The date is May 28th, 2010, and I am meeting the Doctor. I ask if I can take his picture and he offers me a Jelly Baby. I accept. After we part ways and I have eaten the candy, I realise that people aren’t supposed to take candy from strangers.
That was my first real interaction with a cosplayer. Cosplayers are amazingly fun people and they come to conventions to have a good time and share their interests. The cosplayer I had met was done up like Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor from Doctor Who. And that meant going around with a bag of Jelly Babies in a paper bag ala the show. He was really sweet. Over the next few days, I would meet cosplayers who would excitedly ask for hugs or for me to put my face in their mermaid friend’s breasts. It was all insane and yet all done in the name of having a mutual good time.
I was finally there. Anime North. The dream and cosplay goal.
I have my photo album laid out beside me. I flip through the pages so I can accurately describe the madness in chronological order. Anime North was full of experiences and wonder and just plan madness. But it was amazing.
Mad Maddox, girlpuck and I arrived in Toronto, Canada on May 27th of 2010. We caught a shuttle out to the Mariott, our hotel for the first half of our trip, from Pearson International Airport. We were the only ones on the shuttle and the driver told us to let him know if the air conditioning was up too high. We told him we were Newfoundlanders; that we were used to the cold. It had snowed the day before. That should have been a warning in retrospect. Toronto had a heat wave while we attended the con and one of my costumes was warm enough to be a winter coat during a Newfie Winter. Anyone who has experienced a Newfie Winter knows that it’s a wet cold. The type of cold that seeps into your bones and stays there even though it might only be -7 out. But I’m going off on a tangent. We’ll get to how a con can almost kill you in a bit.
Anyway, the 27th was spent getting settled and exploring the hotel. The Toronto Airport Marriott hotel is great, by the way. It’s also walking distance from the con although it was a bit of a jaunt and we were Newfoundlanders who had left snow for a Toronto heat wave. Seriously, it got up to 28⁰C in May. In Newfoundland, May is sometimes a spring month and sometimes a winter month.
The con began the next day. I meet The Doctor while still in my civvies (civilian clothes, as I like to call my clothes when when I’m not in costume at a con) as we headed out to the con for weapons check. Mad Maddox had made swords for her Roronoa Zoro (One Piece) costume and thus had to get them approved. While in line, we met a girl who told us she always lost weight at cons because the costumes got quite warm. She told us not to be surprised if our costumes got looser throughout our visit. I can’t tell you if we were in the Doubletree hotel or the Sheraton Hotel for this. Anime North took place in three buildings: the Doubletree, the Sheraton and the Toronto Congress Center.
After weapons registration, we headed back to the hotel so Mad Maddox could style my Saix (Kingdom Hearts) wig while I wore it. The wig was already cut by a hairdresser and just needed to have the hair gel put in. Fun fact. Wig styling is messy. Mad Maddox got Garnier Fructis Manga Head gel all over her fingers and when she tried to pry them apart, hair gel when EVERYWHERE. Mostly on the wig but she got it all over my bed too. It was hilarious. Manga Head looks like wet cement before it dries so it was like our own little industrial accident. The girls wore their civvies, which was fine because they had to take care of me. As I was cosplaying an Organization XIII member, I was wearing the long black trench coat that the characters wore. Mine was a replica by the Newfoundland clothing company AbbyShot. It’s a massive monster of a coat and weighs quite a bit. It’s made out of vegan leather and is lined. It’s awesome looking but really only suitable for winter if you’re using it as a regular winter coat, as I was. And it was heat wave weather and I was also wearing a wig that reached the small of my back over my thick, long dark hair. But it turned out fine. Until I stood in lines.
If you wear a long, heavy coat to a con and it bellows when you walk then you create your own breeze, as I did. When you stop for any length of time it stays close to your body and creates a heat trap. That is not fun. But Anime North was well prepared for the heat wave and general body heat created by large masses of people in rooms. There was water stations everywhere.
Con lesson #1: Cons are hot and crowded. You will get overheated. Always, always bring water or some other liquid with you. We kept well hydrated, which is key. Dehydration can be a big risk in the warmer months when you are wearing a heavier costume.
Anime North also offers a Masquerade called the Moonlight Ball. It was that same night and we had tickets to go. It’s a lot of fun and I really recommend it. I wore a black dress, the Saix wig and a pretty gold and blue mask. Mad Maddox went as the Cheshire Cat while girlpuck went as Nami (One Piece) in her prom dress. Both the girls wore masks they made themselves and girlpuck had painted her shoes. Mad Maddox was our official Seeing Eye dog as girlpuck and I both wear glasses. We also don’t use contact lenses. So when we were wearing the masks, we were blind.
