighting! I highly recommend it as another place to shoot indoors at the con.
After this, I checked out the Boku no Hero Academia photoshoot. I wasn’t cosplaying from this anime, but as a fan, I wanted to at least check it out. There were so many people attending; I was shocked. I knew Boku no Hero Academia was popular, but I didn’t realize there were going to be so many cosplayers on Day One. On the Atrium level, there were tons of Boku no Hero Academia cosplayers as far as my eyes could see. And of course, a lot of fans like myself along the edges too.
I also had some other quick shoots (hall shots, etc.) throughout the day before changing to a different Love Live! cosplay for the evening. After I changed from Honoka to Hanayo, I went to grab quick food to go and ate dinner really quickly before heading to the concert. Chaotic Harmony brought Akira and LANTANA to Katsucon, and I was so excited to see Akira perform live. I first discovered Akira through her j-fashion modeling years ago (KERA, Gothic & Lolita Bible, etc.), and I also love her music (first, in Disacode and then, her solo career). The concert that night did not disappoint: Akira had amazing stage presence and her performances were all high-energy and engaging. I appreciate her efforts to speak in English throughout the concert too, and she even shared experiences with us she had when she came to visit for the convention. She visited the Smithsonian Zoo too, and was in awe that the museums in D.C. were all free. I wish all museums had free entry too! Her birthday was also during the con, so this performance was super special.
After the concert, I waited in line for what felt like forever for the autograph session. It was so worth it, though! Akira was so friendly to all her fans and we got to take photos with her after the autographs too. When I met Akira, she recognized Daiya no Ace from my Miyusawa ita bag and I had a major fangirl moment. Akira is a Daiya no Ace fan too! What a fantastic and magical way to end the night.
Day Two is when I had the most photoshoots. For the morning, I cosplayed from Aldnoah.Zero and had multiple photoshoots back-to-back essentially. My Slaine and Idaho and I were able to check out the Artist Alley a bit, at least! So many amazing artists were at Katsucon: there were over 175 tables! The room that held the Artist Alley also had the Art Show and the Photo Suite where cosplayers can get photos done with backdrops and lighting.
After Aldnoah.Zero, I changed into Sango from Inuyasha really briefly for a group photoshoot outside. It was so cold this day, and I was freezing. If we didn’t have that shoot scheduled, I would have stayed inside the entire time. I wasn’t in Sango very long, since I wanted to change into Sawamura Eijun from Daiya no Ace for dinner too.
The Merchant’s Hall was open until 8pm on Saturday, so I was able to go quickly before dinner too. I checked out the Chaotic Harmony booth, but they were no longer there. I wanted to grab more Akira merch that wasn’t at the autograph session (and Akira’s new CD!). Luckily, I was able to get the Harajuku Fashion Travelers magazine featuring Akira & Midori Fukasawa and the Disacode Type 0 CD on Sunday. While I was there, I explored the vendors and was surprised to also see a Star Wars set-up — complete with a life-size BB-8! Katsucon used to be an anime con, but has now rebranded itself as a fan convention for “multicultural enthusiasts and entertainment” and it definitely sticks to that now with a wider variety of programming and guests.
Day Three was the shortest day I was at the con since I had to travel back to NYC. In the morning, I had a DRAMAtical Murder photoshoot: Aoba x Noiz. We went outside, and luckily my outfit was the warmest of the weekend (but I was still cold). After the shoot, I ran to find the panel rooms because there was a panel I was super excited about: the Anime & J-Fashion panel presented by Avina-kei. The goal of the panel was to show people how to bring together two interests: anime and Japanese street fashion. The panelists explained the difference between cosplay and fandom fashion, and also shared tips on how to create a cohesive outfit showing off favorite fandoms in both masculine and feminine alternative fashion styles. I enjoyed hearing the panelists discuss cosplay lolita versus Theme/Inspired lolita coordinates since I’ve done both of these before. They also showed some amazing official art of characters wearing lolita I didn’t even know existed (like Puella Magi Madoka Magica!). And of course, they showed iconic characters who wear J-fashion (like from the Paradise Kiss manga). Tons of brands collaborate with anime too, like Super Groupies and 6% Dokidoki. I was pleased that they also talked about the ita bag craze, since ita bags are a great way to show off your fandoms regardless of your outfit. Throughout the whole con, I had my Miyusawa ita bag with me too.
All in all, I had a great time at Katsucon 2019 and would love to return again in 2020! I’d recommend this con to cosplayers from anywhere. If you’re traveling from out of state and can’t drive there, there are also options to fly in or take the train or bus to D.C. and then take a taxi or car service to National Harbor. Hope to see you at the con!