Calgary’s tightly-knit cosplaying community serves as a second home for some

Andrew Nagy quickly switches poses as my camera flashes. This isn’t his first time he’s been photographed, having done multiple photo shoots for his past cosplays and part-time modeling.

The phenomenon of cosplay originated in Japan, where many people would wander through the streets of Akihabara and Harajuku dressed as characters from anime and manga (Japanese comics), or as singers from their favourite bands.

The term cosplay – or, as it’s known in Japanese, “kosupure,” – is a combination of the words “costume” and “play.”

Nagy, 22, is a Calgary-based cosplayer. As Nagy defines cosplay as: “where you dress up as cartoon character, anime character, or video game characters.”

Nagy begins his transformation into BBC’s “Torchwood’s” Captain Jack Harkness with the details: adding a gun holster to his belt, and putting suspender and silver cuff links.
Photo by: Arielle Berze

Nagy’s first cosplay occurred in 2005. He went trick or treating as Reno, a well-known character from the video game “Final Fantasy VII,” and posted the pictures on Nexopia.

After talking with a friend, he discovered that what he had just done was considered to be cos-playing.

Wishing to know more, Nagy was directed through Nexopia to Tali Opelt, a veteran cosplayer who helped to direct Nagy’s new hobby, offering advice and guidance.

His first time cos-playing at an anime convention was a hit. With the help of Opelt, he performed in a skit as Squall Lionhart, from “Final Fantasy VIII,” for Otafest 2006 – a Calgary-based anime convention.

“I walked out onto the stage dressed as Squall, and all of a sudden the entire room, there were two rooms, one of them was watching it on video relay, and you can just hear both rooms just cheering uncontrollably,” Nagy recalls.

“It’s probably this experience which causes me to continue today,” Nagy says.

Besides the challenge and competition of cosplay, Nagy says, “The people probably do make the conventions what they are. The people are really nice to be around.”

It wouldn’t be surprising to find Captain Jack lounging in a tree during an episode
Photo by Arielle Berze

“During the costume-making process I’m really cranky. After I’m all finished and once I get to the conventions and I’m wearing my costume for the photo shoots, it generally makes me really happy because I’m proud of the stuff that I make,” Nagy says.

Alexis Tavares, who’s been cosplaying since 2008, describes the community as, “Having your own little family in a way, because we’re all really close and we all help each other and even outside of cosplay we’re really close, so it’s kind of like having a second home.”

The community is willing to help and give pointers to new and older cosplayers alike, Nagy says.

Jei Wong, part of the Otafest Special Events staff, says that the cosplaying community is tightly knit, and enjoys helping others.

Ultimately, Nagy says, “It’s fun. Even if you’re not the best cosplayer in the world, it’s exciting to get into costume and to go to a convention where there are a lot of other people in costume.

“You won’t be alone. It’s a hobby that a lot of people like to do.”

Nagy says that if people enjoy any one of the aspects of cosplay, whether it be acting, crafting, or just hanging out, they should ignore the stereotypical idea that “you should grow up” and do what they enjoy.

“I do it partially because it’s fun and partially because it’s a show of skill,” he says.

aberze@cjournal.ca