Katsucon is more than just an annual, three-day event in National Harbor, Maryland. It’s a place where like-minded people gather to celebrate their favorite fandoms — and maybe learn something along the way. More importantly, it’s a place to see some incredible cosplay!

This year, the con will be held from Feb. 14-16 at the Gaylord National Hotel and Convention Center, and there’s something for everyone. Gamers can find dedicated spaces to live-action role play (LARP), play tabletop games, or explore the entire video gaming hall. Meanwhile, artisans can attend the art show or stroll through Artist’s Alley. Plus, there are a number of contests available for competitive types. Pretty much the only thing there isn’t a dedicated space for is judgment.

“The atmosphere is a supportive one,” says Christian Savage, treasurer and IT director at Katsucon Entertainment Inc. (KEI). This tends to be the con where cosplayers go all out, and Savage says he believes that is partly because of the resources, such as craft workshops and events, but mostly because attendees have the ability to interact with others who care about the same things. “A lot of attendees like to share their creativity, and the meetups spurt ideas from those in the community to work together on group projects,” Savage says.

The two biggest contests, Masquerade and Hall Costume, attract cosplay that Savage believes could rival Hollywood’s production artists. Both are divided into different skill divisions, but the Masquerade has cosplayers perform on stage. At the Hall Costume Contest, things are a little more low key for those with stage fright.

This year, Katsucon has added an extra PhotoSuite area for cosplayers to take some professional photos of their cosplay. They also offer group meetups so you can easily assemble with Avengers you haven’t even met yet. Check out some of last year’s cosplay looks in the video below.

In 25 years, KEI has expanded beyond Japanese animation to include other types of fandoms that intersect with anime in some way, but education remains at its core. As a non-profit organization, it can turn its passions into an educational experience on Japanese culture, as well as the voice-acting and video game industries. 

“We are providing to the public a world of fun and ideologies different from what you normally see,” Savage explains. 

“I was blessed to grow up here,” Savage says, “I hope that my kids will love a place like this in the future and we can continue to provide a safe and happy environment for people to learn about the culture, animation, and, in some cases, business and industry while having a great time.”

Last year, more than 22,000 people attended the event, and the same crowd size is expected next month. Visit katsucon.org to register or for more info.

Photo: Katsucon