Amanda’s Monthly Cosplay Tip: Explaining Cosplay

Hello cosplayers, and Happy December!

One thing that makes December so special to me (other than my birthday lol) is all the time you get to spend with friends and family. I remember when I was younger, we have company over, and it would always come up in conversation at one point or another. “So what kind of hobbies do you have?”  Whenever this happened to me, my mom would always go on and on about the crazy costumes I make and wear to conventions and sometimes, would even tell me to go “Put one on to show off.”  So, I present to you, some tips on how to explain what cosplay is to people who have no idea what you are talking about!

1.       Explain the meaning of the word cosplay.  Cosplay is a word, that is made up of the words “costume” and “play”,, which explains why it’s not just all about wearing a costume, but embracing the character as well and acting like them.  The word cosplay was coined by a man named Nobuyuki Takahashi when he first visited the World Science Fiction Convention (WorldCon) in Los Angeles in 1984.  He saw all of the people dressed up in costumes and he wrote an article for the Japanese magazine My Anime about what he saw.

2.       Create the setting.  Many people who aren’t familiar with the art of cosplay or even the convention scene itself will be confused on why someone would want to do this sort of thing.  Explaining what conventions are like, including the different panels, shows, concerts, guest interactions, and cosplay contests can set the tone for why people enjoy dressing up the way that they do.  My parents were always confused on why I enjoyed anime and, by extension, cosplay, but they were always supportive when I told them how inclusive of a place a convention can be and how so many of my friends were involved as well.

3.       Show off your skills.  If you sew or craft your own costumes, don’t be afraid to bring out a couple of your newest or best pieces to show off.  Tell them about the different techniques you used or materials you chose and explain how you made the piece and what it is for.  If you don’t craft your own costumes, show off your photography poses or even a few photos of you in a group setting with other characters or a video of you performing in your costume.

4.       Own it!  Don’t let people make you feel silly for the things you do and enjoy.  Just because they may not understand or enjoy the same sorts of things you do, be proud of your work and your passions!

Have a wonderful holiday season everyone and we will see you in the New Year!  Otafest is only 5 months away, so happy cosplaying!  ;)

Amanda’s Monthly Cosplay Tip: Cosplay Comfort

We’ve all been there. You pour hours and hours of work into making your dream costume, but 2 hours into wearing it, you want nothing more than to take it off and never wear it again.  Whether it’s too hot, it pinches and squeezes your limbs, or you want to scratch your head off, cosplay costumes can be super uncomfortable and frustrating to be in for long periods of time.  Luckily, there are many ways to help make your costumes more comfortable and easy to wear, like a good pair of shorts ;).

  1. Choosing a costume for the season:
    Wearing a costume with multiple layers of foam and fabric, to a convention in Florida in August isn’t the greatest plan. Likewise, wearing a spandex bodysuit and nothing else here in Calgary in January, won’t be the most enjoyable experience.  Many characters have different variations to their outfits to fit the different seasons, so try and plan your costumes around when you will be wearing them and have ways to warm them up and cool them down, either by removing or adding a layer, or changing up the fabrics and trims.
  2. Think about mobility:
    Yes, the 14 foot wings you’ve made look stunning, but how on earth are you going to go to the bathroom?  Make sure that you can remove, collapse, or even hide away bulkier parts of your costume so you can not only enjoy the convention offerings, but can still perform normal human functions!
  3. Wigs and head-wear:
    This can fall into multiple categories, including being way too hot, as well as being awkward and large, but head-wear and wigs can also be difficult to wear for hours on end.  Make sure you take time before the convention to wear your wig around the house for a bit , to become comfortable wearing it. Use a good wig cap, and, if you have long hair, braid or tie it up neatly instead of just shoving it under the cap.  Another fantastic tip I learned recently, is to carry around a little can of dry shampoo, so if your head does get hot and itchy, you can head to the bathroom (or cosplay green room), take the wig off, and give your hair a spritz.  It works wonders!! If your head-wear or wig is heavy, make sure it’s not so heavy that you strain your neck and back.  Take breaks, and try and make any head accessories out of light materials.
  4. Wear a comfortable base layer:
    Yes, this can add to the “too hot” situation, but make sure that you are wearing good, sweat-wicking clothing under your costume, like a tank top, fitted shorts or leggings, as well as good socks inside your shoes.  This layer should stay out of sight, but in the case of accidents, or if you do have to take a break in the bathroom or green room, you can remove layers, easily.  Also, make sure you are wearing appropriate undergarments, such as a dance belt or brassiere if you are wearing a tight fitting outfit. Not only will it be more comfortable for you, it makes the costume look more complete and professional without any unintended lumps and bumps.
  5. Range of Motion in the costume: 
    You never realize how hard it is to do things with your arms bound to your sides. When patterning out your shirts and tops, make sure you leave enough room in the shoulders for a range of arm movement.  This also goes for pants as well. Leave enough space in the inseam so that you aren’t waddling like a penguin down the hall, and you can comfortably bend down, or squat.  This will make sure that nothing is too tight to comfortably do anything needed, like snapping a quick selfie, or doing a in-character pose!
  6. Storage and pockets:
    Not everyone is blessed enough to have a cosplay assistant or a group of friends who are willing to carry your stuff around for you while in costume.  A couple of super easy ways to help with this, is to put a hidden pocket or two into your costume or take some extra fabric from the costume and fashion a quick bag with a strap.  Both are really easy solutions and can help you keep those most important things close by, like your phone and wallet, and make sure you have a place to carry that impulse buy from the Vendors Hall.
  7. Self Care:
    Stay hydrated, get plenty of sleep, and make sure you eat.  Your costume will only be seen and appreciated if you are healthy enough to be wearing it! And don’t forget, the better you feel, the more fun you are going to have, which is the most important part!