Con lesson #2: If you are going to wear a costume that hinders your vision, always have a friend with you that can see. You don’t want to bump into people or cause an accident.
The Moonlight Ball was amazing. There was dancing, of course, along with lessons about Renaissance dances. We tried a few of these. girlpuck danced with me because I’m not cool with being touched by strangers. I also have bad timing and no sense of direction so I’d always go in the wrong direction and it was awful. My dancing is that extreme kind of awful that is usually hilariously mortifying.
The next day was One Piece group costumes. I was Sanji, Mad Maddox was Zoro and girlpuck was Nami. We spent the whole day running around and asking people for their photos. We actually attended very few of the panels/discussions at Anime North. None of the panels were overly interesting and we were just having so much fun looking at all the different cosplays. We also visited the artists’ gallery, where many people were selling art and jewelry of a geek nature. We also found out that there were scheduled group photo ops for different fandoms. We headed over to the One Piece op and had quite the time. When we arrived, a very energetic Shanks cosplayer rushed at us, stopped at the last minute, asked for hugs and instantly threw her arms around us once we gave our consent. I’m still surprised she was able to physically stop with the momentum she had going instead of crashing into us like a hyper bowling ball. We took pictures, we were in pictures, and we experienced organized chaos. Then my number one favourite cosplay story happened.
A giraffe asked me if I would be willing to put my face in a mermaid’s chest.
How do you say no to that? It was so strange I had to say yes. The giraffe was actually a Kaku cosplayer. Kaku is a human who can turn into a giraffe. This cosplayer was dressed as Kaku when Kaku is in his half human/half giraffe form. The mermaid was a cosplayer dressed up as the character Keimi. My character Sanji, is a huge pervert who loves the idea of beautiful mermaids. I was a little embarrassed but Keimi grabbed me, shoved my face into her chest and I flailed about in pervert induced happiness and gave a thumbs up. Oh, I should point out that Sanji being hugged into Keimi’s chest actually happened in One Piece. So it wasn’t that random a thought on the cosplayer’s part.
Con Rule #3: Sometimes people get a little physical at cons, with hugs and so forth. That’s perfectly fine so long as there’s consent. That enthusiastic Shanks and the scene re-creating Keimi both asked for permission and I gave it. If you want to touch a cosplayer then just ask. If they’re comfortable with it, they’ll say yes. If they aren’t, they’ll say no and you respect that. That applies to both their bodies and their costumes. It also applies to taking photos. You don’t need to ask to take pictures of the crowd but you do if the picture will be of an individual.
Our last day of the con was the 30th. Mad Maddox dressed as Urahara (Bleach) and girlpuck and I wore our civvies. It was more photos, some panels and just good times. That night, we had a pizza delivered to our hotel room. I took far too much pleasure in that but I had never had food delivered to a hotel room before. We stayed in Toronto for a few more days as only girlpuck had been there before. We moved to a more downtown hotel, did tourist things and had a time of it. If you are planning to travel a fair distance for a con, stay for a while if you’re able. It is good to experience the local community.
Finally, some other con rules:
Rule #4: Bring snacks. You might not get a chance to eat a proper meal if there’s a lot going on. Also, convention hall food/hotel food is crazy expensive. This I learnt by starving.
Rule #5: This one is for the girls. Bring your feminine hygiene products. Older girls and women know this well as do experienced cosplayers. But younger girls, new to both menstruation and cosplay, may not realise that periods in cosplay is not easy. Have your products on you and have a rough idea of where the bathrooms are. It’s especially important to be on top of this aspect of hygiene because it can be difficult to stay fresh at a crowded, hot con in costume. You sweat, a lot. So it’s nice to be extra fresh elsewhere.
Rule #6: That freshness talk above? Also applies to everyone’s hygiene routine. I believe everyone likes to be clean and generally avoid B.O. But nothing can prepare you for your first big con. Shower every day. A good shower after being on your feet all day, costume or no costume, can be revitalizing.
Rule #7: Pace yourself. Cons are so much fun. But they are also exhausting. Sometimes, you just need to sit down with your bottle of water, out of the way, and kick off your shoes.
The girls and I had so much fun at Anime North that we were hooked. I think we were still in Toronto when we decided to try for Fan Expo Toronto in 2011.
If you’ve read all this, you’re amazing. Thank you. And please, feel free to add to my con rules or add your own stories in the comments section.