Continuation story from Cosplay Nation pages 54-55
in issue #5 of InspiredViewpoints Magazine.
in issue #5 of InspiredViewpoints Magazine.
-myself to make travel, hotel arrangements, contacting Press Liaisons for entering Cosplayer Nation into conventions etc. Our first out-of-state convention? AnimeNEXT in Somerset, New Jersey.
It was mid June when we entered AnimeNEXT, so the weather was somewhat hot. Despite the “Jersey Shore” stereotypes cast on this state, it was actually quite scenic: there was a pond surrounded by large green fields planted with the hotel/convention center. We met a cosplay singer, an American voice actor Vic Mignogna, and got to hear from other con-goers about the New Jersey cosplay scene. Apparently it was the home of “cosplay burlesque”, an event that was spreading in the northeast a lot (it was already present at Anime Boston 2011, in April). By chance, I received a free trip to Miami, Florida shortly after, and decided to interview some cosplayers in the area. Because the weather was so hot there, we heard rumors from fellow cosplayers of risqué beach shoots, some involving nudity (but we could never confirm). I got to meet an adult grown Mario cosplayer, a Haruka from FLCL, and two Pokemon zealots. And at the last minute, I met the Urban Ronin Cosplay group. One of their reps, facebook messaged me saying they were a martial arts fighting group that did skits, while in cosplay, with real props, and offered us to come visit their fights. I got to see some of their practice fights, while at the Tropical Bird Park. To give an idea, they would do things like “Ang (Last Airbender) got into a fight with Sub Zero” plus props and of course the cosplay. Then we headed into July, perhaps the busiest month my entire life for traveling.
First, it was Anime Expo (Los Angeles) on July 4th weekend, one of the biggest anime conventions in the U.S. It had guests like Japanese media culturist Danny Choo and the creators of the Hatsune Miku craze. Now I saw many cosplay this Miku phenomena at AnimeNEXT, but not really understood the craze. Until I went to Anime Expo, then I understood: because it was here I saw live the first U.S. Hatsune Miku concert performed. It was a sold out event (basically Miku is the first ever virtualized pop singer who also dances), and by the grace of God we had press passes for Anime Expo. Aside from Miku, we got to see some of the legendary cosplays that East Coasters had known AX for: full out Samurai cosplays, a Vash the Stampede that could have been in a live action movie, the VampyBitMe cosplay model, and… we finally met in person Ejen Chuang, the creator of Cosplay In America. It was great to meet this chap at last, since he had been promoting our project of his own will. We did a quick interview with him, and it was surreal to me (at that time) that two men with the same purpose but one a photographer, the other a cinematographer, would meet at the largest U.S. anime convention.
The weekend right after Anime Expo was ConnectiCon in Hartford, CT. Its citizens will tell you it looks pretty outside because of the financial buildings but beware the ghettos lying around it. There isn’t much to do around CT, so when CTCON hits, it draws cosplayers from all over CT, even New York State. There was a giant BumbleeBee cosplayer we talked to, who apparently did this type of thing professionally. We also got to hear from voice actor Christopher Smith who voice acted for anime & video gaming, where it was headed (since the theory was that cosplay+video gaming was on the rise more so, than cosplay+anime). Another unique thing with CTCON, is that it was our first time getting another “press” reporter with us. She wanted to be a writer for video gaming and never attended a convention, so she asked to tag along with us (and she did write a review of CTCON for Cosplayer Nation).
During the CTCON convention, we had heard back from the Tokyo in Tulsa convention. Evidently the Press Liaison thought we had been shooting for a fetish club (remember when I mentioned Jaded Fetish Party?) TnT was in Oklahoma, aka the buckle of the “Bible Belt.” As was told to us later, the Christians had control over the conventions and if represented in the wrong way, could have turned away the TnT convention forever. Josh and I wrote a carefully worded email that our intentions for the documentary was not fetish but to capture the lives of cosplayers all over America. Three days before the convention started, we’d been OK’d to enter TnT. It had about 5,000 attendees, and is one of the few conventions where I could call it “Cheers,” because everyone there knows your name. People came to this convention from Chicago, Arkansas, Kansas, and Texas. I even met some of the people who met me through Cosplay In America. There were some Christian cosplayers we got to interview, one who went through different churches because of difficulties from her past church (who were not too pleased with her cosplay). This was certainly corroborated after I strolled around Tulsa, seeing many “Godly” messages at gas stations and such: one would think it was heresy to cosplay even in public, but here was TnT one of the largest cosplay conventions in Oklahoma, even bigger than Oklahoma City – and these cosplays ranged from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to Tron to Cyborgs to Panty & Stocking. Most surprising, was the impact we had on that convention: after leaving, I’m pretty sure our facebook exploded by 200 friend requests. It was a good transition for the next convention, perhaps the biggest one known to mankind...
