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Katsucon 2012
Day 1

by Crystalyn Hodgkins,

Overheard at the convention:
"Let's have a big sexy tonight." - Kiryu (Japanese musical guest) at the opening ceremonies, in reference to his concert later that evening.

Day 1

Have I mentioned that the Gaylord is swank? It's a cosplayer's paradise. Take a look at some of the pictures from the intro page. It's just beautiful inside, with entire areas filled with stone walkways, little streams, and a water fountain that syncs to orchestral music with color-changing lights. There's trees, and even a grand piano in the sitting area of one of the hotel's many cafés. The place is pretty darn impressive as far as convention spaces go.

Opening Ceremonies

The opening ceremonies at Katsucon got off to a 15-minute late start, to an oddly sparse audience for what is usually a well-attended event. The ceremonies kicked off with musical guests the Symphonic Anime Orchestra, who played such tunes as "Gravity" from Wolf's Rain and Dragonball Z's "Cha-La Head-Cha-La." The amateur group was actually pretty good, and it's obvious they have fun while playing. Considering all the video game orchestras that exist now, anime orchestras are pretty good idea. During their performance, martial artists Daniel and Jillian Coglan came on stage and performed some mock sword fights. The duo then performed a pretty lame comedy routine about what to do if someone attacks you with a sword while bantering back and forth; however, they did at some point actually bust out real katana and slice through some rolled up tatami mats all Rurouni Kenshin style, which I will admit was pretty cool (I shudder to think about all the legal hoops Katsucon had to jump through for that stunt though).

After their performance, the convention staff began introducing the rest of the guests, starting with Yaya Han, a cosplayer and host for the World Cosplay Summit U.S. Preliminary round tomorrow night. Next up was the voice actor guests: Chris Ayres, Christopher Bevins, Richard Epcar, Ellyn Stern, Greg Ayres, J. Michael Tatum, and Josh Grelle. Other guests introduced include translator and artist Jan Scott Frazier; the musical guests Kazha and Kiryu, who both spoke in very good English; cosplayer Linda Le; video game industry member and cosplayer Meagan Marie; Kimagure Orange Road manga creator Izumi Matsumoto; Usagi Yojimbo creator Stan Sakai; Steve Yun; the Clockwork Dolls; and webcomic creators T. Campbell and Phil Kahn. After providing some information regarding Sunday's charity auction, which will benefit the American Red Cross Society and the Cherry Tree Endowment Fund, the ceremonies were over, and Katsucon 18 had officially begun.

Princess Jellyfish Premiere and Q&A

Although the English dub for Princess Jellyfish had previously premiered in Dallas earlier this week, the dub's convention premiere took place at Katsucon on Friday evening. Josh Grelle (voice of Kuranosuke) and Christopher Bevins (ADR Director and voice of Hanamori), introduced the premiere and hosted a Q&A session afterward.

Funimation originally streamed Princess Jellyfish as it aired in Japan. The company was inspired to acquire the home video rights to the series after receiving a positive response to a Facebook inquiry, asking fans whether they would purchase the series in physical form.

After some technical difficulties, the audience of around 30 people watched the first three episodes of the series. The acoustics in the room were absolutely horrible, but it was still clear that Maxey Whitehead, who is often cast in boy roles (for example Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood's Alphonse) was great as Tsukimi. Grelle had the difficult job of playing Kuranosuke, a crossdressing man whose identity as a boy isn't found out until the end of the first episode. He did an admirable job, and the switch in his voice between when he was dressed as a woman and dressed as a man was well done. The show has some difficult translations to deal with, with Kuranosuke's masculine language use being a running gag in the show. The translation did work out well, although it was just slightly awkward. The series also uses a lot of otaku-specific language, and there is a lot of fast talking. It was impossible to decipher what the characters were saying during these moments because of the acoustics, so I couldn't tell if those played out well.

During the Q&A, Bevins noted that the character of Kuranosuke was the most difficult character he's had to direct in his nine years of directing, but he added that he hadn't been this excited about a show since he directed Beck about 5-6 years ago. When asked about a possible second season, Bevins added that the Japanese producers were waiting to see if the U.S. sales were positive first before they considered greenlighting a second season. Grelle noted that Princess Jellyfish reminded him why he loved anime. Bevins noted that for an 11-episode series like Princess Jellyfish, it took Funimation about two months to record, and Grelle was in the recording studio for about 20-30 hours total to record all his lines.

When asked what was the weirdest object the two had ever had to autograph, Bevins answered that he's had to sign wooden swords, and Grelle answered that one time someone asked him to sign a roll of toilet paper that the fan had just grabbed from his/her hotel room. Weird indeed, sheesh. Just use your con program next time, OK?

World Cosplay Summit Costume Judging

Even though the big preliminaries take place on Saturday evening, on Friday night each of the more than two dozen pairs of contestants for tomorrow night's contest showed off their costumes to the judges. The judge panel is made up of past U.S. representatives to the World Cosplay Summit finals (pictured at right). Keisuke Ogura, a representative from TV Aichi, was also in attendance during the judging, although he was not on the panel.

Contestants enter the World Cosplay Summit competition in pairs, and in a small room, each pair came in one at a time and described their costumes to the panel. The contestants had already provided the judges ahead of time with at least six progress images and one reference image for each costume. The judges walked around each contestant, took a close look at nearly every inch of their costumes, and asked specific questions such as when they began creating the costume, how many stitches were used in certain parts of the costume, what kind of stitches were used, what techniques were used, what materials were used, and how they created their wigs, props, and special additions such as lighting or rigging. For the most part, the judges allowed the contestants to describe their costumes in detail uninterrupted, and each pair told some interesting stories about the creation of the costume, trials and errors they went through, and walls they ran into and how they overcame them. The judges also asked each pair what made them want to try out for the World Cosplay Summit. After each pair of contestants left the room, the judges would fill out a scorecard.

Throughout the judging process, the judges frequently looked back at the reference and progress images provided. In this competition, up to 10 points are awarded for the pairs' performances tomorrow, up to 10 points are awarded for craftsmanship, and up to 5 points are awarded for fidelity to the character, which involves both the craftsmanship and performance aspects.

It's obvious the cosplay community is close. The judges either knew or at least remembered many of the contestants, and were able to even comment that a specific pair's craftsmanship had really improved. Even though the contestants must have been nervous, the atmosphere in the room was very light; the judges and contestants were laughing and making jokes with one another. And everyone was very polite and respectful to their fellow competitors, and all of the contestants seemed to have put a lot of time and effort into their costumes. To see who wins the competition tomorrow and gets to represent the U.S. in the finals in Japan, click here for the Day 2 report!

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