Where should a cosplayer start their discussion about their cosplay experience? I suppose they should start at the beginning.
For me, cosplay always went hand in hand with fan conventions. And not just any fan convention. I think most geeks and cosplayers would probably claim the San Diego Comic Con as their dream con. This was never the case for me though. I wanted desperately to go to Toronto and experience Anime North. That’s quite funny in retrospect because I rarely cosplay anime characters. Anime North is, of course, an anime convention and it comes with an artist gallery, some video gaming and various panel topics. But it’s not a place for sci fi, comic books or other forms of fandom. Yet I was a vivid consumer of anime programming on YTV and Anime North was my goal.
So how did Anime North become my dream pre-cosplay? Well, let’s start with my adventure into fandom as a whole. Fandom is where I started and cosplay is simply the most recent development in my fan experience.
Growing up, I didn’t know there was such a thing as fandom on the internet. But I watched a lot of cartoons and anime. And most of those cartoons were watched on channel 24, aka YTV. YTV started in September of 1988 and was owned by Corus Entertainment. It was an Ontario based children’s programming network and it showed a lot of cartoons. As a kid born in 1989 in Canada, I grew up on YTV’s programming. Some of the popular shows were Reboot, Beasties, Batman the Animated Series, Dragonball Z, Sailor Moon and Pokemon. I would also watch Yu-Gi-Oh, Batman Beyond and the Animatics on Kids WB. Eventually we’d get Teletoon but we never had the Cartoon Network.
Okay, so that was my childhood cartoon experiences. There were all the classics too, like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and all the Disney toons, but I couldn’t tell you which channels hosted what. YTV was the most important one though. Let’s step away from it for a bit though. When I was in grade 9, I really started to get into the internet. So this would have been around 2003/2004. I had discovered fan art. I may have even found deviantart at the time, but I didn’t open an account until 2005. I printed tons and tons of Yu-Gi-Oh fanart and copied it to practice drawing. I would like to point out that what I printed and replicated was for my own personal use. I never, ever posted it online or tried to pass it off as my original work. And I kept the original work to show people as well. Don’t ever copy someone else’s work for profit or fame. Still, the internet and fan art had come into my life.
Now, YTV started showing InuYasha when I was in grade 9. InuYasha was my fandom gate drug far more than the Yu-Gi-Oh fan art could ever hope to be. I was googling InuYasha when I came across my first ever fanfiction site. Sango wasn’t in the show just yet when I found this site. Anyway, it was a yaoi and yuri site… and it didn’t say anywhere on it that it was fanfiction or what fanfiction was.
I can’t tell you how long I watched InuYasha, waiting for Sesshomaru and Inuyasha to finally realise they should be romantic partners.
My view of anime has been tainted ever since.
I eventually realised that the stories on that odd site where unofficial fan works. I guess when I realised that a lot of the stories were pornographic and the show didn’t have a high enough rating for that to be part of the story line, I finally clued in. I was hooked though. I eventually looked for more fanfiction and discovered fanfiction.net. My life was changed forever. While this was happening, I started high school and YTV created its Bionix block of anime programming. Bionix ran from September 2004 to February 2010. It came on later in the evening and thus could show content for older audiences. The shows I watched the most of were Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Fullmetal Alchemist, Naruto, Witch Hunter Robin, .hack//Sign and, of course, InuYasha. I fell completely in love with anime. I had always grown up with anime but most of the Bionix programming blew other shows out of the water. Many of the programs had GOOD English voice acting and the shows were more mature. I’d look them up online and read tons of fanfiction. I found out that Yu-Gi-Oh and One Piece were much more adult than what American programming cared to show. I researched everything about Yu-Gi-Oh to learn about what dubbers had removed and I began watching unofficial One Piece subs. I joined fanfiction.net in that first year of high school and started contributing to the written fandom myself. I found out that Newfoundland had stores that sold manga and comics and I started buying books. Fruits Basket is the perfect example of how my interests came together. I saw a trailer for the English dub, did a bit of research, read half a million fanfics and then discovered the store TimeMasters, where I bought the manga. It was interesting to learn what actually was canon in those fanfics. I would never have started reading Fruits Basket if it wasn’t for fanfiction.net.
