Sunday, March 27, 2011


A phrase like 'anime convention' is one usually met with head-shaking and the immediate writing-off of the individual as a sad nerd. I know this. I have been there. But an anime convention is also cool. All it takes is for the rest of the world to get over the idea of it being nerdy or stupid.

An anime convention is a riot of colour and characters. This convention celebrates many different aspects of the phenomena; gaming and drawing competitions are held, there are stalls selling merchandise ranging from licensed prints to figurines from the series that constitute the gathering of the masses. Hold still for long enough and you will hear the warbling of a slightly sharp or flat voice hollering along in Japanese to the kareoke setup. To be short, Animania comprises and celebrates many Japanese mediums - printed art/comics (manga), the animated from of said comics (anime), video games - all of these inevitably lead to one particular thing:


How does one describe cosplay? It is a blending of the words 'costume play'. They are living, moving works of art; people who for this short period of time take on the persona, clothing and characteristics of any given character from one of the above media sources.

What makes these costumed people so amazing is that the frequently construct these costumes themselves, using a couple of modified clothing patterns and images from the media source to deliver the finished product.

These costumes are often complicated, involving armour, heavily detailed weapons or pieces that have to be commissioned specifically for the costume - created from cardboard, PVC - sometimes even fibreglass.

Some of these costumes are full-bodied, and the cosplayer themselves may have spent countless hours constructing it

An anime festival can also incorporate role-playing skits, where the costumed people proceed to act according to the character the masquerade as - in front of a massive audience - producing humour or drama often as the media form dictates.

By far the best large-participant skit I witnessed was of five young men, all dressed in different costumes belonging to the same character. They, without words, proceeded to perform a medley of short dances, culminating when four of them summoned the fifth to the stage, 'Captain Planet'-style, and then proceeded to dance to Michael Jackson's 'Thriller'.

 The cosplay continues on such as this; with the skits escalating to auditions for the 'World Cosplay Summit' - A worldwide cosplay competition entailing role-playing dramas, fine details and many, many amazing costumes. These were a level up from the dancing Sorii - there was a giant cannon, a Vespa thrown across the stage, a coffin and fake blood splashing down a white satin dress synchronised to the sound of a gunshot.

Following this spectacle, we exited the auditorium. It was time for me to try something entirely alien and intimidating and walk on that stage.

Prior to the event, I had entered a cosplay designed the year before. It was Kairi from Kingdom Hearts II and as with any project, I experienced joy and frustration and tears in constructing it. I had made a costume for Sora as well, and (actually....I still have to fix it. If Josh still has it.)

The day before I left for London, Josh (then-Boyfriend) and I had dressed as Kairi and Sora and gone down to the beach with my sister Prue taking photos. There was water, sand, stone-skipping and a masking-tape paopu. Oh the memories.

Anyhow. I entered the costume in the hopes of maybe getting somewhere with it. Part of what followed was the Cosplay Catwalk, where the people entering walk onto the giant stage and try not to fall over. Well, that is what I did. There was wandering, and the kind of in-character acting that can only occur when you are so terrified of everything else that you keep going to avoid the deer-in-the-headlights-pose.

The lights were so bright; they almost completely blotted out the faces of all in the audience. I was dimly aware of the theme music from the game playing in the background and I meandered the stage in character, the animalistic-terror in my mind wondering faintly when the MC would walk over and talk to me.

Seconds stretch into hours on that stage, and after about a week, I exited, stage left.
The anticipation had been horrid, but I had seen so many of the greater costumes in finer detail. It was worth it.

One of the reasons why this kind of event is good as both an event and an exhibition is that you interact with what is going on. It is optional to stand with your oversized weapon and allow people to take photos of your handicraft. It is recommended to at least try the wizard-sized Cosplay chess and/or Twister.

But you talk to the fellow cosplayers; learn how they made whatever instrument they wield or simply listen to how they interact with others. It's one of the best questions to ask because it's not necessarily about the 'what' (is that?) or 'who' (are you?)

It's about the 'how'.

How did you make that two-metre long sniper rifle?

How did you detail those dupion?

How did you organise thirteen people to wear similar costumes?

And so on. Occasionally you have the opportunity to assist in your own ways - I personally couldn't believe it when the Ichigo I met told me he's been using ribbed elastic to apply a 'bandage' affect. It becomes a two-way exchange of data and information as you assist in costume design simultaneously with learning how to apply a zipper or particular type of finish that in the end, will create something funky and radical and definitely worthy of an exhibition.

As awesome as fine detail is, though, there are some things that just need the right form of portrayal. These guys, for example.

They were a couple of young men dressed as creepers from the game Minecraft. I have not played minecraft, but I understand that these things hiss and explode when they get close to you.
It was one of the best costumes I had seen all day.

Of course, there is the level of interaction that you experience with complete stangers in this environment. You have suddenly donned the face of another person; another identity. This means that even though you don't know somebody from a bar of soap, you instantly have some common denominator or unifying...thing.

It would be like walking into a large room of people you didn't know and exclaiming something about the game. You know none of those people. But all of a sudden you have something in common with at least one of them. Most of the time.

So riddle me this:

When you round a corner to enter the venue and have someone sight your costume and scream the character's name, what do you do? This guy was running in slow motion with outstretched arms.

I ran too.

Oh, BTW, I picked these images up from The Cosplay Society, Pinin Photography and Muki Dorifuto. And off of Facebook from the magnificient people I met from attending the day. It was grand guys, and I hope you appreciate my plug for you all. And Aurora Entertainment too.


1 comment:

  1. I really wish I could have come with you guys it would have been epic. I wish they had Comic Con in Australia. . . . I wish I hadn't admitted that.
    ps. Thanks for making me lose the game.


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