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By: Amanda L.

Hello Cosplayers!!

Happy 2019! The countdown to Otafest is on and I can’t wait to see what amazing cosplay outfits you all have been working on during the winter months! Here’s a refresher on what we have planned for Cosplay Programming for Otafest 2019!

Every year, we are really excited to host several different contests, geared towards different folks, to make sure everyone gets a chance to shine! We have contests that focus on your creativity, your craftsmanship, your sense of fun, or your love for acting! Don’t feel like you must sew or craft to join in on some of these events! We believe that cosplay is for everyone, regardless of your age, your gender identity or your craftsmanship. The most important part is that everyone feels good about themselves and has fun!

Here is a breakdown of all the events:

Friday afternoon is the Cosplay Showcase! Break out your crafting skills and show off your best handiwork to our guest judges in our craftsmanship contest! Remember, you need to have made at least 80% of your costume or prop yourself to enter this one!

Saturday is Main Stage Day!! We kick things off with C4 qualifiers! Teams of two will compete in Canada’s qualifiers for Clara Cow’s Cosplay Cup 2020 in the Netherlands! Registration is still open, and there are a couple spots left before we start the waitlist! If you love to act, perform and write skits, we are calling you!

Then, we go to the Fashion Show and Skit Contest! If you want to come up on stage to show off your costume, the Fashion Show is a super easy way to compete for prizes without having to perform! But, if you have the performance skills too, why not show them off as well in the Skit Contest? Open to any kind of performance, including dance, spoken word, musical performance and skits! New for this year however, any performance needs to be minimum 80% self choreographed or written to encourage creativity and to see what our amazing attendees can come up with!

Sunday is for mingling! Come check out How it’s Made: Cosplay Edition! See some amazing work from our local cosplayers and ask questions about their different presentations. If you’re wanting to get into cosplaying, this is the event for you!

And, introducing: Stars of Cosplay!! Our re-branded popularity contest (formerly known as Mr and Miss Otafest) is just a fun way to chat with other attendees and pull in your votes! If you are in cosplay on Sunday and want to compete for votes, stop by the registration table, have your picture taken, and then have your friends, fans, everyone come vote for you! We have a special surprise this year for our inaugural edition of Stars of Cosplay so make sure you come by and check it out!

More information on all of these events will be posted to the Otafest website on March 1, which is also when pre-registration for the Skit Contest and Cosplay Showcase will go live! There’s also one more super secret surprise that will be on the website on March 1, so make sure you check it out if you’re planning on entering any of our cosplay events!

If you have any questions, feel free to email me at cosplay@otafest.com and I’ll do my best to get back to you as soon as I can!

I look forward to seeing everyone at Otafest! Happy Cosplaying!

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By: Kendra K.

Hello everyone, I am here to talk about a now-common material that many cosplayers use: EVA Foam!

EVA foam is a light-weight, durable, and cheap foam material, which can serve as a great alternative to other materials, such as Worbla (a thermoplastic used often for props and armor). Foam can be used for armor pieces, props, and more: the possibilities are as endless as your creativity! If you make sure to work carefully during the building process and cast a careful eye to painting, you can achieve really clean finishes, mimicking the look of metal or other interesting textures. EVA foam comes in a variety of sizes and styles, so make sure you do a bit of research before you dive in!

There are three main different types of EVA Foam:

  • High Density
  • Floor Mats (diamond or cross pattern)
  • Craft foam

A variety of thicknesses in high-density foam.

For the following build, I am using a high-density foam which comes in a variety of thicknesses. Floor mat style foam and craft foam, generally are available in limited sizes, but can serve their own purposes. Just keep in mind that floor mat foam is thicker and sturdy, while craft foam is thin and great for detailing.

I find the best way to tackle a new project is by drafting up patterns. Paper patterns can help you come up with a shape, and when you cut it and lay it flat, you will find that foam is flexible to creative a huge variety of different shapes to suit your needs.

An example of my paper patterns.

I just mocked up two patterns where you can see the use of darts and odd shapes. Another advantage of  using patterns is that it allows you to map out where you want to cut in order to save material for future use.

