by Crystalyn Hodgkins,
The hotel staff didn't seem to know what hit them at first. I saw slack-jawed stares when they thought no one was looking, and more than a few head shakes and snickers. At the end of the con, however, I found out that apparently the staff loved the attendees, and would love to have them back again.
On Friday the con didn't really get going until noon, which gave attendees ample time to arrive and get settled. Katsucon has your typical convention attractions: an artist's alley, dealer's room, gaming area, and multiple video and panel rooms. Katsucon also had a maid café, now a regular staple of anime conventions across the country; this con started one only just last year. I was interested in how they would handle a maid café, so I thought I would go and check it out.
Maid Cafés – The National Pastime
The maid café was held in one of the restaurants on the ground floor of the hotel, a sports restaurant called the “National Pastime.” I was greeted by a pink-haired maid who had the high-pitched sweet voice of a Japanese maid down pat. I was seated and introduced to my personal maid, whom I had picked beforehand when I made the reservation on the con's website. Her name was “Biri.” Many of the other maids took on stage names as well.
The menu had a mix of Japanese and American food, and like its Japanese counterpart, it was expensive. But the price isn't the point, it's the interaction with the maids. Biri and I talked about a number of things, from our favorite Japanese dramas to what we enjoy about conventions. Biri was a Japanese major, so she used the customary Japanese phrases when greeting me. Two large screens and many small ones throughout the restaurant were all playing episodes from Please Teacher!. Some of the maids were playing Uno or Connect-4 with their guests. There was also the obligatory creepy old man taking pictures of maids with unnecessarily expensive camera equipment. Also like in Japanese cafés, if you took a picture of a maid or took a picture with a maid, it cost money. But the café is donating all revenue from pictures to charity.
After I had eaten my rice balls and ice cream mochi, Biri challenged me to a battle of Jan-Ken-Pon, the Japanese version of Rock-Paper-Scissors. I had never played Jan-Ken-Pon before, and she boasted an impressive record – she had even beaten her Japanese language professor. I ultimately lost, but only by one point! There were some kinks to be worked out between the maid staff and the restaurant staff, but overall things moved smoothly and it was a good (if strange) time.
Next I hopped into a video room to check out a key staple of many anime conventions: the Anime Music Video contest. None of the music videos were really all that impressive, however, and only two left any impression on me – a set of two Bleach parodies made in the style of a Kingdom Hearts game. Many of the videos seemed to be in the wrong categories - a comedic video in the Action category, a video set to an upbeat Japanese song in the Drama category - and it all felt a little off. I left the room at the end a bit disappointed.
Later that afternoon, the Japanese pop band Unicorn Table made a surprise appearance at the Opening Ceremonies, and performed a song from their new album. Even though they only sang one song, they put on a great show, and I regretted that I was unable to attend their concert Saturday night.
Pro - The bathrooms throughout the entire convention were immaculate. I can't overstate the importance of a clean bathroom at a convention. And it didn't matter what time of day, every bathroom was sparkling. This was an incredible feat of the hotel staff, and I was very impressed.
Con - I counted: it took only five minutes from the time I stepped foot in the convention to run into a bunch of people screaming out Internet memes. It's neither funny nor clever folks. Please stop.
Extra: Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
Funimation hosted a special premiere of the first three dubbed episodes of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, one full day before it premiered on Cartoon Network. Mike McFarland, Vic Mignogna and Maxey Whitehead were on hand to introduce the premiere. The room was packed, and the attendees were very excited to see a premiere of a fan-favorite.
I also had a chance to interview Maxey Whitehead about her role as Alphonse Elric during the convention. You can check out that interview here.
Up Next: What it takes to be a maid and how to wage safe-but-awesome-looking combat in your next Masquerade in the Day 2 Report!