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Tell us all about your first cosplay experience.

The first time I cosplayed was in 1997. I recently heard about cosplay, but had been dreaming about dressing as my favorite characters since I was a child, not knowing how to make costumes or where to use them. The first anime convention was held at a Japanese colony club called ABRADEMI - a Brazilian association of manga artists and illustrators. It was the first time the convention had ever been opened to the general public outside the colony, so I decided to try my hand at cosplaying.

My first choice was Sailor Mercury - but months before the convention the Yu Yu Hakusho anime started to air on Brazilian TV, and I totally fell in love with Yusuke, seeing him at the time as a true animated version of myself.
He was a "bad boy," rebelling against the system, determined, proud, and under the antisocial facade, a boy who knew himself to be different, but kept for himself the desire to have his own friends - but wouldn´t adapt, deciding to do things his own way.

My identification with his attitude was such that I didn´t mind the fact that he was a BOY and I was a GIRL and decided to build his costume anyway - so my first cosplay was a CROSSPLAY. I started building the costume only two weeks prior to the con - but in the end, aside from a few wrong details, the costume was ready the day before the convention. ^__^

I'll never forget the experience. It was awesome! I arrived at the place already dressed as Yusuke, speaking in his voice and walking like he walked - and many believed I was a boy! I soon started a "fight" with another cosplayer dressed as Kuwabara (Yusuke´s rival and pal from the anime series) and he only realized I was a girl in the middle of the "fight." A group of girls called me "gorgeous." It was VERY funny, and I was not offended by all that, on the contrary - I was happy because that meant my acting was fine. Everybody had a good laugh and enjoyed.

In what ways do you see cosplay helping to bridge cultural gaps in society?

I believe that a good thing about cosplay is that it makes people outside the hobby and the anime scene curious. Every time someone not into Japanese culture, manga or anime sees a cosplayer, he wants to know what it is about, where it came from and where do you wear such costumes, and it is impossible to talk about cosplay without talking about Japan and its culture.

Many people create a stereotype that "this is some crazy Japanese hobby that people are importing," or that cosplayers don´t have much of a life. Not everybody understands that cosplay is only a hobby - many think we walk around in the street dressed in kimonos and hakamas only to look Japanese. In the end I think that, for anyone interested in Japan, cosplay is a door to a very interesting side of Japanese pop culture - a door that can be more confusing than enlightening to the some, unfortunately.

Is cosplay a hobby, a sport, or an obsession for you?

When I was younger, cosplaying become more of an obsession, mainly because anime conventions multiplied over the few last years here in Brazil and the idea that "it would be cool to wear a different costume in each of them" was hanging in the air. Since I was invited to be a hostess to Animecon, one of the biggest Brazilian conventions, in 1999, using a different costume each time became a "matter of honor."

Last year things changed. I still adore cosplaying and won´t give up on it for anything, but graduating Art School, making my name as a comic book writer (I work for a Brazilian comic and RPG publisher called Talismã) and taking care of my life and job became more important life goals. I will no longer quit buying something I need to save the money for cosplay. I build costumes when I can afford them - this year I only cosplayed as Fujiko from Lupin III because I could use some parts from the Julia cosplay (CowBe). It is really just a fun, healthy hobby. You just know there´s something wrong when people start noticing your hobbies more than they do your work.

How is anime different in Brazil compared to the US or Japan?

The manga invasion started around here in 1994, when Saint Seiya became a nationwide fad. Then came Sailor Moon, Samurai Troopers, Shurato, Magic Knights Rayearth... but there was still no real market. The people into anime had to harvest pirated, non subtitled tapes at "Liberdade" (Think of it as Brazilian Chinatown, but with Japanese people). Then slowly, fansubbers started to appear, and some two years ago the real investment began.


Today we have translated manga in the stands (which we didn´t have before, save for an ancient and long out of print edition of Lone Wolf and non-mainstream stuff like Mai or Crying Freeman popping up here and there), a lot of anime on TV and cable. The publisher I work for has a whole line of manga style comics (One of our comics which I wrote, called Victory, will be released in the US through Image Comics in May 14 - you can see more about the history and the staff at http://www.herorealm.com/ -- check it out! ^^ ). Me and my friends Marcelo Cassaro, who wrote the series with me, Edu Francisco, the artist, and all the crew are so happy about the chance to show our work outside of our country. All of that was unimaginable in 1994. The way I see it, things went well and fast for manga around here. The best aspect of all is the fact that the manga boom did wonders for our own production - we have monthly Brazilian comic book series that, aside from children´s and humor comics, we never really had since the 70´s, and it´s locally written horror and war books.

