Katsucon Report

Katsucon was amazing.

I like to go for top-shelf words when describing conventions that go well, but Katsucon remains one of the best and strongest-run conventions I have had the pleasure to present at or even encountered.  Their staff is extremely capable and well-organized and they manage the space at the Gaylord Hotel with remarkable skill.

With my table in the Dealers’ Room set up, I was hocking copies of Rhest for the Wicked and Samifel and promoting the impending release of RocKaiju.  All of this was done with the aid of my snazzy new Sales Manager, Tina Koch, who managed to sell everything but the wall behind us (but I wouldn’t be surprised if she heard out a few bids).

Friday saw the unveiling of my new two new panels for Katsucon this year: Japanese Self-Study: Language Hacking for Beginners and Transformers: Cultural Differences between the Japanese and American Series.  Japanese Self-Study was based around using the Burton Method, combined with lessons learned from studying Tim Ferriss’ approach (detailed at his website and his tome on learning, 4-Hour Chef).  The crux of the presentation was to set realistic goals, recognize small victories, go easy on yourself, learn by using the language and not studying the language itself (which is often painfully boring).  The crowd really seemed to enjoy it, and I did too.  Hopefully this presentation can become a staple at conventions.  I really believe in bilinguality and want to encourage people to learn to communicate in more ways than one.

Transformers…went a little differently.  I was surprised at how many fans of the Japanese series (Headmasters, Masterforce, and Victory) were in attendance and I was really delighted at the exchange.  While the panel itself went beautifully (technical problems not withstanding), the conversations it sparked afterwards were especially delightful.  Art and art appreciation may be a personal thing, but being able to essentially crowdsource perspectives on cultural interpretation is invaluable and I left Katsucon with a lot to think about regarding how the difference audiences view Transformers, fiction, and entertainment in general.

Friday also saw my Intro to Martial Arts panel, attended by over fifty people!  We were beyond standing room only, which absolutely stunned me and forced the panel to shift a little bit to a little less calisthenics and more vigorous roundtable with plenty of movement.  It was really fun and, as someone who spends most of my teaching time with 7yr olds, it was nice to work with adults for once!

Friday closed with a presentation on Tale Genji, the legendary Japanese novel.  Removed over a millennium from us today, it remains an important book as it is essentially self-insertion fanfiction (or, as Tina Belcher might say, friendfiction).  The book parallels many of the developments in modern literature and its importance as a cultural work simply cannot be understated.  There was a great crowd with a lot of energy and it was the perfect way to close out the first day of Katsucon.

Saturday came too soon and not soon enough, if that’s possible.  Dealers’ room was a glut with people and I’m sorry I can’t cite each and every person who came by, but thank you for doing so.  The Katsu staff took especially good care of us, for which I am eternally grateful (getting food or water in National Harbor can be surprisingly difficult!).  The day was supposed to start with Legendary Swords of Japan, but that got shifted to later in the day, so it really got started with Intro to Martial Arts for Kids.  Sadly, we only had two kids, but five parents, so it about evened out.  The kids class was a little bit more fun because we got to do a lot of walking around like animals, and really, if you don’t do that at least once a week, I don’t know what you’re doing with your life.

The Life and Times of Miyamoto Musashi and Legendary Swords of Japan were back-to-back Saturday afternoon, and they’re a great pair.  Musashi is a fascinating historical figure who should be revered for many reasons, but instead is often only known for his martial skill (not that he wasn’t incredible at that).  I like getting the chance to extol his other virtues and to also dispel some of the myths surrounding a truly remarkable, if problematic, man.  Afterwards, Legendary Swords of Japan is all about exploring some of the myths and tales surrounding the Honjo Masamune, the Kusanagi, the Seven-Branched Sword and others.  I also like getting to explore why sword-centric stories are so popular and found universally throughout history.

The final panel for Saturday and for Katsucon for me was the Japanese-American Internment Camps of World War 2.  In the past, this somber panel has been a terrifying reminder of one of the dark periods in this country’s history.  This past weekend, however, it felt almost unsettling how much of a warning it felt.  Reading quotes eighty years removed from present day was unsettling as they were mirrored by quotes that we see on the news and social media right now.  I wish for all the world this panel was only a historical look and not a prescient warning.

Sunday should have been low key, but no.  There was a run on the dealers’ room, or at least my table.  Books flew and we ended up leaving with almost no inventory at all (which is a GREAT problem to have a convention).  I got to touch base with so many friends, and spend time solving the world’s problems as well as the narrative inconsistencies in popular fiction.  Katsu was a dynamite time and I cannot sing it’s praises enough.  This year, like every year I have attended, was simply amazing.  Do yourself a favor and make arrangements for next February.  You won’t be disappointed.

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Author: Robert V Aldrich

Author. Speaker. Cancer Researcher. Martial Artist. Illustrator. Cat dad. Nerd.

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