Continued from YBMW FanimeCon 09 Special: The Hungry Cosplayers – Part 1…

Cosplaying can mean many different things for many different people. For some, cosplaying can be temporary or a lifelong hobby. While for others, it’s an obsession and the center of their universe. Some cosplay for the love of a character, while some cosplay just for the love of dressing up. It can be a form of escapism from an otherwise mundane world, where streets aren’t paved with gold and we drive Volkswagons instead of VF-1A Valkyries. It’s about playing a roll and being a ninja for a weekend, with the chance to hang out with your friend the Space Cowboy and your buddy the Assassin. It can also be medicinal, assisting in the rebuilding of a depleted self-esteem — allowing those who are shy to open up and share what they love with others. Or it can even be for selfish reasons, such as the attention one would receive for an awesome costume and a job well done.

For the girls of T.H.C., cosplaying is mostly about the process, the comradery and the fun. But it is also about a sisterhood of friends who are coming to age. And for one weekend, come together to live life undaunted by time and adulthood’s budding responsibilities. It’s for the love of anime and for the love of good company — a company that I had the pleasure of joining even if just for a day.

It’s 12:21. We’re behind schedule after getting off to an extremely slow start this morning.

And despite Onee-chan cosplaying as Faith from Mirror’s Edge, she pulls off her best Speed Racer impression and races us toward the San Jose Convention Center under a respectable speed limit.

We arrive exactly at 12:30 outside the Convention Center and drop off the girls. Like gangbuster, they pile out of the van chaotically, and in their excitement they leave behind their wallet, cell phone, camera and even FanimeCon badge… It was a bumbling deployment best described as puppies tumbling down a cliff and hitting every sharp ledge along the way down.

After Onee-chan and I find parking, we meet up with the girls outside the Convention Center who disappointingly tell us that they have been replaced in the human chess match. Everyone is bummed out. “So what now,’ I ask.

“Macross meet,” someone tells me, as the group’s downtrodden spirit quickly recovers.

The Macross meet is a gathering of people cosplaying as the same characters from the Macross Frontier animated series. It’s essentially a chance to meet other fans of the series and to congregate in order to take group photos. Throughout the four day con, several meets are scheduled for various anime series with the sole purpose of organizing large photo ops and to recreate key scenes from the anime.

As we wait for the Macross Frontier meet to begin, the girls are already starting to draw a crowd. Onee-chan, the odd cosplayer out, is virtually ignored as people swarm around the other girls like photographers at the red carpet. She watches from a nearby distance as her sister and friends bask in the artificial glow of camera flashes and fleeting stardom. I ask if she’s jealous that more people want their photographs than hers. But like a professional, she tells me that that’s just the nature of cosplaying. People tend to notice and like groups of cosplayers from a series more than those who cosplay alone. “Do you keep track how of many people take your picture,” I then ask. No, she laughs. That’d be too egotistical and it’s not what cosplaying is about she tells me.

As the Macross Frontier meet gets underway, several Alto Saotomes, Sheryl Nomes and Ranka Lees begin to populate outside the convention grounds like a cloning experiment gone horribly wrong. As the girls gather for their group pictures, I strike up a conversation with Elyavalon, a 17 year-old cosplayer who had met the girls a day before, and is hanging out with them today. While picking his brain for a male’s perspective on cosplaying, he tells me that it’s a way for him to make life more exciting.

“Everyday life is just boring,” he says. “I dress up because it’s fun and exciting.”

Cosplaying can also lead to a natural high, he adds. Explaining that part of the fun is being able to receive compliments, which is something sparingly handed out in the real world.

Additionally, he also admits (after some prying) that by dressing up, a guy can help their chances with meeting new people, especially girls. It works because when guys cosplay, they tend to draw more attention to themselves because so few actually do it. People tend to just “appreciate it” more, a fact consistent with what the girls had told me earlier. That they do pay more attention to guys in costumes than those who are not.

While we talked, Satomi interrupts us and asks if I can hang on to some of her things. Wanting to be hands free for a photo op, she hands me her wallet, camera and Ai-Kun, a small green alien plushie, whose left eye instantaneously falls off the minute it touches my hand. I go and meet up with Onee-chan, who, like me, has been relegated to the position of personal-crap holder after being excluded from all the Macross photo ops this morning. She notices Ai-Kun in my hands and begins to tell me about the rarity of the now one-eyed alien plushie.

“It’s so rare. You can’t find it anywhere,” she beams. “There were only three available when we bought it!”

It then dawned on me that I have been made a victim of one of those preposterous and unfortunate events. The kind where someone’s been given a responsibility, and at no fault of their own, is unable to uphold, as every thing goes horribly wrong. Your classic scenario involving a neighbor who entrusts you to watch their dog for a weekend, only to have it die in a way you could never prevent or see coming. Fortunately for me, I saved the eye and it’s really nothing a little super-glue can’t fix. If I had lost the eye, then perhaps I wouldn’t be here today with all ten fingers or I’d be dead somewhere in a ditch.

“Cause of death — repeated blunt force trauma to the back of the head,” forensics would say while writing my report.

The Macross meet lasted for almost two hours and featured a group “Nyan Nyan” dance that was literally a traffic stopper. When the Macross meet waned, the girls stayed around for more pictures and then took it upon themselves to join a dancing duo with a boombox. After some solo “Cha Cha” and “Seikan Hikou” dances, the gang decides to break for lunch as it was quickly approaching 4:00 PM and many hadn’t eaten at all today.

