By Manny Nolasco
The Drive and Location
Living in Central Missouri has it perks being only a little over 2 hours away from Kansas City or St. Louis. If you really feel adventurous, Chicago or Dallas are within a single day’s drive. What I appreciated about Cosplacon was that it was only 30 minutes away in the heart of Missouri, Jefferson City. I can’t even finish the first disc to my Trance music collection before arriving to the Truman Hotel, the location of the event.
Jeff City, or as the locals refer to their historical town, is a place where I’m sure many Central Missourians can trace their childhood to. It is the home of the Runge Nature Center, where locals and travelers alike become educated in the forestry and wildlife that Missouri has to offer. Take a trip down Missouri Boulevard and you’ll run into some of the most competitive Chinese Food buffets in the Midwest. After eating 11 plates of General TSO’s chicken, what better way to digest than by reading your favorite manga at the local Hastings bookstore? I guess the point I’m trying to get at is that Jeff City is a quaint town with a surprisingly good list of things to do. Like the city, big things can come in little packages, and the same could be said about Cosplacon.
Quaint, but convenient, are the two best words to describe the Truman Hotel and Conference Center in Jeff City. As I did not receive permission to take pictures of the hotel-my fault for forgetting to ask-they can still be easily found by Googling the search phrase “Truman Hotel Jefferson City”. Nestled high on a hill like an eagle’s nest, its location couldn’t be any better being near the highway and a chain of fast food restaurants. Judging by its outward appearance, one might question the building’s integrity when housing the potential of over 1,000 attendees. Visually, the hotel looked longer in length than in depth, which to me gave the illusion of narrow hallways and fewer conference rooms to hold panels. Upon entering the hotel, it turns out that I was partially right about the narrow hallways. Most hallways could maybe fit two people side by side, and the height of the ceiling was only Hobbit friendly at certain areas. But I say this all in kind jest, because for the first anime convention held in this historical city, the location and size was appropriate.
A positive note I would like to add about the close quarter hallways, was the effect of small spacing had on the interaction between cosplayers. For example, I was overwhelmed by the spacious hallways at my first convention, Anime St. Louis (ASTL). It can seem daunting at times when you’re trying to snag a quick pic of a cool cosplay, but then you realize the oncoming stampede of people blocking you and that other person. This was clearly not the case with the tight hallways at Cosplacon. Instead, it was easier to approach someone to ask them for their picture, or strike up some small talk about the panel I just attended. This overall feeling of closeness with the other cosplayers was truly unique. Even though I’ve attended two conventions after Cosplacon and many more to come, I have yet to experience this same feeling again.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from this awesome experience, is that regardless of the size of the venue, or the guest panelists invited, the support staff can make or break any weekend at a convention. At Cosplacon, they were more than just friendly faces who could provide directions. They would attend the panels with the quests and or host a panel themselves. Now it was easier to associate names with faces. Once an event was done, staff members would ask attendees how their experience had been and what they could do to improve their service if necessary. One particular case was in a couple of panel rooms that were extremely small in size-could hold 50 people at most-and the AC unit went out in those rooms. Rather than waiting for the complaints to pile up, staff members would constantly make sure that each room had a chilled, but fresh water reserve before each panel. They would then continue to tell us the progress of the AC unit. In the end, nobody seemed to mind sweating off a couple pounds, or at least I couldn’t tell.
Cosplay and Cosplay Wigs with Kyle (Ex Shadow) and Malinda (Malindachan) MathisGabriel holding her prized doll. That's over $1000 worth in her hand!
Let me start by saying that these two were my favorite guest panelists for the entire weekend. Talk about hardcore cosplayers, starting Thursday night through Sunday, the duo had at least one or more panels each day. But what amazed me the most was not their costumes or the topic of their panels; it was their personalities. If I hadn’t done my research and seen a picture of them prior to this con, I would’ve thought the two were just other attendees excited to be at Cosplacon. As it turns out, they went with a mission, and that was to provide their knowledge and experience on how to improve one’s cosplay. On Thursday of that week, the couple put on an educational bit on cosplaying 101 and how to start preparing one’s costume. To continue from this panel, later that evening the two had another panel about how to pose in cosplay. I learned that one’s pose and timing for the photographers can make or break an awesome picture during the cosplay contest. Later in the weekend, Kyle led an interesting panel on armor building with EVA foam and other materials, while Malinda provided some helpful information on cosplay wigs and where to get them. Both Kyle and Malinda work for Arda Wigs, where you can acquire information on and purchase wigs at arda-wigs.com.
