Other Articles

Fixing the Size on a Finished Cosplay

Hello, all.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but on occasion, I screw up my cosplays. Sew a sleeve on backwards, pin the wrong sides together instead of the right, and so on. Usually, I’m paying enough attention to catch and fix these problems before they get too far. And most of the time, the problem is small enough that people don’t notice. Sometimes, however…sometimes it’s only after I’ve finished the garment or the entire outfit or gone to a con before I realize that the shoulders of my coat are too small to be comfortable, or that the sleeves are too narrow or that the robe isn’t wide enough.

For all of you who have run into similar problems, here is my guide for how to adjust the size on a finished piece of cosplay without having to remake the entire piece of clothing. Now, keep in mind, this is a quick patch. For the best quality cosplay, you’ll probably have to remake the garment, or at least the part that’s giving you problems. If you don’t want to deal with that, keep reading.

This shows the added material to make the outfit wider
Sanzo's robe

The first time I realized that I had made an outfit too small was with my Sanzo costume (by the way, I only seem to make clothing too small. I imagine making a large piece smaller is much easier). The robe he wears is supposed to wrap around him entirely, but whether because spaciness on my part or the pattern I was using, the robe didn’t wrap enough; it showed the jeans I was wearing underneath. I managed to ignore it for a while, but eventually I decided it needed to be fixed. The high quality and labor intensive solution (not to mention cloth intensive) would be to remove the collar and sleeves, and sew a new body for the robe that matched the correct dimensions. I used the quick and patch solution. I undid the stitching on the edging/collar to about the waist, unstitched each end of the hem on the bottom of the robe for a few inches, and added in extra material. The additional width of the robe was entirely at the bottom, so I added very narrow triangles to both sides of the robe, making it wider. Then, I reattached the edging/collar to the new material, and finished up the new hem. It’s not the greatest looking fix in the world, but it beats making a whole new robe.

added a back panel. hardly noticable!
Touka's tunic

The second major fix I had to do was to the back of a tunic for my Touka cosplay. This one I actually caught before I finished the outfit or even the tunic. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough fabric to remake the needed piece, and so I had to make do with a make-shift repair. The problem was with the width of the shoulders; I had originally made them too small, and since the material has almost no give, these is a real problem. My solution was to cut the back of the tunic – where my spine would be – from the bottom to the top. I then added a very narrow trapezoid piece of fabric in the middle, just a few inches, to make the top wide enough for my shoulders, and kept the bottom almost the same width. I then sewed up the back again, with the added piece simply as an additional panel. Fortunately, for this cosplay, there’s a coat on top of the tunic, and I likely wouldn’t have fixed it except for the difficultly it gave me moving.

The final sizing problem I’ve had is with the sleeves of my Edward Elric coat. Unfortunately, it was one of my earlier cosplay, and I misjudged the width I’d need for the sleeves, especially with a long sleeve shirt underneath. While the sleeves don’t immediately look wrong, they make it slightly hard to move and cause the coat to be even warmer than it is. The problem was, to fix this I’d have to make two completely new sleeves, and I don’t think I even still had the fabric. My solution? Deal with it; it’s a problem that I’m the only one likely to really notice, and it doesn’t cause me too much trouble. Sometimes discretion? Is the better part.

Sleeves are way too small, but not small to make it worth remaking them
Edward Elric's coat
Cosplay Tutorials Props/Accessories

How long does it take to make a cosplay outfit?

There are a lot of things that go into making a cosplay outfit: deciding on a character, buying fabric, patterns, and premade clothing, sewing the outfit, making the accessories, figuring out what con you want to wear it to, and on and on.

However, one thing that doesn’t get much discussion is how long it takes to make one of these outfits, and like a lot of things, it’s hard to predict unless you’ve already made a few costumes. So: I have decided to share my sage wisdom (read: five and half costumes) and give all three of my readers some pointers on how it takes to make a cosplay outfit.

Not surprisingly, it actually depends on a lot of different factors. There are five big ones. First; how experienced you are with sewing. If you’ve never sewn on a button, it doesn’t matter how simple your outfit is, it’s going to take you a while. If you are truly and utterly inexperienced, you’re going to want to pad your timeline a lot, and hopefully find someone who knows what they’re doing to help you thread the sewing machine. I’m working with the assumption that you have some experience with sewing – you’ve repaired some clothing, maybe made a shirt or something. If you’re really new, you’re going to want to at least double whatever time I say, and have a sewing resource very handy.