Tracing the pattern in an optimized fashion.

The easiest way to go about cutting the foam is using a sharp X-Acto blade. The foam is relatively easy to cut through by hand, but the blade can dull quickly. Regularly switching to a new blade may be needed to make your life easily and ensure your foam has a clean cut.

Use an X-Acto knife! Make sure it’s a new blade!

Alternatively, if you have access to power tools,  you will find foam is very quick and easy to slice through. I personally use a band-saw when I need multiple pieces to be identical, as I pin several layers together. Just remember to get supervision if you are new to power tools!

Pinning together layers of foam for cutting identical shapes.

See below for the different results of different tools and blades:

The edge on the left is an example of using a dull blade, creating a “sawing” motion.

The results of the bandsaw.

For further shaping, you can cut the edges on an angle in order for pieces to lay fatter against each surface. This can also help you achieve a desired shape and appearance.

Shaping the edges of the foam.

For the next step: glue. While many cosplayers would consider the hot-glue gun to be the best friend of the craft (and it is), you’ll get the best results with EVA foam by using contact cement. Contact cement helps create a permanent bond that is still flexible and is relatively fast drying. You can pick this glue up at most hardware stores.

Something like this would work great. Notice the applicator!

When working with contact cement, you will need to make sure you are protecting yourself properly. Make sure you are using a quality respirator and working in a space with good air flow, as the fumes from contact cement are toxic.

I’d recommend a respirator like this!

To apply the glue, you will want to brush on a thin & even layer that covers the surfaces you wish to attach and wait 5-10 minutes for it to dry (read the instructions on your bottle of contact cement!). When the surface is no longer tacky, that is the ideal time to press the glued edges together. If you don’t wait long enough, the glue will still tacky and that can prevent the edges from sticking.

Make sure you use a thin even layer on ALL edges, as contact cement needs to adhere to contact cement.

Keep in mind that contact cement is not forgiving, so there is little room for error once both surfaces have dried sufficiently and are touching. You will need to be extra careful at this step.

I’ve attached all 3 pieces together carefully.

To finish off, the last important tip I can give, is to remind you to carve the foam to smooth out your desired shape. This can take some practice to get the hang of it, so feel free to practice on scrap pieces. The simplest way to carve your piece is going back to your trusty X-Acto blade and cut the foam in small pieces, building towards the end result.

You can really clean up your shape!

The foam can be sanded as well, which will reduce any bumps or rough areas that need to be fixed. You can sand by hand or by using a dremel (I highly recommend a dremel, as it saves a lot of time, protects you from pesky hand cramps and gives a great result).

Sanded and smooth!

Once you have your desired look, you will finish off this part of the project by heat sealing the foam. To do so, you will need a heat gun or another high temperature source. This closes the cells in the foam that you may have created through the cutting and sanding process. Heat-sealing foam is important as it adds the final step of smoothing the surface, which is key if you continue to seal and paint the foam.

Notice how it becomes shinier?

Many cosplayers prefer this material over other types, as it is lightweight and relatively inexpensive, but each technique has their own advantages. I hope you feel you better understand EVA foam and feel equip with a few techniques to help you get started, armed with this bit of insight on EVA foam.

Good Luck and Happy Cosplaying!

An example of a prop dagger I made from EVA foam.

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An experience lasts a lifetime. Give Otafest tickets to a friend and experience a magical weekend of fandom together! It’s easy! Buy your tickets, and once you’ve surprised them, transfer the tickets to their email address using the information below. You can even to give to to your friend!

Step 1: Buy your tickets online

Step 2: Once you’ve purchased, you’ll see the below confirmation page. Click on “Download Gift Pass” and you’ll receive a printable pass to wrap up for your loved one!

I can’t wait to see you at Otafest!!

Questions? Email us at info@otafest.com

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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

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Otafest has completed our AGM and are proud and excited to announce the 2019-2021 Board of Directors.

