Vancouver Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention’s cosplay connection

Mention the word 'cosplay' to the average person, and you're guaranteed to get one of two responses: a look of incredulity, eyebrow raised, mouth quickly forming into a very fierce scowl, or a wide-eyed look of puzzlement, mouth formed into a small 'o', pondering what the word that just spewed out of your mouth meant.

For those among us who fall into the latter category, I'll lay it down. Cosplay is a hobby that is shared by the sci-fi, fantasy, anime and manga lovers all over the globe. It is a harmless activity that engages one's creativity and imagination, employing a number of skills, such as wood-working, needle-work, hair-styling, and make-up art, just to name a few.

Essentially, according to the ever-faithful Wikipedia, it is “short for ‘costume role-play’, [and] is a fan labour type of performance art in which participants don costumes and accessories to represent a specific character or idea.”

Immediately, images of acne-prone 13-year olds, braces flashing in the sunlight, dressed as some obscure anime character, pretending to be more badass than they actually are, flash though the mind.

But panic not – it is actually quite an incredible art form, simply a way to have fun and bring something they have come to respect and revere to life. Cosplayers expand their creative boundaries and in many cases, challenge something society has deemed a taboo without getting tasered by cops. Since most clothes these days, according to Iwachiten on Urban Dictionary, are “shitted out for everyone via mass factories and little kids in China”, cosplayers can also indulge in creating their own clothing that is more exciting than anything one may find in a clothing store. In essence, it is a lot like wearing your favourite band's t-shirt, painting your team's colours across your face or wearing a hockey jersey the day of a game.

At the Vancouver Science-Fiction, Fantasy and gaming Convention (VCON), which happened last weekend, the cosplayers were out in full force. Although VCON is a relatively small convention compared to most, it still attracted the attention of the Outerrim Squadron. This small group of hard-core 'costumers' are part of a larger association, which calls itself the 501st Legion. The 501st Legion specializes in Star Wars costuming, specifically the Imperial side. The Legion stretches across 24 countries, with almost 5000 members and counting. At VCON, convention-goers were graced with the presence of Darth Vader, Boba Fett, a TIE-fighter, Qui-Gon Jinn, a snow-trooper and a general from the Death Star. This small collection of ‘costumers’ (they said that using 'cos-player' inferred a connection to anime) took great pride in their homemade creations and even led a panel on how to create the elaborate costumes. Many of the more complicated components of the outfits were created with molded polystyrene, which apparently requires quite the technique to meld properly. John, or Boba Fett, said that creating a costume “requires a lot of dedication and a bit of money” and that his costume has taken him over ten years to create and it is still an ongoing project.

It was a pleasant surprise to chat with the costumers and learn about their identities. Many members of this elite group were actually over the age of 25 and had families. They considered this hobby as a way to relax and have fun with people with similar interests and be part of a large social group. In fact, the range in the age of the cosplayers varied from teens to late 40's, creating a connection between many different generations that often find it hard to locate common ground. Despite the age difference, everyone seemed to be getting along and enjoyed the company.
In Vancouver itself, the community of cosplayers and costumers are very inclusive and are always looking for new members. Many times, the people that are dressed up are far more interesting to talk to than the people milling around aimlessly, dressed in their token t-shirt and jeans. A cosplayer will gladly pause a conversation they're having to take a picture or two with you or a friend.

A little farther back in the year, there was another convention that played host to gaggles of cosplayers: Anime Evolution. Throughout the course of the convention, one could spot their favourite Final Fantasy character or watch as a horde of girls dressed in school uniforms descended on vendors. The whole convention was filled with laughter and a general feeling of contentment. Everyone was smiling, and people dressed up as the same character would high-five each other and immediately begin a conversation with the other, asking how they got their hair to freeze in a specific way, or how they got their make-up so perfect.

Cosplay is something that can be shared and enjoyed by a whole assortment of people, from your next-door neighbour’s kid, to the quiet and reserved guy who sits at the front of class. It brings together fans of all different genres to celebrate the creation of revered art and what it means to them. It stimulates the imagination and the creative impulses our society deems verboten and turns them into something fun and harmless. However, if you think this hobby is right up your alley, be careful who you choose to dress up as. When asked how hot the Star Wars' costumes get, the general consensus was “like the planet Tatooine in summertime”.

For more information of various cosplaying, you can visit http://www.501st.com/ or YouTube, which has some pretty sick videos.

//Haley Whishaw

Enjoy it? Share this on Facebook


© 2011 The Capilano Courier. phone: 604.984.4949 fax: 604.984.1787 email: editor@capilanocourier.com