Other Articles

Where Does the Meat in Pokemon Come From: Our tendency to nitpick the oddest parts of shows

A certain type of fan has an odd tendency to fixate on a tiny, illogical part of a show, even when the premise of the entire franchise is utterly different from our world. It happens with Trekkies/Trekkers, when they discuss how exactly Chekov could be born years early in the new movie. (Some of the theories are actually quite interesting.) It happens with nerds who go see Wall-E and wonder why on earth all those people slide to the side of the space ship when it keels. (They’re in space! The gravity is artificial!) And it happens with anime fans, who wonder what Ash and his friends are eating when they have hamburgers. (There aren’t any normal animals; are they eating a Tauros or something?)

Now, probably not every group of fans does this; some are probably content to watch an enjoy a show or an anime without picking it apart. Or at least, they’ll pull apart the larger plot holes first, before getting to the tiny ones. (Like, anything involving Spock Prime. Instead of just sitting in a cave staring at the sky, why doesn’t he go find Scotty and tell him to warn Vulcan?) Still, most of the people I hang about with nitpick the small things. Why?

Because it’s fun, is my answer. Trying to find a logical reason for the tiny things is more fun than trying to find ones for the big holes, since the latter ones usually strain credulity and boil down to “the plot needed it”.

It’s a sign of affection, I swear; we care enough about the franchise to try and make the bloody thing make sense.

So, who wants to talk about Gurren Lagann?

Other Articles

Gundam: the View from the Gateway

Now, hands up, who’s seen a Gundam series?

How many have seen Gundam Wing, Gundam SEED, G Gundam, and Gundam 00?

How many are girls?

Now, I’ve noticed something that’s a bit odd with the Gundam franchise. While for the most part, it seems to be a bastion of geeky boys (while I’m sure they exist, I’ve met few girls who make model Gundams), there are a few recent series that seem to have an audience and fanbase that is a rather hefty percent female. These series are Gundam Wing, Gundam SEED, Gundam SEED Destiny, Gundam 00, and G Gundam. The other, older Gundam series – Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket, Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam – don’t have this demographic.

Did you ever wonder why?


A Second Glance

Anime Characters Don’t Really Look Western

The above video clip was recently posted to the forums. It is an odd music video mini-rant about how people keep saying (and writing, and discussing) how anime characters look Western. She (he?—for ease of discussion, let’s assume it was a she) brings up and refutes the biggest arguements for anime characters being Western, and its worth looking over her shoulder at the original arguments and her reactions.

Big eyes. Apparently the arguement goes, that since anime characters have large eyes, and Westerners have large(r) eyes, anime characters are Western. However, there are a couple problems with this. One point the YouTuber brought up was that Westerners don’t actually have bigger eyes, and to some extent I agree with her. While her juxtaposition of squinty white men next to wide-eyed Japanese girls was a bit anecdotal (men generally have narrower eyes, don’t they? Especially in anime) it is true that the size of Western/Eastern eyes doesn’t differ much, though the shape does. Besides, NO ONE has Fruit Basket sized eyes.

The YouTuber also brought the good point that eyes are big because bigger eyes express emotion better. This is born out by the fact that the biggest eyes occur in the girliest manga, where it is considered strange if the main character isn’t functionally manic-depressive. The more realistic an anime’s art style – Ghost in the Shell, Grave of the Fireflies – the more normal the eye size. Also, large eyes are used for girls and girly manga because our brains are wired to think of large eyes in small faces as cute – it is the same proportions as puppies, kittens, and human children.

Hair color. Anime is known for having absurd hair colors. Since Northeast Asians all have black hair (which they don’t, actually. Shades between red and black are all possible, though the former is unlikely) , anime characters must be Western. WRONG! Even ignoring the fact that Japanese kids often dye their hair kinds of crazy colors, it’s not like Westerns have pink hair either. Also, as the YouTuber points out, hair color and style is often used to help identify characters, especially in shojo manga where most characters are pretty and thus look remarkably similar. Plus, it is also possible to get anime without funky hair colors – Maison Ikkoku comes to mind. The craziest hair is usually connected to fantasy and sci-fi.