  • President: Stephanie Mok
  • Treasurer: Binh Du
  • Secretary: Shawn Hansen
  • Director: Justin Lo
  • Director: Vicky Lau
  • Director: Amy Pratt
  • Director: Brendan Hood
  • Chair: Jenny Chan

As Otafest enters a new decade, a new strategic direction has been implemented and we would like to announce the following Vice Chairs have been appointed for a 1-year-term to support the Chair.

  • Vice Chair, Revenue Generation – Vicky Lau
  • Vice Chair, People & Experiences – Stephanie Mok
  • Vice Chair, Marketing – David Ly
  • Vice Chair, Operations – Justin Lo

As Otafest is 100% volunteer run and organized, we are so grateful and honored to have the commitment of so many talented and dedicated people within the Otafam.

October 6, 2018
Stephanie Mok, President, Otafest Film and Cultural Festival Planning Committee

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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.

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By: Sarah W.| Photo: Yugophoto|

Two decades of Otafest.

I’m writing this article from southwest Ontario, where I’ll be traveling from to get to the convention this year. I’m thinking about my friend Red who I’ll be meeting at the con, and our friend Sel who can’t join for the first time since 2008 since she’s off teaching in Japan at present. We’re barely older than the convention itself and there’s something that feels profound about that, more so than the fact that this will be my 12th year attending.

No matter how much time I’ve spent away from Calgary, coming back for Otafest means coming home in more ways than one. I’m reflecting on convergences – the flights booked, the plans made, the messages sent, everything centering around one weekend once a year where it all comes together. My oldest friends were those that I met here. When I come home, it’s a family reunion, every time, without fail. When I was younger and lived in the city, things were easier. I spent a lot of money on costumes and merchandise. Then I got older, and started on my undergrad degree in a different province, and all of a sudden there were more demands on my time and money. Now I’m in my mid-twenties, and budgets sure are a thing, but Otafest is and always has been included in that budget. Family is a priority, even when they’re not related by blood.

The first time I ran a panel, I was so nervous I swear I didn’t stop trembling until an hour after it was over. Now, I get to see some of my closest friends hosting the events that we anticipated year after year. Kinda cool. I remember the late nights in my basement, still in high school, swearing as I stitch-ripped another seam or stabbed myself with a hand-sewing needle.  A few years later, my friends and I had younger cosplayers coming up to tell us how much we inspired them to do their own thing, or talking shop and getting excited – together – about the techniques of crafting that went into a particular costume, a specific outfit, a performance or skit. Everyone involved in Otafest from the attendees to the content providers to the staff generates a sense of support, acceptance, and encouragement to grow– isn’t that the meaning of community? Doesn’t that feel good, and feel right? It’s a community that gives back. I love that about it.

Otafest has gone through a lot of growth in the last few years. Some reading this will remember the early days at the University of Calgary, with all the coinciding volleyball tournaments, the events hosted in lecture halls and classrooms, and the spontaneous bouts of performance art on Cosplay Hill at the Prairie Chicken (may it rest peacefully in whatever new home it finds itself).  Others will have more recent memories spanning through the inception of pin collecting, to the introduction of our beloved mascots (in the plural), to the monumental move to the Telus Convention Center. Still others will have never been here before (a side note: the water stations are truly a blessing).

Whether this is your first convention, or your twentieth; whether you’ve been here every year without fail, or had to skip a few; whether  you produce content for the convention through panels, or support the charity initiatives in whatever ways you can, or are here mainly as an attendee… welcome.

From one attendee to another, I hope that you feel strongly the belonging and fellowship that this convention has given to me and so many of my friends. I hope that you laugh, take yourself on adventures, get to meet some of the amazing guests, support local businesses and artists, give to charity, enter contests, cheer on performers, play games, enjoy the festival, take photos – whatever feels right to you. The quality of this convention, and the care and attention of the staff, is what’s drawn me back year after year after year – after all, many of them have grown up with the convention in the same way that I have. There’s always so much love that gets poured into how Otafest is run – I remember seeing the chairperson or other staff members getting moved to tears by the results of the charity events every single year. That’s a lot of love. I hope that you can feel it.

I hope that for you, it’s a celebration to remember.

I know it will be for me. It always has been.