KANAME can certainly teach us many things about the quirky relation that links diet, outer appearance and a hero-worshiping. Prop-making has become a consumate art for many, but KANAME☆ certainly brought it to a new height. Ever wondered how you can balance a 2kg model around; or how you can reduce not just your weight, but the whole prop’s – and still look fabulous? Another major insight is that you should be ready to translate 2D objects into 3D and 360° accessory visions, adorning in the end more life-like action figures. Yes, and also ask yourselves that elusive but important question about copyrighting, fan originality and intellectual propriety and the eternal – how to turn your hobby into a 365 day paying job?
I used to think cosplay was a lot like a new diet I started when I was about to hit 30, and that’s how I used to answer this question, too. But the more I think about it, the more I realize that what really got me thinking about cosplay was seeing just how many props and items were available on Yahoo! Auctions every day.
One day, about four years ago, my girlfriend told me that I was putting on weight. I started a very strict diet and did my best to stick to it for about half a year, but then we broke up and all that enthusiasm had nowhere to go. Then I said to myself that I shouldn’t hide anymore who I was. I was an otaku, loud and proud!
Around that time, a friend of mine who likes photo effects told me that I could find many replica props and other funny and interesting things. Among other things, I found a costume from HERO SHOW. It was expensive, but I knew I wanted to wear something like that at least once before I turned 30, and I figured there was no harm in cosplaying just once and maybe I could even learn a thing or two about life.
I didn’t have any cosplayer friends and I had no idea what kind of world I was stepping into, but as long as I could become one of the heroes I’d been worshipping since I was a boy, I didn’t care. I was already pretty good with photo effects and I looked pretty good after the diet I’d been on, so little by little my self-confidence grew until I realized that this was the perfect way to use all that enthusiasm.
I’ve always liked Final Fantasy VII; then the Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children movie came out and I was hopelessly fascinated by how cool they made Cloud look and act. That’s why I picked his Advent Children outfit for my cosplay, and, thanks to the diet I’d been on, I could also pull it off.
Since I started cosplaying as Cloud, I changed the full costume design once and made another sword from scratch. I didn’t have anyone to teach me, so I improvised a lot. I also used what I’d learned in interior design when I was 25-27 to help me. I bought the clothes from a nearby shop and modified them afterwards. That’s how I got the earring, too.
After I talked to one of my friends, who works as a hairstylist, I bought two wigs and sewed them together, then cut and styled the hair. Truth be told, I actually cut it too short because I couldn’t tell what the right length was when I was working on it. I’ve been using that wig for three years now and I really want to make a new and better one someday soon…
I studied the movie scenes, then searched for professionally-made props on the Internet to get an idea of what I was going for, and finally I gathered or made the parts I needed (there were hundreds!) and put them all together. What I kept in mind was: would this be too heavy for a grown man to carry around? Could this withstand a little wind without toppling over? Would I need special packaging to transport it or is it sturdy enough? Can I get this or that material? How will it look once it’s finished?
Prop-making is one of the things I like the most about cosplay, by the way. The first model I made was too heavy and the balance was awkward, but once I put more thought into the thickness of the material and how many sheets of paper I needed to use, I managed to reduce the weight to around 2kg (which is about as heavy as 2 – 2.5 pet bottles*). I still want to improve the weight and balance someday.
What’s really important in prop-making is to have an accessory that is as true to the original as possible, in both shape and color. You need to be able to visualize it in 3D and 360°, and then translate that vision into reality with as much accuracy as you can. If you’ve managed to make something that looks better than an action figure, you’ve done it right.
*Translator note: Vending machines in Japan commonly sell drinks in 1l (1kg) pet bottles
On the contrary, all the characters I’ve cosplayed as have a kind of special meaning to me. For this question, however, I’d like to talk about my one and only original character. His name is Ryuzaki, and he is the elder of two siblings.
Before I go on, I have to say that between constant criticism and copyright enforcement, having even one original character that isn’t the intellectual property of anyone else in Japan can make your cosplaying experience easier and more diverse, not to mention a lot more fun.
Anyway, even though Ryuzaki started off as a game between me and my friend, I’ve noticed that people are starting to associate him more and more with KANAME☆ the cosplayer, and I’ve also seen drawings and mascots of him. I hope I can create more original characters that the fans would like as much.
To me, Ryuzaki means more than just a character I cosplay as. He represents my playful, laid-back side, and he can do anything if he puts his mind to it. And, last but not least, he’s bringing happiness wherever he goes. He’s that kind of character.
I don’t start off with a list of materials or anything formal like that; it all begins as a game between me and my friends. First I choose a wig, then I try to imagine the setting, and finally I decide on a costume – nothing too fancy, just clothes that anyone could wear, like a student uniform – and before I know it, I’m starting to love that new character!
By the way, I can’t draw at all.
While I have no problem making complicated props out of all sorts of materials, I’m not really into cutting complicated patterns out of paper to use when I work with fabrics. Also, I’m still not good at working with polyurethane (for armor, etc.)
Back when I was still a beginner, one of my friends saw an outfit I made without using any commercial patterns and he told me “Wow, that came out really good!” He was very surprised.
Since I’ve discovered charcoal paper and measuring tape only recently, it still takes me about three times more than for an average person to make anything out of fabric.