When you’re consuming as much anime as I was and looking up the fandom side of it, you find things. I found Anime North. I had no concept of what a fan convention was (Newfoundland did not have its first official convention until 2007) but I wanted to go there. As a high schooler with no job, I was not going to visit Anime North anytime soon. It takes almost three hours to fly to Toronto (the home of Anime North) from St. John’s. It’s also expensive. But I wanted to go and I knew I would someday do so.
In the meantime, I did my best to corrupt all my friends.
For an example of how corruptive I can be, check out Mad Maddox Cosplay. She’s 1000 times better at cosplay than I am and she may one day be at Yaya Han’s level. But she would never have gotten there without me. I introduced her to cosplay, conventions, and fandom in general. I spread my interests like they’re air born contagious diseases so she had no hope of escape.
Let’s fast forward a few years. I’m three years into my university degree, I have a steady job and I’ve fully corrupted Mad Maddox. Mad Maddox and I have attended most, if not all, of the Sci Fi on the Rock conventions- I can’t remember when I started missing cons. It’s a not so great con and, once I realised that, I stopped caring about it. In university, we both started going to the St. John’s Anime Film Society. It was a university club that showed anime on the weekends. I still had my huge obsession with anime and I’d often think about Anime North every so often.
The big event came in the winter of 2009. The year was ending and my friend girlpuck was telling me about how her family was going to Paris. We were discussing flights and hotels. All that talk made me think once more on my dream of Anime North. So I went home and looked it up. For some reason, I was convinced that Anime North happened around the New Year. It actually takes place in May. My winter semester would be over in April and I worked summers so there was no academic reason why I couldn’t go. And I had money. I decided then and there I was going. So I called up Mad Maddox, loudly cried “Do you want to go to Toronto?!” and she agreed. I’m not sure what I would have done if she actually asked for time to think about it.
Mad Maddox asked girlpuck if she wanted to go at the anime club one night. I must have made a face because she looked at me and said “you don’t want her to go?” I did have the whole thing set up in my head as an adventure just for Mad Maddox and myself, but that was because girlpuck would be in Paris. As it turned out, girlpuck could go with us because there would be about a day or two between her flying in from Paris and our flying out to Toronto. girlpuck suffered for my obsession with sleep deprivation and huge time zone adjustments.
We all started looking into Anime North and what would happen there. While we were at it, we started learning about cosplay and planning our own costumes. We all decided on a One Piece group cosplay. I also suffered through a Toronto heat wave in my heavy winter coat, a replica of the coat worn by the members of Organization XIII in Kingdom Hearts 2, and Saix blue wig. Mad Maddox had an Urahara (Bleach) cosplay. girlpuck only went in cosplay that one day we were One Piece characters so she was in her civvies for the other two days we were there. It was May of 2010 and we looked okay. But we had so much fun that we decided to try other cons and settled on Toronto’s Fan Expo for 2011. And we really got into the cosplay part of it. You see, Anime North was swarming in cosplayers. I had never seen that many costumes before, not even at Halloween. We skipped almost all the panels, visited the dealers’ room and got a few autographs. And the reason we did so little was because we were running around taking in all the costumes and asking people for their photos. We all had a concept of what cosplay was and what it could be but Anime North was what truly introduced it to us.
Cosplay is like everything else in life though. You can’t truly imagine the power of it until you actually live it. The internet and fan sites can’t prepare you for the full thing. If you can’t do the whole con scene though, take advantage of Halloween and the events associated with it. Or dress up and do little photo shoots. That’s super fun.
Next time I’ll tell you about my crazy Anime North adventures. Seriously, there was a giraffe and mermaid boobs involved.