It’s not every day I’m asked to attend a doll panel. But when the host, Gabriel Crenshaw, introduced herself to me with her kind and lighthearted personality, how could anyone turn down such an offer? Rather than attending with the mindset that I was the only guy at this panel, I went with the attitude of a sponge: SOAK IT ALL UP! So I did. I learned that these porcelain, limestone, and ivory dolls, are not your plastic Barbie from the toy store. These are fully customizable, collector items and with an entry level price tag of $1,000 and more. How could anyone think these are toys? I also didn’t know that the limbs, hair, and especially the eyes, are all interchangeable, but at a hefty price. In some cases, a doll wig could cost $200 or more and this doesn’t include the cost of having it pre-dyed or dying the hair yourself. But for anyone who’s a collector, whether it be sport cars or porcelain dolls, every collection is priceless and rarely ever complete. Does this mean I would go out and buy some dolls? Not exactly, but I can say that I have a better appreciation for them and to those who take extreme care with their personal collection. I guess what I saw in Gabriel was the same level of excitement that I miss from collecting Pokémon cards as a kid.
If Gucci and the Arrancar from Bleach made a clothing line.
Like the doll panel, I’ve never attended a live fashion show. As this was an anime convention, I had hopes of not seeing a similar show that one might see in Venice or Milan. You know, those ones with the “I’m, too sexy” music blaring in the background. Or maybe I’m just too quick to jump to stereotypes. I can say that whatever expectations I had prior to the show, were thrown at the window as I left this event speechless. At first, I thought I would just see designer or high quality cosplay outfits. To my surprise, this was a true fashion show with wearable styles that could be influenced by anime. I could have misinterpreted the designers’ intent, but I would break down the three styles in the following categories: steampunk, Elven fantasy, and abstract/supernatural. The only way I can describe the last group is if Gucci and the Arrancar from Bleach, teamed up and created a new clothing line. Ironically, the designer for the last group was appropriately named “No Human Intention”. Only the pictures can do justice when describing all the designs. Click here for more pictures from the fashion show. We'll posting some on our Convention Photos page as well.
If there’s one thing I learned from this experience, is that the models sell the clothes – or at least to me if I were a potential buyer. During the entire show, each model had already envisioned a unique entrance and exit for their presentation. Nobody casually walked up to the stage, made three poses and walked of. Every step was taken with purpose and every pose was designed to emphasize certain features of each outfit. This was more than just a catwalk, pose, shoot, and leave. Between the harmonic and trance-like music played in the background, to the slowed pace of the models, it was as if time itself stood still for this moment. Real trippy stuff, I know, but I’m sure anyone who attended would agree. You can experience this yourself next year at Cosplacon 2014!
Airship VindusSome lovely Sailor Scouts posing it up.
With anime like Steamboy and Fullmetal Alchemist, steampunk is a genre that has great potential for cosplay. The good folks of Airship Vindus have caught on to this and are currently working on an online web series, Steamworks & Shadows, to showcase their efforts. I’m always intrigued to see great ideas with humble beginnings, and the members of Airship Vindus are a great example. None of them are professional actors and their series is hardly funded with little to no budget. While some may view these setbacks as obstacles, Airship Vindus sees only the potential for their show and the need to promote the steampunk genre. One can only respect this level of tenacity, which probably explains why they were invited as guest panelists to Cosplacon. By having a smaller cast size, I liked how each individual has an influential role in the development of Airship Vindus, both on and off the set. Some members contribute to costume design, while others have taken courses in filming and video editing. When on camera, these same individuals act as heroes or villains of the story with the intent to portray an era during the Victorian 19th Century. The result is a story that has potential for suspense, character development, and the better understanding and appreciation for steampunk. As a fan, I send out my best wishes to this crew as they are truly embarking on into a genre that hasn’t been taken to this level before.
