Tag Archives: geek

The Best DIY Holiday Gifts to Make Now

Decorations are out, houses are ablaze with holiday lights and stores are shelving extra merchandise. Christmas is definitely right around the corner.

Whether you’re on a budget or feeling crafty, do-it-yourself (DIY) gifts are an easy and heartfelt way to complete your Christmas list. Unless you’re capable of managing your time, it’s best to keep Christmas DIY gifts simple.


Handmade ornaments always add a touch of home to the Christmas tree. You can keep it simple with craft paper, dazzling it up with sprinkles and paint (a great craft to do with kids as well), or geekify the ornaments by painting them with a friend’s favorite comic/anime character.

If you decide to paint a clear glass ornament (find one at any crafts store), simple acrylic paint will work. But keep in mind that you’ll need to apply multiple layers. A neat trick is to take the hook off the top of the ornament and pour the base-layer paint inside the ornament. From there, make sure the paint evenly coats the entire ornament. Later, all you have to do is paint the exterior, add extra accessories and … ta-da!

pokemon ornaments homemade christmas gifts

Pokemon ornaments made by yours truly.



Personalized or Christmas-themed mugs are always a great stocking stuffer. Whether you choose to make them at home or at a store where you can paint your own design (these stores will usually glaze and fire the mug/plate/item for you once you’ve completed designing it), you can never get enough mugs.

Add an extra bit of warmth with a side gift of instant hot chocolate.

For more, visit BreakingModern here.

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…In which I swoon and (try-not-to) fangirl


In which I meet the Doctor and Rory Pond-Williams and try not to swoon. I think I held it together pretty well.

This weekend I had the immense pleasure to meet (re: see from afar) the Cap’, the Admiral, Drax, and the Doctor and one of his companions.

It sent my heart aflutter, that’s for certain.

Fan Expo Toronto came and went with all the typical fanfare and hype visiting celebrity guests bring to any town. This year’s event took over the north and south building of the Metro Convention Centre in downtown Toronto as cosplayers and geeks took to the streets. Between video game and big named vendors, to the many stalls in Artist Alley, the large crowds the convention draws is not a place a claustrophobic would like to be. Seriously, sometimes you get up and personal in someone’s armpit or sweaty chest, and it’s only out of politeness you say it’s alright while trying to discretely wipe your face.

As with all conventions with an A-list of guest panels set-up, the line-ups were insane. Big names like Stan Lee or Nathan Fillion will have line-ups starting hours before the panel begins. That said, I’m one of those people who don’t mind waiting in line for hours at a time; it actually gives me an excuse to read a book I haven’t had the chance to get to, or finish off some paperwork that has been neglected. It’s also a great time to get out of the crowds and catch a breather.


“Admiral” Edward James Olmos and his mountain beard.

This year I was able to catch several panels, the first of which was Edward James Olmos, also known as the Admiral (of Battlestar Galactica fame). Engaging yet politically minded, his panel is now listed as one of my favourites. Between the shout outs to fans and his light-hearted answers, he delved into social activity and spoke about non-violent civil demonstrations and channelling Ghandi. Battlestar Galactica, for those of you who haven’t seen the show as yet (in which case you a seriously missing out), was a groundbreaking show at the time. In the age of terrorism and religion and extremism, BSG made connections to political realities and the state of the world – it literally had you sympathizing with suicide bombers before the dawning realization hits you that this is what is happening in the Middle East. The panel was thought-provoking, full of humour, and I loved it.


Dave Bautista (right) and his manager at Fan Expo.

On a lighter note, I also attended the panels of Nathan Fillion (aka Captain Malcolm Renolds) and Dave Bautista (Drax “The Destroyer”). Each had its own highlights and both were engaging and gracious in their own rights. For Fillion’s panel, a fan who had formerly met him at a previous panel invited him to her wedding (short story: she had been terminally sick, met her love during that time, was encouraged by Fillion and is extremely glad and happy to have met Fillion previously).  As for Bautista, those muscles! Though only half an hour long, he spoke of stories of how he went from Entertainment Wrestling to acting (and how he cried when he received the role of Drax), to giving advice on become a wrestler (be healthy, lots of training) or actor (don’t give up).

