London Film Comic Con Winter Review October 2014

IMG_1988psLondon Film Comic Con Winter returned 18-19 October with guests such as Carrie Fisher (Star Wars), Jerome Leon (GoT), The Karate Kid and even the little girl from Jurassic Park – now all grown up! After a busy July show with the likes of Stan Lee drawing in overwhelming crowds, it was nice to see LFCC return to a more chilled out atmosphere, allowing attendees more time to thoroughly browse the stalls and talk to the guests in-depth at their tables.

Each event Showmasters always have some cool movie/TV props on display, LFCCW was no exception as I entered the venue I came across some cool cars from the movies! I would have loved a photo with them but sadly there were barriers however the iron throne (GoT) was available to grab a snap with for £5.

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Scarlet Witch breaks up a fight…

Cosplay is a big part of events like this for me so a key highlight at the event included take two of the X-Men World Record count, the first attempt at the X-Men Days of Future Past Premiere saw 125 cosplayers united in Leicester Square. Although LFCCW saw less mutant cosplayers, the quality and the community spirit remained just as high! With some nice photos and videos made by all it was topped by a raffle that some cosplayers would get to go and shoot some photos with FOX in the O2 the next day for the unveiling of the sentinel used in the movie as well as a tour of other props used in the movie franchise such as Professor X’s chair read more here.

As usual there were so many fabulous cosplays on display – not only X-Men, especially big groups which I think really shows how much of a community we are; Scott Pilgrim group, Disney Hercules – muses and all, Disney Apocalypse and so on! Even many of the guests I spoke with commented on how impressed they were with attendees efforts.

Valentine Cosplay and Mojo Jones discuss cosplay and mental health

Valentine Cosplay and Mojo Jones discuss cosplay and mental health

Despite the chilled out atmosphere, the cosplay area remained booming throughout the weekend with an overwhelming number of high calibre entrants in the cosplay contest from a variety of anime, comics and TV shows. The cosplay area also featured a range of panels hosted by cosplay guests and veterans covering traditional topics such as sewing and prop making as well as some controversial and topical issues such as Male Representation in Cosplay and a brand new panel – Cosplay and Mental Health hosted by Valentine Cosplay and Mojo Jones –sharing stories of depression and ADHD it was an open forum which many found comforting and could relate to. Following the body image panel back in July it is good to continue to see the rise in community and positive impact panels not just ones surrounding practical skills.

As mentioned above, compared to previous events I had much more time to interact and chat with the guests; please keep an eye out on the site and our YouTube channel where we will be uploading short interviews with MC Gainy (Lost), Spencer Wilding (Guardians of the Galaxy), Colin Salmon (Arrow/Hex), Mindy Sterling (Austin Powers) as well as some good old fashioned web interviews with Melody Perkins (Power Rangers/Charmed),  and Catrin Stewart (Doctor Who) etc.

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Interview with Tetsuya Nakashima

kamikazeI was privlidged to speak with the legendary Testsuya Nakashima; Director of Confessions, Kamikaze Girls and Memories of Matsuko, just before his first UK screening of The World of Kanako. Together we discussed Lolita fashion, characters with problems and different styles of directing.

Many of your films are based around novels, how do you go about taking this text and bringing it to the screen?
When adapting a novel, I literally pick up something I like and take it to the distributor. Once I get the GO sign I can then take the first approaches into making it reality.

Are there any books that you would like to see turned into a film?
There are a few….but I am not going to tell you (laughing with a twinkle in his eye)

How does it feel having your films distributed not only in Japan but in the UK?
I really don’t know how to feel, except it makes me so happy that others enjoy my movies around the world.

confessions-movie-review-1Your films often centre on strong ‘outsider’ female types. Do you find this appealing to direct?
I never like to cast likeable, lovable characters as these do not interest me. I am attracted to problematic characters who make mistakes.

Out of all the films you have worked on do you have a favourite character or one you can relate to the most?
I love them all, I can’t choose. You see, when directing a movie you have to emphasise with all the characters and understand every single one. I couldn’t just pick one. Saying this, I do like Matsuko’s character…

In Kamikaze Girls, fashion is a contributing part of to the story especially Lolita. Did you know much about the fashion before filming?
I didn’t even know the existence. I did a lot of research. When I first screened the movie in Japan many of the audience was dressed in Lolita fashion – I was so surprised! I still feel so displaced by it, even though I made the film!

The_World_of_Kanako-0002For those yet to see it, how does The World of Kanako differ to your previous work?
Compared to Confessions, I think everything is different. Confessions had a very calm tone and blue dark hues. Where as The Word of Kanako is high tension, colourful and lots of energy. My whole approach to directing was different as well. In Confessions I directed every detail, every movement. In The World of Kanako I let the actors loose and do what they wanted! I encouraged and guided them to become this.

Have you ever cosplayed?
No, but I have worked with a number of people who have and always found them to be very interesting.

Can you reveal any future projects?Nothing has been decided yet. I want to do something completely different from all the blood movies out there at the moment – maybe some sci-fi!

You can buy Confessions, Kamikaze Girls and Memories of Metsuko on the ThirdWindowFilms website

There are still a few tickets left to special screenings of The World of Kanako at the British Film Festival (BFI) available here

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Starfury Vampire Ball 5 Review

IMG_1016psAs actor Jonathan Woodward danced with a light saber and feather boa round the hall herding con-goers to the dance floor, I smiled to myself. What a great experience this convention had been so far!

Regular readers will know I primarily attend anime and J-culture events; this was my first Starfury event ran by the infamous Sean Harry, so I did not know what to expect! The Vampire Ball is an event which gathers actors from vampire genre TV and film together, this year the guests were all Buffy and Angel stars! s two of my favourite TV shows I was very excited to be attending!

FRIDAY

Registration ran smoothly, all crew members were helpful, knowledgable and friendly (especially the lovely ladies on the photo sales desk) my only minor grumble is that lanyard straps cost £2.50 these should be free and included as part of your ticket. I have attended many events and  never been made to pay for these before!

After registration, I made my way to the opening ceremony which in essence was an introduction to all the guests; Jonathan Woodward (Knox, Angel) had gone all out, making a video of a trip to central Birmingham, he then showed us what Birmingham is most known for on Craigslist! I won’t spoil it – go look for yourself (after reading this article of course). Straight after the opening ceremony the meet and greet commenced for gold ticket holders, this consisted of sitting on a table which seated around eight people (there were approximately 15 tables altogether) since there were less guests than tables there were times you were sitting without a guest, however I did not find this a problem, I preferred this rather than being in a larger group with consecutive guests. This also gave you a chance to talk to fellow Buffy fans!  Amongst my table were two lovely Scottish girls and Shangel, who runs a great Buffy blog. The meet and greet lasted till about midnight, rather than the scheduled 1 hour slot, which I think shows how dedicated the guests were to give each attendee their time and attention. You were allowed to bring your own food and drink in, beneficial as Hilton food was pricey and the session ran over. Two tips for this session, one come prepared with a question/objective, so you can make the most of this unique opportunity. Secondly don’t over drink! It is fine to have a glass or two during the session but don’t overdo it, as it is embarrassing for yourself, others at your table and the guests, there were a few people who got drunk and a tad emotional in this session which at times spoilt it.

IMG_0930psMoving on, to sum up my table’s meet and greet session:

Jonathan Woodward: a breath of fresh air, chugging shots of another attendees Baileys!

Emma Caulfield (Anya, Buffy)– discussion about her now deceased YouTube channel, Essnemma and how she should do something new online. Emma admitted she does miss it and wants to do something similar again.

James Marsters (Spike, Buffy/Angel)– As a Supernatural fan (Team Dean) I asked him about his guest appearance in Supernatural and what it was like working with Charisma Carpenter. He answered that he really enjoyed working closely with her and recalled a funny story of how she couldn’t remember the magical incantation and they had to hold giant cue cards with the spell written on to read off!

Jeff Rickets (Weatherby, Buffy)– a bundle of energy he made it clear we were never to give him Redbull and touched upon his life in Vienna, as unlike the other guests who are US based he relocated to Europe with his wife who is Austrian.

Dayne  Johnson (Make-up/prosthetics artist) – a lot of stroking went on! That is all I will say…

George Hertzberg (Adam, Buffy) – We ended the session with George,  despite it being midnight and the last table in the room he was still perfectly happy to sit and have a full conversation. We had a very serious debate about politics, air strikes and the severe drought that Texas is facing. Like I said, a very serious conversation but what a lovely man, he treated us completely as equals and valued our opinions on how we would resolve these situations.

As it struck midnight I finally headed to the party, although movie themed it was perfectly acceptable to wear whatever you wanted with a mixture of both costumes and casual clothes on display. I danced away till the end, very unlike me who tires easy in my old age (I swear sometimes I am 24…going on 44).

IMG_1084psSATURDAY

Up bright and early Saturday (too early – but I was excited) I grabbed my second coffee of the morning and headed to my photo shoot with Emma Caulfield and James Marsters individually. Starfury seemed to be quite flexible with shoots and allowed you to mix and match cast to your liking from anything to full group, James and Emma together etc which was nice. Straight after the shoot I headed to the main talk room where the panels began.

Dayne Johnson (Angel and Criminal Minds make-up/prosthetics artist) answered a Q&A while recreating the prosthetics from an Angel, Season 5 episode Hellbound. In the Q&A session Dayne revealed the following: The Beast (Angel Series 4) was both his favourite and hardest creation. Although he does not design the demons, he does have the recreate the images and make them look authentic. There seemed to be a few Criminal Minds fans in the audience as he was asked several questions about his time on the show. Finally, having worked on some impressive shows already Dayne said he would love to work on The Walking Dead or American Horror Story.

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Jonathan and Jeff channelling psychic energy in the room

Next up was Jeff Ricketts and Jonathan Woodward – the Trifactor; a rare breed having guest starred in Buffy, Angel and Firefly. The pair were natural stand-up comedians putting on one hell of a show, with Jeff Ricketts competing to be the next Derren Brown channelling psychic energy and predicting numbers that audience members were thinking. In-between the duo answered attendee’s questions. I asked Jonathan about his time on Angel, “many see you as responsible for Fred’s death, do you get any hate mail/what is the craziest thing a fan has done because of this”. Jonathan admitted that around once every five months he will get someone yell at him in the streets “You killed Fred!” but his response is “Yes and she deserved it bitch” he commented what made his character Knox memorable and unique was how usually the villains never succeed in killing off the main cast but he was the exception.

