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Wayne Kaa as Roy Mustang
Strider Hiryu from Strider/Marvel vs. Capcom (handsewn)

 

Tell us about your first cosplay experience.

I started costuming in 1994, but I didn't cosplay until 1995. My first cosplay was Mousse from Ranma ½. A bunch of friends did a whole Ranma ½ group, and henceforth, started our cosplay team: Anything Goes School of Masquerade Arts (AGSMA) which is a play off Ranma's dojo, Anything Goes School of Martial Arts. AGSMA will be celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2005. There are not many cosplay groups or cosplayers still around that have been at it for that long.

How are you involved with AGSMA?

I lead and coordinate AGSMA's activities, plan out conventions to attend, write scripts and choreograph, contact participants. Coincidentally I have time to make my own costumes too. The group has performed at a variety of conventions over the years, but the main ones we've hit are Anime Expo, Fanime-con, and San Diego Comic Con. Then there’s all the collaborations we’ve had with other groups which have essentially blurred the distinctions between cosplay groups. “Here, I’ll loan you Fee, but I get dibs on Karrie for USA Musume.” Haha, it doesn’t really happen like that, but the interaction is fun. It's an excuse to hang out and plan activities with friends and make costumes together. It's a fun community.

How has your cosplay changed since the beginning?

Back in the early days, San Diego Comic Con was the con for AGSMA. Since it was one convention a year, we only had 1-2 costumes a year. Well, as more and more conventions started popping up, I tended to like having at least one new costume for each convention because I don't like to re-use costumes for masquerade competitions. But even so, it started going the way of needing more than one new costume for a convention, and at one point, I had made 7 new costumes for a single convention. That was the time where I did not have a sewing machine, so everything was hand sewn. Can you say burn out? With that though, I realized that I was not able to enjoy the convention as I used to, and so I tapered down. I find that even if I don't bring several costumes that I can only wear for 2 hours at a time, only to change into another one, I'm still busy meeting new people, chatting with friends and making sure things stay on track.

 

What keeps you cosplaying?

I cosplay and continue to cosplay because I simply like to make things. Every new costume is a challenge, and so I find it to be exciting, and it's also a distinct way to express fandom for that anime or video game. I have a lot of experience with many fabric types, and I like to experiment with new material. For instance, lately I’ve been known for my immaculate use of vinyl. Studying character designs also is a fun way to see subtle detail and nuances in the anime, which can grant you a deeper appreciation for the work that someone’s put into their production for your enjoyment. Additionally the challenges posed by the cosplay are always welcome whether the challenge is in construction or presentation or both. For Anime Expo 2002, AGSMA decided to re-enact the duel between Van and Dilandau from Escaflowne movie. Well, Dilandau’s sword breaks in that sequence so I had a lot of fun trying to design a breakaway sword that I could put back together and break again for rehearsals. Or what about the time I had to get a 6’ x 15’ robot arm on stage for Anime Expo 1999. (I’ve been on stages smaller than those dimensions ^_^) That prop was made to collapse to a quarter of it’s original size so it could be manageable.

Luke Skywalker, from the Rancor Pit scene in Jabba's Palace  

Good props are hard to come by, and they really "make" the costume come together.

I agree. I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have my props. AGSMA routines are notorious for having many props on stage during the presentation, and it wouldn’t be a true AGSMA skit if we didn’t litter the stage and require clean up after our performance was done. It's a fun tradition. Then I had a tough choice when I went to Japan, because I was harried by the thought that I would not be able to bring my swords/weapons because of the long flight and fear of damage in transit. I had previous experience transporting a pair of katana over to Project Akon and when they came out on the “luggage-go-round”, the package looked like it got run over. I had two broken blades and a skit to do in Texas. Yeehaw. I fixed them but learned my lesson. I carry props around in a rifle case affectionately known as gun-case-chan. (I can’t bring gun-case-chan to airports though due to obvious security reasons). Back on topic to the Japan trip, I had to think long and hard on picking a costume that would be presentable without props. I attended JAFcon when I was there, and it turned out pretty well as I was with Barbie and Kaie from URAN. They were very good hosts and I felt very comfortable cosplaying there.