Light skin. Now, I’m willing to concede the fact that Northeastern Asians generally have slightly darker skin (though their standards of beauty have them bleaching it while we tan, so it’s all relative) but there’s more than enough variation that seeing a lighter skinned character in an anime doesn’t say much about their race. The YouTuber also brings up the point that pale skin is prized in Japan, and has been so for centuries. Light skin is a sign of beauty.

The YouTuber also give the somewhat related point that the profile of Westerners is very bumpy (eyes, brow ridges, etc.) while Northeast Asians have much smoother profiles with picture evidence. And, since anime characters have smooth edges to their faces, they are clearly Japanese. There is some merit in this, though there are also problems. Anime characters’ faces are probably smooth to make them easier and faster to draw. Also, Western standards of beauty prefer much thinner faces, which means more prominent facial structure.

She also mentions that fact that the Japanese generally find it easier to cosplay and that their idea of beauty, for both men and women, differs significantly from Western standards. In Japan, men are perferred to be slight and a bit delicate, while in the West the ideal is very masculine. Women in Japan’s ideal is the idea of kawaii – very youthful, almost childish, with light skin, while women in American are tanned, busty, and unhealthily thin. Both of these ideals are very obviously bourne out in anime. In the showing this semester, even the “manly characters” (e.g., the King of En, Kamina) are still much prettier and slight than they would be in a Western cartoon.

The YouTuber brings up a few more minor points, but this is the bulk of her argument, and it is a good one. I’ve definitely heard – from my father no less – that anime characters look Western. But, the more you think about it, the less they look Western and the more they look…like anime characters. Nothing more, and nothing less.


His and Her Romance: The Difference between Male and Female Geared Romance Animes

A question I was asked recently got me thinking about the difference between the love anime directed towards boys versus girls. Now, this is by no means exhaustive, but the breakdown seems to be as follows:

Boys: There seem to be two basic types: Harem and otherworldly girlfriend (and sometimes they merge). The harem genre ranges from the blatant (Familiar of Zero, Love Hina), to the mildly plot driven (Tenchi) to the very well hidden (Utawarerumono). Now, there is nothing wrong with harems: I like Tenchi, and there are certainly reverse harems; Ouran High School Host Club is very popular. There are also females-geared animes that have elements of the harem. xxxHOLiC actually fits this, but for the fact that it’s not a romance. (Also, for this to work, the female audience has to identify with the male hero rather than the female love interests, which is a bit hard to pull off, as that mostly means the male hero can’t be hentai at all.)

The other type of boy’s romance is the otherworldly girlfriend. The first one to come to mind is Oh! My Goddess, but many other fit as well, such as Video Girl AI, and parts of Tenchi and even Familiar of Zero fits in a backwards sort of way – it’s a normal male in a magical world.

Girls:  girls’ anime seems on the surface to be both more varied, but it really only has major reoccurring trope. It is the “girl is fish-out-of-water”; or at the very least, something drastic has changed in her environment. There are two (sometimes more, and very occasionally one, but most common is two) boys competing for her affection/attention. Important in this is that she needn’t like both of them; both of them just need to draw her attention. Actually, the less the girl likes a boy at the beginning of the series, the more likely he’s the final love interest. The two boys are often extreme opposites; one is blond/brunette, one has black hair; one is cold and distant, one is very kind (which is often taken to ridiculous levels or is a complete act); one is brand new and one the heroine has known all her life. Not all of these dichotomies exist in every anime, but several generally appear in each one. However, and this is important; both are very protective of her, even if they don’t seem to like her. Also, if either has athletic ability, either both of them do, or the one she finally chooses is better at sports/whatever. In Mars, Tatsuya is good at skateboarding, but Rei races motorcycles; in Marmalade Boy, both boys are good at tennis, but Yuu is better.

It’s interesting that while boy’s anime generally has one (otherworldly girlfriend) or many (harem) girls, girls’ anime has a duality. While each subgenre uses stereotypes (and the very best of all of them have the most realistic characters) in harems, each girl has a different personality on the surface, but all of them are devoted to the boy; he just has to chose which girl he like best. In magical girlfriends, while there is sometimes the girl next door character, more often the only real viable love interest is the magical girlfriend, who is utterly devoted to the boy. The conflict comes more often from making the mechanics of the romance work (e.g., there are time limits on the girl’s magic, the robot’s batteries are running out, in Chobits, the …unfortunate placement of a certain switch), while in a harem it comes from the girls competing with each other.