IMG_1284psNext Emma Caulfield took to the stage, shyer and more reserved than Jeff and Jonathan (although not when it came to the f-word) she was still able to answer attendees questions making it clear from the start she has “no fucking problem with bunnies”.  Interestingly Emma revealed she has not watched a Buffy episode with herself in. Other topics and fun facts discussed during her Q&A included that although not her style she loved Anya’s wedding dress but commented how heavy it was to wear! I was surprised to find out her favourite Buffy episode was the season 4 finale Restless, as I expected her to say a more Anya-centric episode like Selfless or Hells Bells. I asked Emma if she preferred playing Anyanka or human Anya, at first she said human Anya because she didn’t have to sit through and wear the prosthetics, she then divulged and said that she preferred human Anya because she has more emotions and depth. Like the meet and greet, she commented on how she missed her YouTube channel  and wants to do something new. Emma also talked about her most recent role as the blind witch in Once Upon A Time; providing some interesting trivia that the contact lens really did make her blind so she had to be walked around everywhere by an assistant when wearing them! When asked to reveal who was the best kisser out of Anthony Head, Nicholas Brendan and James Marsters she ultimately decided on James Marsters because “kissing Spike is as hot as it sounds”.

IMG_1342psEmma’s talk was followed by James Marsters and Geroge Hertzberg’s Q&A, not surprisingly James was asked the bulk of the questions but a highlight was when they were asked what is the most rock and roll thing they had ever done “I once dated a pornstar” revealed James then George just topped his response with “I dated a Dominatrix” hilarious, you naughty boys! Like Emma, James was also asked about the ladies he kissed on screen, except he said that on screen kissing is nothing like normal kissing and that it can be awkward as you have to make sure you are not in the other persons light, consequently the kiss in Buffy in OMWF took 14 takes! George recalled an embarrassing story of how his Adam costume was not bathroom friendly and that he had to be helped whenever he needed to go!

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Sean Harry with Edward Cullen, cosplay contest group winner

With talks over for the day over, it was time for gold pass holders to get their autographs, with regular ticket holders scheduled for Sunday. Autographs at Starfury events are included free with your ticket (unless stated otherwise). With the photographs from the morning’s shoots ready for collection you could have these signed, personal items or the free Vampire Ball poster given out which ironically had cancelled guest Janina (True Blood/Vampire Diaries) bang fat in the middle!  My item was the booklet from my Buffy series 1-7 boxset. If you wanted additional autographs you could pay £10 for a ‘badger’ this entitled you to recieve another personal item signed or one of the printed glossy photographs they had for sale.

After autographs it was time for the cosplay contest, this was probably the only time where there was some waiting around; however the con staff played some YouTube videos to pass the time including a hilarious Giles tribute. The contest featured an array of cosplays and I absolutely loved the skit fight between the Edward Cullen vs Spike who ultimately won best group. Congrats to all the winners and those that participated you all looked awesome!

The day ended with Saturday’s party: The Vampire Ball, I got into the spirit and wore a mask for the occasion! The guests came and partied and hung out in the bar and dance floor, Jonathan Woodward with his light saber as I mentioned at the beginning of this post. The only guests who didn’t join in the shenanigans were James and Emma – I presume they were worried they would get mobbed! Overall the guests were so interactive with attendees. I never thought I would be able to say I partied with stars from my favourite shows!

SUNDAY

IMG_1586psDayne kicked off the morning with another prosthetics Q&A panel accompanied by Jonathan Woodward his test subject! Dayne remade Jonathan to look like a vampire, a process that he had to go through for the season 7 episode ‘Conversations with Dead People’. Attendees could later pay to have a photo shoot with the pair. Dayne went over some of the topics he discussed yesterday, but also revealed he has a hairdressing licence.

George Hertzberg and Jeff Ricketts began the next panel, while Jeff honed his psychic abilities, George practiced his shoulders massages on unexpecting female attendees. Amongst the fun and games, the actors answered the audiences questions. Jeff revealed that in Buffy, Series 4 it was synthetic spit on Faith’s face and that although he was really spitting, he never hit Eliza Dushku this effect was done using camera trickery. As understandably, she did not want to be spat on! Jeff also revealed the tension on the Charmed set, his guest appearance was during the Alyssa Milano and Shannon Doherty feud….yikes!

Starfury saved the best talk for last; Emma Caulfield and James Marsters since people were firing random questions at the pair I decided to join in; asking them what their favourite fairy tales was, had they been affected by any as a child, I felt this was relevant since Emma appeared in Once Upon a Time. James instantly replied “Planet of the Apes”. Emma admittedly didn’t have one having said she did not really grow up with fairy tales. James said he usually gets asked questions like when he lost his virginity (Emma looked shocked at that one) so liked the unusual and deep questions!  Moving on from the what ifs and the what would you choose questions, the talk got very serious when an attendee asked if the pair would accept any future BIG roles which involved nudity. Both said no, even if it was for Game of Thrones. Emma compromised that if it was a discrete glimpse because she walked out of the shower in a scene than that was fine, but topless love scenes or anything unnecessary then not a chance. James said “I gave up on all that after Buffy, I mean I want to act” Emma added, “some of the stuff that is on TV now is virtually porn”. The answer and sincerity from the pair earned a strong round of applause from the audience.

The night ended with dancing while drinking mojitos and the wine flowed as even making it to the survivors photo. This applies to all the nights, but kudos to the DJ’s at the event, really enjoyed the music played – felt like I was listening to my I-pod!

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Ivanneth Cosplay as Willow and Tara – OMWF

Key strengths of this event was the timetabling and organisation– I did everything – I mean everything! I attended every panel, every party (staying to the end each night – I even made the survivors photo). The timetabling made it possible so you could do this, structured so both gold and regular ticket pass holders can attend all the talks, without it clashing with photo shoots and collecting autographs. I appreciated this as at a lot of events you do have to pick and choose but the con organisers did think this through for us. Panels – James and Emma was my favourite, the pair bounced nicely off each other, as did George and Jonathan, and Jeff and Jonathan. Honestly, all panels were generally interesting and funny.

Overall thanks Starfury for an amazing event, I hope to go to the next one; of course it will depend on guest selection. Fingers crossed for another heavily focused Buffy and Angel event in 2015. For those who missed James Marsters can catch him at Miracle Day (Torchwood event) in 2015!

Event Ideas/improvements:

  • Not sure how possible this is as you would need permission to screen – but a live commentary of an episode/show the star has been in.
  • More structured cosplay contest –  for those that do not have a skit, rather than walking in a circle, do the three strikes pose giving the audience more of a chance to appreciate the costume and get some nice photos
  • Please look into adopting an excel/electronic data system as it would have been nice if my pass had the right name on…
  • More events involving audience participation e.g quiz on Buffy/vampire genre shows/movies

Guest suggestions – I liked the Buffy/Angel theme to the event, I would love to see more cast members attend future events; other than the main cast I would love to meet these recurring characters: Stephanie Romanov (Lilah Morgan), Julia Lee (Chanterelle/Lily/Anne Steele), Robia La Morte (Jenny Calendar) and Gwen (Alexa Davalos). Also Kristin Bauer (Pam, True Blood).

What ticket to get?

If purchasing a ticket and you can’t decide between Gold or regular here is my guide on what to go for:

Get gold if….

  • If you are into photography and want some decent photos from the panels/main hall events as gold pass holders get priority seating. I made sure I was in front row for each panel to get those snaps.
  • Want to spend more individual time with celebs, as gold passes can attend the exclusive meet and greet sessions.

Get regular if…

  • You are there primarily for parties and socialising
  • Want to spend money on photos/extra autographs, as buying a cheaper ticket can allow you to spend the saved money on this…or a ton of raffle tickets!
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J-con Derby Review – 19-20 September 2014

IMG_0471psJ-con aka Japanese Con, held on 19-20 September saw the gathering of anime fans (and later the police) in Derby at The Riverside Centre. The con kicked off at 6.30pm Friday with the hilarious bad fan fic panel from special guest Masako X, known for his abridged series online. In honour of his appearance the con held an exclusive screening of his new abridged series Kampfer. With an authentic popcorn cart, those with VIP passes were treated to a free bucket (yummy!) to indulge in whilst watching the panels and browsing round the main exhibitor’s hall that had already been set up. After seeing some familiar faces and meeting new ones, myself and the other outer-towners headed back to the local Travelodge where we humoured ourselves in a game of cards against humanity.

Up early Saturday, I headed to the con walking over with some of my new acquaintances. This year I decided to participate in J-con’s unique Battle Royale card game– 500 cards are given to attendees with the aim of the game to win as many cards as you can – top trump style! Cards included weapons featured in the film and much more from pan lids, fans and baseball bats. As well as a fun game, this was a great way to interact with people as I ended up speaking to loads of attendees to get fight for their cards to the death! I had a fairly big pile but only time would tell if I would win!

IMG_0292psAlthough the majority of merchandise exhibitors had been open on Friday, the convention opened another back room revealing the artists/indie exhibitors, one in particular that stood out was Emily Ladybird who specialises in steampunk accessories her even even gave out delicious handmade coffee flavoured fudge!

Cosplay was a big part of J-con and the highlights included the cosplay contest the event appreciated the high standard of entrants so much that the convention gave out seven awards including the champion belt for best in show. There was also an interesting prop mobility panel hosted by cosplay guests Smallfry Creations and Iron Manda. It is not just the cosplay that shined at J-con, with a strong Lolita community in the North the event continued its tradition of hosting an annual tea party for J-fashion lovers to come together in their finery to discuss co-ords and eat cake!

IMG_0584psAs a whole J-con has a very chilled out, fun vibe with a great sense of humour with events on offer such as sumo wrestling and a skit contest. The convention kept this calm and good sense of humour even when the police paid a visit after some complaints of a gun sighting in the area, of course a false alarm/misunderstanding but a reminder to us all that it is important to abide by convention prop rules and ensure we cover weapon props up (especially guns and swords) when outside of the convention and on public transport – remember just because we know they are props does not mean others do.

Moving on, I am a recent Attack on Titan fan and really wanted to attend the AOT fan panel but alas it clashed with my own panel The BIG Cosplay debate! Assisted by Chiquitita cosplay it consisted of debating topics in a courtroom style with a judge and jury layout. The topics we debated included dubbed vs. subbed anime and whether cosplay should be over sexualised if it wasn’t originally intended to be, for example Disney princesses. I found the panel both interesting and insightful with a variety of opinions in the room which is exactly why I have started to bring this event to conventions. Thanks again to all those that participated! I hope to bring this concept to more cons.