The last panel I attended at Fan Expo was with the cast of Dr. Who, featuring the Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) and Rory Pond-Williams (Arthur Darvill). Everyone I know is a fan of something or another, it doesn’t necessarily have to be geek-related per say, but we all have those moments. This was mine.

Skipping the panel, which including Smith and Darvill singing Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody and Happy Birthday to a little girl and lots of laughter, my fangirl moment was during the photo-op with the duo. I honestly didn’t expect my heart to skip a beat, but hell, it happens. Now, outwardly I’d like to say I kept it together. Internally, I was melting – Matt Smith rubbed my shoulder and said THANK YOU.  Four days later and I’m still gushing *insert palm to face*

Annnnnnd deep breath….and release. Yea, we all have those moments, don’t even lie.

Getting back to reality for a minute or two, the fact that it must have been a ridiculously long day for both of them, followed by smiling for hours on end for a long line-up of fans wanting pictures, I salute them both. Charm and charisma aside, they were both down-to-earth guys…and actually shorter in real life than I expected (this said from someone who is 5’2″).

Next up, time to revisit San Diego Comic Con.

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The Heart of Cosplayers

Pieces of cut-up fabric of varying colours and types are scattered on the floor, overlapping to make a dangerously slippery carpet. “Pass me the black polyester.” Where is it? “Under the cookies and magenta fabric.”

It’s a beautiful sunny day. The sky is blue, and white clouds stretch off into the horizon. You’re sitting in your car, leisurely making your way to a destination of unknown origins. Looking ahead, you notice various groups huddling together on the sidewalks, posing and making strange gestures in the air. Weapons and props stick out like a sore thumb, along with the fact that people are dressed in costumes in blistering 40 degrees Celsius weather. Vibrant orange fabric drags on the ground behind a person, like a train on a wedding dress, as parts of tattered silk material floats into the air when a gentle wind breezes by. Cars slow down to look at them, either to honk or to get a closer look. You hear random phrases yelled out to random people. Frantic calls and shrills of excitement can be heard from either sides of the road. “Look! It’s Sasuke-kun![1] Kawaaiiiii!”[2] Immediately after, a poor soul is lost in the midst of glomping fans. This, my friend, is the world of cosplay.

Colourful threads stick to clothes like magnets. Strings slip between the cracks from a box, spilling out like tentacles reaching for food. “Has anyone seen the spool of orange thread?” Check in the box. “Which box?” …the one in front of you… “Oh.”

The art of cosplaying is a phenomenon that in recent years has begun to receive much attention. Conned by Nov Takahashi, cosplay is a word derived from the contraction of ‘costume’ and ‘play’. A similar term many people are familiar with in North America is Trekkies[3], fans who don pointed ears and out-of-the-world clothing to imitate their favourite character from the famous series Star Trek.

It was in 1984 at the Los Angeles Science Fiction Worldcon where it can be said the first specific origin of the word ‘cosplay’ can be traced (Associated Content). President of Studio Hard[4], Nov Takahashi, coined the term cosplay after being impressed by the many costumes worn by people whom he saw at the convention. His frequent reports in Japanese science fiction magazines triggered Japanese cosplay (Associated Content).

Since its birth twenty years ago, cosplaying has become a common phenomenon that not only takes place in sci-fi revenues, but is also increasing in Japanese animation conventions. Conventions, or ‘cons[5]’, occur several times a year, and provide an opportunity for a bunch of overexcited, sugar-filled, star-eyed cosplayers to get together. Cosplayers and conventions go hand-in-hand and can be compared with the customary tradition of Halloween. Of course, the main differences are that conventions don’t only take place on a chilly October night, and there is no age limit.

