Forgive an old lady for showing her age, but this Katsucon marked my 30th birthday. I realized, en route to the Gaylord Hotel and Resort, that I’ve been attending Katsucon for almost half of my natural life. Staring into a sea of impossibly young faces, my knees hurting from the incoming snowstorm, I couldn’t help but think: is this convention still relevant to me, the aging fan?
No. It is not.
When I was younger, anime conventions were about two things: discovery and celebrating fandom. Screening rooms existed as a mechanism to see anime that you would’ve never been otherwise exposed to. Back in the day, I was recording bootleg anime to spare VHS tapes and sharing them with like-minded classmates. With services like Crunchyroll (a Katsucon sponsor), Hulu, Netflix, and hell, the whole internet, people these days don’t have the issue of being unable to find and view anime.
Back when I was a fresh-faced youth, conventions, particularly local ones, were like oases of fan-related joy. You could spend too much money on anime-themed kitsch, awkwardly meet a couple voice actors or internet personalities, and engage with that ecstatic anime energy for a weekend, then go home. The con-inspired celebration is still fully in effect, but so are Tumblr, Twitter, and a million other ways to express fandom, year-round and with anyone on the globe.
Once upon a time, I insisted on showing up the night before an anime convention, standing in the absurdly long registration line, and frantically planning my weekend with a copy of the paper program and a highlighter. Nowadays, with the spectre of mortgage payments hanging over my head, I’m happier to tour the dealer’s room and cheer on other, more excited consumers. The urge to nerd-sprint the whole weekend is gone too, and good thing: this year’s Katsucon featured a logistical disaster on Day One where registrants and pre-registrants were commingled and lines were demoralizingly long.
As for the program? It was fine, but scaled more towards first-timers than attendees of well-over-a-decade. For each event, I wondered: would this be more fun in a crowd of teenagers or in a living room with my friends and some homemade snacks? Sure, it’s not a scientific critique. But even my younger, more enthusiastic friends have noticed the benefits of a full night’s sleep, judicious breaks, and leaving the con for necessities like food, water, and some peace and quiet.
I don’t want to be 100% glum. It’s amazing to see some real diversity and some actual industry enthusiasm at these events. But the “same old, same old” rote programming doesn’t challenge, and the main highlight of the con seems to be people watching in the hallways. Multiple times, I watched attendees hassle hotel staff for not making it easy enough to move around and even ridicule some tourists who were obviously not engaging in the festivities.
Katsucon: I’ve been attending you for half my life now. Time to show me something new.