Increasingly popular activity takes axe to Calgary Journal reporter’s pocketbook

A group of my friends who have been cosplaying for several years often joke that they cannot have any other pastimes, as the hobby takes up most of their time and money.

Dictionary.com defines cosplay as “the art or practice of wearing costumes to portray characters from fiction, especially from manga, animation, and science fiction.”

“Some cosplayers insist on remaining true to the original design of the costume, replicating it down to the last detail. Others will modify the original design of the costume to make it more realistic.”
When I was first invited to join the group to cosplay characters from the 2004 Nintendo GameCube video game Tales of Symphonia for Otafest, a three-day anime convention held at the University of Calgary, at first I was unsure. Not only does it cost a lot to make a decent costume, it also takes a lot of skill – most cosplayers sew the costumes themselves, and even cut and style their own wigs.

However, cosplayers at other conventions seemed to have a lot of fun getting their photos taken and talking with fans. So I said yes, and delved into the world of cosplay.

WHY COSPLAY

The word cosplay is generally thought to be a mix of the words “costume” and “play.” Cosplayers have a variety of reasons for creating a specific costume. Some make a costume to pay tribute to a favourite character, or a character that they personally identify with. Some choose a costume specifically because it is a challenge.

Many cosplayers insist on remaining true to the original design of the costume, replicating it down to the last detail. Others will modify the original design of the costume to make it more realistic.

Cosplay season begins in the spring, when fan conventions dedicated to subjects such as comics, anime and Japanese culture, fantasy and sci-fi open their doors to the public.

Spring conventions held this year include the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo, which ran in late April, and in mid-May we had Otafest, a Japanese culture and entertainment convention.

The description of the convention on Otafest’s website states: “Otafest is an annual conference for anime enthusiasts. We act as a creative outlet for fans, an occasion where they can show their passion and appreciation of the hobby. We are an event where fans can show off the costumes they have made, the music videos they have created, and the art they have painted and drawn.”

Conventions enable cosplayers to meet other cosplayers and build up a network of like-minded individuals who they might work with in the future. Costumes often attract fans of the TV show or video game that the character is from, who will want to talk and take pictures.

BUILDING A COSTUME

Building a decent costume ranges in price, with simple costumes not costing as much money and time as more complex outfits. I began the work on my first costume in February. The time, money and materials used are as follows:

  • I had a lot of help sewing my cosplay costume together, and learned from the experience that sewing is much harder than I thought. These are the finished pieces of it. I cosplayed the character Presea Combatir from the 2004 video game Tales of Symphonia.
    Photo by Kristine Saretsky
    Cloth: It cost about $70 to get the blue, grey and purple material needed for the costume at Fabricland.
  • Boots: It cost about $30 for the boots, on sale in a store in Northland mall.
  • Wig: It cost $42 to order the wig from an online shop and have it delivered in time. It would have cost less, but I paid extra on the shipping so it would arrive within a week.
  • Accessory: free. My group of friends involved in the Tales of Symphonia cosplay already had the material to make the jewel accessory. Often cosplayers will pool their resources for costumes.

I received help in choosing the type of material for my costume and in making it. I’d estimate the total amount of time it took to complete sewing the costume and making the accessories at around six hours.

The character I chose to cosplay from Tales of Symphonia is named Presea Combatir, and the most distinctive thing about her is the weapon that she uses, an axe that’s almost as big as she is. Making the axe was probably the most difficult part of the costume for me. The time, money and materials included:

  • The canisters of automotive paint that I used to paint the axe for my cosplay costume, along with a timer. Each coat of paint took about an hour to dry.

    Photo by Kristine SaretskyPVC piping: I intended to use this to make the handle of the axe. When the material proved to be too bendable, I ended up not using it. The cost was $7.99.

  • Foam board: My plan was to use this to craft the head of the axe, but ended up discarding it too. Cost around $4.
  • Plaster: I chose to layer the plaster on top of the foam board to thicken it and shape it to look like the axe in the video game. When the plaster ended up cracking and bending the foam board I chose to scrap it as well. Cost about $6.
  • Automotive paint: I used three types of paint – silver, black and a clear sealant to protect it. Each canister cost $12.99, for a total of $38.97 before taxes.
  • Acrylic paint: To paint the handle of the axe. Cost around $6.99.

Pieces of my second attempt at building the axe for my cosplay costume, before I glued them together using carpenter glue. The head of the axe is made of plywood, the handle is a broomstick.

Photo by Kristine SaretskyWhen my first idea with the foam board, plaster and PVC piping failed to work out, I used plywood, a broom handle and carpenter glue to make the axe instead. Since I had all these materials at home, the second attempt at the axe was free. I’d estimate that it took around eight hours to finish the axe.

In total, the entire costume cost an estimated $205.95 to create, and took about 12 hours.

AT THE CONVENTION

My group donned our costumes on for Otafest on May 18, and spent our Saturday in the convention’s outdoor area.

We passed most of our time getting our photos taken by fans of the video game, and chatting with other cosplayers. We also participated in a photo shoot with our group’s photographer, and in a separate video shoot.

All in all, I had a great day in costume meeting new people and old friends. Despite the cost, cosplay is something I’d consider doing again in the future.

ksaretsky@cjournal.ca