Cosplay is serious fun

Kumoricon festival attracts colorful, devoted fans of anime, costumes

By

Published:

 

If you go

• What: Kumoricon Anime Festival.

? Where: Hilton Vancouver Washington, 301 W. Sixth St., Vancouver, and the Red Lion Hotel Vancouver at the Quay, 100 Columbia St., Vancouver.

? When: Continues through Monday.

? Cost: Adult tickets: $35 Sunday only, $25 Monday only. Children's tickets: $25 Sunday only, $15 Monday only; free for children 5 and younger. Pay at the door.

? Information: <a href="http://kumoricon.org">http://kumoricon.org</a>.

If you go

What: Kumoricon Anime Festival.

Where: Hilton Vancouver Washington, 301 W. Sixth St., Vancouver, and the Red Lion Hotel Vancouver at the Quay, 100 Columbia St., Vancouver.

When: Continues through Monday.

Cost: Adult tickets: $35 Sunday only, $25 Monday only. Children’s tickets: $25 Sunday only, $15 Monday only; free for children 5 and younger. Pay at the door.

Information: http://kumoricon.org.

As freewheeling as the anime festival Kumoricon may seem, it’s actually a tightly organized affair and participants take it seriously, some working all year on their costumes.

Many of the estimated 7,000 colorfully costumed attendees spilled onto Esther Short Park to frolic and snap photographs of each other, but inside the two neighboring hotels, 400 volunteer staffers labored over the holiday weekend to keep the convention humming.

Those who participate in “cosplay,” short for costume play, and want to carry a pretend weapon to the convention must first go to the peace-bonding desk in the registration area, where prop firearms are checked to make sure that they are indeed nonfunctioning and have a visible orange tip, and swords are verified to be harmless foam. Staffers mark the prop weapon with a peace-tie to signal it has been reviewed.

Kait Baird, dressed as Ruby Rose of the American animated web series RWBY, brandished a 7-foot-tall Crescent Rose, the character’s weapon of choice, a hybrid between a high-caliber sniper rifle and scythe. Baird, a 16-year-old Portland resident, created the weapon by joining two ski poles and covering them with Wonderflex, a plastic that becomes moldable when heated. She also sewed her costume.

“I take a lot of pride and happiness in building stuff,” Kait said on Saturday.

The chance to wear costumes and wield prop weapons is a big draw for those who attend Kumoricon, but so is connecting with others who share a passion for anime and Japanese pop culture.

Participants listened to panel discussions on such topics as Buddhist symbolism in anime, organizing cosplay groups and breaking into the animation field.

Fans crowded a ballroom to watch a Legend of Korra Pro-Bending tournament, which looks a lot like dodgeball, but the balls are called “elements” and the playing area is delineated by lights.

Others gathered for video, tabletop and board gaming, or browsed exhibit halls brimming with vendors selling wigs, DVDs and posters.

Masks aren’t allowed in the hotels’ lobbies, but outside, in Esther Short Park, Davince Young, 43, of Astoria, Ore., was completely covered by his foam costume. Drops of sweat collecting on the edge of the mask was about the only evidence that a human was inside. Dressed as War, the youngest of the four horsemen of the apocalypse in the Darksiders video game, he loomed over those gathered around him to take photographs.

At the nearby Vancouver Farmers Market, Michael and Michelle Truax and their 3-year-old son, Scott, wandered the stalls to take a quick break from the convention. Michael, 30, works at Wal-Mart, and Michelle is in school training to become a massage therapist, so they were attending Kumoricon on a budget.

Michelle uses a black dress as the base for several costumes, and swaps corsets and other accessories to create different characters. On Saturday, she was a dark fairy, her head crowned by a diadem she found on Etsy, the online marketplace of handmade goods.

She has attended Kumoricon before, but it was her husband’s first foray. He opted not to wear a costume, although he’s a fan of the manga series Yu Yu Hakusho.

“I wanted to dress up but didn’t have the money and time,” Michael said. He was wary of putting together a costume on the fly, given that many attendees spend months creating theirs. “I want to show my appreciation for the gaming and anime giants,” he said.

This is the fifth time downtown Vancouver has hosted the anime convention, which draws its name from “kumori,” the Japanese word for cloudy.

The convention began in 2003 with 400 attending in Springfield, Ore., and grew to attract nearly 6,000 to the Hilton and Red Lion hotels in downtown Vancouver last year. As for this year, “we’re expecting record numbers,” said Teph Williams, the conventions publicity director.

The attendance count won’t be final until the convention wraps up Monday.