Real Sword or Crap with Samurai Dan and Samurai Jillian
“So you like shiny things, do you?” Samurai Dan likes to say. Standing nearby, Samurai Jillian delicately polishes a katana (a samurai’s primary sword) with a smirk on her face. This comedic husband and wife duo are consistently invited as guest panelists to conventions throughout the US. As I’ll be attending Motaku in August, this will be my third time within a three month span of seeing at least one of the two samurai at their panels. What I like most about their routine is their ability to mix historical information with moments of laughter. For example, Dan might make a sarcastic remark about his wife’s short temper, but then Jillian is quick to remind him that she’s the one holding the sharp weapon. But with all the technical information and jests put aside, Samurais Dan and Jillian know how to put on a display when clashing swords – literally. Regardless if their routine is rehearsed, anyone would be amazed at the ferocity and timing in the way that both individuals swing swords during a combat demonstration. Frankly, I believe this level of control is necessary for audience members to adequately see and understand the purpose of each movement. As the couple hinted at the possibility of a hands-on sword class-using wooden swords of course-for con attendees, I imagine that this could be the pinnacle of Cosplacon 2014.
For some fans, this is the only reason they come to anime conventions. For me, it’s a time to catch my breath from attending numerous panels, and to finally enjoy the efforts of my fellow cosplayers. I realize that cosplay contests can also stem some controversy, especially if cosplayers who made their costumes are competing with contestants who bought or had their costumes commissioned online. I like Cosplacon’s response to this issue by having two contests. The first was a smaller “hallway cosplay contest” where anyone could enter, and the official Cosplay Contest was for costume designers only. This way everyone had a chance to show off their costume and win awards for their efforts.
As for the final Cosplay Contest, I was surprised to see that uniqueness and creativity was the approach that all competing designers were going for. I was expecting to see more mainstream cosplay like Fullmetal Alchemist, One Piece, and Bleach. Not that I have any problem with this, but let’s be honest, there can only be so many Ichigo’s and Roy Mustang’s in the world until it seems too common. Instead, I was glad to see newcomers like Jack Frost (Rise of the Guardians), Queen Amidala (Star Wars, Episode I), and Fenris from Dragon Age II. I even met this one awesome cosplayer, Roxanne, who cosplayed as the main character from the video game Katamari. She even made a ball of random objects stuck together, making the outfit complete. But when I heard how much time and dedication was spent in the costume by the winner of the contest, there was no argument that she truly won her crown. The winner of this year’s cosplay contest at Cosplacon 2013, designed her very own pink Lolita dress, adorned with black ribbons and hand stitched ruffles. She was cosplaying as Robin Ceil from Kuroshitsuji – a.k.a. Black Butler. Malindachan was also one of the hosting judges and explained to the audience that this costume was designed to 100% accuracy to scale and appearance of the character. I’m truly amazed at what ideas transform from paper to cloth with the help of imagination and dedication. This contest was that very embodiment. You can see more pics by clicking on this link, and we will post some on this site too.
Pro Tips from a SpartanOn the left is Omar, me in the center, and Jeff to the right. Not pictured is everyone's friend Oscar. He was generous to lend his skills in capturing this image.
While I was passing time in between panels in the game room with my sisters, I happened to come across cosplayer, Spartan Nix, who also participated in the official cosplay contest and won in a category for her Halo Armor and larger than life sniper rifle. Upon congratulating Nix for her award, not only was she sweet enough to strike a couple unique poses for me, but she gave me some pro tips about how she made her armor. I must have been blinded by her helmet lights, because sadly I can’t remember all the details from our conversation. But I can say that she informed me that EVA foam is definitely a cosplayers best friend to making armor. She also said that I should consider investing in a heating gun and not using my sisters’ hair dryer to bend foam – not that that would ever cross my mind J. Hot glue can also be an efficient way of piecing together multiple pieces of foam for design or padding. She did caution that sometimes armor suits can get hot and the glue may wear off in certain areas of friction. In cases like this, Velcro would be the best alternative. Lastly, she told me that ventilation or a cooling system is a must with helmets or heavy armor. This can be as simple as adding openings in the head piece like a bicycle helmet, or you could splurge and add in a battery operated mini fan – like the ones you might put in a computer. She was also the first cosplayer that I’ve spoken to who admits to using Pepakura. This technique is derived from using Japanese software originally designed to make origami paper cutouts, to be used on a larger scale to print patterns like her Spartan Armor. I was glad to have befriended Spartan Nix, as she reminded me that cosplay is also about humbleness and friendship.