The bad side of it, if we can call it that, is that manga no longer has that "alternative" aspect to it, and became a fad - and with that, while a lot of good stuff gets released, we get our load of crap being printed as well. But that is natural for a growing manga market. And I can say that Brazil is slowly climbing its way to a day where we´ll have a comic market as strong as that of the US or even Japan.

Do you prefer subtitled shows in your language, or do you watch whatever is on TV?

I´d rather watch subtitled anime, in my own language (home video and cable releases, fansubbers) or with English subtitles (more variety, plus you can get them on the net). In fact, I´m pretty in much in love with dubbing (One of my best friends is the Brazilian voice for CowBe´s Spike!) but I'd still rather get the original audio. I end up watching a lot more subtitled anime, since the dubbed material on TV isn´t really my taste, being simpler, poppy, adventurous or shoujo titles when I´m more into adult stuff like Cowboy Bebop, Ghost in The Shell, Metropolis or Akira - and that probably comes as a surprise to someone who dressed as Hand Maid, but hey, I had to since I lost in a bet! I´ve been a little hard to please in the last few years.

Where do you get the materials you need to make your costumes?

Here in Sao Paulo, there´s a street called 25 de Março where I find most of the fabric I need for my costumes since the street is pretty much a big street market for that. All the stores are in one place. Next to it, there´s a street riddled with stores that specialize in costumes. But you can find material for your costumes everywhere. I order my toupees through the phone book, and a lot of times everyday stuff can be the perfect choice to build something. You just need to use your imagination - and I owe a lot to many friends who have brilliant ideas to solve costume problems using objects I would never think about.

Your inspiration in life comes from where?

I believe I could say it comes from the idea of making a difference. While I can go to sleep knowing that I´m working on something that´s important to me and to others, I´ll have strength to rise the next day, no matter how hard a time I´m living through is - and believe me, I´ve been to more than a few sore spots. A quote from a Wes Anderson movie called "Rushmore," comes to mind for when things get really tough, where a character called Max defines "the secret" - "I think you just gotta find something you love to do, then do it for the rest of your life." With that I keep going - in the name of personal growth if not for others' recognition.

That's the inspiration for me - I want to be involved with the things I like no matter what, til the end of my days. Be it writing, acting, teaching or singing, or simply being with the ones that I love, being useful to them, trying to be my best to the ones around me.

If they could add another season to your favorite anime series, what would it be and what would you like to happen?

It´ll be, without a doubt, a new season for Cowboy Bebop or Escaflowne!

I think Escaflowne is a wonderful series, it´s my second favorite. But the ending let me down, I confess. There was never a real conclusion; it all looks like the ultimate consequence for all the events was the death of a few characters and the planet being rebuilt. A second series showing the aftermath of the war in Gaea and how that affected the main characters, and maybe linking all of that with Hitomi´s fate on Earth, would be great. Good, rich characters like Dilandau, Allen and Dryden deserved a fitting payoff.

The Cowboy Bebop script is so perfectly written and built that I wouldn´t dare think of a sequel myself - the series really had a brilliant conclusion and no loose ends. I do think however that CowBe has a wonderful background, and we could have a second series with different characters in the same setting. Related to the classic series, I'd like to see a four-part OVA that dealt with Spike, Vicious and Julia´s past with the Red Dragon (I had an idea about a fanfic dealing with that once, it would be called "Bizarre Love Triangle")... I´d like to see something small about Julia´s life, too. That´s a dangerous idea, though - this sort of prequel can take much of the character´s mystery away.

How important is it for your costumes to look exactly like the original character?

That´s my main issue when building a costume - I try to capture every detail from the start. When I choose a character I start to mentally resolve all the tricky little details, trying to think about everything to avoid huge headaches later. I try to reproduce every detail in the most faithful way possible. I also try to make the costume look more "natural," like something a person could actually wear, instead of looking just like a costume. So I try not to make the costumes too big or exaggerated (unless the character demands such an approach), I avoid overly shiny fabrics too, so the costume won´t get that fake-cheap-halloween-"costume" look (Unless, again, the character demands it - like in the case of Lynn Minmay, since that was something she´d wear on stage, and Hand Maid May, since she´s a doll.). The idea behind all that is what they wear is NOT a "costume." It´s simply "what they wear," be it armor, fighting fatigues or whatever. It has purpose. So I try to avoid that "costumey" look whenever I can.