  Dilandau from Escaflowne Movie (handsewn)

What other prop tips can you share?

I suggest picking the right materials and having enough reference pictures from all angles prior to making your props. Also durability. You don't want your sword or wand breaking while you are on stage or walking around. And transportability. What good is a huge sword if you can't fit it in your luggage or car? Will I get banned for bringing this dangerous weapon to a convention? In essence, look before you leap. Any of those can be applied towards costuming, too.

The 7 Millennium Items from Yu-Gi-Oh  

What anime shows are you into?

I continue to watch Yu-Gi-Oh! and Yu-Gi-Oh! GX. I’m pretty behind on the latest and greatest in Japan. I tend to watch material on Cartoon Network, too, because it's readily available. That explains why I have costumes such as Samurai Jack. I find that if I start off watching the dubs, I have no problem watching further dubs. If I started watching the series raw or subbed, I will stick with that as I’m already used to hearing the voice actors. I don't mind dubs like Pokemon, Rave Master, or Ranma ½ since that's how I started watching those.

  State Certified Alchemist Pocketwatches from Full Metal Alchemist

How do you budget your costs for new costumes?

I'm very strict about the budget, and I shop a lot. Since I do live in Southern California, I make good use of the Fashion District in Los Angeles and Hollywood for wigs and make up. I don't always use the fashion district for everything because I liken it to a warehouse store: you tend to buy in bulk. Yet, in the fashion district, you can wheel and deal which I like to do and have been asked by friends to haggle for them. For smaller items, I find that Joann’s or Walmart is sufficient, and much cheaper. If I know about a costume in advance, I can shop long and hard to reduce my overall costs. For example, I think the Full Metal Alchemist costumes cost me no more than $20 each to make. If my costume passes the $100 mark, it’s usually due to the wig or sometimes specialized fabric.

Tell us about the USA Musume group.

My latest cosplay endeavor is my "evil producer" position at USA Musume. The group specializes in cosplaying & performing as the popular Japanese pop group Morning Musume, the main core of the successful Japanese production group, Hello! Project. USA Musume first hit the cosplay scene in 2002 with a performance of The Peace!, but the ideas to start it had come up in late 2001. At that time, Kuchan of AGSMA and Tiffy of Ah! My Cosplay were conversing about their love of Morning Musume and how it would be cute to cosplay from it. After seeing a multitude of Japanese Morning Musume cosplay, it was decided that a local cosplay group should formed so that we could perform our favorite songs at masquerades. The variety of costumes and songs in the Hello! Project discography ensured that each routine would be distinct and fresh. The group would not be exclusive as most of the members were already in pre-existing cosplay teams. Since there were no guys within the all-girl group of Morning Musume, the most logical answer was to have me assume the role of their producer, Tsunku, who oversees the activities for Hello! Project in Japan. As the evil producer for USA Musume, I'm also known as Trunksu, which is a combination of Tsunku and Trunks (of Dragonball Z), one of my more popular costumes back in 1998.

As the producer for USA Musume, my responsibilities have many parallels to those I have with AGSMA, which made the decision to be a part of USA Musume even easier. However, some distinct differences arose beyond the routine costume and convention coordination. For one, not all conventions support J-pop costumes in their masquerades which sometimes makes it hard to find a performance venue.

  USA Musume's Love Machine Kouhaku Utagassen Performance.  

Likewise, these performances require rehearsals, and the number of girls, sometimes up to 10, presents a real challenge to get them all together in one spot. Each girl has her own duties, social and work life, and getting all of them to meet together at once can be a miracle. Also, not all the fabrics that are used in Morning Musume costumes can be purchased off-the-rack, and so sometimes, we have to custom make our own fabric, from orange plaid to the extremely specialized "Salt 5" print that is used for GET UP! RAPPER.

As a result of being in USA Musume, I have been blessed with meeting and making many new friends as well as solidifying ties with old ones. My Japanese has gotten better (from really horrible to just plain bad ^_-), and I can proudly say that Mini Moni taught me how to count in Japanese. I can actually browse the J-pop section of Kinokuniya easily now. I got to apply my scary negotiation skills when haggling with fabric retailers in the fashion district to get the best prices on bulk purchases. Competition is a great thing, and it is wise to get the retailers to offer you the best price. I also edit and mix the soundtracks that are used for the performances. Finally, coordinating for USA Musume was a great excuse to express and expand my fandom (and CD collection) of Morning Musume and Hello! Project.

