||home / november 2002 / chasing otakuism
Confessions of a Virgin Cosplayer
By Animefringe's own assistant editor Neil Creek
says that "cosplay is love". I believed that completely after I attended my
first anime con last year, and watched the cosplayers there with admiration,
respect and a little jealousy. It was a small con so there were only a
handful of cosplayers, and they were getting so much attention! People
would stop, point and shout "Lina Inverse! Cooool!". Everyone wanted their
photo taken with the cosplayers, and whenever they walked past, a ripple of
smiles spread in their wake.
Oh yes, I wanted to be one of them.
First I had to choose a character. Someone I knew, with a relatively
simple costume because this would be my first, someone people would
recognise, and obviously someone cool. One name stood out above all others.
Ashitaka. You know, that guy from Mononoke?
I quickly discovered that I hadn't chosen an easy costume at all! I had
to make everything! The kimono and pants were easy to adapt from existing
clothes, but not the sleeves, the boots, the weapons and the genuine
sheepskin riding pants! I wanted to look authentic, and that wasn't easy.
I considered looking for hay to make a real straw cloak, but that was not to
be. At least I managed to get a REAL bow!
The con had finally arrived, and despite the exhaustion of staying up
late to complete the final touches, I was excited. I dressed in the basics
of the costume and drove to the venue, ready to change into the rest in the
car park. Once I had arrived with my friend cosplaying as Tenchi, I
nervously dressed in the rest of my gear. My heart was racing with a
combination of anticipation and sheer terror. I was smart though! Ashitaka
wears a hood and mask! This offered my dignity some protection, as no one
had to see my pale white face and twitching eyelid.
Nervously we approached the registration desk, as we attracted looks from
all around. Those not attending the con looked quizzically. Those
attending the con looked quizzically. Perhaps they didn't recognise me, I
thought. Only a few steps from the entrance, my feet felt strange. I
looked down and my fake boots, nothing more than elaborate canvas bags tied
over my shoes, had slid off and were flopping all over the place. Oh the
embarrassment! I crouched down to try and fix the problem, and my bow fell
off my shoulder. I tried to pick it up, and the quiver fell to the ground.
Growing increasingly embarrassed, I tried to pick it all up, before the wind
blew the mask up into my face so I couldn't see a thing!
Ten minutes later, I'd reassembled my costume, recovered my composure,
and tried to walk as dignified as possible to the registration desk.
"Hi! Who are you dressed as?"
My heart sank. "Ashitaka." He stared blankly at me. "From Princess
"That guy from Mononoke."
"Aahhh! Cool sword!"
And such it was for most of the day. People asked me for my photo, I got
a big round of applause in the competition for role-playing the
mouth-feeding scene with a cross-playing San, and my shoes stayed on. But
no one, not once, called me Ashitaka. Even the really cute female San
cosplayer forgot my name, but at least I got a photo with her :). No, to
everyone else I was "That guy from Mononoke."
So was it what I expected? Not exactly. The romance of cosplay fades a
little when your shoes fall off, and your bow keeps poking people in the
crowded dealer's room. But even if it wasn't as romantic as I imagined, it
was far more thrilling than I ever expected! The cold fear, and the rush when
that fear turns into bravado. Sure I wasn't recognised much, but my costume
was frequently complemented and I could see the respect in the eyes of the
other anime fans. The feeling upon seeing that respect was one of immense
Perhaps one of those fans looked at me and thought "Oh yes, I want to be
one of them". And perhaps next year, they'll decide to cosplay. A higher
compliment I cannot imagine.
A word from Neil: "I would like to thank my mother and my wife for their help and encouragement with making my costume. I hadn't touched a sewing-machine since high school home economics class, and I couldn't have done it without them."