Sunday, March 27, 2011


A phrase like 'anime convention' is one usually met with head-shaking and the immediate writing-off of the individual as a sad nerd. I know this. I have been there. But an anime convention is also cool. All it takes is for the rest of the world to get over the idea of it being nerdy or stupid.

An anime convention is a riot of colour and characters. This convention celebrates many different aspects of the phenomena; gaming and drawing competitions are held, there are stalls selling merchandise ranging from licensed prints to figurines from the series that constitute the gathering of the masses. Hold still for long enough and you will hear the warbling of a slightly sharp or flat voice hollering along in Japanese to the kareoke setup. To be short, Animania comprises and celebrates many Japanese mediums - printed art/comics (manga), the animated from of said comics (anime), video games - all of these inevitably lead to one particular thing:


How does one describe cosplay? It is a blending of the words 'costume play'. They are living, moving works of art; people who for this short period of time take on the persona, clothing and characteristics of any given character from one of the above media sources.

What makes these costumed people so amazing is that the frequently construct these costumes themselves, using a couple of modified clothing patterns and images from the media source to deliver the finished product.

These costumes are often complicated, involving armour, heavily detailed weapons or pieces that have to be commissioned specifically for the costume - created from cardboard, PVC - sometimes even fibreglass.

Some of these costumes are full-bodied, and the cosplayer themselves may have spent countless hours constructing it

An anime festival can also incorporate role-playing skits, where the costumed people proceed to act according to the character the masquerade as - in front of a massive audience - producing humour or drama often as the media form dictates.

By far the best large-participant skit I witnessed was of five young men, all dressed in different costumes belonging to the same character. They, without words, proceeded to perform a medley of short dances, culminating when four of them summoned the fifth to the stage, 'Captain Planet'-style, and then proceeded to dance to Michael Jackson's 'Thriller'.

 The cosplay continues on such as this; with the skits escalating to auditions for the 'World Cosplay Summit' - A worldwide cosplay competition entailing role-playing dramas, fine details and many, many amazing costumes. These were a level up from the dancing Sorii - there was a giant cannon, a Vespa thrown across the stage, a coffin and fake blood splashing down a white satin dress synchronised to the sound of a gunshot.

Following this spectacle, we exited the auditorium. It was time for me to try something entirely alien and intimidating and walk on that stage.

Prior to the event, I had entered a cosplay designed the year before. It was Kairi from Kingdom Hearts II and as with any project, I experienced joy and frustration and tears in constructing it. I had made a costume for Sora as well, and (actually....I still have to fix it. If Josh still has it.)

The day before I left for London, Josh (then-Boyfriend) and I had dressed as Kairi and Sora and gone down to the beach with my sister Prue taking photos. There was water, sand, stone-skipping and a masking-tape paopu. Oh the memories.

Anyhow. I entered the costume in the hopes of maybe getting somewhere with it. Part of what followed was the Cosplay Catwalk, where the people entering walk onto the giant stage and try not to fall over. Well, that is what I did. There was wandering, and the kind of in-character acting that can only occur when you are so terrified of everything else that you keep going to avoid the deer-in-the-headlights-pose.

The lights were so bright; they almost completely blotted out the faces of all in the audience. I was dimly aware of the theme music from the game playing in the background and I meandered the stage in character, the animalistic-terror in my mind wondering faintly when the MC would walk over and talk to me.

Seconds stretch into hours on that stage, and after about a week, I exited, stage left.
The anticipation had been horrid, but I had seen so many of the greater costumes in finer detail. It was worth it.

One of the reasons why this kind of event is good as both an event and an exhibition is that you interact with what is going on. It is optional to stand with your oversized weapon and allow people to take photos of your handicraft. It is recommended to at least try the wizard-sized Cosplay chess and/or Twister.

But you talk to the fellow cosplayers; learn how they made whatever instrument they wield or simply listen to how they interact with others. It's one of the best questions to ask because it's not necessarily about the 'what' (is that?) or 'who' (are you?)

It's about the 'how'.

How did you make that two-metre long sniper rifle?

How did you detail those dupion?

How did you organise thirteen people to wear similar costumes?

And so on. Occasionally you have the opportunity to assist in your own ways - I personally couldn't believe it when the Ichigo I met told me he's been using ribbed elastic to apply a 'bandage' affect. It becomes a two-way exchange of data and information as you assist in costume design simultaneously with learning how to apply a zipper or particular type of finish that in the end, will create something funky and radical and definitely worthy of an exhibition.