For me, this was a great time to relax and conclude the day with some kindergarten style drawings. In the process, I was also able to break the ice with other cosplayers as I got to know Roxanne more, as well as meeting three cool dudes by the names of Omar, Jeff, and Oscar. Roxanne had some wicked drawing skills, as she showed me her fantasy character from League of Legends with numerous fox tails. Meanwhile, Omar was the da Vinci of his group, drawing this sick pic of Venom from Spiderman. Oscar was the comedian, as he jokingly asked for tips on how to draw limbs on characters, and Jeff was equally funny, but talented in his representation of Goku in his drawings. I drew a kitsune, a Japanese fox, but was unworthy of comparison when placed next to Omar’s Venom picture. The reason why I even mentioned this event was to show the creativity behind the planners of Cosplacon. Sometimes grandiose panels aren’t always necessary. Setup some round tables with adequate drawing materials, and now you’ve turned complete strangers into friends. To this day, I’ve since friended these cosplayers on social networks, and when I plan for the next convention, I now have a growing list of friends to potentially meet up with. This is what true cosplay is about and I’m glad that Cosplacon knew how to make it happen.
This was the GREATEST event I have ever attended at any anime convention and I dare any other conventions to match it. Initially, my sisters wanted to go to this more than me, but trying to be a bro, I didn’t want to spoil their weekend and so I went. To my surprise, not only did the Airship Vindus group host this event-I should’ve noticed since the word steampunk was listed-but the music was truly unique. There was everything to waltz, two step, tango, trippy free-style, and finally a climatic electro remix of Vivaldi’s “Winter, First Movement”. As it was natural to see some people immediately head to the dance floor while others sat at tables, members of Airship Vindus would pass white roses to those who remained seated. Once having obtained a rose, that person had to find someone to dance with during the current song or for the next song. Even though there were no dire consequences if that person refused to dance, people still made their way to the dance floor as the music was contagious. Since I cosplayed as Kirito from Sword Art Online, I used the cheesy pickup of line of “Would you like to dance with a knight from the virtual world?” Surprisingly, no girl refused, but then again, who could say no to hero who saved a virtual kingdom?
Conclusion"ThatCosplayGuy" derping around in his attempt as Kirito.
Cosplacon was the second anime convention I’ve attended in my career. Even though Anime St. Louis (ASTL) was my first, I truly felt like I had a better understanding and appreciation for cosplay at Cosplacon. Don’t get me wrong, I had an awesome time at ASTL, but I was at the same time overwhelmed by the variety provided at ASTL. Cosplacon was a way for me to step back and fully appreciate what was around me. What also made this event so special to me-and I’m sure everyone else who attended would agree-was the staff. Rodney, the lead coordinator and guest relations liaison for Cosplacon, did an amazing job at assuring everyone’s enjoyment during the entire weekend. He even hosted several panels and sat in on others to mingle with attendees. I have never seen this at any other con I’ve been to, and I have definitely never been able to place names of the friendly faces of staff members who poured their hearts and souls into such an event. Even when I went to McDonalds for dinner, Ben, another Staff member, came up to me and asked how the con was going and if there was anything he could do to improve my experience. I wish I could remember all the names of everyone who was staff or volunteered, but you know who you are and you know that we are ALL truly grateful for the hard work you’ve committed. Keep in mind, Cosplacon was an event that went 2 years in production stage before it became official, as this was Central Missouri’s first anime convention. Will I go next year? This goes without saying, but even better is that I now have a new list of friends I’ll go with and see at Cosplacon 2014. I hope that everyone I saw from this year’s event can be there again, but even more so, I hope that we make such an impact that the fans from the East and West Coast are jealous!
Thanks for reading this in-depth review of Cosplacon 2013. I had a great time meeting other fans and sharing this experience with them. As noted in the article, I will be posting the complete set of pictures and removing the links for your convenience.
Once again, shout out to all the amazing guests and WONDERFUL group of staff and volunteers who truly made this a memorable experience for everyone! You can definitely count on me going to Cosplacon 2014, and who knows, maybe you could be in the next photo gallery.
This is Manny or "ThatCosplayGuy" signing off!