IMG_0592psAfter my panel, I rushed to the main stage to find out my fate…would I win the Battle Royale contest or die a painful horrible death? Fate was on my side and I won! Woop woop! My prize was a large collection of manga titles and The Otaku Encyclopaedia! Carrying my leaning tower of manga, I spent the rest of the con hanging out in the panel room where Chiquitita Cosplay was conducting a neko (cat) ear workshop before heading home.

To end the review, I often get asked about the facilities of conventions (food, travel and accommodation) so here goes; J-con has a small on-site café which sold hot and cold drinks, snacks and hot food like chips which were all reasonably priced. If you didn’t fancy that there was a Subway, Starbucks and other chain restaurants within 5 minutes walking distance due to the convention being on an industrial park. For those living outside of Derby, chain hotels were again within 5 minutes walking distance, I stayed at the Travelodge as mentioned earlier. The nearest tube is Derby station, I believe it is walkable (25 mins) but I got a taxi with a friend for around £5 since we had a ton of luggage between us! From London the trains can be very expensive, so book in advance, go by coach or look into getting a railcard if aged fewer than 24. Another option is to go London to Birmingham to Derby, slightly longer but cheaper if booking last minute.

The next J-con takes place 25-26 September 2014 find out more here

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K-On! The Movie Review

kon movie 1Jon Hudson reviews K-On the movie which is now available on Blu-Ray! Here at League of Extraordinary Cosplayers we have a competition to win a copy!

What more is there to say about K-On that has not already been said? It’s still a show about not all that much, proper slice-of-life stuff; though ostensibly about the Light Music Club of Sakuragaoka High School and their activities, they perform surprisingly little music, but do drink a lot of tea and eat a lot of cake, something they happily lampshade themselves.

If you were expecting something else from the film, then well, there is some small change this time around, but still plenty of tea and cake for the faithful. There’s rather more in the way of music – it was almost fascinating how a series about a music club got away with hardly ever showing them actually playing anything – and interestingly, some re-tread in terms of story and scenes, at least for those who’ve seen the second series, K-On!! (yes, with two exclamation points…). The following assumes you are familiar with the second season, if not, then beware mild spoilers.

kon movie 2If you’ve seen the series, then this is a lovely little companion piece fleshing out and acting as a bit of a backdrop to the end of the original four girls time at school, and if you’ve never seen the show this will be enjoyable enough, although you won’t get a lot of the ‘heart’ that’s in the background and going on between the characters. Although all the hallmarks of the characters are made clear in short order so that there’s enough for new viewers to be getting on with.

In second season we knew that they had decided to head to London for their graduation trip, but we never actually saw it – now’s our chance though, accompanied with more songs and girlish hijinks due to the expanded format. London is quite remarkably well represented on the whole, you can tell they had some excellent reference material for the backgrounds, though the less said about the terrible mockney et al. accents of the ‘locals’ the better! They manage to pack a lot in to their few days in the capital, with the larger focus around two gigs they end up doing, both rather unexpected!

If you’ve seen the series then you know their parting gift to Azusa (a year younger than the original 4 girls) was a song (because of course it was), now we actually get to see them go through the lyric creation process as the second plot line entwining its way through the film, with a very confused Azusa certain something more untoward is going on.

The animation is bright and high quality with the backgrounds’ surprisingly faithful recreation of various London locales and landmarks especially pleasing, showcasing the shows distinctive style. The dub cast are excellent as ever and if you enjoyed the music from the show (if you didn’t, I can’t imagine you’d be watching this in the first place!), then you’ll be very pleased with what’s on offer here in terms of musical performance. There are a whole slew of extras available on the Blu-Ray, so if you like promos and interviews with cast and crew, then there’s plenty to enjoy besides the standard clean opening and closing credits.

In the end it’s a cute film that’s a definite must if you’re a K-On! fan, and if you’re new to all this, then it’ll be an enjoyable enough ride, but some of the shine will be lost by not having the wider picture, though thankfully the film has definitely gone to good efforts to get enough characterisation across to not leave anyone too confused.

Highly recommended.

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Interview with Maggie Blue O’Hara

IMG_4154psssI interviewed voice actress Maggue Blue O’Hara, who voices Bulma (Dragonball Z), Madison (Cardcaptors) and Kitty Pryde (X-Men Evolution) among others! This was orginally published in the Summer London Anime Gaming Conbook.

IMG_4539psHow did you get into voice acting?

When I was three years old I did a voice over for a child actor in a film. Her speech wasn’t as clear as mine was, so i was hired to do all of her lines throughout the whole film.

Any tips for those looking to become a professional voice actor?

Practice reading aloud, perfect at least four very different voices and make sure people can easily understand what you’re saying. Then make a recording demo no longer than two minutes and shop them around to voice agents!

kitty pryde 2Do you have a favourite character that you love voicing?

I really enjoyed doing the voice of Shadowcat aka Kiity Pryde from X-Men Evolution

Do you have any future upcoming projects to keep an eye out for?

I am developing my own original songs and currently looking for musicians and producers to work on my first album!

IMG_4195pssssYou have voiced for variety of productions – voice acting and starring/guesting in TV shows, do you have a preference?

I enjoy both! On camera acting is fun because the whole cast and crew work together on the film set and the acting experience is fuller being on set, with costumes and make up etc. Then voice acting is fun because it’s fast and easy when I am in the studio by myself and able to get the work done quickly!

You were born in Canada, but currently live in Hong Kong what was the reason behind the move?

I fell in love with a HK Chinese man and we co created All Theatre Art Association, www.alltheatreco.com, a multimedia theatre company. I have been performing, directing, choreographing, making music, writing, teaching and creating all over Asia for the last ten years!

bulma 01Is there anything you miss from back home?

I miss my tribe of community and close friends in Vancouver, fresh air, quiet places, fresh berries off the bush and dance parties in the trees!

As well as a voice actress, you are also an author and have published your own book, could you tell me more about this?

I have written a book of poetry called HUMAN NATURE. I am inspired by nature, our human nature and how humans have become disconnected to nature. I hope we can all remember we are part of nature and make more positive choices in the world to help make our living on the earth more loving and sustainable!

IMG_4514psWhat is your favourite thing about London?

Camden market, Portobello market, fish n chips, Sweaty Thursdays at Vauxhall (ecstatic dance community) I hope to visit these during my trip.

Thank  you for the interview Maggie and it was fab meeting you!

Check out this interview I filmed at the convention – Chiquitita Cosplay cosplaying Bulma interviewing Maggie, who voices Bulma! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DmEDtU8QEqQ&list=UUNMGtkTTdusMVd82Qb8Qekg

 

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Japan Day, Manchester 25 August 2014

japan dayAs BUCK (Bronycon) ended in Manchester, citizens had Japan Day which took place at the Midland Hotel, to look forward to on their bank holiday Monday, a free event organised by the Japan North West society with the help of the Japanese Embassy for the UK. The event showcased Japan’s cultural highlights offering a range of activties both traditional and modern. The event had everything including a kimono dressing demonstration, cosplay parade and a room dedicated to Japanese food.

Arriving just half an hour after the event started I found it was already full of people, showing the true scale of just how popular Japanese culture is nowadays. Each room was packed with stalls, with sadly little room to move. There were various stalls dedicated to modern Japanese culture, such as a retailer for anime and manga merchandise and even UK based manga artists. Manchester based fashion retailer Tokyo Royale also made an appearance as did a number of artists portraying more traditional style of Japanese art.

In another room there were stalls selling a range of Japanese food including sushi, yakisoba and delicious Japanese sweets, though food seemingly sold out halfway through the day. The final room was used for more traditional Japanese culture, a tea ceremony taught people how to serve Japanese green tea the correct way and there were a lot of varied martial art demonstrations.

Overall it was an enjoyable day, as a free event it was naturally very small but provided a taster of all things Japanese and catered to all those interested in Japanese culture based in the North West, as well as gained new interest.

This is one of many events organised by the society and anyone interested can check out their Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/groups/93382563307/?fref=ts or follow on Twitter @JapansocietyNW

Report by Vicki Anne

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Manchester MCM Expo Report

20140720_144117On 19th and 20th July 2014 Manchester held its annual MCM Comic-Con expo at Manchester Central Convention Centre. As usual, thousands of people descended on Manchester for the event in an array of colourful cosplays and outfits. Day one of the convention was a wash out, however people still braved the rain and the queues to enjoy the day. Day two was drier, brighter and just as busy.

As the event has only been established for a few years it has naturally had some teething issues. In recent years the venue was not used to its full capacity, with everything being held in the one room, however this year the venue’s space was utilised much more. The panellists’ signing areas were situated in it’s own separate room. The space in the main hall was used mainly for distributors, with a lot of stalls each selling something to cater to even the pickiest of fans. There was even a separate seating area for people to sit and chill out, chat and take pictures together, very useful when you’ve been wandering around the stalls for hours! The stalls themselves included an eclectic mixture of comic book sellers, merchandise stands, fashion boutiques and stalls selling an array of delicious treats with large and smaller retailers alike.

20140720_162302Manchester MCM in 2013 had also been criticised for the length of queue’s to get into the event. This year there seemed to be little problems with queuing as everyone appeared to get in smoothly. Those who had priority tickets not having to queue for more than twenty minutes; a big improvement from last year!

Panellists at Manchester MCM included Sci-Fi stars Chris Barrie, Robert Llewellyn and Hattie Hayridge from the TV series Red Dwarf, Warwick Davis of the Harry Potter films, Kai Owen of Torchwood, voice actor Vic Mignogna (D.Gray man, Fullmetal Alchemist, Dragon Ball Z) and many more.

For cosplayers, the cosplay parade is the chance to show off their costumes and promote themselves in front of hundreds of people. I was, however a little disappointed when, although a good idea to use the venue’s audatorium rather than a makeshift stage elsewhere, the capacity wouldn’t allow a large size of con attendees. As such, many people, including myself and families of participants of the parade were 20140720_152104left standing outside the auditorium. The cosplays this year however, were very impressive. The sheer volume and quality of cosplays was far better than other events I have attended. There was an eclectic mix of Sci-Fi, anime, game, comic book and popular culture cosplayers and the sheer majority of attendees seemed to at least have one member of their party in some form of cosplay.

What really made the event was the atmosphere. People were all so friendly and whatever your personal preference be it Anime/Manga, Comic books, fantasy, J-Culture or Science fiction people were welcomed, I have attended the con for two years now and both times felt very comfortable and happy, it is a great way to meet people who share similar interests, as well as those you don’t.

20140720_153606As one of the biggest conventions in the north of England, and the only one to bear the MCM Comic-Con name, the convention organisers have a lot of high expectations to live up to, particularly given the popularity of its counterparts all over the UK. Given the fact that the Con has a lot less space than say, London’s excel centre, Manchester MCM needed to provide the same standard at a smaller scale.