Cosplay shouldn’t be uncomfortable and just taking an extra bit of time in creating your costume in comfortable ways, as well as being mindful of your body during the convention, can make cosplaying a most enjoyable hobby.  The outward appearance of the costume may be super important to you, but we don’t call it cos”play” for nothing. Your happiness and comfort inside the costume also lends to the authenticity of the character, and adds to your experience and good memories!

Happy cosplaying and we will see you next month!

Amanda’s Monthly Cosplay Tip: Cosplaying with Contact Lenses

Every October and before every convention I always see at least one of the following posts on social media:

“Does anyone know where I can get cheap contact lenses for my costume?”

This makes me cringe every time, because, other than working for Otafest, for my “day job” I work in the Ophthalmology clinic at the Rockyview Hospital. For those who don’t speak medicine (and trust me, some days, I can barely pronounce the word myself), that means I work with a bunch of specialized eye doctors. We see a big range of patients, from those who just come by for routine eye testing (like visual field tests), to those with complex eye diseases like glaucoma and retinopathy. Just as importantly, we see people who are having eye emergencies. If there’s one thing I have learned working in ophthalmology, it’s that you are given exactly one set of eyes and that’s all you get. Your eyes aren’t like most other parts of your body that can regenerate or be replaced if something serious happens, and it only takes the smallest thing to cause huge problems with your eyes. The absolute worst thing you can do is treat them poorly and that’s my advice for this month: if you are going to wear contact lenses with a cosplay costume, DO IT RIGHT! That means following these super simple but very important steps:

  1. Make sure your eyes are healthy enough to wear contact lenses. This means booking an appointment with your optometrist and asking them about your intent to wear contact lenses. They will do some simple checks for you, such as checking you for dry eye symptoms and possibly recommending eye drops, they will check the curvature of your eye which can determine the size of lenses you may need to order, and they can give you your contact lens prescription (if you are ordering corrective lenses) because it isn’t the same as a glasses prescription!
  2. Have eye drops on hand. Even if you aren’t diagnosed specifically with dry eye, we live in Calgary, a notoriously dry city. Wearing contact lenses disrupts your natural tear film which will almost always cause dry eyes during and after wearing contact lenses. Make sure your eye drops are branded as “artificial tears” and use preservative free drops where possible. Again, ask your optometrist for suggestions, they often have samples of various brands for you to try as well!
  3. Know how to safely handle, insert, remove, and store contact lenses. Many optometrist offices offer appointments designed to teach you all about wearing contact lenses. Always make sure you wash your hands before touching your eyes or anything going into your eyes, make sure your lenses are sterile when you get them and handle them with care, and make sure you know what kind of lenses you are getting and how to store or dispose of them.
  4. Make sure you are purchasing good quality lenses. As of July 2016, contact lenses of any kind (including costume lenses) can only be sold by companies who have been licensed by Health Canada. Most places online that offer “cheap lenses” aren’t licensed and keep their lenses “cheap” by cutting corners, like using materials and packaging that may be hazardous for your eyes or sometimes selling lenses that aren’t sized or shaped properly. Like I mentioned above, you only get one set of eyes, you shouldn’t sacrifice their safety and your health to save some money. Ask your optometrist where they recommend purchasing lenses from , if they don’t sell them right there (which most do) or check with the company you plan on purchasing from what licenses they possess that allows them to sell contact lenses (especially if shopping from overseas). Also remember to pay attention to contact lenses expiry dates, because, unfortunately, they do expire! Keeping them around longer than their lifespan can also be very dangerous.
  5. Know what to do if something does go wrong. Even if you follow all the right steps and do everything right, your eyes are super sensitive to changes and may still get irritated from wearing contact lenses. If you suspect anything is wrong, don’t delay. Make an appointment with your optometrist right away, see your family doctor, or go to your nearest emergency department. If you can’t do any of these right away, try calling 811 (in Alberta) for free health advice from a registered nurse. It’s better to not wait around and see if it gets better on its own, with eyes, chances are if it gets worse, you could be in bigger trouble than if you catch a problem when it’s first developing. Things like very dry, gritty eyes, redness of the sclera (white part of the eye), blurred vision, pain of any kind, or things like flashing lights or floaters in your vision are all things that should be looked at right away.