Measuring tapes are pulled out, a pad and pencil at hand. With arms spread out and back held straight, the thin plastic wraps around the torso. “Chest, waist, hips?” 32, 28, 35. “Shoulders?” 6. “We’ll add an inch to the chest for leeway, and drop an inch in the shoulder.[6]

Cosplay in Canada and United States is mainly focused on fans who dress up as characters from anime, manga and video games, where as cosplaying in Japan constitutes on a more wide spread level, such as sci-fi and fantasy.  Another term used in Japan for obsessive anime fans is otaku[7], a term whose implications are meant to be insulting. Otaku are usually people who are socially awkward, or, in other words, geeky (Marion).

Nakamori Akio, a critic and dōjinshi[8] artist, presumably invented the word otaku in 1983. He used the word otaku in a series entitled Otaku no Kenkyu (translated in English as ‘Your Home Investigations’) which was published in a low circulation Lolicom[9] manga magazine, Manga Burriko (Kinsella 549). However, since the infamous Miyazaki murder case[10], the conception of being otaku and the meaning of it has changed. “Otaku came to mean, in the first instance Miyazaki, in the second instance all amateur manga artists and fans, and in the third instance all Japanese youth in their entirety” (Kinsella 549). From these examples, Sarah Kinsella also mentions in her article that Ohtsuka Eiji “identified otaku as ‘the keyword of post-modern society’” and in 1990, Taku Hachiro suggested that while otaku was a word that previously spawned a bad image, “in the 1990s […] the meaning has changed. Now otaku refers to a high-information handling elite. It is clear, on closer examination, that otaku are deeply rooted in the current times” (550).

On the other hand, the word ‘fan’ has its own share of negative undertones. Abbreviated from the word ‘fanatic’, this has roots in the Latin word, ‘fanaticus’. Once again, translated, ‘fanaticus’ simply meant ‘of, or belonging to the temple, a temple servant, a devotee’ but it quickly assumed more negative connotations, ‘of persons inspired by orgiastic rites and enthusiastic frenzy’ (Jenkins 506). The revolution of the term ‘fanatic’ made reference to superfluous amounts of “religious belief and worship to any political beliefs” (Jenkins 506). Abridged, the first appearance of ‘fan’ is seen in the journalistic accounts of describing followers of professional sports team in the late nineteenth century. This was a time when sports moved from a “predominantly participant activity to a spectator event, but soon was expanded to incorporate any faithful ‘devotee’ of sports of commercial entertainment” (Jenkins 506). It can be seen that both words, otaku and fan, first came about with holding a negative connotation. They were words that one did not want to be associated with, solely for the implications that came with the term.

The transition from undeniably harsh terms has transferred into an idiom that fans and otaku are proud to be labelled as. When the word otaku is taken and placed in North America (and increasingly so in Japan), they wear the term like a badge of honour. Being a closet geek isn’t so bad any more, though the term ‘closet’ doesn’t apply as much now as it did then. Someone who is a fan of something is just as honoured to be labelled as such.

Nevertheless, it was in 1975 when a group of young manga artists, Aniwa Ju, Harada Terou and Yonezawa Yoshishiro, founded a new institution to encourage the development of unpublished amateur manga. The institution was Comic Market (also known by the abbreviations Comiket and Comike), a free space in the form of conventions held several times a year where amateur manga could be bought and sold (Kinsella 542-3). Since then, the Comiket has expanded from an underground market (of three days per year), to mainstream, in which it occurs twice a year on weekends in Japan, and more frequently in North America (Kinsella 543). Though the Comiket is solely focused of manga, it, along with the growth of sci-fi cons, is an example of expansion in the Western civilization of Japanese anime conventions: its slow, miniscule start, to crazy, week-end long fandom.

Fabric is spread out on the floor, as rulers, fabric pencils (also known as pencil crayons), and stencils are brought out. One person sits on one side, another across. “Instead of 150 inches we should make it 160 inches by, say 80 inches?” Yea, but we’ll need another two metres seeing as there isn’t enough fabric here to account for the sleeves and collar. “Ah, maybe three, we still need to add the hood.” And seeing as it’s us, maybe an extra half metre to go along with it.

Cosplay is fandom taken to the next step. Rather than obsessing and capitalizing on various fan merchandise, infatuation is breached to a degree where fans begin to dress up as their favourite characters, going as far as to imitate their ‘special’ moves and poses. Wigs, hair spray, temporary tattoos, props and costumes are all steps that a fan might take to enter the cosplaying dimension. There are no limitations to who can enter the subculture.

