(photo from thetokyootaku.com)
SOFT POWER HARD TRUTHS / Cosplayers a breath of fresh air for D.C.
I arrived at Katsucon, the 15th annual Washington area anime convention, the night before opening day, bouncing in on a turbulent flight from Boston. It was the first time I was able to catch amassing American convention-goers firsthand as they poured out of airport shuttles, jam-packed vans, taxis and pickup trucks and funneled through revolving doors into the hotel foyer. They made quite a sight.
Many were already in costume. The winds that had earlier buffeted my commuter plane whipped through feathered wigs and blasted masks and helmets, sending skirts aloft and eliciting shrieks and giggles. Other attendees lugged massive duffel bags and overstuffed suitcases past hotel staffers who were already dragging carts piled high with the baggage of earlier arrivals. Young cosplayers gleefully leapt into one another's arms, reunited by fandom. Businessmen in suits raised their eyebrows, often glancing toward me, seemingly independent of the pageantry in my civilian attire, as if I alone could answer their silent queries.
Surprisingly, I discovered that I didn't really have to. "These anime kids," one briefcase-toting middle-aged businessman said, shaking his head as we shared an elevator. "I don't know what's with that Japanese stuff, but they love it, don't they?"
Indeed, many non-conventioneers in the hotel seemed to greet the gathering of 6,000 or so cavorting, chanting and posing cosplayers with at least affectionate tolerance, and sometimes respectful admiration.
(Minor correction here: In my previous column I described Katsucon as "massive." It is indeed large and is getting bigger, moving into an enormous hall next year. But its attendance figures pale next to the mighty Anime Expo in Los Angeles and other gatherings, as an astute reader from New York pointed out.)
Hotel staffers told me they were very pleased to see their rooms and hallways full during the slow season, especially in the current economic climate, and other guests seemed to eye the participants admiringly: Beneath the darkening skies of a Washington winter and stimulus package struggles, here were thousands of young people and parents living it up in a pop culture party... [read more here]