Cover Story Cosplay GEN #04: KANAME☆ (JP)

Interview by Cristian Botea and Ruxandra Târcă
Translator Oana Cristina Butta

Benten (Zone-00) // Photo by Hiro
KANAME☆
Years of Cosplay: 5 1/2
Chiba, Japan

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?

 

Q: How did you begin cosplaying? What exactly did drive you into this hobby?

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!

 
KAITO (Vocaloid, BlackRock Shooter version)
Photo by Yossan
KAITO (Vocaloid, BlackRock Shooter version)
Photo by nana
KAITO (Vocaloid, BlackRock Shooter version)
Photo by Yossan
 

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.

 

Q: You are pretty famous for your cosplay of Cloud from Final Fantasy; what can you tell us about the tailoring process of that costume as a whole, and about the meaning this character holds for you?

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.

 
Cloud Strife (Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children)
Photo by Shin
Cloud Strife (Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children)
Photo by Shin
Cloud Strife (Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children)
Photo by Shin
 

The Wig

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…

The Weapon

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

 

Q: Among the characters you cosplayed as, is there one that holds a special place in your mind? If yes, why?

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.

 
Ryuzaki (original character)
Photo by nana
Ryuzaki (original character)
Photo by nana
KANAME☆ as Alto Saotome
 

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.

 

Q: What can you tell us about the designing process of an original 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.

 
Bernardo Ortolani (Lucky Dog 1) // Photo by Will
 

Q: In your opinion, what is the most difficult part in cosplay costume-making?

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.

 
Phoenix Ikki (Saint Seiya)
Souji Okita (Hakuouki: Shinsengumi Kitan)
Lavi (D.Gray-man)
 

Q: You are well known not only in Japan, but also in other countries, and you were also invited to conduct cosplay panels. What can you tell us about the cosplay communities outside Japan?

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.

 
Asato (Lamento -Beyond the Void-) // Photo by Yuki
 

Q: How do you manage to keep up with your job, cosplay, and anime, manga and games?

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.

 
KANAME☆ as Portgas D. Ace
KANAME☆ as Portgas D. Ace
 

Q: Do you fear that, along the years, cosplay will turn into something commercial and people will stop viewing it as a hobby?

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.

 
KAITO (Vocaloid)
Photo by Yossan
KAITO (Vocaloid)
Photo by Yossan
 

Q: What can you tell us about the KANAME☆ outside cosplay and how has cosplay changed him and brought him to what he is today?

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.

 
KANAME☆ as Heine Rammsteiner
 

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.

 
Grimmjow Jaegerjaquez (Bleach)
Photo by Katsumaru
Ichigo Kurosaki (Bleach)
Photo by Sano
Ichigo Kurosaki (Bleach)
 

Q: Where do you think you would’ve been today if you hadn’t found this hobby called cosplay?

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.

 

Q: For how long do you think you will continue to cosplay? Will we still be able to see impressive costumes from you in 10 years from now or do you plan on following a different line of work or hobby in the future?

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.

 
                  

14 Comments

  1. Aya says:

    Inspiring, is the only word i can describe this article with. Even tough he faced too much trouble since a very young age, he got to a very high place into people’s heart. Not only he does a great job being a cosplayer, but reading the article you can see how genuine he is as a human being. Best wishes for him and congratulations to you cosplaygen for keep supporting marvelous people as Kaname.

  2. KuriCurry says:

    He’s a genuine guy, with beliefs similar to most of us who live common lives. I admire him even more after this. The sheer passion, as to which he doesn’t even know what else would there be aside from cosplay. I’m a little ashamed, as I would probably lean towards writing and painting if cosplay didn’t exist.

    Though I can’t imagine myself without it right now as well.
    You are awesome Kaname! Keep up the good work, and keep that level head of yours. Stay the calm individual that you are. <3

    And congrats on the interview!

  3. Tricks Beat says:

    Kaname-san, you are truly an inspiration to all of us. He’s just a guy doing what he loves and what he does best.

  4. C.C. says:

    I AM CRYING RIGHT NOW. Seriously. It was actually nice to know that I have somewhat the same experiences as Kaname-san. Cosplay was the one who changed my life. It made me change and improve myself for the better. Without cosplay, I might not have met such awesome friends who I can totally relate to. Before I started, I was a shut-in. Yes. A hikikomori that would not leave the house because she still has animes to watch, mangas to read, and games to play. If I did not step up and try this new thing, I might not have been able to socialize and meet different kinds of people. I might not be as famous as Kaname-san (not that fame matters to me) but it’s really good to know that I’m not the only one who was changed dramatically. We may be shunned from society, called nerds, weirdos, geeks… But hey. We’re doing what we love. Let them die early from their vices, but at least I’m proud to say that I have a hobby that would do no harm to myself or the society.

  5. Capz says:

    The picture beside his ichigo cosplay is Grimmjow Jaegerjaquez not KAITO D:

  6. Aya-chan says:

    I’m really crying right now. This is very inspirational from one of my favorite japanese cosplayer, Kaname-sama. Ever since I saw him cosplaying Cloud, I idolize him and I respect him as a Cosplayer. He’s really nice and down to earth! I remember when He visit here in our country, Philippines last year. I’m so happy that I met him finally! After reading this, I respect him more as a cosplayer and a person.

    Anyway, congrats for this amazing interview!

  7. Alvin says:

    I just found a new level of respect for Kaname.

    Keep doing what you do best, and keep inspiring other cosplayers!

  8. Kasaikun16 says:

    “Cosplay is what keeps me alive” ~Kaname, CosplayGEN interview #4
    http://www.cosplaygen.com/kaname-jp/

    I would say the same if anyone asked me. Because for most of us, it’s not only a hobby now.
    If I never knew cosplay existed, I probably would be stuck drawing or wasting my time downloading movies & music till I’m 30
    Thank you Kaname for being awesome! <3

  9. potato duck says:

    another hot guy i will never get
    but
    i will make you mine
    *right click, save picture as..*

  10. […] KANAME☆ a fost, de asemenea, pe coperta numarului 4 din revista Cosplay Gen. Daca doriti sa aflati mai multe detalii despre el, ce inseamna cosplay-ul pentru el si cum a ajuns celebru in lumea cosplay, puteti sa cititi online tot interviul sau pe site-ul Cosplay Gen! […]

  11. […] KANAME☆ is also the cover story of the fourth issue of Cosplay Gen. If you want to find out more about him, what cosplay means to him and how he got popular in the world of cosplay, you can read the whole interview online on the Cosplay Gen website! […]

  12. […] A highly interesting and insightful interview with Kaname and the art of cosplaying can be found at ->> http://www.cosplaygen.com/kaname-jp/ […]

  13. a fan of kaname says:

    kaname started cosplaying at a pretty solid age. he’s an inspiration for everyone who feels “too old” to cosplay. people say cosplay is teenagers’ hobby, but kaname proved it wrong :) i enjoy his cosplays, they’re so pro and i am hoping to become such a great cosplayer as he is one day!

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