A good pair of contact lenses can give a cosplay costume just the right finishing touch, but as a cosplayer and former judge myself, you definitely won’t lose points for not having the exact same eye colour as the character, and preserving your vision is 1000% more important! As much as I love you all, I don’t want to see you when I’m at work! ;)

Happy Cosplaying and Happy Halloween!

Amanda’s Monthly Cosplay Tip: Choosing Adhesives

Nothing is worse than having your hard work fall apart on you, especially right in the middle of the convention!  Choosing the right way to attach your creation together, right from the start, is crucial to make sure accidents don’t happen.

First off, decide whether or not you should be physically connecting the two pieces in question together.  Consider if you should be sewing or otherwise using a physical binder (like nails, screws, staples, etc) to keep your pieces together, or if an adhesive is would be appropriate.  If you are connecting two pieces of fabric, sewing is going to always be a better option as you have more stress you can put on the joining area, but two pieces of plastic should be connected using adhesives. Adhesives are also preferable, if you are connecting two things that aren’t made of the same material, like plastic onto fabric.

Secondly, make sure you select the correct adhesive for the job.  A polyurethane glue may be amazing at connecting two hard, non porous materials, it won’t work so good with foams or fabrics.  Make sure you read the labels of the adhesives, so you can make sure it’s the right stuff for the job at hand. There are many many different adhesives out there, so I’m sure you will find something that fits what you need it for perfectly.

Third, read the instructions!!!  Some glues are toxic, some require additional time and conditions such as heat to fully bind together, and others may damage the materials you are working with and require a test usage first. You wouldn’t want a small avoidable mistake to ruin dozens of hours of work just because you didn’t read the instructions first.  This is where the scraps and bits left over from crafting your costume and prop pieces, can come in handy. Grab a small piece of what you are adhering and try it out first before putting it on the final cosplay. Some adhesives work really well ONLY if you follow the instructions very carefully (such as contact cement), so as tempting as it is to jump right in, glue in hand, testers are really important.

Finally, if the worst does happen and your costume or prop does come apart at Otafest, make sure to come by the Cosplay Repair Station.  We make sure that we have all sorts of adhesives and other materials on hand for you to use to help save your cosplay!

The Incredible Legacy of Cowboy Bebop

By: Acey R.

Cowboy Bebop debuted in Japan 21 years ago in Japan. It has, in that time, become a staple in the anime scene, with an incredible ability to convey a story, in which  everyone can find something to love. From the characters to the pacing, to the incredible soundtrack, Cowboy Bebop has managed to wrangle in fans consistently for the past two decades.

This futuristic anime tells the tale of bounty hunters in space who fly around space, trying to cash in bounties (and failing pretty consistently) on their spaceship, the Bebop. We have Spike Spiegel, a former crime syndicate member; Jet Black, a former police officer; Faye Valentine, a woman who is incredibly irresponsible with money and a talent for trouble; Edward Won Hau Pepelu Trivruski IV, an incredible computer hacker of the fine age of 13; and last, but certainly not least, Ein, a corgi. Now, if you haven’t seen the series, you might think this is a random sounding assortment of main characters. It is, but somehow, it works beautifully.

Cowboy Bebop is the perfect combination of comedy and drama. It tells the story in episodic pieces that span over the course of just a single season, never seeming to drag on for too long. Along the way, it takes time to touch on and explore each character, and how they managed to find themselves on a crappy spaceship going after space criminals. In that way, it’s easy to start watching and it never rambles.

Many have, at least heard of this series – even people who aren’t anime fans have heard of or watched Cowboy Bebop. I found this series when I was in high school. I have had many a late-night re-watch and great conversation with other fans of every age about the fascinating series. I’m always amazed at the perspectives, lessons and theories each person I’ve encountered walked away with, especially considering that they are often so vastly different from my own, proving that there are as many stories of bonding with this series, as there are fans. As fun as this series is, there are many life lessons strewn throughout, which has made this series as timeless as it is.