They seemed to do this well; there is truly something for everyone at all MCM events and with Manchester MCM really seeming to have improved on some of their issues, it seems likely that this will be a popular annual event for many years to come.

Report and photos by Vicki Anne

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Bushido 16 Review – Japan Foundation

bushido 16 01

 Release Year: 2010 Director: Tomoyuki Furumaya Runtime: 109 mins

As part of the Japan Foundation Summer screenings I watched Bushido 16 based on the anime with the same name. This coming of age high school comedy drama focuses on friendship and competition conveyed through kendo.

The film stars timid Sanae Nishogi (Kie Katano) who beats Kaori Isoyama (Riko Narumi) undefeated national kendo champion in a junior high school match. The tough, aggressive girl is devastated and bears a grudge. She makes it her mission to find Sanae for a rematch, however she is frustrated to find Sanae only plays Kendo causally, with no real desire to win; unlike Kaori, a determined player who has trained at her father’s dojo since she was young. This leads to Kaori helping Sanae train to become a worthy opponent and make her fight to win, rather than run scared in the ring.

bushido 16 02

Lovers of Kendo or martial arts films will not be disappointed, as despite the low budget the film features several sparring scenes throughout. For those unfamiliar, Kendo is a Japanese form of fencing with two-handed bamboo swords, originally developed as a safe form of sword training for samurai. Although I am not sure how safe the sport is when our protagonists play without their protective gear…

The film features not only many kendo scenes from matches to training, but bonding between the girls, with light comedy added. One of my favourite scenes is where Sanae takes Kaori for a girls day out, ensue cake buffets, photo booths and new shoes! The film briefly deals with the girls overcoming issues they have with their fathers which effects their attitude towards life and kendo. The film could have been strengthened by more of these scenes and less kendo action.

bushido 16 03The film does have the slighty cliché feel of two people from opposite sides of the track, bonding and become friends over a shared interest. It’s themes can be comparable in some ways to other Asian cinema gems like Kamikaze girls, or the British film Fast Girls. It is worth a watch and by the end of the movie, you’ll probably want to scream loudly and grab a kendo stick!

Top scene: When Sanae takes Kaori on a girlie day out; cake buffet, photo booth etc.

Top quote: There are some cute comedy lines between Sanae and her high school friends.

Verdict: 3/5

Thanks for the screening, I look forward to more events from The Japan Foundation, visit the website here for updates or follow them on Twitter @jpflondon

Read my review of the Barefoot Gen screening coming soon.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DKxVT2TRhmk

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Crew Confidential: Zonic Cosplay

crew zonic 1

Name: Ziggy Newman

Age: 25

Date Of Birth: 28/02/89

Convention job role: Head Organiser

Key responsibilities: Pretty much everything! I make sure the event runs as smoothly as possible but also lead the committee and handle all budgeting and logistics to make the event the best experience for the attendees.

IMG_0704psPrevious/all cons crewed for: LFCC, Collectormania Milton Keynes, Collectormania Glasgow, Play Expo, GEEK, Play Blackpool, NICE, LSCC, EGX (Eurogamer Expo)and Hyper Japan.

Day job: Working in a bookshop

Highlight of convention career: Running CamCon every year plus all the events where I work as cosplay coordinator!

Best bit of job: Being surrounded by your own interests, meeting new friends and creating events where people really enjoy themselves.

Toughest bit of job: Pressure, community drama and dealing with difficult finances.

Secret fact about crewing: Its awesome! I’d encourage anyone to do it as it’s not only fun but also very rewarding and you make great new friends too.

ziggy by team neko uk

photo by Team Neko at Kitacon

Hobbies: Gaming, cosplaying, making music, acting, dancing, singing, drawing, sewing and performing on stage.

Additional fun fact about yourself: I sing and make my own electronic music based on video games.

Favourite anime: Pokemon, Dragonball Z and Haruhi.

Favourite musician: I couldn’t just pick one!

Favourite film: Girl Interrupted

Favourite food: Mint ice cream but I love all ice cream, especially green tea flavour.

Camcon takes palce 30 August in Cambridge find out more and grab your tickets here

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Cosplayer of the Week: Jazzhands Cosplay Interview

jazzhands 08This week I interview Jazzhands Cosplay, passionate abut her craft she is taking the cosplay comunity by storm by adding some Burlesque to her cosplays and contest performances. In this interview, Jazzhands shares with us the importance of cosplay doesn’t equal consent and how size really doesn’t matter when cosplaying!

jazzhands04

Photo by Escapade

How did you get involved with the wonderful world of cosplay?

I was a loner in school and I found a group of cool people who seemed to like they same things as me and they told me about going to a convention in October so I tagged along and went with them. I dressed up as the iconic killer from the film scream, at the time I didn’t know what cosplay was until I was told I was ‘cosplaying’, I just fell in love with it

What is your favourite cosplay?

It has to be Mystique, it involved long hours and a lot of pain making it.

jazzhands 07 scg

Photo by Daniel John Cotton Wall

I agree, your mystique cosplay is amazing! Can you tell me how you made it? What was the most challenging part?

It’s all made out of liquid latex and thousands of foam scraps and blue fabric paint it was a lot of moulding and clay making due to trying to get the right size of the costume the hardest part was making the pants I made them into a C string so that there was no knickers or line showing at all on the costume

You recently entered the LSCC Cosplay Championships, what was it like  being judged by cosplayers such as YayaHan?

I entered the costume in lscc at first for experience on the stage I never have really done big skit before so I was slightly nervous, like when I met Yaya Han I was surprised she was small like me! I thought she would be intimidating , boy was I wrong; she is lovely and to be judged was a fun experience.

Photo by Andrei Guiamoy

Photo by Andrei Guiamoy

Some may not know that you burlesque dance, do you find this has influenced your cosplay?

I think so, like a lot of characters I cosplay are badass females like Poison Ivy and Mad Moxxi. I do cosplay burlesque, so I’ll strip in the character on stage. I think Cosplay is a part of me now and when I started doing burlesque I had no intention in stripping in my costumes, but I was kidding myself  and now I do cheese cake and cosplay burlesque – a little bit of everything really ;)

Your burlesque Poison Ivy is beautiful, as well as your other burlesque inspired cosplayers, what would you say to those who state ‘that isn’t cosplay’?

For those who say it isn’t, well cosplay is portraying a character and that’s what I’m doing -just with my own twist! I am who I am, and if they don’t think it’s cosplay then they really need to do more research.

Photo by Jon Fisher

Photo by Jon Fisher

I noticed on your profile you stated you recently lost weight, was copslay a motivation towards this?

I was always bullied for being big and I wanted to make costumes that apparently weren’t for my body type …. that’s what I got from people online as well as people always saying that I was fat. I even got messages of my photos with big red writing over them saying ‘to fat to Cosplay’. I guess I wanted to loose a lot of weight because I was unhealthy, my diet was all over the place and now I’m a very happy size 8.

Do you have any advice for those who may be worried to cosplay due to size, or be receiving negative comments online? 

People need to realise that it’s not humanly possible to get a figure like game characters or anime characters. Even if your worried about  cosplaying a character outside your weight just do it. Seriously just do it, screw what everyone else thinks! In life your always going to get bullies and negative reactions from people so just brush it off. Think about the positives of cosplaying that character; photos compliments and making friends with people who have the same love for the character   

jazzhands 02You mentioned earlier that Mystique took a lot of pain to make, have you ever injured yourself in the name of cosplay

I’ve cut my eye on a doggy contact and had to go to A&E on my own at a convention so I was half blind walking to Charing Cross eye hospital. I also have had two needles go through my fingers, not a pretty sight but no pain no gain, right?

Cosplay doesn’t equal consent’ is a campaign within the community and conventions at the moment, have you ever experienced someone acting inapropiate towards you online or at a convention?

In the last 5 years of me cosplaying I have been assaulted about 4 times.  I have always ran to security but cons are a busy place  and nothing gets done. Last year I went to EuroGamer in London and I was assaulted by one of the staff members of a new game, I was so upset I confronted him then stormed off. I then went back and found the manager and I got a very deep apology from him and the guy in question. I just think people need to stand up for themselves and say that this is not okay, it is not right to touch someone.

What are your future cosplay plans?

Well Snow White is one with my mum and evil queen and wedding mad moxxi

Thank you for a fab interview and I look forward to seeing your new cosplays!

Here is Jazzhands performance at LFCC as Ali (Christine Aguliera) from the film Burlesque

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gst5OmlBTfA#

Photo Credits: Poison Ivy (main image) and Ali (Burlesque) by Jon Fisher Photography, Poison Ivy (vertical) by Andrei Guiamoy Photography, Hades by , Mystique by Daniel John Cotton Wall, 300 Cosplay by ESCAPADE.

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Best of… Cardcaptor Sakura Cosplays

One of the ultimate magical animes, is Cardcaptor Sakura – ten year old Sakura accidentally releases a set of magical cards aka Clow Cards each card has its own unique ability and can assume an alternate form when activated. Sakura’s job is to retrieve the missing cards, in arrat if elaborate costumes. As she finds each card, she battles its magical personification and defeats it by sealing it away. Focusing on love, friendship and magic the series and Sakura herself is a lovable character, growing as the series develops.

Below are some of the best and my favourite Card Captor Sakura Cosplayers from around the world, not only for the quality of the costume but for their love and passion for the character; many of the below have grown up with Cardcaptor Sakura, have made more than one version of Sakura and plan to do even more!

SaSa Twin Cosplay, Mexico

Since I was child, I have always been in love with CLAMP, and Sakura Card Captors was no exception. I identified with Sakura because she’s a very brave, friendly and full of dreams and energy! That’s why it is so fun to cosplay her. Sakura was one of my first cosplays and I alredy have 2 versions of her costume that I think are so beautiful (The cosplay my twin does is Shaoran) I hope that in the future I can do another two versions. Another fun fact, is that my real name is also Sakura, and that connects me even more with the character!

ccs miyukoMiyuku Saku Cosplay, Singapore
Photo by: Xeno Tan

Sakura is my childhood hero, I love her costumes ever since i was a kid. When I watched the anime and when I was younger, I dreamt of wearing her costumes and being like her and capturing the cards, hence the inspiration and motivation to fufiill the child in me.

