Preparing for Katsucon and Cosplay

Katsucon 2013 is fast approaching—February 15-17 2013, for those who didn’t already know, and I have been working on a new original cosplay to show off at the con. Katsucon isn’t nearly as big of an event to me as Otakon, but I wanted to do the outfit I have been planning for a while now, so I decided to do this for Katsu, especially since this outfit will be too heavy to wear in August for Otakon in Baltimore. I won’t go into what I am doing just yet because I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but if it all turns out as I hope, I think it will be pretty cool.

Cosplay, for those of you who do not know, comes from the Japanese コスプレ (kosupure) literally translating to “costume play”. Cosplay was initially linked highly to anime and video game characters, but over time cosplay of  J-rock and Visual Kei artists began to surface as well as characters from Western productions like major Hollywood movies, comics, and books (Alice in Wonderland, Harry Potter, Pirates of the Caribbean, Kill Bill, DC and Marvel super heroes to name a few).

My personal observation is on the whole cosplay in America is much more lighthearted than and not nearly as serious as cosplay in Japan. In Japan, as nearly all things in Japanese society, cosplay is an art that is perfected down to the finest details of a costume and character portrayal; in America there are cosplayers that put their all into a costume, those who kind of half ass it, and those who intentionally make the costume bad or cross dress for humor’s sake. Anyone who has ever been to an anime convention has surely seen a man dressed as Sailor Moon, or one of the other Sailor Senshi—if not the whole group of Sailor Senshi. Some of the more ridiculous recent trends in cosplaying as of late have included such random things as characters from commercials. One example of this phenomenon (which I seriously DON’T understand) is the rising number of people I have seen dressed as Flo from Progressive (the US car insurance company) or the Geico caveman. Nowadays, it seems that anyone in a costume of a character is said to be “cosplaying”, which I personally feel is a bit of a misnomer. Cosplay to me, will always be linked to anime and video games above all.

Another facet of cosplay that a lot of people don’t seem to realize is that the costume is usually completely or nearly completely (most judges don’t expect you to make your own shoes) made by the person cosplaying. Of course, rules have changed in recent history and some cosplayers now buy their costumes online or create costumes composed of different articles of existing clothing and don’t actually construct the pieces of their costume. I will admit I have certainly been guilty of the latter, so I guess I am not as “hardcore” as some other cosplayers I know who make their own costume down to the very last details. My friend Christine, who goes by Sooyong and has this really cool blog about living in Japan, actually dyed her own fabric for one of her cosplay costumes—that just goes to show the level of dedication involved for those who are really into it.

Those who are serious about the craft definitely go the extra mile and indulge in altering their appearance down to the smallest details. For my cosplay of Enma Ai from Hell Girl, I actually wore red colored contact lenses because I felt that her red eyes were an important part of her look and character. It may not sound like much, but I do not wear any sort of corrective lens and have never needed to so it was a big step for me. Just getting the lens in my eye and getting used to having something sit on my eye was an enormous challenge and it took a lot of getting used to. The very first time I dressed as Ai, it took an hour alone just to get my contacts in and be able to stop blinking rapidly.

Then there are also wigs….most wigs you can easily obtain online or through a costume store but some characters have insane hairstyles and hair colors that you just can’t find in any store premade. But where there’s a will, there’s a way. I actually attended a workshop at Katsucon last year which discussed styling wigs, dying wigs, and different techniques of storing wigs so that they do not get damaged. You can even find tons of advice on these subjects on cosplay forums and blogs like here and here for example.

I honestly haven’t done much modeling work with cosplay aside from my Hell Girl shoot, and though I have pieced parts of things together into an outfit, I have never full out made a cosplay on my own. To be honest, I could probably count the number of full actual cosplay I have done on one hand, but I want to start doing more, especially in the realm of making my own costume. There’s a certain level of pride that comes with actually making the whole thing yourself that isn’t there if you’re just wearing a costume that you bought, so I finally want to do it myself. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to finally do so this year for Otakon, there’s a certain character I really wanted to cosplay last year, but time and money prevented me from accomplishing it, but hopefully this time those challenges will not be an issue. 🙂

Those of you going to Katsucon, I’ll see you there!

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