February 22, 2006

The Other K-12: The Kid Visits Katsucon

katsucon_miroku.jpgThe wife had just left for a work-related, um, con in Japan, and I was on kid duty, so when it turned out that one of the biggest anime, video games, Japan-pop, and cosplay conferences on the east coast was taking place just down the street from us in DC, the choice was clear: I had to take the kid to Katsucon12. Our report, and some kid-relevant finds and highlights after the jump, but let me just say, "Go, Dogs, Go!" to the nearest anime con you can find. The exuberance, spectacle, and surreal juxtapositions of subject and setting surpass any dog party you can imagine.

Now I'm a fan of anime generally, and I definitely like me some Hayao Miyazaki, but in the anime world, that's like saying you're a Spielberg fan; it's hopelessly mainstream. At an otaku-filled con like this, easily half of the thousands of attendees were in the costume of their favorite anime character, the more esoteric and you-gotta-be-Japanese-to-get-it the better. [The nearby McDonalds was a surreal laff riot stuffed full of girls dressed as ninja nurses and guys with 10' homemade wings on their backs trying to sit around a tableful of value meals.]

Since Katsucon attracts fans of even the most random-seeming cartoon characters, I probably shouldn't have been surprised when Chad, the press liaison, came up to me at the check-in desk and said he and his wife (due in a few weeks, congratulations/good luck!) are fans of the site. Apparently, he's one of the last veteran volunteers to have a kid.

Meanwhile, most of the costumed con-goers did not seem in a reproducing mood--or even aware of childrens' existence, really. Whether it was because they were too busy keeping in touch with their own inner child, or because robot costumes create a different sense of personal space, people were running into the kid all the time. She'd just say "bonked my head" and move on. And I only saw one other baby the whole afternoon [she and her mom were wearing matching homemade kimonos.]

Still, it was a people-watching, Japanophilic paradise, a nerd mardi gras, and the kid was predictably transfixed by the spectacle [even though she didn't last until the giant costumed skit contest, which was the climax of the con.]

mens_pocky.jpgThe unofficial official food of the con was Pocky, Japanese stick-shaped biscuits that come in a whole rainbow of chocolate-y coated varieties, including strawberry, almond, tomato, white chocolate, and my favorite, the dark chocolate Men's Pocky in the dark green box. The street price in a Manhattan deli is $1.50-2/box; at the con, they were easily double that. The kid snarfed them down like nothing I'd ever seen. It was scary. Still, I was proud.

There were samurai swords and kimonos, too, but most of the dealer/merchants set up there were selling import DVD's, anime-related art, and kawaii Japanese cultural ephemera: Hello Kitty and her armies of cutesiness. There was one Hello Kitty doll which I swear was dressed as Miffy.

The only thing I gave in on was stickers from Kawaii Gifts, a Pittsburgh-based dealer; the kid has entered a sticker phase, where a sheet of little decals will occupy her in silence for a good half-hour. So I hooked her up with some of the sick Year of The Dog pages: basically, a hundred Hello Puppy stickers. $3/sheet, they were twice as much as the batch my wife just brought home from Japan itself, but hey, the kid stayed quiet at church on Sunday.

Kawaii Gifts also has the Wanroom collection of--it feels odd to actually describe it--puppy-faced plushtoy furniture and appliances. Like so much of this kawaii stuff, it's like eating frosting with a spoon.

katamari_crochet_dolls.jpg

Other finds from the artists hall:

  • The best things were the little hand-crocheted Katamari Damacy figures from amu bleu, which came in several sizes. The biggest is above. Also check out the awesome little onigiri rice ball dude sitting on the Prince's lap.

  • The T-shirts with really simple line drawings of Fruits Basket character symbols were pretty cool; it might be worth checking to see if the artist, who goes by GEH online, would do some kid-sized shirts or Onesies. It seemed like half the pre-teen attendees had Fruits Basket beanies with the animal ears of their favorite character. Personally, I have no idea.

    Related: Katsucon tagged photos on flickr

  • 1 Comment

    We're glad you and the kid enjoyed yourselves at Katsu. It's a surreal kick seeing the con mentioned on daddytypes. Marya and I hope you can come back next year and meet our kid!

    Chad and Marya

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