Saturday, September 17, 2016

Best in Show @ Anime California 2016!

A happy way to kick off the cosplay season!

It was a total surprise, but I'm so happy to say that Lyric and I won Best in Show at Anime California 2016 this year! I think I'm even more over the moon by the fact that it is my first Best in Show and it had to be with Utena. It's so picture perfect. I promise to put up better pictures soon!

Shoutout to Shii's Peter Pan for letting me be part of the "No Grown Ups Allowed" Crew.

Anime California overall was a really fun convention! It was smaller than other California conventions, but those have always been my favorite, and a great break since my last convention was Anime Expo, which was super busy (although pretty awesome in itself). It was even more awesome that it was help at the Long Beach Convention Center, where AX used to be back in 2008, which brought back some unintentional but much needed cosplay nostalgia.

I feel like this is the convention experience that brought me back to the real fun joy of getting ready for a convention and experiencing it. It has been probably one of the busiest times I've experienced in a while, between being in school, transitioning jobs, and some other creative overhauls, it's been a rollercoaster.

As I mentioned before, I initially intended to make Alice from Alice in the Country of Hearts for this con, but I ended up switching because of job changes and being able to afford the materials I wanted to use to make her, so we made a last minute change that paid off.

Overall, I had an amazing time at masquerade. We met a lot of wonderful and talented people who I hope we will continue to see at future events, and we got the chance to really show our work for the past couple of months. The convention was in such a great location and the weather was perfect; it felt like everything was really on our side (except for losing my badge on Day Two lolol).

 The convention was a short walk away from our hotel, which was located in the chill East Village area, where there were lots of cute cafes and boutiques. The coffee at the Village Grind was amazing! Shii was also able to go to the convention with us for Saturday, so we enjoyed some breakfast and got to enjoy the Artist Alley after the masquerade meeting.

Despite the small group competing, everyone ranged from different levels, and they were all sweet and encouraging. We had a smooth time getting everything handled for our skit, and we're so thankful that they were able to squeeze us in for craftsmanship at the last minute since I had lost my badge and couldn't get to my appointment on time. >_>;; Shii was a life saver!

Lyric and I co-wrote and choreographed our skit based on the darker relationship between Utena and Dios. We've seen a lot of great skits between Utena and Anthy, Akio, or Touga, and most of the Dios x Utena skits have in the past focused on the dark side, albeit telling it from the storybook version with Utena's yellow dress and whatnot. We were inspired by Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and even the concept of what Dios is supposed to be himself - he "created" Utena in his image, and while she tries to break from that status, her own humanity retreats her back into place. A lot of our choreography was basically mirroring one another, implying that Utena has always wanted to be an earthly version of what Dios was, but cannot be, maybe just yet. I always felt like this was a recurring theme in the series.

A lot of our elements were also more heavily based on the manga, which is slightly different than the anime but I feel clarifies Dios's storyline in a unique way. He's more explicitly described as god-like and omnipresent, but also depicted more like a Grecian god, having weaknesses of his own. I felt like we wanted to show Dios's hidden jealousy that Utena as a mortal could pose a challenge to him, even if he was the victor.

The two of us rehearsed pretty consistently, even though the end of the summer was really hectic for both of us. We used prop swords for rehearsal, and made use of our neighborhood park, which has a small amphitheater perfect for rehearsing.

Sewing Utena was probably my favorite part honestly. I spent about five days consistently working on all of the sewing parts for her, and a day for the rest of her prop pieces. Thankfully, Frye made our swords for our previous skit, so we were able to keep those as they were.

I constructed Utena keeping in mind of the mistakes I previously made on the movie tunic version, as well as the types of details I wanted to pay more attention to this time around. I spent quite some time on the jacket that I actually was not able to make my shorts this time, although I will by Anime LA. Overall though, I enjoyed particularly handsewing my bias tape far more since I really love that clean trim look on my tunic this time around. I paid more attention to the fit of my cosplay, fully lined it, and went through more mockups than usual, but overall, it was so worth it.

My epaulets are my favorite part, since I made them after envisioning a botched idea at the fabric district when I came across these pearls. The epaulets were made by rolling up felt and then adding a trim along the bottom, and 2 strings of pearls. I absolutely love the way they look, since they add some extra flair to her design. The bottom skirt is also one of my favorite parts since I made it of several layers, and it has that ruffled, cloud-like feel to her skirt. I even painted my shoes, which I was surprised looked decent for the skit and completed the look.

I love Shii's work on my wig, which she did at the hotel. She added some layers but kept a lot of the pretty curls along the longer locks, and overall made it look so pretty. *_* I also can secretly rejoice as I plan some Lacus Clyne cosplays again with this marvelous wig.

Overall, I'm personally super happy with my Utena cosplay, and more so because I was so excited to be wearing my dream character and dream cosplay. I felt comfortable at the convention, and I felt like I could run around forever in it. I'm looking forward to rewearing her for Anime LA for sure, or Akiba Fest if I don't have anything done by then.

I think overall, this really elevated my cosplay experience. I'm really grateful to have won, but I feel like the greatest reward is that feeling of personally accomplishing and setting out with a vision to make something that makes you happy. Utena is part of my childhood and nostalgic at times, yet it is also timeless, and it's made me realize that sometimes it is great to look back and think of those times in the past as wonderful and melancholy, but it is today, the present, that really takes those childhood aspirations and with hard work and dedication, can bring you this kind of joy. I really hope to anyone out there who has long loved Utena or another character sets out to finally take that plunge and make that costume, because there's an emotional reward of truly bringing out the kid, or rather, the real part of yourself in you.

Making Utena really made me realize how much work I really put into my cosplays. Whether it's for masquerade or not, I cosplay because I love it, and I love what I make as long as I know I've given my all.

What are my upcoming plans, then?

Well, now all pumped up and ready for more conventions, I'm so happy to say that it's that time of year again when the group makes their yearly late 2016 to 2017 convention schedules for our skits! We have some skits planned for the rest of this year, and some pretty awesome ones for 2017. I'd love to see if we can take things up a notch from this past 2016, since we competed at 4 conventions and won in 3! I'm really surprised!

With things slowly changing for me this upcoming season, my first plan is to hopefully be able to attend AkibaFest in mid-October. I was thinking of what to make, and it dawned on me that I had fabric for Kotori that hasn't been touched since the summer. I think it'll be a pretty fun cosplay to work on.

~ excuse the following vague-blogging lol ~

For PMX, we have a sequel skit coming from one of our previous favorite ones, and I'm personally excited for some of the zany propwork we have ahead of us.

For ALA, we've decided that after 2 straight years of dramatic skits (unintentionally lolol), we have a really fun and silly skit coming up that will have me also remaking another one of my cosplays, and this one I am sooooo ecstatic for since I sacrificed her wig for my Cure Smile cosplay last year.

For Fanime, I'm actually super stoked since we wanted to dive into a different direction from some of our skits. I think we've unintentionally done a lot more musical/fantasy based skits, so this one is grittier and I like the direction we're going with it.

For AX, this is our biggest project at the moment and it has me working with some unexpected materials and software to get started on our vision. I'm super excited for it, since it ties in with an adventurous theme, and I've been itching to do a gownnnnn~.

I'm also going to try to squeeze to go to Anime Impulse for at least a day to meet Twin Cosplay, because reasons. ~ *___*;;;;

 So here we go! The season is off to a great start, and I'm excited that fall always brings a great time, and the hilarious reminder that despite I have so many cosplays planned for this year, I still don't have the slightest clue for Halloween.

As always, happy sewing!

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