In the world of cosplay, there are two forms in which a fan can participate in: basic cosplay and Masquerade. Basic cosplay is essentially cosplaying in its simplest form. You attempt to look like a particular character by trying to recreate the character’s apparel as realistic as possible. On the other hand, masquerading is more of an interactive activity where the cosplayer takes on the identity of the character he is portraying. The final transition in becoming a true cosplayer has to do with the individual becoming the chosen character by taking on not only personality traits, but also adapting the character’s signature actions, habits etc.

Often, cosplayers, even those who only plan on dressing up, will choose to portray the character’s behaviour, because they identify with the character especially when posing for the camera[11]. With skill and compassion, the cosplayer can ‘pass’ off as the character (Polsky). At times it goes beyond the point of being infatuated with the character, as the cosplayer animate themselves to become the character. The identity of the character is so intriguing to the cosplayer that he/she will sometimes do an impromptu act, and recreate significant moments or phases of the character’s fictional life as a tribute to their dedication of the character[12].

Bent pins are poked into still bodies, adjusting the fabric to fit: a tuck here, a nip there. “Ow.” Stay still. “I am. Stop jabbing them into me.” Silence; a glare. Stay still. Poke. “I’m bleeding!”

The media inundates us with posters and advertisements. There are promotional videos, magazines, as well as pins and patches that dictate which Hollywood celebrity or politician is the next ‘hot’ item. It goes so far as objectifying and devaluing a person into a thing. Regardless of this notion, there are fans everywhere. Singers, actors, painters, exploit every capitalistic opportunity from their fans, but are still deemed ‘hot’ by the public.  Il Divo reaches out to those old and young, where Justin Timberlake brings sexy back to hip youngsters. Fandom can range from young to old.

Similarly, cosplaying has no age limit or restrictions, participation is exclusive to the public. However, unlike staring in awe at objectified celebrities, cosplay revolves around a world where fans are people who love and admire characters of 2D, (or 3D if you think of recent video games such as Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts or Metal Gear Solid). Cosplayers take a character and solidify its presence into reality by producing the characters clothing, and masquerading around conventions. Cosplaying “acts as a buffer against social aging – not against the dread of getting older…” (Thornton 190).  Age is diminished, and social barriers are dropped.

Cardboard, wood, paint, glue…stuck fingers. Drying props lean against the wall, chisels engrave designs into wood, and the waft of addicting paint enters the nostrils. “How many lines and circles is the snowboard suppose to have?” I don’t know, look. “Where’s the picture?” …under the wood…over there somewhere… “Geez, thanks.” Anytime.

Why does one cosplay? How do you suddenly decide that rather than just being a fan that collects commodities, you want to play dress up? Judith Halberstam conveys her frustration in her essay “Drag Kings” about how drag participants answer with superficial responses to the question ‘why’, the same can be said about cosplayers (405). The simplest response is admittedly, because it’s fun. Everyone remembers being a child and becoming overly excited, (without the sugar in their system), about going trick-or-treating, and wearing the newest themed costume. Pirates? Princess? You can’t forget the beloved Marvel characters such as Batman and Superman. Cosplaying is an excuse to turn back time, dress up, and be giddy. Of course, instead of doing it for candy, you pose for pictures.

In a manner of speaking, the moment you enter that weekend of fun, you’re leaving reality to enter a fictional world of anime and manga in which everyone is a character.  You become someone you’re not for those few precious moments, and in that brief lapse of time, you identify and seek out those who are similar to you. Cosplayers, as well as convention goers, reify what is fictional, to something tangible. In the act of cosplaying, the fans are able to forget the problems of the outside world.

Cosplaying is a subculture that, in its initial stages, is when anime enthusiasts buy and collect merchandise: posters, OST CDs[13], toy figures, etc. Furthermore, Sarah Thornton describes in her article “The Social Logic of Subcultural Capital,” how subcultural capital transitions to cultural capital, which is prevalent in the fans as they become more knowledgeable about anime (186).  By entering this realm of cosplaying, the fan forms another identity. You’re still you, but now you have a mask covering you, one that extends its reaches by conveying a message to the community of other cosplayers.