The girl’s animes certainly have stereotypes, but there is a bit more variety, and the boys are more likely to be nuanced than the girls in a harem: aside from being opposites and protective, the boys can have almost any type of personality and quirks. And the duality setup isn’t unique to anime. Various other stories from other mediums follow this pattern as well. The best example I can come up with off the top of my head is Pride and Prejudice. (Spoilers coming up: if you’ve not read Pride and Prejudice, go get a copy and read it. Now.) The main character, Lizzie, has to choose between Darcy and Wickham. The two of them are complete opposites – Wickham is blond, charming, lighthearted, and a complete bastard. Darcy is dark, cold, stand-offish, and surprisingly noble once he takes the stick out. In the first part of the book, Lizzie prefers Wickham and dislikes Darcy, which of course means that she’ll pick Darcy in the end.

Another difference between quality and generic romances besides the reliance on stereotypes is the focus of the story. The best romances have the plot move the story forward, ala Pride and Prejudice, Much Ado About Nothing, and Red River. In each of these, the plot drives the story and is interesting in its own right, but the focus and point of these stories are the emotions and how the plot sparks and changes the emotions of the characters.

These types of stories are more common in girls’ romances (I’m not biased, no not at all) while boys’ animes seem to be more plot driven, with the emotions of the characters feeding the plot, rather than the other way around.

A side note, because it wouldn’t be one of my posts if I didn’t mention shonen-ai; an odd side thing is that a lot of the non-one shot (i.e. porn) shonen-ai stories have many, many similarities with girls’ romances. This is because they’re written by girls for girls, more or less. Often, the two boys who would be romantic rivals in a romantic shojo manga are each other’s love interest. One theory of why this might be is because the drastic differences of the boys make the story more interesting and more romantic. CLAMP’s shonen-ai pairings are a good example of this. Fai and Kurogane; Watanuki and Domeki, Kazahaya and Rikuo; Yukio and Toya; the first generally lighter – either a spaz, or easygoing, or lighthearted, (more emotional, in other words, though not necessarily the same emotions a girl would have), generally slighter, smaller, and usually blond. The second is taller, dark, if he has a sense of humor it’s a bit sadistic, and very solid. Very much opposites.

Romance is messy indeed.

Once again, this is written with no research and less forethought. If you disagree, write a comment or something.

Manga Reviews Reviews

Manga Review: The One I Love

The One I Love

Author: CLAMP, 1995

Volume: 1, 12 Stories

The One I Love is one of CLAMP’s most obscure works published in English. And there are a multitude of reasons for that: it’s no sprawling epic like X or Tsubasa; it connects to no other CLAMP worlds; it has never been made into an anime; it is only 1 volume. However, its still well worth a look, and the small size just makes it a quicker read.watashi_cover

The One I Love is a series of short stories in which a female main character has some sort of reflection on or encounter with love, or the person she is in love with. The stories’ topics range from getting married, to a long-distance relationship, to looking cute for your boyfriend. These beautiful vignettes are short and sweet, and it is surprisingly relaxing to read one or two in the midst of a hectic day. If you’re looking for action or tragedy, go elsewhere. Otherwise, most will probably enjoy these stories.

Shonen-ai Note: None.

Continuity Note: Doesn’t connect to anything.

Anime Adaptation: None.

Cosplay Tutorials

Cutting Corners on Cosplay

Today’s article is on how to do cosplay without spending a ton of money and time. (Time may be more scarce than money at Cornell.) It’s also got useful stuff for people just learning the art of sewing.

1) Figure out exactly what the costume is.

Make a list of items that you need, and get some pictures or screenshots to help you remember what they look like, even if you know the show really well. You probably also want to get colors of the items. A trick my friend recommended is tracing the seam lines in dark ink on a screenshot; or possibly tracing and/or drawing a line drawing of the costume with the seams, to get an idea of what it looks like without irrelevant details distracting you. If you’re sewing something, check and recheck the measurements, and unless you’re really comfortable with sewing, you probably want some sort of pattern. And my personal tip; always give your self wiggle room with the fabric, either by making it slightly too big or having very large amounts of material at hems and seams. It’s a lot easier to make something smaller than make it bigger.

