Off Beat: Great costume, but can you explain the lipstick smudge?

By Tom Vogt, Columbian Science, Military & History Reporter

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Valkyries enjoy a good cup of coffee.

So do creatures from a lot of other realms, based on the Kumoricon event held in Vancouver over Labor Day weekend.

The annual convention draws fans of the Japanese animation style known as anime, and it brought thousands of distinctly garbed visitors to town.

But don’t think of the Kumoricon as a dress-up event. The devotees of costume play, or “cosplay,” will tell you that the characters have lives of their own.

“Cosplay is not just a costume,” a visiting valkyrie said last week as she and a companion were walking near Esther Short Park. Cosplay also involves mannerisms and behaviors as well as a character’s back story, she said.

That was a factor during coffee breaks. Downtown baristas noticed whether the conventiongoers would stay in character while ordering.

“Some do,” one barista said. “And you can tell that some are trying to decide.”

For Nora Valkyrie, there was nothing to decide. Her convention badge identified her as Alexandra Dougherty, but during her weekend coffee runs, the Portlander was a character on the animated Web series “RWBY.”

Her companion was Dipper Pines, a character on “Gravity Falls.” His badge identified him as Kobel Weaverli, but, he said, “I’m Dipper at Starbucks.”

While the Kumoricon will move to Portland in 2016, Vancouver has been able to attract other interesting conventioneers over the years.

Some are collectors, including the Novelty Salt and Pepper Shakers Club. The convention chairwoman explained that her passion comes with one big no-no.

“We do not put salt and pepper in these,” she stressed. After all, “Salt is corrosive.”

Some are brought together by characteristics they have in common. Members of a high-IQ organization can discuss string theory — sometimes called the theory of everything — but they also enjoy a good joke. Sometimes those concepts come together. This was an entry in their joke contest:

A physicist’s wife found another woman’s lipstick on his shirt collar and confronted him with it.

His response: “Honey, I’m an expert in string theory! I can explain everything!”


Off Beat lets members of The Columbian news team step back from our newspaper beats to write the story behind the story, fill in the story or just tell a story.