By pretending to be someone you’re not, it gives you a reason to hug random strangers and prance around in tighty-whitey’s. Crossplaying[14] is natural, and fans usually receive compliments on their costume. Anime conventions are the one place strangers can go up to other strangers and glomp[15] them senseless, without being charged with sexual assault. Rather, you become best friends with strangers for the duration of the event. What’s more is that “cultural critics who investigate the interplay of identity and ideology have argued convincingly that identities are formed through representation…” (Gever 199). People on the outside looking on might criticize cosplayers for their immature behaviour and wanton-like actions. They immediately label cosplayers off as weird freaks, while blindly turning away from the subculture itself. Their misunderstanding of cosplayers, however, helps to make a cosplayer’s identity concrete. This is true for the fact that each trial becomes a stepping stone in forming who you are and in creating a “collective identity, [forged] by an alliance with a community” (Jenkins 507). The trials and errors that come with cosplaying are what helps to build who you are.

Empty canisters of paint and cut up pieces of wood and foam lie scattered on the ground. Missing utensils found in random places. “Anyone have a pair of scissors?” There should be some lying around…we have six pairs… “Hey, does anyone want icecre- er…I’m not even going to ask.” A pair of frozen scissors is pulled out of the freezer. Well, there’s one.

Stuart Hall, in his first of two definitions of cultural identity, defines it “in terms of the idea of one, shared culture, a sort of collective ‘one true self,’ hiding inside the many other, more superficial or artificially imposed ‘selves’ which people with a shared culture and ancestry hold in common” (Gever 193). It’s in that first step you take into creating your favourite character’s costume, that you enter a fantasy world.

The underlying feeling you get as you step through the convention doors is the sense of community. Because everyone has similar diversions, there is camaraderie amongst everyone. Where one can be seen as a stumbling idiot who knows nothing in his or her own social group, that association with one’s self is changed when amongst people of similar traits. Everyone connects. There is homology in the bond that strings through all cosplayers and convention goers, something abstract, something elusive. Though it is not pronounced so boldly, fans, especially new ones, are surprised “in discovering how many people share their fascination with a particular series, their pleasure in discovering that they are not ‘alone’” (Jerkins 507).

Regardless of whom you associate yourself with, if there is something that you are passionate about and those around you don’t understand, there is an impression of detachment. Those around you may try to understand, but the problem is that they don’t. While they won’t criticize you for being weird and geeky, it’s hard to reach that connection if there aren’t any mutual interests. As there are subjects with deep connotations that are both intricate and socially sensitive, anime fans find it hard to admit their fascination. “Coming out, means more than individual declaration; it is also a fundamentally social process that defies social disapprobation and infuses conventional representations of sexual deviance and moral degeneracy…” (Gever 194). An example is people who like to collect obscure vintage items such as feces. As such, they might also experience hardship in coming out with their ‘hidden’ identity.

Nevertheless, for otakus and cosplayers, conventions are a place where admirers congregate, “often to draw strength and courage from their ability to identify themselves as members of a group of other fans who shared common interests and confronted common problems” (Jenkins 507). It’s a great way to meet new people with the same interests, make new friends, and if you get lucky, meet someone special. There is solidarity among the masses of cosplayers that forms in that day, or weekend, of cosplay, and “despite individual differences, the members of a subculture […] share a common language” (Hebdige 131). People who dress in similar costumes become your best friends, and you chat like long lost buddies, your mouth spewing words a mile a minute.

Ring. Ring. Ta da ta pa da. “Phone’s ringing.” We’re not deaf you know. “Anyone know where it is?” Follow the noise! A rush and flurry of movement. Got it! “Hello?” Beeeeeeep. “Eh…missed it again.” Whoever it is will phone back if it’s important. “Uh huh, like the last five times.”