We picked a nearby diner and all the girls collapse into their chair, more excited with the chance to sit than to eat. And for cosplayers who claim to always be hungry, they picked, nibbled and generally nursed their comfort foods, whereas I just about inhaled mine. During the later part of lunch, Satomi begins eyeing Klepto-hime’s small side of jalapenos. Klepto-hime offers her some and she begins to creep toward the dish with an outstretched hand, mouth ajar. But before committing she wants to know if they are hot.

“They’re kind of hot,” Klepto-hime and I both say.

And with a small cowardly whimper she backs off, thoroughly disappointed and defeated.

Before returning to the convention center, the girls make a small detour to a nearby park to take pictures of one another – occasionally being photographed or secretly targeted by camera phone paparazzi. On convention grounds, it’s much more of the same. A small production crew pulls the girls aside for a quick interview, while a photographer pulls them to another corner to take photographs of them. We then decide to split up and meet back in an hour, to prepare for FanimeCon’s formal event, the Black and White Ball.

While the girls hit up the dealers’ room and the artist alley, Onee-chan, Elyavalon and I decide to take a breather. Elyavalon, who has been wearing dress shoes all day as a part of his costume complains relentlessly about his tired feet. Meanwhile, Onee-chan and I are doing our best not to fall asleep. Aside from having a slapping contest, we remedy it by people watching and the occasional interruption by passer byers who recognize Onee-chan as Faith and want her photograph. By six, the gang reunites and we head to the parking garage to get changed for the ball. Elyavalon and I wait around a corner while the girls change in the back of Nemo’s mini van into more ball appropriate attire. Elyavalon continues to complain about his shoes and his now possibly deformed feet.

Held exclusively at the luxurious Fairmont Hotel near the Convention Center, the Black and White Ball is FanimeCon’s approach at mimicking a formal dance. While it serves as an elegant fun filled night for con goers, it also doubles as a rite of passage for those who’ve missed out or have never been to a ball. We arrive an hour into its start, and the girls immediately blend into the boisterous crowd with reckless abandon. Nemo dances with Satomi and violently swings her around the dance floor like a wrecking ball, while Klepto-hime is gentler with Sa-chan and gingerly tosses her around. Meanwhile, like an unwanted red-headed stepchild, Onee-chan is the odd cosplayer out once again.

Organizers of the ball made it a priority to be inclusive of everyone much like the concept of “ohana,” a phrase from Disney’s “Lilo and Stich,” which demands that no one be left behind or forgotten. As a result, those who came without a date or were by themselves also had the chance to join in. Midway, the dance floors were cleared for a social mix as men and women were asked to stand on separate sides of the floor and then converge and pair up at the end. Whoever you ended up being opposite to became the one you danced with and got to meet. Despite T.H.C. crew not participating in this ice breaker, it was a good way to loosen up a room full of shy and possibly socially awkward strangers.

Later in the night, the girls made a new friend who had flown all the way from LA to attend FanimeCon by herself.

She bonded immediately and became instrumental in co-orchestrating the now infamous “Thriller” group dance of FanimeCon 09.

It first began among the girls, but its notoriousness soon caught wind to more than half the dance floor as everyone joined in line by line. By mid song, more than half the dancers on the floor were participating in one of the largest unorchestrated and coolest spontaneous group dance that I have ever seen live. The girls ambitiously tried again afterwards with the Macarena dance, and while it was successful in its own right, it wasn’t nearly as contagious as the “Thriller” dance whose sheer unadulterated awesomeness could not be contained. After joining a few massive congo lines later, the girls decide to leave the ball and return to the Convention Center for some late night karaoke.

Their plan to partake in karaoke falls through, however, as they miss the deadline for registration. Not wanting to call it a night, the girls head over to the still lively gaming room, only to then realize that they’ve left their wallet in the van. Not really knowing what to do but still defiant about leaving, they decide to join a random human chess match that was starting. But after a long day, the physical requirements of having to stand in as chess pieces in makeshift squares prove too taxing and physical of a challenge. Satomi, who has been in her red heels since eight this morning, crouches diligently in her square, possibly daydreaming about amputating her own feet to relieve the pain. After all the girls were eliminated and sacrificed, the gang finally decides to begrudgingly call it a night.

In the van, Sa-chan accidently sits on one of her new posters. She’s too tired to be upset, but tomorrow she will probably cry. The ride home is fairly quiet; everyone is exhausted but content with their day. Klepto-hime, Onee-chan and Satomi plans to return tomorrow for the final day, and have already decided who they will cosplay as. Now it just becomes a matter of willing themselves to go through the process all over again. The girls are hungry and for a while they contemplate the idea of grabbing a late dinner. But talk fizzles and negotiation of where to eat falters as fatigue begins to set in and overwhelm the hunger.

“It feels weird eating only one meal a day,” Klepto-hime says to no one in particular.

After spending a day with the girls, I’ve now come to appreciate and understand how fitting T.H.C. moniker is. Although a part of me can’t help but think that a more appropriate name would be T.S.C. Because from first hand experience, when you eat only one meal a day, you’re not just perpetually hungry throughout the day.

You’re starving.

Thanks again to Onee-chan, Klepto-hime, Satomi, Sa-chan and Nemo. It was quite the adventure! And who knew, I didn’t even have to fall through a rabbit’s hole to find it.

One thought on “YBMW FanimeCon 09 Special: The Hungry Cosplayers – Part 2”

  1. Cosplay is fun! too bad this year I don’t feel up to it ^^; BUT I had fun taking pix of cosplayers at our local con :D my first time this year ^O^!

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