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By Torstein Lund Eik. April 3, 2014 - 2:50 pm
Dressing up as your favorite character from a TV show or cartoon is something we all did as children. Eventually you might have been told to stop; that unless it’s for Halloween, it’s not acceptable. Or perhaps you just stopped.
Rebecca Zuckor never did.
“I don’t remember discovering cosplay outside of having already, without my own knowledge, already been cosplaying,” Zuckor says. “I was dressing up as characters by buying similar clothes from stores and putting the outfits together. A couple of years later I realized it was a thing! And it wasn’t just for Halloween either.”
Cosplay is definitely a thing, and it has tons of conventions all over the world. Even here in Hawaii there is a convention dedicated to it – aptly named “Kawaii Kon.”
The convention is held every year, and this upcoming weekend Japanese pop culture enthusiasts will gather at Hawaii Convention Center for a weekend filled with everything from talks by voice actors and vendor booths to costume contests.
San Diego’s Comic Con is an example of the size of the phenomenon – an internationally known convention for comic fans to gather, and cosplay.
Cosplaying can be traced back to as early as 1912 in the United States, but the word “cosplay” itself originates from Japan – it is short for “costume play.”
“Cosplaying is basically costume roleplay, which is just dressing up as your favorite character from TV shows, anime or cartoons. If you want to be a Stormtrooper – you can be a Stormtrooper!” Zuckor says.
Zuckor has been cosplaying since she was 7, when she dressed up as her favorite character from the “Digimon” series.
Later, she went on to dress up as an Imperial soldier from the show “Zoids,” which lead to some slightly confused parents when they opened the door on Halloween and saw Zuckor outside.
“People asked me, “’What outfit is this?’ and when I told them that I was an Imperial soldier, most of them asked me if it was something from ‘Star Wars’,” says Zuckor, “but I got candy anyway.”
Her apartment shows a clear interest in comics, art and TV series. Small trinkets from various shows are found all over, and several different cosplaying costumes take up space in her wardrobe.
But cosplaying is so much more then just playing “dress up” like we did as children, it’s about entering another personality, environment or world entirely.
“Some people have asked me if I do it because I don’t enjoy being myself, but it is kind of a part of me, so I don’t really agree with that,” Zuckor says. “I just enjoy being other personalities, under different circumstances, or I love a series or a character so much that I want to represent them in a way that isn’t just fan-art or just saying ‘I love this character!’”
Acting is not something everyone can do successfully, and not everyone will be able to play his or her role all the time, or even at all. You need to have a knack for getting in tune with your character.
“If you’re one of these types of people who constantly laughs, which is kind of me, it’s hard,” she adds, “But I think when you’re really passionate about it, you can step up and become your character.”
The roleplay part of cosplay is very important, and at times Zuckor finds herself immersed in the world of the character. Last year she took on the role of Tony Stark, and it nearly cost her a friendship.
“My friend actually thought I was not wanting to be friends with him anymore, because he saw me in this costume and I was just completely different,” says Zuckor. “I was just playing the part of a complete douchebag!”
Her acting skills did not cost her a friendship, and most of her friends are also cosplayers. When her group of friends gets together to cosplay at conventions, they usually go together and with a group themed cosplay.
When they are all fans of the same series, you’d think they would have quite the fight over who gets to be what character. They all decide based on their various personalities.
“For instance, we do one a “One Piece” cosplay every year, but it’s from a different story arch, manga or episode,” Zuckor says, “So for ‘One Piece,’ I’m Luffy – the main character. Just because I like meat, I’m dumb, but I’m not, and I follow my intuition and instincts.”
Kawaii Kon is a three-day event, and for each day Rebecca will be sporting a different outfit.
Friday, the opening day, she will be attending as Roy Mustang from the “Full Metal Alchemist” series, and Saturday she will be dressed as Mikasa from “Attack on Titan” – teaming up with her friend, who is going dressed as his favorite character Eren Yeager from the same series.
For the Roy Mustang costume, she’s got the details covered – from the full uniform, alchemists’ gloves and even the same watch he uses.
Far from unprepared for the role as Mikasa, and her silver blades are ready – made by Zuckor herself, from Styrofoam and cardboard, and a whole lot of spray-on silver paint.
Sunday’s outfit will be from the “One Piece” show, where she will be going dressed as Luffy.
All these outfits would have cost Zuckor hundreds of dollars had she bought them in a store, but Goodwill and China are her go-to places when designing outfits. Some outfits are bought as-is, but many she designs and makes herself.
“For props I go to places like Home Depot, Fisher’s here in Hawaii, or any craft store really. Even office supply stores!” she says.
Using do-it-yourself guides to get an understanding of what materials she needs to be using, she then goes “off-guide” to leave her own personal touch to the outfits she is designing.
An iconic part of the Luffy costume is his straw hat, with a red band. A little bit of ingenuity and a bit of creativity goes along way when putting together the cosplay costumes.
“The hat base I got from a dollar store, and the red band that is the ‘detail’ I got from a turtleneck sweater,” Zuckor explains. “I used the rest of the sweater to make his red shirt, which is his first outfit of the series. I made the string by cutting up a cheap Valentine’s necklace, and I have had this hat since 2008, and it’s been with me on my adventures. Every year when we’ve cosplayed ‘One Piece,’ I’ve had this hat!”
Rebecca’s costumes have caught the attention of many participants at conventions, and there are times when she has been close to star struck.
At the San Diego Comic Con in 2012, she was dressed as Dante from the Devil May Cry 3 video game, when Ruben Langdon, the voice actor of Dante, approached her.
“He approached me from behind, asking. ‘Hey Dante, can I get a picture?’ and while I was trying to be composed for the picture, it was just very difficult,” says Zuckor, “because he is definitely one of my favorite voice actors!”
If you want to see more, this year’s Kawaii Kon runs from April 4 to 6. To enter the actual event, you need to purchase a pass, but if you want to stop by and take a look at the costumes, the entrance area is free of charge.
If you can’t make it – check in to our website over the weekend for photos!
Photos: Torstein Lund Eik