Barthe’s Theory of Identification claims that as you identify with a character in a book or movie, your response isn’t to associate with the character but with how other people will respond and identify with you (Lipton 2007). As a cosplayer or fan attends more conventions over time he/she becomes knowledgeable. They are easy to distinguish from the crowd by their confident strides and easy going nature as well as their insider knowledge about the convention location. Fans visiting for their first time can be easily identified by their nervous excitement. You start to notice the gradual growth in their behaviour over time as they become common sight at anime conventions. At the same time, the fan gains social capital from other cosplayers because of the connections on has “in the form of friends, relations, associates, and acquaintances can all bestow status” (Thornton 186).  As each year passes, the next generation of cosplayers arrive. It starts with simple costumes and gradually transgresses to varying degrees of complexity. As Dick Hebdige describes the punk subculture and its rank, in cosplay, you can tell if they are newbies, or if they are senior participants “the distinction between originals and hanger-ons is always a significant one in subculture” (131).

Each subculture has a hierarchy of its own. While everyone strives to create and have authentic costumes, those who have frequently cosplayed or attend conventions religiously can clearly see the differences.  And as Hebdige puts it: “different youths bring different degrees of commitment to a subculture” (131). Yuniya Kawamura describes in his review of “Japanese Teens as Producers of Street Fashion,” the contrast in participants of Japanese teen fashion. Even though there are “the distinctive looks [that] function as a visible group identity for the teens… [it] becomes shared symbols of membership affiliation” (Kawamura 787). Between the Mamba’s, Celemba’s, Lomamba’s and Cocomba’s[16] and the various states of cosplay, it can be said that there is a sense of rankings, from seniority to fresh faces.

Pins are pierced through folded fabric, the sowing machine turned on as the fabric chugged from one end to another. With the machine’s needle holding strong, the pedal is pressed gently. Hands guide thick fabric through its course. “Done.” Think we can hem another inch? “Is that necessary? I just finished sewing this.” Please? Sigh. “Oi[17], unstitcher, you’re needed.”

On a side note, crossplaying[18], as mentioned above, is as natural as glomping in the cosplaying universe. In theory, Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the term cross-dressing, as the behavior of wearing the opposite sex’s clothing. However, in the subcultural context of cosplay, cross-dressing is adapted to fit the vernacular language of convention goers by combining “cross” and “play”.  Cross-dressing is essentially like cosplay, but rather than just becoming a fictionalized character, you turn into one that is of the opposite sex.

Halberstam writes that although male impersonations of the female sex “has been a theatrical genre for at least two hundred years, […] the drag king is a recent phenomenon” (400). Along with that, she continues by writing that “‘drag’ and ‘performance’ have recently become key words within contemporary gender theory, and they are generally used to describe the theatricality of all gender identity…” (403). In cosplay, and crossplay, that hardly matters. Anime and manga are done in such a way that many male characters have a feminine touch to them: the angled jaw, glistening beautiful hair, long lashes and so forth. These beautiful young men are known as bishōnen-ai (Kinsella 546). Many cosplays done of male characters by males, especially characters from shōujo[19] manga, are not as well portrayed as those done by females.

Cross-dressers usually hold an appreciation towards yaoi, which is also synonymous with shōnen-ai; in other words male homosexuality[20]. Yuri, or shoujo-ai, is the equivalent for lesbian content. Other times, cosplayers feel the need to feminize male characters and sexualize them, or vice versa[21]. In addition, female cosplayers sometimes feel the need to butch-it-up. They can crossplay into a samurai warrior or a gun-wielding outlaw, just as a male can tone it down[22]. Cross-dressing is as limitless as cosplaying; you can go as far as your imagination takes you.

The scent of burning fabric (accidental, of course) and baking lunch overtakes the smell of sprayed paint and drying glue. Music is playing in the background, replaying over and over. “Is lunch ready yet?” Not yet, don’t leave the iron like that! “Someone press play again.” I smell something burning…

The sudden rise of anime fans in recent years can be credited to mainstream media (YTV) and easily accessible magazines like Newtype or Shonen JUMP. Even channels geared towards music, such as Much Music, are starting to air anime series. Even with the sudden interest in Japanese animation, fans find it difficult to judge these versions as well-done, English-dubbed series. Though admittedly, fans who begin watching English-dubbed series turn to the original Japanese series, with English subtitles. With the alluring public interest in Japanese anime going mainstream, it is becoming harder to convince TV producers to follow a certain anime, or published a specific manga.

