Special Geek Feature
Cosplayers: Jessica Roh, Gladzy Kei Zuniga, Isaac Ho
Elle sits down with local cosplayers to find out the secrets to this geeky subculture.
What is Cosplay?
“This has actually changed since I started cosplaying,” says Jessica Roh. “Cosplay is two words put together: Costume Play.” According to Jessica, Cosplay originally involved costumes from Japanese entertainment and culture. “Costume was Amerian and Cosplay was Japanese.”
Nowadays, the concept has spread its wings to encompass a larger group of character costumes from other sources of entertainment and culture.
Cosplayers are more than just geeks dressing up in costumes. “Cosplay is about bringing a character to life,” Jessica explains. It takes a lot more passion to cosplay vs. dressing up in a costume.
“It’s more about being the character,” adds Gladzy Zuniga (local Cosplayer), “you act like you’re that character”. It’s not like Halloween where people costume up and go partying. It’s not about being an anonymous, stock character. You have to know the background of the character that you plan to cosplay.
Isaac Ho, another local Cosplayer, shares his view: “Cosplay is a lot different. You’re role playing as the character. You take on their personality. You take on a specific mindset”.
Favorite Personal Cosplays
Jessica: Neytiri, World of Warcraft Night Elf
Gladzy: Serah Farron, Black Rock Shooter
Isaac: Cloud Strife, King Kazma
Favourite Cosplay: Neytiri
Jessica chose to recreate the look of a flight Na’vi for her cosplay. She created the pants and googles, but she added a top to this cosplay – “I didn’t really want to go around topless,” Jessica explains, laughing.
The Art and the Passion
Cosplay has become an international phenomenon as geeks worldwide pay tribute to their favourite shows, movies, books, or personalities by cosplaying. Becoming everything that cosplay represents and the addition of their personality and individuality is what attracted these geeks to Cosplay.
In 2003, Jessica attended her first convention – Otafest. She was just getting into the Japanese culture of Anime and video games, but it was Cosplay that interested her the most at Otafest. It was “the whole idea of creating something and celebrating it as a work of art” that attracted Jessica to Cosplay.
Jessica’s first cosplay was Black Rose from .Hack. “It was a really funny costume because it actually fell apart when I was clapping at the costume competition.” Despite the embarrassment, Jessica still think fondly on these costume hiccups. The best part of Cosplay, for Jessica, is the journey that Cosplay takes her.
“The more and more you do it, the more and more mistakes you make, the better it is. You learn from it and it becomes a part of you.”
Another feature of Cosplay that Jessica loves is the addition of one’s own personality to the cosplay: “You can put your own touches in there. It doesn’t have to be completely accurate … it’s really special when it has something specific from the person that made it”.
Also, Jessica believes homemade costumes get a lot more attention. Isaac agrees: when you purchase from a mass production costume shop online, “you just look like everyone else who wears that costume”.
“It makes you feel so good when
people appreciate it
because you did it.”
In fact, Gladzy’s personal favourite Cosplay was Serah Farron because this cosplay was her first attempt as making a costume, first time using a sewing machine, and her first time learning how to make props. She spent several months on this project, focusing on accuracy. “Since this was my first time, when we did a test video shoot, stuff kept fall off!” Learning from her mistakes, Gladzy was able to wear her Serah cosplay to the convention comfortably, without worrying about her costume coming apart. “It doesn’t feel as amazing when you buy a costume to wear.”
Unfortunately, Isaac Ho is not good at sewing. He purchases costume online and modifies them to fit his vision. The best place to purchase cosplay costumes is in Japan – the quality of the costumes is high, but the price matches the quality.
Affordable store bought costumes can come in really cheap material matched with below-grade accessories. They are great when you need to save time, but Isaac believes cosplayers should take the effort in modifying these costumes for accuracy and fit.
Isaac purchased a Cloud Strife costume that came with a terrible accessory: “It was really disgusting, so I just tore it off the costume and threw it in the garbage”. He purchased a separate piece, stretched leather over it, and reattached the logo on the side – “It was something I could literally bash my shoulder into the wall with”. Little changes like that bring so much more character to the costume.
Taku Onishi was a Cosplay virgin until he participated in Otafest Aurora last winter. “It was different. I still need to learn everything still”. Everything? What’s this “Everything” that you have to learn??
Posture, posing, self-confidence …
When you take on the persona as a Cosplayer, you have to know the background of the character and exude it through your body movements. Posture and posing are important signatures of a character, and fans will want to see that reflected in your cosplay.
“As a Cosplayer, you go out into public and you wear this ridiculous costume … you basically have to throw your dignity out the window,” says Isaac. You need a lot of self-confidence to work it as a cosplayer.
Cosplayers that plan to make their costumes need to have a working knowledge of the materials that they plan on using to build their creations. A poor costume is usually the result of this lack of knowledge.
Flow, wear, safety, and damage control need to be considered every step of the way. How should the materials be attached? What the temperature range for the materials used? What are the hazards when using the required tools and materials? How far can you “push” the materials before they fall apart?
The Emergency Kit
Costume failures are inevitable. Make sure you have needles, threads, glue, duct tape, and safety pins on hand! Also, bring a change in clothes, in case you are hit with a major costume disaster.
Surprising to some, making your own costume can cost more than purchasing a high quality one online. “I try to budget around $100 … $150 but it’s always more,” says Gladzy. As she creates her cosplay, she ends up spending more money on details, accessories, and props.
Some people get into Cosplay for the wrong reasons. Cosplay attracts a lot of attention and some individuals feed off that vibe. Some individuals take it a step too far and believe that the less you wear, the more attention you get, and their cosplays will reflect that. These cosplays move away from the original idea of “Costume Play” and into the realm of “Anonymous Dress-up for Partying”.
Unfortunately, this results in unhealthy habits towards cosplayers. Cosplayers may love the limelight, but they also appreciate fans that respect their privacy. You want a picture? Ask.
Don’t approach with aggression and rudeness towards a cosplayer, even if it’s part of the original character’s personality.
This is the real world.
Some people take Cosplay too seriously. Jessica says, “people like that bring down so many cosplayers because they lose sight” of what Cosplay is all about – role playing someone you WANT to be. Gladzy adds that real people aren’t shaped the way some of the characters are drawn – the proportions just aren’t right.
Isaac stands on the fence when it comes to Cosplay and “real” people. Cosplaying should always honor the movie, book, or personality being cosplayed. The desire alone should NOT be the ONLY reason to cosplay a specific character. A cosplayer takes on the whole persona of something with a fan base, and to do an awful job at it greatly disappoints fans and can offend the creator of the original character. There are cosplays that suit certain people and personalities and other cosplays that should be avoided because of the dichonomy of the Cosplay and of the wearer.