I’ve been to cosplay events in South Korea, America and Singapore every year for the past three years now. Two years ago, I finally registered an account on Facebook. Even though my English wasn’t that good at the time, I couldn’t help but be impressed at how many people from all over the world met, talked and became friends over their shared passion for Japanese culture. That’s when I realized that, even though the otaku in Japan are a very closed-off bunch, that was no reason for me not to enjoy my hobby more openly! I owe this realization to cosplay fans everywhere, and I want to thank everyone from the bottom of my heart.
Cosplay is an element of Japanese pop culture, but it’s also something that crosses borders and unites fans all over the world. I’m very glad to be able to take part in such an important area of our cultural exchange. From now on, I want to focus more on my English and, hopefully, to become able to speak other languages as well.
My day has 36 hours – I’m joking, of course, but truth be told, I can’t always keep up with everything.
This is a little personal, but when I first started cosplaying I was recovering from a very bad case of chronic back pain. Because of that, I’m still living with my family now. As for how I split my time, my job gets around 20, and the rest is split between my other hobbies, like games and anime (another 20) and, of course, cosplay (the remaining 60). I do get some occasional cosplay-related jobs, but I don’t make much money on the side other than that. On the other hand, when I start something new I go all in — if I could get paid for doing what I like 365 days a year, my life would be perfect.
Lately, though, I’ve been investing more and more in my activities and I’ve turned about half of my hobbies into something like a job, so the way I split my time now is more like 60 work, and 40 other things. Right now, I’d say that the line between work and hobbies is so blurred I could do this almost 24/7 and I’d love it! That wouldn’t be very fair to the world, would it?
Since I organize my own schedule, deciding what my priorities are and planning them can get really difficult sometimes. Sometimes I get eye strain when I work, so I plan my breaks around that. With all the foreign conventions lately, though, I do end up spending my whole day in front of the computer, either working or watching anime (even when I should be sleeping). Aside from Shounen Jump, which I subscribe to, I can’t really afford other manga and games, even though I’d like to do a lot more cosplay based on those. It’s a shame, really.
This is a very complex question. First off, cosplay has a different status in Japan and abroad, not to mention that the regulations are very different, so we already have two different aspects of the same problem. There’s no denying that the business aspect of cosplay has been growing lately. I’ve heard people talk about it more and more, and I’ve been giving it some serious thought myself. I did reach some conclusions, but since I’ve only been cosplaying for three years and a half now and haven’t had the chance to speak with too many other cosplayers, I’ll keep those to myself… because I’d rather give my full attention to the project at hand than think and think until my mind starts going in circles.
Every now and then, people have been asking me if I’m a ‘pro’. The truth is, even though I do travel abroad a lot with my cosplay, I make no profit from it and I have absolutely no plans of turning it into a job. Of course, if someone asked me to become a full-time “real-life character impersonator” and that job would pay me well enough to put food on the table, I’d be more than happy to do it. In the meantime, I’ll keep enjoying myself and doing my best for the people who love and support me.
On the other hand, I realize that the cosplay scene is constantly changing and there may come a time when, even though I do my absolute best to become a character I love, I might not be able to do it on my own because I can’t afford it, or I don’t have the skills or the knowledge… In that case, if I have to resort to a mass-produced item, then I’ll have no choice but to do it. But my goal as a cosplayer isn’t the costume and props themselves, but to truly become the character I’m cosplaying as.
There’s no easy way to answer this, but cosplay has had a tremendous influence on my life. If I were to put it in one phrase, it would be, “Cosplay is what keeps me alive”. I wanted to cosplay ever since I was in junior high, but I was too much of a loner to try. Then, throughout my early twenties, I had to deal with constant back pain that got gradually worse and went through a lot of frustration as a result. I was starting to get desperate because I couldn’t do the things I wanted to do. Then, in my late twenties, I finally found cosplay and this is what made me feel like life was worth living again.
I was on the road to recovery when I started cosplaying, and on some level that served as a way to get used to socializing again. Then, at some point, I realized that everything in my life so far – even the things I’d thought to be pointless when they happened – had actually led to this, and I thought “I see… it was all for this… and I finally found it!” I was so happy I couldn’t stop crying. I think that was the first time in my life I cried so much.
I used to think of myself as someone who’d failed at everything, someone who was too caught up in what he wanted and didn’t even like himself, but once I started cosplaying abroad and I saw the enthusiasm of so many fans with my own eyes, and I realized that all that joy and enthusiasm were because of me… well, I was so happy that I even started crying during panels and interviews. I’d given up on everything else I’d tried up until that point, but cosplay was something that brought happiness not only to me, but to others as well. Not to mention it made me challenge myself and grow in so many ways.
Cosplay aside, I think I’m a little strange (given my hobby of choice, that is) and a bit of a hikikomori. I’m the eldest of four brothers, by the way, and for better or for worse I’m an easy-going, “my pace” kind of guy. I don’t have that much self-confidence and I don’t think I’m anything special, so I keep my feelings to myself. All in all, I’m no different than I look in my non-cosplay photos.
Finally, I’m not very good with girls.
Let me ask you a question: if there hadn’t been a thing called air, where would you be today?
To put it simply, I don’t know how to do anything else. Also, I became a cosplayer out of unbridled passion and it felt natural to me ever since the first time I did it, so I couldn’t possibly imagine myself doing anything else now.
I don’t know how much longer I’ll be able to do it, but if I could, I’d become a wizard and carry on for another couple of hundred years.
Aside from my job, I can’t imagine taking on another hobby. If I can, I want to keep on cosplaying for the rest of my life.