2) Salvation Army is friend.

As are flea markets, as are thrift stores. If you can find clothing similar to what your character wears for a decent price, it’s almost always worth it, even if you have to do some alterations. It’s likely cheaper than sewing the item, and it’s far faster. Note: just make sure the item of clothing will work before you pull apart the seams; it’s hard to return after you’ve destroyed it. For example, in my Edward Elric cosplay, the only thing I made from scratch was his coat. His boots, undershirt, pants, shirt and belt were all bought, and only that shirt even needed altering. Make sure your pieces match though, and sometimes the simplest costumes are the hardest. L from Death Note does require a little bit more effort than scavenging at Wal-Mart.

3) Coats, cloaks, and robes are surprisingly useful.

If you’re cosplay has a large, encompassing outerwear, you can probably get away with a high quality outerwera and lower quality in the layers of clothing below that. Good examples of this are Edward Elric’s coat, Genjo Sanzo’s robes, Kamiya Karou’s outer kimono, Kino’s coat. Of course, some cosplay’s aren’t suited to this, but its a useful cheat when you can use it.

4) Ignore all the accessories you can.

Now keep in mind, I’m telling you how to cut corners. Given the chance, go all out with accessories; they’re fun! But if you’re Ed Elric wearing gloves and a long shirt, you don’t need to make his metal arm. However, there are some accesories that you have to make if you’re doing cosplay, such as Wolfwood’s cross-punisher. Use your best judgement as to which type is which.

5) Hair.

Getting your hair to match your character’s is always a pain. As far as I can tell, there are a couple different ways to deal with it. First, you could buy a wig. If the hair is really important to the character, you paln on reusing the costume or you’re really precise, it might be worth buying a wig. I’ve never done so, because I’ve heard they’re expensive, finiky, difficult to maintain and can still look rather fake. (Keeping in mind I’ve never bought a wig) You can also decide on a cosplay based on the hair’s suitability, and then gel and/or dye your own hair. This might also work. The biggest problem is if you plan to reuse the cosplay and you want to change your hairstyle (for example, my hair has grown a foot since I made my Sanzo costume). Finally, what I usually do, is take it with a grain of salt. Pin your hair and gel it and dye it (temporarily) within an inch of its life, but don’t worry overmuch if it’s too long, or too short, or curly instead of straight. You’re just having fun; any one who starts to bug you about your costume really needs a life of their own. A tip: if you’re spray dying your hair, do it before you put on your costume. I didn’t, and the back of my Kenshin costume is now red on top of blue. And while it’ll likely wash out, you’ll still be spending the day with part of your wonderful cosplay the wrong color. The spray in dye also sometimes leeches onto clothing just by being in contact with it, so be careful. And make sure to give yourself lots of time to do hair, cause you’re never gonna get it just right the first time.

6) Go cosplaying in a group.

Oddly enough, this helps. It doesn’t improve the quality of your costume, obviously, but being with a group of friends that are just as oddly dressed as I am always makes me less self-concious.

So there you go! 6 Tips for cutting corners on cosplay. Note: there is an art to producing a brilliant cosplay in anything from 24 hours to 30 minutes. That’s a different skill set entirely, usually requiring many many years of cosplay experience (and leftovers), and I’ve not yet mastered it.


Seeing Ourselves in Their Eyes; Japanese Visions of the West

One of the many interesting things I notice about anime is how they see us. Just as Americans have stereotypes of Japanese (and just about everyone else), the Japanese have stereotypes about us. This doesn’t show up a whole lot, but every once in a while the viewer can see a flash of the West. Now I don’t mean Western influence in terms of Disney or anthing; I mean the tall, blond character who speaks bad Japanese and seems to carry a lot of guns for no apparent reason (sound familiar?). There are a lot of flashes of American culture that appear in Japanese anime, good or bad, but the two that always stick out in my mind are the sterotype of the loud, violent American, and Christianity being used as exoticism.

