Anime and/or cosplay cons are now so commonplace you can find them in cities big and small across America. But in 1995, people’s options for sharing their interests (and buying associated merch) were a lot more limited.
Back then, you could know some kids from school who were also into roughly the same stuff as you, meet some people through a local comic/book store, or, if you were really lucky, reach out and contact a relative handful of like-minded fans on the internet. That’s it! Given how hard it was to network and make friends in the scene, having a visual record like we’re about to see of these pioneering days is incredibly cool.
(If you’d like to see some really pioneering convention stuff, though, here’s an excerpt from my cosplay book on what cons were like in the 70s and 80s).
Cosplay in America shared this video earlier in the week, finding it on a dusty old YouTube account that hasn’t uploaded anything since 2009. Called oldschoolanimecons, it has extensive records of two early cons: Anime America 1994 and Katuscon Ichi, which as the name suggests was the first ever Katsucon. In this video, for example, we get a guided tour of the Katsucon show floor, which alongside the posters and shirts and signings also includes…stacks of copies of Penthouse and a company selling desktop screensavers.
Katsucon is of course still going strong. While this initial event was small enough to be held in a Holiday Inn Executive Center, it has since grown and expanded to the point where today’s events (like the one we just covered last month) are at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in Maryland, and routinely bring in over 15,000 attendees (with 2021 being the exception, since that year’s show was cancelled due to the pandemic).
If you want to check out the rest of the channel’s videos, many of which are focused on the “cosplay masquerade”—a pageant-like event that used to dominate early cosplay conventions—you can watch them here.