 

ccs jesukeJesuke * Vic, Singapore
Photo by: Joel Tng

A a child during the weekends I was glued to the local television network, at that time they had a segment for animes in chinese dubs, once in the morning and again during lunch time – Cardcaptor Sakura was one of these! I was very enchanted by the magical aspect of the show, as well as Sakura’s adventure to collect the Clow Cards and in the 3rd season, change the cards into Sakura Cards. Now that I am a lot older and have rewatched the series a few times , one of the aspect I really like about Sakura is how her character grows stronger; she starts off a brat and ends a positive but strong girl, loyal to her love (in the manga). I guess cosplaying her was a natural thing to do because of my love for her, and CCS was one of the first few series that really captured my heart. As a costume maker the range of her costumes really attracts, but the bottom line is that Cardcaptor Sakura has a really special place in my heart and I see myself continuing to cosplay more of her costumes in the future.

ccs miyMiyukiko Cosplay
Photo by Andy Chan

I always loved magical girl anime when growing up, and Card Captor Sakura was no exception. Being able to cosplay Sakura is almost like being able to fulfill a childhood dream. Now that I’m a cosplayer I’m able bring characters like Sakura to life, it feels like magic itself!

ccs shuya winfShiya Wind, USA
Photo: Kevin Chan

I really enjoyed CCS when I first heard about it in high school. I adapted that as one of my favorite magical girl series at the time, and I love the art style and outfit changes so much. Instead of going towards more familiar outfits to cosplay from, I chose her more obscure artwork outfits. I really love how adorable she is, and I’ve always been very petite and small framed. I have a hard time choosing characters to cosplay because of my small frame, and I feel really lucky when I can find a series I enjoy as well as characters I can try to dress up from that series to match my frame. Sakura is also one of those characters I can smile a lot with, twirl around for photos, and be silly in front of a camera or my Tomoyo cosplayer!

ccs hot cocoaHot-Cocoa Cosplay, Israel
Photo by Amit Stein Photography

Sakura Kinomoto is my favorite character since I was 7 years old! Altough she is just a girl she is so strong and brave, (cute too) we have alot in common! I have cosplayed Sakura from CardCaptor Sakura three times and I’m going to do more cosplays of her! It’s so much fun to play her!

ccs emmaEmma Langley Soryu, England
Photo by CS Photography

Cardcaptor Sakura was one of my favorite shows growing up, it was one of the first anime’s i got into before knowing what anime was, i loved the art style and the cute designs of Sakura’s costumes. It only came natural to me to eventually choice her when i became a cosplayer. I went for her black and pink cat design it was always my favorite outfit of her’s, black and pink was always my favorite colour scheme and of course having cat ears was always going to be my first choice being a cat lover, it defiantly brought back my childhood to finally cosplay her.

ccs pichuuPichu Cosplay

I really loved watching Cardcaptor Sakura! It was one of the first animé that I watched on TV when I was small and I never missed a single episode. I really love the universe of the series. I decided to cosplay Sakura because I wanted to remember the fun moments when I was watching it before. Sakura is really one of my favorite characters and who has a lot of beautiful costumes

 

 

ccs sakuraBhagvati, India

Check out this very cute cosplayer aged just four years who is a big CCS fan! Additionally with the help of her friends and family she took part in a live action parody video for CCS.

ccs tomiaAlthough I couldn’t get a quote, I couldn’t leave out Tomia Cosplay from South Korea!

Special mentions go out to a couple of cosplayers who cosplayed Sakura from Tsubasa Chronicles!

ccs sikaySikay Cosplay, France

I like Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles and wanted to make ny first duo cosplay with Nikita with cute characters from a story we like (she was Tomoyo), Sakura was my first cosplay and at this time I even had the same hair as her, she have really beautifull costumes and I chose the design with sakura flowers on it.

Our Team UK World Cosplay Summit 2014 photo by Emzone Photography

We chose the pair because they have such a historical connection accross all Clamp continuations, and Tsubasa is an interesting and dynamic take on two of our favourite characters. We love them so much we decided to do them again for the world cosplay summit finals in different outfits!

Have you cosplayed Sakura? Please link below!!!

ccs wcs

 

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Terracotta Far East Film Festival 2014 – Terrorcotta Horror All Nighter

Armed with caffiene and sugary snacks, I was prepared for the Terrorcotta Horror All Nighter which was part of the Terracotta Film Festival, 23 May – 1 June at the Prince Charles Cinema. A night which promised horror, gore, ghosts and bloodshed.

The festival started at 22.55pm and ended at around 8.30am. With intervals between each film featuring t-shirt contests and a quiz, which I epically failed at! (and I call myself an Asian cinema fan *cries*) Well done to those who got ten out of ten – my hats off to you!

Having only read the synopsis for the films showing; I had intentionally avoided the trailers due to spoilers – I wanted to keep the films as suspenseful as possible. The film I was most anticipating was ‘Lesson of Evil’, which luckily was on first which meant I had more chance staying awake.

If you liked Battle Royale and Audition, this is the film for you! Third Windows film will be releasing this on DVD soon, so grab a copy if you can! In a nutshell, the film introduces a perfect charismatic English teacher, who goes psycho and massacres the students who are introduced Battle Royale style.

The second film ‘In the Dark’ was the film I was least looking forward to, merely because I find ghost/haunting films predictable and unintersting. It may sound a tad sadistic but I much prefer the slasher/gore films! However from the audiences reaction, I think the majority did find it disappointing and scored it low (we were asked to rate each film after viewing it). I think everyone was so impressed by Lesson of Evil shown before ‘In the Dark’ was a tough follow up film. Unfortunately, I feel this was the weakest film of the evening.

Despite my tiredness, the next film ‘Killers’ had me gripped. Focused around two serial killers, the protagonist gets a taste for blood when he kills two men in self-defence. A psychological horror in many aspects, with some gore added in. I would like to watch this again, when more alert and awake.

I was beyond tired by the fourth film, and to be honest I had given up trying to stay awake! However, everytime I stirred from slumber, the protagonist was slaying vampires to win back/protect his pregnant girlfriend who thinks he is good for nothing! This films unique feature was that it was entirely filmed using CGI.

I would definitley go to this event again, but conserve all my energy for the festival I had a busy day attending another event Tea Prince Butler Cafe –  review here. I would also bring a blanket due to the theatre being very cold…a conspriacy theory to keep us sleepyheads awake, I am sure!

Additional to the horror night, my friend Aisha won tickets to Commitment, another film part of the Terracottta festival showing in the afternoon starring k-pop star T.O.P member of the Big Bang. The film was an enjoyable spy/action movie. Read her review here – couldn’t have summed it up better myself!

Keep updated with Terracotta and Third Window Films festivals and DVD releases

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Cosplayer of the week – Tabitha Lyons Interview

tabitha lyons i 1This week I inteviewed the talented Tabitha Lyons, queen of dragons and master of props. Tabitha reveals her cosplay and convention plans for the summer, what it is like to judge contests and the pressures that come with being recognised in the cosplay scene…

tabitha lyons 1Originally you were a larper, how did you enter the wonderful world of cosplay?

I officially started cosplay in May 2012 though I have been dressing up since I was a little girl (larped since I was 8). I run a prop company with my dad called Artyfakes, we created a Skyrim inspired weapon range – and as soon as the photos hit the net, everyone was throwing around the word cosplay. I’d never heard of it before so I had to check it out!

Do you have a preference?

I honestly love both hobbies! I wouldn’t have one if it wasn’t for the other. Though I would lean more toward cosplay, not because it’s new and fresh to me but because it made me feel okay to be a geek!

What is your favourite cosplay so far?

I could not choose. Whatever costume I am making at the time is my favourite! I love all of them!!

tabitha lyons 5What do you find the biggest challenge when making your cosplays?

Personally my biggest challenge is time, it’s hard to find any for my own cosplays as my job is 24/7 and I will always put customers first. I can’t believe I have only made one new cosplay this year and it was a bottle cap bikini! SHOCKING!

You mentioned you work as part of Artyfakes, a prop making company, what does a typical day involve?

Starting work at 8am answering emails and doing paper work, as soon as that’s done MAKE MAKE MAKE! I usually finish at around 8pm unless we have an urgent order.

You have accomplished many out of this world cosplay projects – including a 14ft foot dragon! Can you reveal any more forthcoming projects this year?

That was a team project with other sculptors, I’m not sure what you’ll see from me this year, all I can say is I always try to improve!

tabitha lyons 3 making

What would you say to those who think you are just the ‘face of Artyfakes’?

What’s wrong with being just the face? I know the work I do; I don’t care if other people don’t believe it. What people seem to forget is that Artyfakes is a business. Marketing is a big part of any company, and let’s face it my dad doesn’t want to see his picture everywhere and I’m sure there are many who don’t want to see it…don’t tell him I said that…

What advice would you give others who may experience cosplay ‘bullying’ or criticism online?

If you put yourself out there trolls will attack, even if you don’t deserve it. A thick skin can be good, I know mine has got thicker…

The best thing is not to feed the trolls. Don’t respond, just ban and delete.

tabitha lyons 10You have mentioned before in previous interviews, that you were a bit of a secret geek (which we have all been a bit guilty of at times), what in essence made you come out of the closet and proclaim your geekiness to the world?

Cosplay definitely got me out of the closet. The more I attended conventions and met new people I realized how many people enjoyed my fandoms – it wasn’t just me! My confidence is slowly growing and now I don’t care if people think I’m a nerd. Geek and proud.

This is a very busy summer as you are guesting at LAGC, LFCC and Hyper Japan, can you reveal what you have instore for us and what you will be cosplaying as?

This summer, Bro Con, are also flying me out to Ireland, so I’ll be at a con every weekend in July! I am super excited as I have never been before. Fingers crossed I will have a few more new cosplays in store but they are all top secret! I’m also really happy to be a judge for the ECG UK Preliminaries. I haven’t attended Hyper Japan before. and I can’t wait to see the standard of the costumes, as one of my jobs at Artyfakes is quality control. Every completed item goes through me, if I don’t give it the Artyfakes stamp of approval then it won’t be shipped to the customer. I’m expecting the same amount or even better from the contestants. P.S. I will be cosplaying as Juliet Starling- Lollipop Chainsaw for the whole wekeend at London Anime Gaming Con!

tabitha lyons 7You recently got to mingle with USA cosplayers Yaya Han and Riddle, what was this like?

Amazing, it was nice to talk about different materials as they have different names in our countries. LSCC put on a great show and it was lovely to see they cared about the cosplay scene. Fingers crossed we will see them again soon!

What was it like judging a competition like LSCC, which had a big, even life changing prize?

I was really nervous before hand, as usually I’m the competitor but once I sat in the chair I realized I was panicking for no reason. It was nice that my LARP/ Performing Arts history also played a big role in being a judge, I remembered that cosplay competitions are not just about the costume.

tabitha lyons 2You have a huge social media following and are widely recognised within the cosplay community, Did you ever expect this to happen?