Mr. K, in all his American glory

The Japanese sterotype of an American is pretty involved. The American is often tall and blond – makes sense, more or less. The constant carrying of guns is a little bit odder. Japan has a complete ban on guns, unlike America, and they seem to think that just because it is possible for someone to own a gun, they do so, and they use the gun at any possible oppourtunity. Mr. K, the absolutely ridiculous American from Gravitation, once forces the main character out of his apartment (or something like that; the setup is rather irrelevant) by going to the opposite building, going out onto the balcony, and sniper-rifling at the main character. This is also while the family who own the balcony look on in absolute horror. Granted, this is a comedy show, but even then, none of the Japanese characters would ever do this. The last part of the Japanese sterotype, and this is rather subtle and rarely shows up, is that Americans cannot work with anyone; they are incapable of caring about someone else. Keep in mind that this is a very rare aspect of the sterotype. From what I’ve read, this part of the sterotype comes from a fundamental difference between Japanese and American culture. Japan is incredibly group oriented, with limited tolerance for people who are unique or different. America, on the other hand, is incredibly geared toward individuality and personal freedom, occasionally at the expense of the group or community. This translates, in the Japanese mindset, to Americans being completely individualistic, and thus utterly selfish.

Lilith, and the spear of Longinus, courtesy of Neon Genesis

The second Western item that seems to appear a lot is Christianity. By that I mean not someone being Christian, but when ‘mythology’ of Christianity is used in a story. Ironically enough, it is often used in the same way that a Western writer would use Buddhism or Hinduism – simply to make the story exotic, without paying all that much attention to what the religion is actually like. The best example of this would be Neon Genesis Evangalion. Putting aside whether or not this is a good show (I’m not even getting into that) the use of Judeo-Christian elements is interesting. The Angels, Adam, Eve, the Spear of Longinus, even hymn music during fight scenes, Eva uses all of these things and more. And oddly enough, it works. It makes the story seem to be even more of an epic than it is. However, this show uses Judeo-Christian ideas outside of any sort of context; if you try and understand them and try to apply these ideas into the belief system, you will fail. This appropriation of Christian ideas without context happens a fair amount; Cross is built around it, with slightly more coherency than Eva. Yami no Matsuei uses this trope in places as well, and lets not even get started on Angel Sanctuary. It’s too easy.

Now, I take no offense (usually) at either the sterotype of Americans (being an American) or the use of Christianity for flavor (as a Roman Catholic). I simply find it fascinating to learn how other people think of us.

Note: this article was written with no research or authority. In addition, just as the views and ideas expressed may not be characteristic of Cornell University, they may not be characteristic of some members of CJAS. Ja ne!

Manga Reviews

Manga Review: X|1999

Author: CLAMP, 1992 – 2003
Volumes: 18 (of a potential 21 if ever finished)

The year is 1999, and the millenium is coming to an end.

So is the world.

The seven Dragons of Heaven are the champions of humankind; while the seven Dragons of Earth fight for the planet, for the destruction of mankind to allow the Earth to live. Kamui is the key; he must choose between these two groups. But whatever he chooses, his own world will be torn apart…

X|1999 (X in Japan) is perhaps CLAMP’s most unrelentingly dark series (though Tsubasa‘s giving it a run for its money). Most everything in this manga is top-notch – the fight scenes, the plotline and magic, and especially the characters. This entire series is fascinating, but it is not for the squeemish. There is more than a little gore and violence. Still, the art is beautiful; heavy and relentlessly detailed.

The manga isn’t finished, and isn’t likely to be, but it’s beautiful even in its incompletion, rather like cherry blossoms in bloom, but soon to fall.

Shonen-ai Note: Some shonen-ai is present (two pairings in particular) but even these tend towards unhealthy obsession (in the spirit of the manga) rather than actual romance.

Continuity Note: Sequel to Tokyo Babylon and CLAMP School Detectives. Careful, though, because CLAMP School Detectives is as light as X|1999 is dark. (Emotional whiplash, very much.)

Anime Adaptation: Though I’ve never seen them myself, I believe that there are two different anime adaptations: OVAs and a series. I’ve heard mixed reviews, most probably stemming from the fact that the animes had to write thier own endings for the series. Also, I’ve heard that the anime and the OVA have completely different endings. On the other hand, the art seems to have transferred well from the clips I’ve seen, and the action scenes are a bit more dramatic with motion.