If you could be sent back in time and pre-incarnated as an anime or video game character, what time period would you choose, and what character would you be?

That is a tough question. If I could be anyone, I'd want to be Xanatos from Gargoyles. That was an awesome series. He was clever and masterminded plots throughout the ages, and he even set up a time loop to ensure his fortune in the future. He ends up with Puck as his butler and a hot red head for a wife. He also gets to run around in a fine set of Red Steel Clan armor that was styled after Goliath. And Xanatos was voiced by Jonathan Frakes (Commander Will Riker on Star Trek: the Next Generation).

Kitsy as Wayne from ACP  

Do you have any thoughts of cosplaying him?

Well I don't do well with facial hair, and his typical outfit is a business suit so I doubt I would be able to cosplay him well. Xanatos looks like Jonathan Frakes. However, if I had unlimited resources and money, I'd want the Red Steel Clan armor. It would take up so much space, as it would need to be vacuum formed and the wingspan would be huge.

What’s your most embarrassing cosplay moment(s)?

Linus Lam (of usagichan.com) had confused me for Karrie when I was in the Wizard (from Angelic Layer) costume. I never let him forget that. That was quite amusing. But history repeats itself! This happened at Anime Expo 2003 where people mistakenly thought that my friend Kitsy (a girl) for me when she was wearing my Kaiba costume. They would get upset when they would be calling, "Wayne," and she wouldn't respond. So they would manage to catch up and tap her on the shoulder, and they’d go O_O “Oh, you're not Wayne.” The best time that happened was when Kitsy had to go to the bathroom, and AJ, my friend, was wondering why I was heading to the girls’ bathroom until she caught up with Kitsy and found out the reason: It wasn't me.

  Wizard from Angelic Layer

Tell us about ACP and how it got started.

ACP is short for American Cosplay Paradise which started back on January 4, 2000, and hence, we are approaching its 5th anniversary in 2005. Two big anniversaries in 2005, with ACP turning 5 and AGSMA turning 10. Back in 1999, I met Henry through a mutual friend of ours at Anime Central. We then competed together at Project Akon 1999 with our cosplay friends, Ah! My Cosplay, for a Sakura Taisen skit. We've been good friends and have competed in many skits since that time. Henry was in the AGSMA Full Metal Alchemist skit from AX04 as Scar. The year we met, I noticed that there were Japanese photographer sites that focused on cosplay girls and served as a library or gallery for them like Tokyo Cosplay Girls (now defunct) and Tokyo Cosplay Zone 23. Henry and I thought, “Why doesn't America have one of those?” So we took it upon ourselves to start one. We discussed this on New Year’s Eve 1999 and moved quickly to get the site online in 4 days.

 

We picked out our mascot, Acy Paradise (A.C. Paradise see? Just like saying the URL out loud) to help represent ACP as a cosplay girl and Raya helped bring her to light with some cute art. Since America is so vast though, it would be impossible for us to go around and take pictures of girls like they do in Japan so we decided it would be best for the girls to submit their own pictures. It didn't take long for ACP's membership roster to surpass that of Tokyo Cosplay Zone 23. Since ACP's model was based on Tokyo Cosplay Zone 23, we only featured girls, but we recognized that cosplay guys do a great job too. It is ironic that the page that Henry and I started excluded us so some of our friends started Codename: Cos-Men (CCM) which was the ACP for guys, which I was a member of. There was even a Cos-pets site for cosplaying pets at a point.

Do you have any rumors to dispel?

You all must be commended for reaching this far on the interview. I thank you for reading it all. Back to your question, if you heard rumors out there that I’m totally evil, well then…. they were right. XD

see more of Wayne's costume collection here

Wayne you've certainly made a name for yourself in the world of cosplay and it's great to see the level of enthusiasm you have being shared with others. Best of luck in your future endeavors reaching new levels of costuming, performance, and community building. The show must go on.

Garry aka Prof.

 

 
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