Arts Desk

Unmasking the Cosplayers of Katsucon 2011

© Megan Arellano

A Katsucon attendee dressed as the Japanese vocalist Seileen.

"I feel like I’m in a cafe in Star Wars. Seventy-five years and I never cease to see something that amazes me,” said Katsucon attendee Bill McIntyre on Saturday. He had it about right. We were sitting at the Gaylord Hotel in National Harbor watching streams of cosplayers (that's short for costume players) parade through the lobby at the annual anime convention's 17th iteration. The weekend-long Katsucon was all about eclecticism: There were screenings and opportunities to meet talent, of course, but also everything from LARP-ing to a Maid Cafe to a panel that detailed the differences between anime pornography and, er, the live-action variety.

Beyond the diversity in programming, the estimated 6,000 in attendance  represented people of all colors, creeds—and costumes. And not everyone dressed up. "I think because anime is getting more mainstream, people are getting more hygienic and we aren't so 'inbred' anymore," said illustrator Nechama Frier at a speed-dating event.

Hygienic or not, here are some of the cosplayers I met at Katsucon:

© Megan Arellano 2011

These wings weigh at least 20 pounds!

Alexander Bloom, 22.

So who are you supposed to be?

I'm Problem Sleuth, from MS Paint Adventures.

Wow. So how long did this take you?

Not sure, at least 80 hours. I just started making scale models and scaling it up.

Was that expensive?

Not really. I think it cost a couple hundred dollars. The most expensive part was the feathers I think; those were about $80 to $60 dollars for 600 feathers. The feathers are all hand-dyed and hand-tied.

It turned out fantastic. Can you tell me more about the wings?

The wings swing in, otherwise I'd never be able to fit through doors. The frame is made out of half-inch PVC pipe, so they weigh maybe 20 or 30 pounds. I'm not really sure.

Right, Anthony Zucconi fakes the pain of mock combat.

Right, Anthony Zucconi fakes the pain of mock combat.

When I caught up with 35-year-old Anthony Zucconi, it was after he'd spent 90 minutes at the intermediate Mock Combat panel. How do you fake fight? Well, here, the method entails a series of poses. It's like seeing a brawl frame-by-frame. A fake choke to a leg twist was so slow that, to the casual observer, it looked simple. But before long, the players were moving fast enough that I found myself wincing. It's oddly aerobic—Anthony's a pretty well-muscled guy and even he was perspiring.

So why did you come to Mock Combat?

It's a good work out. I'm actually a professional wrestler.

A professional wrestler? How'd you end up at an anime convention?

I really enjoy the anime, I actually used to live in Japan.

What do you like about this panel in particular?

The people you meet here are average people, but [my partner] could take what he learned here today and step into an amateur wrestling club.

© Megan Arellano 2011

Guh.

There are plenty of costumes that look dangerous, but aren't. Like 16-year-old Courtney Looker's five-foot sword.

What character are you playing?

Cloud Strife from Final Fantasy 7

What's one of the best reactions you've gotten?

Well, the first day I got so much recognition and I loved it so much I didn't change, even though I brought other cosplays.

Awesome sword! How'd you make it?

It's styrofoam. First I used a handsaw to shape it, then I sanded it. After that, I did the detail work like body-filling the empty spots. Last, I polyurethaned it. It's pretty light!

Does that take a lot of attempts to get right?

I do it right the first time mainly because I'm the weapons expert. [My group and I] all work separately, but I'm the only one good at making intricate weapons.

So do you find a lot of kids that share your interest?

[My life] from anime is kinda separate. Even our anime club is separate from school.

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