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!  ;)

Anime is Gay: The Intersection of Queer and Anime Culture

Anime is Gay

As a young anime fan, I never imagined that such an ugly and dismissive statement would lead me to a such wonderful and inclusive community. I was like every teen trying to figure out their path in the world, but with some added roadblocks: I was queer, AND I was a nerd. While queer representation in North American media was still stuck on the stereotypical Sassy Gay Friend™, and I was too young to go to the gay bars. What was a young queer girl in Calgary supposed to look to?

To my surprise, I found what I was looking for at my first Otafest, way back on the U of C campus. Nerd culture has always carried with it a very special type of acceptance: those of us bullied in our youth recognize a kindred spirit, and the staff and attendees at Otafest have always opened their doors with open arms. On top of that, the convention gave me queer-themed anime, opportunities to stretch my wings through cosplay and volunteerism, and connected me with other queer youth and allies in Calgary.

It was Anime that brought Cosplay to North America, and the opportunity to re-imagine myself as a powerful and self-assured anime character or a beautiful gender-bending Japanese “Visual Kei” Musician. I hear stories of the freedom I found in cosplay reflected in stories of Drag artists in the queer community, and feel honored to have helped establish the early cosplay community in Alberta. Now Otafest runs no less than five cosplay competitions, including the Crossplay Contest for cosplayers of all identities, and the Canadian qualifiers for an International Cosplay competition.

Queer themes in Anime were also transformative to my young queer life. Overtly queer-themed anime like Revolutionary Girl Utena finally gave me interesting queer role models in media – characters who happened to be LGBTQPIA and were allowed to explore their queerness as people rather than being defined by it. Magical Girl Anime like Sailor Moon gave me a plethora of strong and unique women to aspire to – who didn’t need to be rescued by heterosexual stereotypes. Even more Anime gave me complex male characters in queer relationships or close male friendships not constrained by North American standards of masculinity.

Otafest itself has continually sought to evolve and improve their own accessibility and inclusivity. Long before bathroom bills were introduced Otafest had implemented gender-neutral bathrooms at the University of Calgary, carried over to its current venue at the Telus Convention Centre (arguably the nicest ones in the venue). Taking Otafest to Calgary Pride was just the logical next step, opening our doors to Calgary’s queer community and taking our own community to march with pride.

In its efforts to build community in Calgary, Otafest has created something really vital to Alberta’s queer community – a place to form meaningful connections and relationships outside of the bar scene. I’ve never questioned whether putting in the countless volunteer hours to bring Otafest to life year-round was worth it – it is. For the teenaged me, and for everyone else in Calgary who needs to find a place to call home.