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:

Cosplay 101: The Art of EVA Foam

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.

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

Welcome to the Otafest Homecoming

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.

How Living and Teaching in Japan Changed My Life

By: Jessica Roh |

Anyone who has traveled to Japan will tell you how meaningful and impactful the experience was for them. Japanese culture is as beautiful as it’s land whilst Japanese people are friendly and hardworking. Through the JET Programme, I was fortunate to get a one year contract, teaching English in Kyoto city. I believe that Kyoto city is one of the most beautiful places in the world. There are many historic temples, and traditional style restaurants, making it easy to enjoy the delicious taste of matcha tea and ice creams in the region.

What surprised me the most about living in Japan was how clean and fresh everything felt, despite the population density. Every morning, people would come out to clean the streets.The elderly would roam the neighborhood to greet the children on their way to school.

And the food!! Food is prepared often, ensuring quality and freshness. Even convenience stores (konbini) sell fresh and healthy meals and snacks, which can be accompanied by a cold (or hot) drink available at the variety of vending machines on each block. The air is humid, and the skies demonstrate an array of beautiful sunrises and sunsets. Nature is ever present in Japanese people’s lives. They understand the value of taking care of our beautiful planet, as well as the importance of even the littlest creature’s life. In Japan, valuing the other over yourself is a very common philosophy. and Japanese people work so that the people who are affected by their work can live pleasant lives. There is a very harmonious feeling from every sort of social interaction.

In my experience as a teacher, students work very hard in Japan. In general, Japanese society shows a huge amount of respect towards teachers. I felt extremely loved and appreciated in every single school. The students are not greedy, they do not cheat and they eat very healthy meals, which makes it much easier for them to concentrate in school -did you know that juice boxes are banned in Japanese schools because of the high sugar content? You’ll notice an overall appreciation for education in Japan. Japanese TV programs even regularly broadcasts educational or informative shows.

If there is one word that would describe what changed my life from living in Japan, it would be patience. Patience: to appreciate what we have in the moment, to take a deep breath of the fresh air provided by our hardworking trees, and the importance of helping others.

RPGs and D&D

By: Anna Sheldrick |

I am searching an abandoned apartment in Philadelphia, the occupant was found dead in a mansion just outside of town. I find a video that I think should provide clues as to why he died. Instead I find a video with alien slime and go crazy. I shoot my partner in the groin and call an air strike on Philadelphia.

The following week I’m trying to sneak into the lair of the Dragon Worshippers while my friend is out front causing a distraction. I master the lock but I open the door and smack a guard in the bum. He looks down at me with a frown so I wave and quietly close the door again. Within five minutes I’m standing on the roof and the house is on fire below me because my friend who I shot last week decided to hurl a fireball at the thugs who were chasing me.

These were my first two experiences with Role Playing games. The first was Delta Green: Call of Cthulhu, the second was good old Dungeons and Dragons. The world of RPGs can be a super intimidating place to start but once you find someone to wade into that world with you’ll fall in love.

When most people think of RPGs they think of Dungeons and Dragons and that’s all it entails but, like video games, there’s an RPG for everyone. There are Star Wars RPGs, you have Delta Green which is based on Lovecraft Horror, there is Legend of the Five Rings set in the world of Samurai Japan and the warring samurai tribes. What about Pathfinder, D&D and even a Dragon Age RPG. If you can’t find one that suits you then you can always make one up!! My friends and I have made up RPGs based on our favourite books and even one based on RWBY.

Can’t find anyone to play with? Then head on down to your nearest geek shops and board game cafes. Within Calgary there are loads of little groups that have regular drop in sessions for new and experienced players. Can’t be bothered to leave your house? I got you. Websites like Roll20 is a digital platform where you can play RPGs with people from around the world.

I have made the best friends from playing RPGs and it’s guaranteed to make you laugh, cry and get angry. It’s also been proven to be an amazing outlet for people when they aren’t sure how to express themselves or deal with an issue. As such I recommend to everyone to give any RPG a go and pretend to be another person for just a few hours a week.