No I didn’t, and it upsets me that people think I’ve bought likes. I work extremely hard and I would never do that. Words cannot describe how much everyone of those people mean to me, the community support me when I’m feeling like WHY DO I EVEN COSPLAY!

Many cosplayers dream of being a role model (or as Yaya says an ambassador of cosplay) through having a significant social media reach/influence and/or working professionally in props, but is there any disadvantages to this?

Like everything it has it’s up and downs, you become an easy target. As long as I can help the cosplay community and it doesn’t stop me from doing what I love it’s worth it.

tabitha lyons 8Those who follow you on Facebook would have seen you had been involved with something called “Ecdysiast”, can you tell me more about this?

My friend Josh, some of you might know him for his Nigri cosplay, and Lauren attend Cambridge University and asked me to star as the lead for their final project before they graduated. They are super talented and amazing Cosplayers so I trusted them, and was really grateful for the opportunity! Unfortunately they have not realised it yet but it should be on DVD or YouTube soon…

Thanks you Tabitha for a great and honest interview! I look forward to seeing you at future cons this Summer!

Photo Credits: Main black and white Image: Tascha Dearing Art Black Cat by Jon Fisher Photography, Kyra by Magic Bean Studios and Pepper Potts – Paul Beard Photography, all other images copywright of Artyfakes. 

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Okinawa Day Report 21 June

IMG_3805psIf you were in Shoreditch on Saturday, you would have heard the beating of drums and folk music coming from the depths of Spitalfields market. If you delved further you would have seen plenty of smiling faces and women dancing in patterned kimonos. Free from the usual hipsters, Shoreditch was host to Okinawa Day, a festival to celebrate and raise awareness of Okinawan culture in the U.K.

IMG_3581psOkinawa is the most southernwest islands of Japan, with its own distinctive dialect and cultural differences to mainland Japan. Okinawa is most regonised for its citizens skill in karate and unique folk music, which has become popular throughout Japan in recent years; combining original Okinawan folk sounds with American rock and jazz influences.

The event states they are “keen to encourage more of a U.K audience to participate in future Okinawa related events and to create an Okinawan cultural hub in the U.K”. They seemed to be on target, as many of the core performers were a variety of ages and of all ethicities. As I arrived in the middle of the eisa dancing, members of the audience were encouraged to join in, shown the moves and children learnt to beat the drums in rhythm.

The other performances I managed to catch was the karate demonstration by Okinawa Karate England / The Karate-do Shorinryu Kyudokan School – it was fantastic! They wowed the audience as they smashed wood with various body parts, proving why Okinawan people are known as the masters in karate! The sensei and his partner were great. I couldn’t help but laugh as he said to the audience “don’t worry she’s my wife” before thrusting the wood against her abdomen, which she of course shattered– now that is what you girl power!

IMG_3815psFollowing on from this energetic performance, Hibiki Ichikawa played the shasimen, a three-stringed, banjo-like instrument accompanied by Hideike on guitar and Akari Mochida’s vocals. The trio performed traditional Okinawan folk music. I have never had the pleasure to hear them perform before but after a little research (and fun facts from friends) I found Hibiki and Akiari are quite the pair! Hibiki is the number one shasimen player in the UK and according to her website Akari is “the only Japanese blues and folk singer in the UK”. If you haven’t heard them before, they are worth checking out.

As well as the main performance area there were stalls providing further information and introductions into Okinawan culture. For a £1 you could experience an authentic Okinawan tea serving ceremony. Although it may have been a little too hot for tea, Nice Ice, were on hand to cool you down afterwards serving Kagushi,  a Japanese shaved ice snack topped with syrup (charging £3 it was much cheaper than it is at conventions!).

IMG_3935psFor those who had been won over by the culture of Okinawa islands, Japan Journeys and Inside Japan were there advertising tailor made holiday packages which included a visit to these beautful islands. Zoom magazine, one of my fave free mags, were handing out copies of the latest issue.

The event embodied Okinawan culture, enjoyed by all and I am sure I will attend next year for a third time.

Pictures from 2014 Okinawa Day:

Pictures from 2013 Okinawa Day

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Cosplayer of the week – Leon Chiro

leon chiro 7For those who attended Kitacon you may have seen my interview with international cosplay guest, Leon Chiro from Italy. Below is the exclusive, extended version!

leon chiro 1How did you get involved with cosplay?

Ahh, those are very good memories! I started to cosplay at the end of 2010, but this was just a taster, I can officially say that I started to cosplay in March, 2011. I got involved in a very random way; I was working for a model agency at the time (which I loved) when one day I wondered how cool it would be if I took some pictures as one of my favourite characters. Then a friend of mine replied saying ‘Simple. Cosplay!’ I looked into it more and discovered a different world! After, I did my first cosplay (Tidus) at my first convention Romics (the main convention here in Rome!) and that’s where it all began…

What is your favourite cosplay?

Actually, all my cosplays are my favourite because I made them with all my heart! Every character I choose to cosplay has a deep influence on me. If I had to though, I can narrow it down to three!

1) Caius Ballad, for the high level of craftsmanship involved. I also love this character’s story and walkthrough, he is the most difficult cosplay I did and it gave me a lot satisfaction to complete.
2) Tidus, for interpretation and heart, his story has had such a deep influence on my life and at the moment FFX is my favourite game ever!
3) Dante – Devil May Cry 3. He is just a badass and he marked a highlight for my ‘Cosplay Career’.

leon chiro 2What do you do besides cosplaying?

I study Sports Science and Physiotherapy at University. I am an athlete and was previously a National Runner in athletics. Now I am a ‘Free-Runner’ and I train myself in Street Workout and Parkour! I work part time as a bartender and occasionally do some modelling work. I am also a Pro-Gamer on PSN because I am hunting ‘Platinum’ trophies in the games! For the moment I have 110 platinum and I don’t wanna stop!

What do you find the biggest challenge when making your cosplays?

My biggest challenge is myself. I always do everything with my heart, but heart is not enough for cosplay because if you want to do a ‘High Level’ Cosplay, then you need skills and patience. My challenge is to always beat ‘myself’ by creating better cosplays each time. I always want to make my fans happy and to improve my skills!

leon chiro 3What has been your proudest cosplay achievement?

I use my cosplay to compete in both national contests and abroad! Competition in Italy is very, very tough and the level of cosplays is getting higher. I feel I have a lot of things to be proud of; one is my winning streak at Lucca Comics, the main Italian convention, because I won five cups (awards) in three years of competing. I am also very proud of one of my personal achievements; which is whenever I make one of my fans smile with my cosplays.

How does the Italian cosplay community differ to the UK?

Competition. As I said before, in Italy it is a lot more competitive. That’s not always positive though because a lot of people often judge other cosplayers and this cause a lot of ‘fights’ between them. Cosplayers should be a huge family, but sometimes in Italy it seems to be more competitive than the Olympics!

Another huge difference is the number of conventions, in Italy they are increasing. I still remember last September, I was invited to a convention on the 15th and after I accepted, I was invited to another two on the same day! It was insane!

Overall, I just love the cosplay world in UK and I really would love to be there more often!leon chiro 4

Do you think it is harder for boys to get recognition for their cosplays?

A lot of people can already guess the answer so I won’t say it! But I think that female beauty has more success than male, they have more seduction power that influences their cosplay. Mainly people are attracted by the ‘sexy part’ and not only for the props. The same is for the boys; a lot of them are trying to use cosplay to show themselves off! I think it’s always easy to get recognition for our body but it’s always harder to get recognitions for our crafting skills.

You have participated in a lot of cosplay competitions, any advice for aspiring cosplayers looking to enter in their first competition?

Heart is the solution. If you want to enter something in a cosplay competition do it with your heart. Choose the character you love, not the character you like (physically). Competition is made by victories but you can also ‘lose’ and still be a winner. The most important thing is that your personal victory has to be your own leon chiro 5achievement. Exhibit your heart and communicate your emotions to the public on stage! That’s the real victory! Don’t give up, if the judges decide somebody else wins, continue to do you what you do as best you can!

Cosplay is heart. Cosplay is magic. Never forget that!

We won’t, thank you Leon for this interview! Be sure to check out Leon’s Deviuant Art page for high res images and more!

Photo credits: Leon S Kennedy by AJ Charlton Photography, Dante by Shashin Kaihi Prince of Persia by Danilo Oliver.

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Fathers of Cosplay – The Real Heroes of Cosplay

ronan 1It is Father’s Day in the UK this Sunday (June 15th) so I decided to speak to some dads around the world who cosplay with their children. I  found out the impact it has had on their family life and bonds it has created. It was a pleasure seeing their pictures and hearing their stories. I hope if I ever have children I will be able to share such a rewarding and fun hobby with them.

ronAN 2Jon Robinson, USA

Page: Robinson Creations

Number of children: 3 kids, 7 year old son and twin 4 year olds boy & girl

How long have you been cosplaying for? I have only been cosplaying for about a year. Last year they announced a local con and I have always wanted to go. I figured I might as well dress up too. I was poking around the internet looking for ideas when I came across a group of Warhammer 40k costumers called Obscurus Crusade. I knew I had to build a Space Marine. So 200 hours of work (and more money than my wife thinks I spent) later and I had a costume. I was very nervous when I showed up at the con. That all vanished as soon as the first few people said how awesome it was. I entered the costume contest as a beginner and ended up taking 2nd in the intermediate category.

Your favourite cosplay? Since I have only done 2 so far, my Space Marine is the most fun. it gets the best reactions. I even got a nod from Karl Urban as he was heading to a panel by at the con.

Do your children/family cosplay? So far my kids haven’t really caught on yet. My oldest wants to dress up when I do, but gets tired real quick of everyone wanting pictures. My daughter wanted to dress as Hulk and my youngest son went as War Machine. Mostly because we already had those costumes from Halloween.

RONAN 3How has cosplay affected your family? So far it hasn’t had too much effect. I have always had my hobbies and the kids like to see me dressed up. My wife is supportive as long as I keep a good balance between home life and some of the charity events I get involved with.

What tip would you give other parents/families looking to get their children into cosplay? Kids love to dress up. It doesn’t have to be anything special. Let them decide how they want to. If all your kids have are Halloween costumes, let them wear it. Everyone will treat them as the best dressed cosplayer there. Also you don’t have to go to a con to get involved in cosplay. There are usually costuming groups around. You can get involved with many groups that do charity events to running around the woods in some scenario. They key is to just have fun and enjoy it. I truly believe that anyone can cosplay. Don’t let anyone discourage you. Start small; check your local second-hand stores to see what you can find. You don’t have to jump in feet first like I did

Alex Kopp, Germany

Page: Madman’s little Workshop

Number of Children: I have 3 children aged 9,11,13  

Started cosplaying: I started in 2011  when I built a Tanith costume for my son.