As awesome as fine detail is, though, there are some things that just need the right form of portrayal. These guys, for example.

They were a couple of young men dressed as creepers from the game Minecraft. I have not played minecraft, but I understand that these things hiss and explode when they get close to you.
It was one of the best costumes I had seen all day.

Of course, there is the level of interaction that you experience with complete stangers in this environment. You have suddenly donned the face of another person; another identity. This means that even though you don't know somebody from a bar of soap, you instantly have some common denominator or unifying...thing.

It would be like walking into a large room of people you didn't know and exclaiming something about the game. You know none of those people. But all of a sudden you have something in common with at least one of them. Most of the time.

So riddle me this:

When you round a corner to enter the venue and have someone sight your costume and scream the character's name, what do you do? This guy was running in slow motion with outstretched arms.

I ran too.

Oh, BTW, I picked these images up from The Cosplay Society, Pinin Photography and Muki Dorifuto. And off of Facebook from the magnificient people I met from attending the day. It was grand guys, and I hope you appreciate my plug for you all. And Aurora Entertainment too.


Sunday, March 6, 2011

Adventures in Newcastle. Part 2 - the most awesome friday. ever.

I can't guarantee photos for this. It all happened so fast, there was really no time to begin taking photos. So close your eyes and get someone to read it to you while I explain in detail why this was possibly the best Friday I have experienced all year.

The first part of Friday mostly consisted of zombie-shuffling it to uni.

Lecture at 9am = have to beat the traffic = leave home at 7am.

Bec and her cousin Sam had gone to a beach the day before and didn't arrive home until some early hour of the morning. So understandably it was a little bit before we were able to get the ball rolling. We left a bit after 7, all tired and scrubbing our eyes. With my roommate and her cousin and their five hours of sleep, this was understandable. I'm just not a morning person.
I remember (and I had this struggle this morning also) looking into the 'tea/coffee storage area', eyeing off the coffee. Wondering if it was worth it.

When I arrived two weeks ago, Dad was kind enough to do the shopping for essential bits. He did bring me back instant coffee. But it was Decaf.

I love you Dad, but it's still Decaf. I'm having caffeine withdrawals and I keep trying to tell myself that the caffeine is a placebo and I really just want the coffee taste.

Decaf is not coffee.

So. I had been eyeing off the coffee. I think I had some. Too bad Bec doesn't drink it too.

We left a little late with the intention of dropping Sam off on the way. She sat in the front of the small Suzuki Swift, giving reactive directions towards the house we were in hot pursuit of. Even though 'hot pursuit' might seem a little overrated, believe me, it wasn't. It wasn't Sam's house, so we wound up motoring as quietly as a 22-year-old sports car would allow us through the streets of suburbia. We found the house, and Bec and I set off for uni.

You would think that having spent so much time out looking for the house, we would now be resigned to double-clutching it up the large hills and doggedly trying to get in the left lane so we wouldn't have to leg it across North Lambton. But we got there.

Bec checked the car clock as we climbed the exit ramp to University Drive, and, surprised, remarked on the time it had taken us to traverse northwest Newcastle. I replied,

"That's because I am secretly a Time Lord, and this (here I gestured to the dark blue Swift) is my TARDIS"

Spot the Doctor Who fan if you dare.

Getting to uni was no trouble. We did manage to get a bit lost on our way to the lecture room - all the while wandering through the thick cloud of mosquitoes that throngs the Uni. They feast on the blood of students, and thrive in the bushland that enshrouds the learning facility.

Bec was swatting them. I was not smart enough to take a bag for my lecture book, so occasionally I managed to smush one or two using the butt of my water bottle. It looked like the club of a battle-worn warrior  - lots of bloodstains - by the time we emerged from the woods and entered the housing for the lecture theatre.

Post-lecture and uni we still had a large amount of day to survive. But the first thing we needed to deal with was actually the fuel in the car. It had been empty that morning, and we'd put twenty dollars in. Unfortunately, that wasn't enough to fill the tank, so we meandered off to Mayfair in search of Woolworths Petrol stations and their discounted petrol.