…like other popular readers, fans lack direct access to the means of commercial cultural production and have only the most limited resources with which to influence the entertainment industry’s decisions. Fans must beg with the networks to keep their favourite shows on the air, must lobby producers to provide desired plot developments or to protect the integrity of favourite characters. Within the cultural economy, fans are peasants, not proprietors, a recognition which must contextualize our celebration of strategies of popular resistance… (Jenkins 509).

With the ascension of anime, series like Naruto and Fullmetal Alchemist are becoming widely popular cosplay choices. The mainstream media have focused on its viewers and by doing so, reels in a new wave of anime fans, whom in turn eventually turn into cosplayers.

This sudden call from fans to producers has given rise to more cosplayers, and due to the increasing numbers, conventions have been bigger than ever. The convention of subcultural signs (the ever evident Japanese terminology, music, clothing, etc.) is slowly changing into mass-produced objects. Costumes that were once hand-made can now be found and bought from stores such as Ki-Ki-Wai[23].  Rather than creating your own costume, a part of what being a cosplayer is lost when a fan goes out to buy it. The act of ‘coming out’ and recognizing who you are is misplaced because of the lack of time and effort spent on sewing your costume. At the same time, this whole process helps in constructing fans and their “cultural and social identity through borrowing and inflecting mass culture images, articulating concerns which often go unvoiced within the dominant media” (Jenkins 508).

“Once removed from their private contexts by the small entrepreneurs and big fashion interests who produce them on a mass scale, they become codified, made comprehensible, rendered at once public property and profitable merchandise” (Hebdige 123). It converges to become a commodity form, leading to, as Hebdige puts it, “the subculture’s imminent demise (123). But even though cosplaying is going from and underground cult to a mainstream phenomenon, it still has its core group that makes up the spirit. Regardless of how costume’s can now be bought in stores or shipped overseas, the heart of cosplayers remain with those who spend tedious hours sewing through the dim lighting, with bleeding fingers and diminishing funds.

An array of wigs and their rainbow colours line the counter, hairspray half-full roll to a stop, some missing lids. “We need to get a blue wig.” Blue? “Blue. And purple hairspray.” Ah, we also need a pink wig. Questioning eyebrow rises. For Tamao.[24] “Right.”

What can I say? I, myself, am a cosplaying otaku. I may also add that I’m damn proud of it. It’s been five years since I first started to cosplay, and each year is a new experience in itself. The process to create a self-formed costume is tedious and at times, extremely frustrating. This is tremendously so when you have a group of friends, and as much as they are your family, the urge to strangle (or castrate in some instances) a fellow cosplayer is very likely.

Cosplayers, Trekkies, skateboarders, geeks, the preps, jockeys… Each time a person or group is labelled under a name, those who do not understand the subculture often come to misleading, and sometimes inaccurate, conclusions (Jenkins 514). The misinterpretation of these labels lead to insulting comments by strangers which then creates a divide between various subcultures. The problem many people face is that they refuse to take a subculture for its entirety. Though cosplaying is not well known, as of recent years it has gained attention. People, though at snail-pace, are becoming aware of subcultures other than their own.

Acceptance amongst others is still hard to find, but cosplayers will continue to converge at conventions to get together.

Ink cartridges are placed into printers and registration forms roll out like magic. “Is everyone’s printed?” …should be… “There’s only 15 here, we’re missing someone.” Checks. Oh, that would be me. Glare; sheepish chuckle.