Favourite cosplay: My favourite are all from Warhammer40k . My wife and kids helped me build them and then we drove to Oberhausen (Space Ritter).

fathers of cosplay alex kopp 1Do your children cosplay: My wife and daughter cosplay Sister of Battle Armor. My Oldest Son was a Tanith Sniper and a Space Wolf Armor and my youngest son wore an Ultramarine Armor. I love to make costumes, whether it’s for me or for our children and I have made so many new friends .

What tip would you give other parents/families looking to get their children into cosplay? If your children want to dress up, get them involved and make them build something.

 

Jon and Joe as Batman and Alfred

Jon and Joe as Batman and Alfred

Jon Fisher, United Kingdom

Page: Wheels Of Steel Cosplay

Number of children: Joe, aged 10

How long have you been cosplaying for and how did you get started? I started taking my kids to MCM Expo in 2010. I’d never seen cosplay before that and I was amazed by the quality and inventiveness of the costumes. My son wanted to dress up in his Harry Potter costume in 2011/12, and then in 2013 we came up with the idea of incorporating his wheelchair into a costume. I wanted to create something that would make him proud of his wheelchair, and I couldn’t think of anything cooler than a Batmobile. Once the “Batmochair” was made and Joe had his Batman costume, I had the idea of dressing up as Alfred his butler, as I would be pushing him around in his chair all day! So, really, I’m just there like a supporting actor for the star of the show.

Your favourite cosplay? Batman and Alfred, because of the response it got, and because it inspired other wheelchair users to have a go at doing something similar.

Do your  children cosplay? Joe has been Ron Weasley, Batman, a Jedi, and Iron Man. We’ve got quite a few other cosplays planned for the future.

fathers of cosplay jon

Joe in his Iron Man copslay, which father and son built together

How has cosplay affected your family? Working together building the costumes has been a great father/son project. The reaction from people at events stopping us and asking for photos and telling him how awesome he looks has done loads for his self-esteem and confidence. He’s proud of how cool his wheelchair looks. Hopefully other people will see the great way the cosplay community has responded to what we have done and be encouraged to have a go too. I’ve created photo albums of each wheelchair build on his page so people can see how I made everything.

What tip would you give other parents/families looking to get their children into cosplay? Go for it! But make sure it’s something they want to do. Let the ideas come from them and don’t try and persuade them to dress as something they wouldn’t choose themselves. Obviously with babies you can get away with this one for a while, but they’ll probably hate you for it when they’re teenagers. Above all else, make it fun!

fathers of copslay tiagio

The Super Maians, photo by George Fairbairn Photography ASWPP

Tiago Cid Maia, United Kingdom

Page: The Super Maians

Number of children: I have two boys, Guilherme, better known as Gui, aged 6  and Connor who is 9 months old.

How long have you been cosplaying for? I’ve been cosplaying for a bit over a year, LSCC was the convention that got us addicted to this amazing hobby and way of life.

Your favourite cosplay: From the ones I have my Robin is still the one I prefer, but my dream cosplay is Fireball Hikari from Saber Rider – and one day I will make it!

Do your children/family cosplay?  Yes, we all cosplay as a family, both my kids and my wife. My wife Sonia started as Princess Leia, then Miss Martian and Arcee. This year she did an Imperial Chinese original character of the Assassin’s Creed, Steampunk Batgirl, Wonder Woman and next LFCC she will present her new Emma Frost cosplay. Gui started by doing Batman, Superman and Man of Steel variation, Rumble and also Luigi. This year we made a Roman Gladiator orig. character. Assassin’s Creed and a Steampunk Batman. At LFCC he will bring his new Dark Knight and Nightcrawler. Connor had his first cosplay on in the maternity ward within only 6 hours of being born, and his first convention he was 3 weeks old. He already cosplayed Jedi, Thor, Dark Knight, Man of Steel, Optimus Prime, Western Cowboy O.C. Assassin’s Creed, Steampunk Robin and Green Arrow, at LFCC he will bring his new Ant-Man. I have previously cosplayed as Robin, Roy Mustang, Soundwave. This year I made a French Musketeer O.C. Assassin’s Creed, Steampunk Green Lantern and I just finished my Red Skull.

The Super Maians by Shades On

The Super Maians by Shades On

How has cosplay affected your family? No doubt cosplay changed our lives, now we have an activity that we all share and bring us even more together. It was a great way to meet new people and make friends. It’s a way of breaking the daily routine and I recommend it to everyone.

What tip would you give other parents/families looking to get their children into cosplay? It all depends, the sooner you start your kids  the easier it gets. If they grow up doing this it’s going to be natural and normal for them and they will probably face all the commotion at conventions easily. In the event your kids are a bit more reserved regarding big crowds, costumes, photos, I would start with few hours at first in small conventions.

Tony's daughter in her RWBY gear which he helped build

Tony’s daughter in her RWBY gear which he helped build

Tony Debellis, Canada

Number of children: I have two daughters aged 17 and 15, they started cosplaying at 13 and 11.

How long have you been cosplaying for? I dont really cosplay myself (but am in the process of researching a Space Marine costume) rather I am the build it guy – props weapons etc. I got started about 15 years ago building and designing Halloween displays for my front yard.

Do your children/family cosplay: They both mainly cosplay as anime characters most recent being Ruby from RWBY and the oldest as Mikasa from Attack on Titan.

fathers of cosplay tony

Tony’s daughter in her AOT cosplay

What tip would you give other parents/families looking to get their children into cosplay? Best tip I can give is try to use recycled and reclaimed materials if at all possible, shop thrift stores, watch for back to school craft sales, and try to instill in them that a quality cosplay does not need to be expensive.

Pierre Courtemanche alias Halley, Canada

Number of children: I have one daughter, Stella, 1 years old.

How long have you been cosplaying for? I’ve been cosplaying for nearly 10 years, and my girlfriend for 5 years. I’ve begun in the same time that anime convention appear in my vicinity with two simple costume: a Star Trek Voyager uniform and Tuxedo mask from Sailor moon.

Your favourite cosplay? Hugues from Full Metal Alchemist: there is not that much resemblance, but it’s so fun to roleplay the character.

Wonderwoman duo!

Wonder Woman duo!

Do your children cosplay? My daughter already has two cosplays; Wonder-woman (in tandem with her mother, Patricia, also in Wonder Woman, and a hand-made Moogle costume From Final Fantasy.

How has cosplay affected your family? Becoming a family changed a lot of money that we could spend on cosplay: we use the same ones more often, and I prefer to wear something less complex and more convenient to help with the baby.

What tip would you give other parents/families looking to get their children into cosplay? From day one it was a certitude she will cosplay, and so far, it was no problem because we took the time to think our way in advance, taking shift to take care of the baby in activities. When she will be old enough, she will decide if she want to pursue this way, but as cosplayer parents, I say there is no “too young” cosplayer.

 

 

 

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Cosplayer of the Week – Valentine Cosplay

andy 5 mcm buzzThis week I interviewed cosplayer and LARPer Andy Valentine aka Valentine Cosplay. Specialising in prop making and performing Andy has wowed us with his talent to truly become the chracter he is cosplaying; performing unique skits from swordfighting to stage monologues.

andy 2 scgHow did you get involved in the wonderful world of cosplay?
Actually, my friend suggested that the pair of us go, and being a lifetime member of the geek club, I jumped at the idea and couldn’t imagine not dressing up. Making that first outfit – a version of Ezio from Assassin’s Creed 2 – got me completely hooked on the many processes behind making costumes and props, and the amount of detail that you can go into, as well as learning to perform and accurately portray the character. I pretty much haven’t stopped building since then.

As well as cosplay you also LARP, do you have a preference?
They’re both very similar in a lot of ways, but also very different. I wouldn’t say that I necessarily prefer one over the other, but there are definitely elements of each that I prefer. Cosplay allows a lot more versatility as far as types of outfits, and you tend to be replicating someone else’s design, plus the emphasis is typically on the way something looks, rather than the durability. LARP on the other hand you tend to craft your own designs, and they have to be hard-wearing as well as pretty because you’ll be getting hit a lot, thus the thought process behind it alters.

Also, I love the immersion of LARP. I’m a big fan of being in character (something that I think I bring to cosplay a bit more than most people) and you can spend three or four days straight not breaking out of the person you’re portraying.

I really believe that cosplayers should try LARP, both for the experience and to help them realise it’s OK to get completely lost in a character.

andy 4Most will remember you for your skit at LFCC, what was the motivation behind this?
The thing about most open masquerade competitions is that it’s easy not to be memorable. Walking on to stage, holding three poses, and exiting the stage is all well and good, but if you do something more interesting, people are going to remember it. The LFCC skit where I re-enacted Vaas’ “definition of insanity” monologue was just the most obvious choice for that character. I’ll admit, getting off the stage and shouting at one of the judges inches from her face was a spur of the moment choice as I was completely in character and it felt like the right thing to do. People still talk about it now, so I guess it was the right choice.

What do you have lined up for us at this year’s London Anime Gaming Con?
I’m most excited for my new panel on “CosPLAY: Performing the Character and Method Cosplay”, in which I’m going to be talking about some of the methods I go about learning how to really ‘be’ a character. Also, I’ve coined this term “Method Cosplay” because I personally started to go down a very method actor path when I’m preparing for an event, and I’m going to be introducing that to people. Then there’s the usual Cosplay 101 and prop making panels that I’ll be on too.
As for cosplays, I’m hoping to dry run Prince Oberyn from Game of Thrones before LFCC the following week, and I’m super excited about debuting that cosplay given his recent popularity. Also, I’m going to be doing Sparky Polastri, the dance instructor from Bring It On, just because it’s pretty simple, but going to be good fun to play. Expect to hear “Prepare for total domination” blasting from my boombox whilst being accompanied by some pretty questionable dance moves.

andy 6 camilleDo you have any other big cosplay/prop plans?
I have a number of things in the works at the moment. I’m actually making all four of Prince Oberyn’s outfits (sun cloak, evening cloak, Joffery’s wedding cloak and armour), as well as my updated LARP armour at the moment. Once they’re done I’m starting on my biggest project to date, a 10ft tall G1 Starscream from Transformers, which I’m hoping to have done for either MCM or WLFCC towards the end of the year. My cosplay friend Spider-Trooper will be taking his 10ft G1 Optimus Prime to the same event, so we’re going to team up for some team cosplay awesomeness.

