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This year, I attended my first Anime Expo at the Los Angeles Convention Center. I had a brief love affair with anime during high school but I have since been a bit out of touch with the latest franchises and hottest series. The wonderful thing about expos is that there really are no qualifications into getting in besides your ticket and an open mind. One can visit to see characters they love have developed or discover and fall in love with new ones. The Los Angeles Anime Expo is North America’s biggest convention that caters to hardcore fans and recent converts alike. One of the distinct features of an anime expo is that the show isn’t just made up of vendors, publishers, and creators. The fans play a huge role in creating a world that attendees are transported to once they enter the building and sky’s the limit when it comes to how far some fans will go to express how much much they love the genre.
Here are some things I discovered while at the Anime Expo, watching and talking to cosplay fans
Disconnect from reality
Anime has a huge following but relative to live action, it’s fan base is still considered minor. When you think about it, anime isn’t very different. It’s all about story telling. Unlike western cartoons and animation, there’s an anime series for every genre one could ask for: sci-fi, love, action, adventure, comedy, and that other category (the one with tentacles and other interesting visuals). The great part about a scene that’s so big is that outsiders like myself can’t even tell the difference. Once you take the red pill, even security guards, janitors, and information booth attendants look like they are cosplaying!
Come as you are
Anime comes in all different forms. Artists embrace liberties to alter your notion of realism with elements like gravity defying hair, disproportionate female measurements, vibrant eye colors, vampire fangs, giant impractical weapons… just search youtube for clips and you’ll get the point. Humans, in contrast, are pretty boring. We come in a few sizes and colors and that’s it. The key part of making a great cosplay outfit is really ignoring any of your limitations. Disregard differences in height, weight, skin tone, age, sex, cup size (In fact, NEVER get implants for any reason. It will just look even more silly if you are cosplaying), ethnicity, and MOST of all, don’t be discouraged to cosplay if you have braces. Regarding age, it actually seems the younger you are, the more drive you have at making an awesome costume. I was totally blown away discovering that high school students were making such detailed, professional looking costumes. Maybe there’s a connection between growing up and losing a connection with dreaming.
You don’t need THAT much time to make your costume
Some of THE best costumes/makeup I saw were done by fans that claimed the time they spent was only days. Don’t listen to what Hollywood tells you. All the required materials can be found at your local Michaels/Home Depot! The most important ingredient in your costume is sheer determination. If that means calling sick from your H&M part time job or missing a day of class to complete your costume, it will be worth it. Honestly though, some costumes obviously require more time than others. I met one fellow who cosplayed a Space Marine Scout who spent two months making his awesome costume. It definitely turned heads. On the flip side, the most affordable costumes I saw included a simple inkjet print and some tape to cover your face (I’m looking at you Mr. Trollface)
Mashups = fun!
My biggest takeway from the Anime Expo was discovering the Pokemen. That’s not a typo! I’m talking about the fit Asian guys who wear bright colors, suspenders, and wafer sunglasses. Who says you can’t add your own twist on a series.
Mobility is inversely related to costume appeal
Let’s face it: there are a lot of guys into photography, and what do guys LOVE? Duh! Girls cosplaying. This is Los Angeles. Fashion is always evolving. We’ve seen attractive people in those same outfits our favorite celebrities rock. But the Anime Expo is like an alternate fashion show for outfits that will never make it to retailers. So if we see fantasy become reality, we are most certainly obligated to document it. If you’ve invested enough time and resources into your costume, chances are people will stop you to take pictures and this is how that goes:
Me: “Awesome work! Mind if I take a picture?”
Me: “Great… 1 sec”
(30 seconds to pull out phone from pocket and switch to camera mode or 1 minutes to put down backpack and take out camera out)
Me: “Cool! 1 sec”
(5 shots quickly taken that all look identical)
Me: “Oh shoot! I had it on the wrong setting. Can I redo those shots?”
Just remember: that exact scene will happen with multiple people all starting at different times. Looking for the most popular person on the floor? Just stand still and look for the person with the biggest crowd around him/her looking around in all angles in confusion trying to figure out which camera to pose for.
Sorry ladies. The ratio of topless guys with 6-packs to pretty girls in costume is roughly 0:(pretty girls in costume)
Trolling is not allowed! If you think there’s any costume that you can’t do, you’re doing it wrong! One of my favorites was a mid twenties red-head guy who cosplayed Misty from Pokemon. Check out the video after the break for some Q & A with cosplay fans.