My love for this series comes in two-fold, first with the dynamic characters the main cast encounters over the course of the 26 episodes. Each one is unique and makes each encounter fun, because you never meet the same character twice.

The women in this series, has especially caught my attention and their immense diversity has always fascinated me.  To come completely clean, Julia is my favorite character. If you don’t know or remember who that is, that is fair. Julia is Spike’s ex-lover and quite elusive throughout the series, referenced several times and only truly seen in around three episodes. Yet, Julia plays this essential role in Spike’s story. I have spent hours re-watching end credit scenes (seriously, highly recommend to give some context into the whole Julia, Spike and Vicious conundrum, if, like me, you care), reading theories and re-watching specific episodes. Julia has this beautiful mystery, as she is never explained, and no context is ever given, surrounding how Vicious, Spike and Julia came to know each other.  By leaving room in Spike’s story, the show allowed for room for speculation and that is one of my favorite styles of storytelling. Perhaps I’ve come to love Julia so much because of the character I’ve created in my mind. It is a rare opportunity to look at the context clues given and arrive at your own conclusions about the answers.

The other element of the story that I found compelling was based on my struggle with anxiety. Cowboy Bebop is a series that has many lessons in it, but the one I found most important was the ability to accept things as they are. One of Spike’s infamous lines from the series is as follows: “Whatever happens, happens”. I repeat this line to myself daily. I hold this series so close to me, because ultimately, it’s about accepting things as they are, handling them when we can and letting go when it is truly out of our hands. Cowboy Bebop has elements for everyone to connect with, and I’m glad to have found something for myself.

I love this series. It deserves all the hype and praise surrounding it and I’ve been happy to spread the word ever since I got to watch it. It manages to convey its story without being rushed and it tells you the perfect amount of story. It has managed to secure itself as one of the classics and I am so excited to see how it’s still so relevant, now at it’s 21st Anniversary!

So in closing, thank you for Cowboy Bebop. I hope you all get to watch it as well.

See you space cowboy!


Learn more about the celebration of Cowboy Bebop at Otafest 2019:

Otafest & the Spirit of Generosity

Hello, everyone! I’d love to share a little story with you all: a tale which has repeated itself over and over every year since it first came to be.

In planning for Otafest 2009, back when Otafest was still at the University of Calgary, our attendance numbers had been rising steadily to include about 4 or 5 thousand dedicated fans, even despite the economic downturn. We decided it was time to give back to the community, and Otafest took its first small steps raising money for the Alberta Children’s Hospital to the tune of $1735.

What had actually happened were actions which helped define the virtues of our community at Otafest for the next decade onwards.

At Otafest Lite 2009 and Otafest 2010, we fundraised for the Mustard Seed and the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, respectively. Through every donation, whether it was a loonie, quarters, or a handful of pennies, the donations came in. I recall running around with (my own) giant plastic Coke bottle-shaped piggy bank as people added their contributions; I proudly showed off its contents, shaking and jingling its precious cargo and showing off its weight. In the end we raised over $5000 for each organization, shattering our expectations. The bottom of the Coke bottle had cracked from the weight; a small sacrifice, alongside our specially infamous “charity incentive staff punishments” as traditionally showcased during the annual Closing Ceremonies. We were absolutely blown away by the generosity of our community and we knew we truly had something special.

Most recently we gathered together as friends on a couch in a living room and marathoned a video game, demolishing the initial goal of $500 and raising over $1200 in 24 hours once again for the Alberta Children’s Hospital through an excellent umbrella organization called Extra Life. Participating in Extra Life while being backed by the Otafest community has been a goal of mine for a while. To me it wasn’t just about the streaming content or even the fundraising efforts but a chance to do something amazing and fun with our staff and being able to interact live via chat with you, the audience, in a captive setting. While I know our team to be open and reachable, it’s difficult for us to forge a connection during the main event as we’re typically busy trying to run a convention, and you’re busy enjoying it. We don’t often get to thank people individually and acknowledge their contributions directly; chances like these are rare and meaningful and I believe we took advantage of it.

In the 10 years since, we’ve raised somewhere north of $110,000 for various charitable causes with a large focus on local organizations: animal shelters, youth care programs, or notably, foreign aid relief (Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi earthquake/tsunami disaster struck close to home.) With everybody’s support, I can always look back with pride in our endeavours and count my blessings to be a part of such a loving community. I know we will continue marching towards a bright future together because it’s just who we are, this Otafest family.

Thank you.

Jei Wong
Otafest Programming Coordinator