As we were exiting the uni, I had a sudden desire for ice-cream. It wasn't even a slight hankering for, although I suspect it was not as insatiable as the cravings of a pregnant woman. I don't know. I have not been pregnant. But I still wanted ice-cream.

So, we are now driving through Mayfair, a part of Newcastle neither Bec or I had been to, in search of cheap(er) fuel and ice-cream.

Our search yielded a Woolworths with a special deal on my most favoured brand of ice-cream. In small punnets. We were sold, and shortly after we located the plastic spoons in the store Bec and I were sitting in the TARDIS, in the shade, lost in the bliss of 400mL of ice-cream. We had two punnet-things: mint choc-chip and cookies and creeeeeeaaaam. I LOVE cookies and cream.

SO good.

We perused suitable directions from the checkout lady, and were soon in pursuit of a fuel station on a street that didn't exist. Failing that, we started looking at the maps for fuel-station icons, and with no particular place in mind, we set out.

At the traffic lights of the intersection that would take us back onto a 20-year-old highway, we spotted what was most possibly the best-named noodle bar in Newcastle.


To phrase it as Bec had done - 'It's like the perfect combination of Kung-fu Panda and Spagattah Nadle! It's like, a kung-fu noodle with a speech impediment!" (If Spagattah Nadle makes no sense I suggest going here. It will explain all.)

So far, it was looking like a pretty awesome Friday.

We drove on for a short period of time, and suddenly! There was a fuel station. I bet that by now you're either bored, waiting for it to get really good, pitying the way I get excited over small things or possibly getting excited yourself. I don't know. You tell me, reader.
There was a fuel station, and I remembered which side of the car the fuel was on, so we were pretty much sweet. It was a Woolworths station, and we filled the car and set off, keen for home.

By now we had approached the part of the afternoon where I would start chanting the word 'pool'. The world had heated up sufficiently and I wanted nothing more than to head back to our place in Cardiff Macquarie Hills and get. in. that. pool.

It was only as we began to climb a hill not far from the refueling that I noticed the fuel gauge. Most cars, when full, will have a gauge that looks like this:

F|                         E

(The little | next to the F is the needle.)

Ours looked like this:

|      F                                      E

So we were both pretty excited.
I think there is a photo. I may post it. It was taken while driving, with Bec holding my mobile phone and me making the car go.

As we continued, I began to recognise the occasional landmark, feeling slightly less lost and more like we were headed home. My sense of direction generally sucks, so the way things work with Bec and I is very simple at the moment.

I drive. Bec navigates.

It's worked well so far.

Anyway, she was telling me about an intersection we would pass through very soon that I would definitely recognise, that if I didn't recognise it, there was something wrong with me. As we passed through it I felt unfamiliarity until I saw the RSL club. It took a moment for my brain to rotate its position and suddenly I knew exactly where we were. About two intersections from home, that's where.

We pulled up and barreled inside, only to encounter a most perplexing of choices.

I had been expecting two packages in the mail, and was indescribably excited about th prospect of having not one, but two packages coming within the next week or so.

One of them was on our loungeroom floor.

Russell (the landlord) had placed it there when it arrived, and I was immediately faced with a dilemma.

Box or pool first?

Box won. There was a clamp-light that Mum had bought at Bling from home. It already has a name.

Have a guess what.


Ooh yeah.

Shortly afterward, Bec and I had, with the absolution and deliberation of an avalanche, made it to the pool.

Pools are great. I like them a lot.

You would have to think that this is the end of the day?
This is the bit where if it was an infomercial, I'd have a smaller stunt double jump up from behind the counter-or-whatever-I-am-advertising-from and we'd both yell,

"but wait, there's MORE!"

And you're all like "what? how can that be? can this day possibly get more excellent? how will they do it?"

And if this was an episode of bleach, that would be the bit where the motion would freeze at a dramatic point and the words 'to be continued' would spider across the screen and make you want to headbutt the universe because the episode can't end there - you have to find out what happens next! Fifty episodes later!

I am getting overexcited.

Anyway. We had an early dinner, made greater by the fact that I had made a lot the night before and nobody else had been home to eat it. We simply heated it up and then proceeded to sit on the loungeroom floor, munching on rice and chicken meatball while watching Bleach.

Bec hasn't encountered Bleach before. And I'm actually quite enjoying watching the first season again.

We crashed relatively early.

But it was still, without a shadow of a doubt, the most awesome friday. ever.