What do you find the most challenging part when making your costumes and props?
I’m a complete perfectionist, and I’m rarely pleased with what I produce. When I was working on the Fallout AER-9 Laser Rifle, I scrapped six versions of it before decided that the seventh iteration was up to standard. The other six still remain in a pile in my garden after I threw them out of the workshop window. I also get frustrated when I’m not able to do things as cleanly as I like. That said, it’s that level of detail which has got a lot of my stuff – props especially – noticed, so it pays off in the end.

Protip: when you’re learning prop-making, start by making items that need to look weathered. It allows you to cover your mistakes, and a lot of the time, adds to the effect.

andy 1 domAny tips for those a little stage shy looking to improve their future cosplay skits?
You can never overact. Seriously. Never.

Generally, if you look shy and timid it shows. If you close up with your head down and your arms crossed it means that the judges can’t see the whole of your outfit, and that’s always a shame. But if you breath heavily for a few seconds before stepping out and then throw everything that you have on stage for those 30 seconds, you’ll make a much bigger impact and be much more memorable. Remember, these things are judged on your showmanship as much as your craftsmanship. There’s no point in making one amazing and skimping on the other.

You recently entered the LSCC Cosplay Championships, what was this experience like?
To be honest, I treated it pretty much like every other competition I’ve ever entered. I made sure my outfit was to a standard I was happy with, I ensured I knew what I was doing with my performance (though I ended up freestyling all of the sword art in the end when the adrenaline hit), and just ensured I remained confident. I was pretty gutted not to get into the finals that time around, but I’ve learnt from my mistakes and will be making sure I improve going forward.

andy 7What was it like being judged by some of cosplays biggest names?
Again, I treated it no different to any other competition really. They’re just people with opinions at the end of the day. Sure, they probably knew what to look for more than most, but that’s all. I used to work in the film industry and met most of the big names in Hollywood so don’t really get “star struck” anymore. Sure, I respect people for the name they’ve managed to make for themselves in the cosplay arena, but to be honest I get so “in my own head” once I step on stage I didn’t even notice they were there.

Will you be competing again? (UK ECG Preliminaries at Hyper Japan are approaching!)
Yup, I sure will be, though probably not until next year. I want to up my game even further when it comes to performance in competitions, as such I want to take my time and make sure both the cosplay and the character are locked down tight and ready to compete with, rather than rushing to get something done for a specific date. As for what I’m going to enter with, you’ll just have to wait and see, but I have some pretty exciting ideas.

andy 8As someone who has guested at conventions and competed in cosplay contests, do you think it is harder for boys to get recognition in cosplay?
When it comes to number of followers on social media, unquestionably yes; but that’s a whole other discussion that I won’t get into now. On the convention floor though, not really. I get just as much attention as women at cons, if not more, but as I’ve said before a lot of that is down to the effort I put into the detail of my cosplays and how I portray them as I’m walking around.

To be honest, if the whole reason you’re doing cosplay is for the number of followers you can gain, you’re doing something wrong. It should be about having fun, spending time with like-minded people and expressing the love of a fandom. If I never gained another follower I’d be quite content, because I do what I do partially for me, and partially to try and pass on a few learning experiences to anyone who wants to listen and learn more about the art. After all, if we can all learn from one another then we all benefit and are all able to make cooler cosplays and props, which has to be a good thing.

Thank you for the great interview Andy! Keep updated with all of Andy’s antic on Twitter @valentineprops and on Facebook Valentine Cosplay

Photo credits: Fallout and LSCC Cosplay contest photos by Shinigami Photography, Vaas by Lucas at SCG, Vaas by MCM Buzz and Commander Shepard by Camille Watkins.

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F:EAST at Japan Centre 7-8 June – a taste of Japan

20140607_161148psThis weekend marked free samples, competitions and demonstrations at F:EAST held at the Japan Centre, Piccadially. I popped down Saturday afternoon just in time to watch the sake cocktails being shaken, with a big crowd gathered eagerly waitng to taste a sip.

20140607_160924psThe cocktails tasted devine, the core ingredient was Geikkeikan sparkling sake . Cocktail recipes were given out afterwards so you could make your own at home. If you go to the Geikkeikan website you can find lots more sake and plum wine cocktail recipes here. If you’re not much of a cocktail maker you can go direct to Shoryu restaurant in Piccadially and try some of their limited edition summer cocktails.

F:EAST weekend had a variety of tasters from matcha ice cream to gyoza dumlings! Events like these are great, as we often want to try all the Japanese food but may not necessary know how to prepare it ourselves or have the money to purchase all the ingredients.

20140607_160356psHowever, F:EAST was more than a weekend of food and drink tasting, it ensured to provide an introductory into all aspects of much loved Japanese culture. The Japan Society were on hand providing free origami and shodo calligraphy workshops. Other companies in attendance included popular UK Asian film distributors, Third Window Films selling titles from £5. If you missed out you can still grab a bargain directly on their online shop (I personally recommend – Love Exposure). Additionally, following the Terracotta Festival, it is good to hear that Third Windows will be releasing a couple of the films shown – more information to be announced soon!

Japanese culture publication Zoom, were present handing out previous issues of their free monthly, the bubbly team were also holding a competition to win a free Zoom t-shirt. The magazine is available in the Japan Centre and other Japanese restaurants/retailers around London – make sure to grab a copy if you are in the area, it is a nice informative read.

japan centre zoomNot forgetting one of the reasons everyone was there, the BIG competition to win a trip to Japan, the winner hasn’t been announced yet – but good luck to  everyone who entered!

Top tip – for those intersted in tasting the variety of sakes, I would recommend bying  a ticket for the sake tasting at Hyper Japan – it is a great way to try the variety of sakes as well as learn about the background and uses for the drink. Overall,  the session allows you to find out which brands and type you like –  this saves you buying a whole bottle and finding out you hate it!

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Interview with harpist Julia Mascetti

julia mascetti 1Vicki Anne interviews harpist and singer-songwriter Julia Mascetti, inspired by her love of alternative music and fashion, Julia rebels from the usual classical music played on the harp and opts for rock, metal, anime themes and J-Pop tunes – as well as her own original songs.

julia mascetti 3First of all, how would you describe your music?
A kind of dark pop with strong folk influences.

Can you tell me what styles of music influence you?
So many! Singing in choirs has been a huge part of my musical life since I was very little and classical choral music still influences me. The harp has a very strong folk tradition and I think you can hear that in the harmonies and the harp playing style in my songs. I listened to a lot of metal and goth as a teenager and I think that’s where my music gets its melodrama and some of the darker lyrical and musical style. Experimental female singer-songwriters are an inspiration (Kate Bush is my idol!) and I enjoy chart music for a catchy tune and a bit of a dance. I’m also a big fan of electronic music (Nine Inch Nails and Placebo are two of my favourite bands) and I have been starting to experiment with that recently by collaborating more with producers. Have a listen to my track ‘Iago’ produced by the incredible Laurie Smart. I’m hoping to do more collaborations like that, I think the harp has a lot of potential in electronic music.

The harp can be considered quite an unusual instrument in modern music, how did you get into playing it?
I never know the answer to that question! I honestly have always wanted to play the harp for as long as I can remember and I don’t quite know why. Perhaps I saw one in a concert or on TV and fell in love with it. I’m half Welsh and the harp has a much bigger presence in Wales, so maybe that’s where it comes from. It took years of begging my parents to let me start learning though, I had my first lesson aged 10 or 11.

julia mascetti 4Do you play any other instruments as well as the harp?
Aside from singing, I play the piano but not very well.

Your youtube videos feature a large range from original songs to covers, which do you enjoy doing the most?
I enjoy both for different reasons! Original songs take a lot more work usually, because I am creating everything from start to finish, whereas with covers I am taking someone else’s idea and putting my spin on it. I guess with originals I can express myself more fully and I feel a real sense of achievement, but I am proud of a lot of covers I have done too. Taking a song you love to listen to and making it your own is a lot of fun and gives you plenty of opportunity to be creative.

The lyrics in your original songs are very deep, where do you tend to get inspiration for them from?
Ha ha, I am going to take ‘deep’ as a compliment ;) I never self-consciously try to be ‘deep’ but I guess that’s how some of the songs turn out. I get inspiration from all sorts of places, books, plays and personal experiences either from my own life or the lives of those close to me.

julia mascetti 5What was it like for you to play at Enchanted?
Well the lolitas were certainly the best dressed crowd I have ever played for – and I’ve been performing at weddings for six years! I had a wonderful time, lovely appreciative audience, gorgeous venue and I really enjoyed meeting the band Heroine Syndrome who performed after me! I really like their music and they performed a great set. We’re hoping to collaborate in the future.

How do you feel about Lolita fashion?
I love it! I would never call myself a Lolita but I think it does influence my style and I own several items of brand clothing and a few Gothic and Lolita Bibles. Some of my close friends are lifestyle Lolitas and they always look stunning – I just couldn’t commit to one style or putting that much effort into my appearance every day ;) I’m glad that many people do though, Lolita fashion makes me smile and injects a bit of beauty, fun and fantasy into everyday life. When I visited by boyfriend in Japan last year I dragged him around some of the brand shops in Tokyo and it was a magical experience just to look at the beautiful clothes and beautiful lolitas. For Enchanted, I wore a skirt from Mana’s label Moi-même-Moitié, that I bought in Tokyo.

julia mascetti 2You are performing at London Anime Gaming Con in July, can you reveal any sneak peak titbits for this?
Yes, I’m really looking forward to it! As for sneak peaks, that depends on you ;) Readers, what JPop songs or anime and gaming soundtracks would you like to hear on the harp? Tweet me your requests @JuliaMascetti and I will try to fit them into my set.

Aside from London Anime Gaming Con, do you have any plans for the future?
I have a very exciting concert coming up on 20th June, where I will be performing with two other songwriters who use the harp in the incredible venue of Asylum Arts Chapel in Peckham, south London. I’m super excited about performing in this venue – it’s a renovated asylum chapel which has been taken over by two artists who curate fantastic arts events. We have called the concert ‘Harpicide at Asylum’ and we are trying to present a different side of the harp than the ‘angelic’ stereotype ;) If you’re interested, more information and tickets can be found at harpicide.eventbrite.co.uk. I hope to see you there!

Thank you for a lovely interview Julia, remember to follow Julia Mascetti on Facebook, Twitter @JuliaMascetti for all her latest news and updates. You can also suscribe to Julia’s YouTube channel. Below is a beautiful rendetion from Studi Ghibli’s Spirited Away.

 

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