What costuming tips would you like to share?

Well, I have my own set of basic rules for when I start building a costume so things can go well. First of all, when I choose a character, I stick with the hardest details first. I try to resolve them BEFORE I think about the rest of the costume - if I can´t deal with those problems I forget about the project, so I won´t end up with a costume with bad parts or wrong details, something that can happen if you leave the trickiest parts to be dealt with in the end just to find that you can´t really do it. I usually start with the shoes, that I found to be the hardest part many times - like Sailor Moon´s boots. I only started to think about the rest of the costume when I had the boots ready.

Another useful tip is for people like me who look for professional tailors to build their costumes. It´s always important to present and discuss each detail in a clear way to avoid mistakes and confusion. Since it´s important to me that the costume will look "natural," I study lots of character illustrations before I select with kind of fabric to use - the way light affects the character´s costume can tell if the fabric is shiny, opaque or has a velvet feel to it, and the way it moves will tell you if the fabric is heavy or lightweight.

A good tip regarding wigs is, when you custom-order yours, to avoid overly strong colors that aren't exactly like your character's. It's a good idea to use mixed strands of different colors to achieve the right tone. I mixed black and blue strands on my Lynn Minmay wig, for example. I will do the same with Faye Valentine, which should be a very strong purple, but a dark one. I also mixed different colors of auburn in my Hand Maid and Fujiko wigs, and different tones of blond in the Julia one. This adds a natural feel to the hair, since you never perceive someone´s hair as being simply just one bland color in real life.

What positive influence does cosplay offer you for your future?

Since I haven´t lost my hope of going to Acting School, I believe cosplay helped me remain active in the practice of acting, one of the things I love the most. Cosplay also helped me to lose the fear of exposing myself, of relating to people and knowing that I will be observed and criticized, and it's helped me take other's opinions well, positive or negative. The challenge in building a costume - going after toupees and fabrics and dealing with tricky details - made me learn how to get whatever I need and communicate better. It helped me learn how to manage costs, to build schedules to solve problems and deal with issues. Cosplaying also helped me with one of the greatest conquests of my life - the desire to better fit the costumes and look good in them made me start a diet and lose 40 pounds, so I could make the Julia and Faye Valentine cosplays. Thinking of it, cosplay helped me to grow a lot!

Any closing comments?

Never ever give up on something that you care about because of someone else´s opinion of it. You´ll never be able to please everyone. There will always be those who will judge you by your appearance or be jealous because you are doing something you like. There will always be someone to criticize you and attack you because you´re having fun, those who will try to bring you down because they don´t have the guts to do what you´re doing themselves.

To cosplay is to expose yourself. Be prepared to expose yourselves. I got criticism, unfriendly comments and rumors formed about myself, and even threats from people that didn´t even know me, based on the image they had of me as a cosplayer. When the confirmation came that our comic book would go out on Image Comics, my editor advised me to stop cosplaying because of the "bad image the Americans might get of Brazilians." I've been told I should be ashamed of spending my parent's money on cosplay. In reality, all the money I spent was the result of my own labor. I've been told I should be ashamed of being an adult taken by futility when I fight for my life and work like everybody else.

There will always be those who will try to use your courage and joy against you. There will always be stories, lies, gossip and false rumors about people who get their share of the spotlight, because it's easier to make up stories than it is to meet someone and go for the truth. Be prepared for this kind of thing, and don´t let this wear you down. Make your joy a part of your strength. Cosplay can be a way to take a glimpse of what´s really important - which is to have the courage to do what you will without letting others' opinions stop you. To live in fear is to live a half-life.

Believe in yourselves!

Petra. I discovered that your name is Greek for "rock," and I think you definitely have a solid foundation for cosplay. One of the things I really like about Brazilian cosplayers is their level of passion for life that is carried through all aspects of their culture. It is clearly evident in your costumes and your work. Not only do you play the part well, but you're living the part of an up-and-coming manga artist and we wish you much success.

See Petra's profile here

Garry aka Prof

 
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