It’s all about being the weird nerd reading manga in the back room…it’s all about being a proud otaku…it’s all about becoming the best of friends with anyone and everyone…it’s all about the random glomps and cross-dressing tendencies…it’s a beautiful sunny day. The sky is blue, and white clouds stretch off into the horizon. The weather has reached 40 degrees Celsius, and you can feel the sweat covering your scalp under your wig. Red polyester sleeves constrict your movements, even as the bottom of the trench coat swishes with each stride. You duck under one particularly large gun, and wave at a bunch of people who have cosplayed as Fullmetal Alchemist. Slippered feet tread across the street and you and your friends meet up with other cosplayers who are dressed as the same anime. You wave, you smile, you fawn, you glomp. Your heart stops for a moment, and you see your favourite character ahead of you… You yell, “Look! It’s Sasuke-kun! Kawaaiiiii!” Heads swivel and you see the cosplayer’s eyes widen. You, along with other Sasuke fans, run towards the short cosplayer. In the back of your mind, you feel a twinge of pity for him, but it disappears as quickly as it came. The next second you’re glomping the poor soul.

[1] Uchiha Sasuke: A young, angsty boy in the anime/manga Naruto, also a fan favourite. (Uchiha is the last name, Sasuke the first) See Figure 1.0.

[2] Kawaii: Japanese word for cute. Can be commonly heard being elongated, in shrill pitches by fan girls, and fan boys.

[3] See Figure 1.1

[4] Studio Hard: a corporation that deals with: a) Developing, editing and creating magazines and books; b) Planning and editing TV programs and recording products; c) Arranging, operating, contracting, mediating and conducting various events; d) Advertising and PR business; e) Developing the information services using the Internet and computers and; f) Planning and managing business of using commercial and public institutions. For more information, visit < http://www.hard.co.jp/ >

[5] Cons – slang for convention; used by convention goers for its simplicity: “Are you going to the Anime North con?”

[6] Needs to be dropped to account for the slope in the shoulder.

[7] See Figure 1.2.

[8] Dōjinshi: (同人誌) roughly translates into same stuff, different people. Dōjinshi are unofficial, amateur produced manga, based upon successful, well established manga or anime series. The quality of Doujin ranges in quality (Kinsella 549-50).

[9] Lolicom: or Rorikon (ロリコン) is the Japanese gairaigo term (usually short form) for Lolita complex (derived from the novel Lolita), the sexual attraction to fictional and real underage girls, or pedophilia (Kinsella 547-8; Moffat).

[10] Miyazaki Tsutomu, 26, abducted, murdered, and mutilated four small girls between August 1988 and July 1989, before he was caught, arrested, tried and imprisoned (Kinsella 548). This generated an interest in the media and stirred a frenzy over Lolicom, as Miyazaki had a large collection of Lolicom manga and had been to a Comiket (Kinsella 548).

[11] See Figure 1.3.

[12] See Figure 1.4.

[13] OST: Original Soundtracks

[14] Crossplay: basically cross-dressing; part of the vernacular adaptations of a subculture.

[15] Glomp: a very big hug; occurs at any time and place, with no warning. Another term associated with this subculture. See Figure 1.5, Figure 1.6.

[16] Mamba’s, Celemba’s, Lomamba’s and Cocomba’s: Celemba is a combination of a celebrity look and a Mamba. The Celembas tend to wear expensive brands while the Mambas do not. The Mambas use white eyeshadow around the eyes but the Celembas use silver instead. As for fashion, the Celembas look more mature and sophisticated and always have a scarf or a shawl around their neck. There is another group called Lomamba, that is a Mamba with a Lolita touch, and the label they wear must be LizLisa. Furthermore, Cocomba is someone who covers herself with the brand Cocolulu sold in Shibuya. See Figure 1.7

[17] Oi: an exclamation; phrase used to indicate

[18] See Figure 1.8.

[19] Shōujo: manga geared towards girls. Key indicators are the overly large eyes and star-like or dream-like sequences in the background.

[20] See Figure 1.9

[21] See Figure 2.0

[22] See Figure 2.1

[23] Kikiwai: a store in Ontario; can be found in Chinatown Centre (Toronto) and Metro Square (Markham).

[24] A female character from Shaman King, an anime/manga. Many anime and manga characters are known for their wild hair colouring. See Figure 2.2.



Cassandra Chin | Copyright © 2007 | All Rights Reserved

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