San Diego Comic Con will be sold out, ALWAYS. I tried myself with the online ticketing and failed both instances, because I wasn’t fast enough (one of them was actually while I was in Miami, FL). Nonetheless, I had already booked my flight and hotel room for SDCC in advance, just knowing I would be able to at least interview cosplayers outside this massive convention. God-willing, one of the fellows rooming in our hotel room was so thankful that we gave him space… he was able to secure me a SDCC badge. Not just any badge, but a PRESS badge. So I entered and met cosplayers like you’d see in a Hollywood blockbuster. Guys dressed as monsters, the Navi from Avatar, Muppets, and I interviewed our first Adult Star cosplayer Tanya Tate. The biggest feature with SDCC are typically the celebrities: did you know Conan O’Brien appeared at this convention, to promote a comic based on him called The Flaming C? That said, we heard some interesting observations from the cosplayers – they believed cosplay was decreasing at this convention, due to ticket prices rising, and cosplayers not being able to afford it. The fact that SDCC was the place to bump into celebrities, seemed to be the only reason fans were attending it. Yet at the same time, it was the mecca of all fans alike, from Trekkies to Star Wars fans, zombie marches, the Sailor Moons, and many others who had come from nations far far away.
The last weekend in July was Baltimore, Maryland: Otakon, the largest East Coast anime convention. It seemed so big that I personally thought it bigger than Anime Expo. Imagine walking to get from one side of the building to the other, only to be blocked by 200 cosplayers in the hallway, and forced outside on the street to walk across. We saw a Zora cosplayer here from The Legend of Zelda, completely in full gear as if it had actual fish skin. Other notables were Cosplay Burlesque and meeting another cosplay model, Kimberley Moore. There were tons of homeless outside the convention, so you had to walk in groups going back to your hotel, etc. The funny thing about Otakon, is that I bumped into a couple of familiar faces whom I met at TOKYO IN TULSA, such as a Panty & Stocking cosplayer & a guy who worked for Funimation (who evidently had been traveling up and down the East Coast a lot). We somewhat made a name for ourselves after inadvertently hosting a “History of Cosplay Burlesque” panel that night, to help a friend of ours from Anime Expo. But how the largest anime convention on the East Coast happened to be in Baltimore, Maryland (as opposed to New York City), is a question I should have asked.
There are so many more conventions to talk about that we visited thereafter, New York Comic Con, Gobble Con in CT, Another Anime Convention in NH, and Anime USA in Virginia. This documentary will hopefully have a release by mid 2012, pending on the conventions we are attending for next year. Some of these may include Kawaii Kon in Hawaii, A-KON in Texas, and Sakura Kon in Washington State. My responsibilities in this documentary have been shooting, editing, uploading the videos to youtube, and contacting the anime conventions for press releases. This is, in all honesty, a two-man-show: Joshua Adams and myself. The help we have acquired over the months, are from volunteers who have been willing to help. They do not get paid, and usually use their own equipment. We only offer them the promise of being promoted heavily through our youtube, as we are now just above 600 subscribers, and our facebook of 2300+ followers. I myself work about 40+ hours a week, and that leaves me very little time to work on the documentary full time. As mentioned before about insomnia, that is the only way we are getting this done. A normal work day is like me going to work, then checking Cosplayer Nation emails, or uploading videos, and talking to Press Liaisons or booking hotels. Then when I leave at midnight, I’m lucky to even watch a movie on TV, since I’ll be putting the interviews together. To add to this stress, Otakon may be interested in screening the entire documentary, but need it by the first 2 weeks of January. As much as I’d like to play the Wii or find time to get a girlfriend, it’ll have to wait till this is over. If there is any other information you would like to know about this project or myself, please feel free to ask. I have many many other stories to share, some that include bringing cardboard swords on the plane, getting chased out of NJ, making out with cosplayers in Jacuzzis, and somehow getting into an exclusive after party in Tulsa (aka Bible Belt town).