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Saturday, December 5, 2020

Cosplayers affected by COVID-19

What challenges have they gone through to keep up with their hobby?

Miranda Li cosplaying Sing Soo Ling from Banana Fish. at Seattle Chinatown-International District, during a night market, on Sept. 15, 2019. // Photo courtesy of Miranda Li.

By Sela Marino

Cosplaying is a fun way for people to dress as up as characters from their favorite shows, movies, comics, games, books and more.

The cosplay scene at Western seemed pretty small, according to Miranda Li, Sakura-Con volunteer and 2019 Western graduate. She hadn’t been too involved until last year when she joined Western’s Cosplay Club.

Cosplay comes from the words costume and play. While cosplayers can dress for any reason and occasion, they’re most often seen at conventions. However, due to COVID-19, many conventions have been canceled. These include San Diego Comic Con and Anime Expo, some of the biggest conventions in their respective categories on the West Coast. 

Emerald City Comic Con announced on March 6 that it would cancel for the time being and be postponed until August. Sakura-Con, the biggest anime convention in Washington, followed suit not long after. Both of these events are held annually at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle.

Li said she didn’t know much of what was going on, aside from the fact that many of Sakura-Con’s departments told staff they could sit out of this year’s con without penalty to their positions as staff members. 

“Up until the cancellation it did feel a bit frustrating to be playing the waiting game,” Li said. “I kind of saw it coming so when they finally announced that Sakura-Con was canceled, I was definitely sad but it was expected.”

Li said cosplayers enjoy what they do for different reasons.

“I originally got into cosplay because I wanted to dress up as my favorite characters,” Li said. “I suppose it started as a pastime hobby, but as I kept doing it and expanding my list of cosplays, I started to meet a lot of really cool people and built some good friendships.” 

Western’s Cosplay Club President, Tristan Moseley, said that he got into cosplay on a whim and has continued to pursue it.

Moseley said that he created the Cosplay Club at Western to interact with other cosplayers in the community and to give other cosplayers a place to work together.

Moseley has been running the Western Cosplay Club Discord server since the club started at the end of spring quarter last year, where members are able to share ideas, resources and troubleshoot problems they’re having.

“We can’t meet face-to-face since the campus is closed,” Moseley said. “We’ve had meetings on Discord over voice chat, but that’s it.”

Moseley said a few people will pop in and they’ll talk about what they’re working on, what they’re planning to start working on and how they’re doing.

In the Cosplay Club Discord server, people talk about how to make coats, aprons, armor, dresses, etc. or where to buy material. 

 Seattle cosplayer Shiloh Miyazaki said she mostly finds specific pieces of clothing at thrift stores or online and assembles them together to make complete cosplays. Miyazaki said she typically buys from stores like Joann Fabrics and Blink, and uses sites like Amazon and EZcosplay to buy material.

With store closures and some stores shifting to curbside pickup, shopping for materials has become a greater challenge. Li said she hasn’t had issues in terms of the materials department since she bought most of what she needed before COVID-19 started. However, if that were not the case, she would find it hard to get a hold of fabrics and other materials.

“I feel like when it comes to making your own cosplay, you really need to feel and see the material you’re thinking of using,” Li said. “Images don’t always show you what you get.”  Li said that shipping is also starting to become more difficult now because some supplies now take longer to arrive.

Li said that with conventions getting canceled, she was affected positively and negatively. Positively in the sense she has more time to work and less activities that take up her time. 

“As much as it hurts that many of the cons I was planning to go to got canceled, I don’t have to stress about ‘con crunch’ and getting my cosplays done,” Li said. “On the other hand, not being able to get together with my friends and doing photoshoots is rough.”

Con crunch is when someone waits until the last month, week or few days to finish their cosplay or other preparations for a convention.

Miyazaki didn’t have to go through ‘con crunch’ this year and was looking forward to showcasing her cosplay.

“I had just finished my latest cosplay for Sakura-Con when the convention was canceled,” Miyazaki said. “I don’t really do photoshoots, but I was really looking forward to the convention. I wear my cosplay around Seattle sometimes just for fun, and I can still do that even if I can’t go anywhere to really show it off.”

Li said she feels many other conventions that are having to cancel are going to lose revenue. As a result of this, they may not be able to do as much stuff next year because of lower budgets. 

“I also feel that if travel restrictions and social distancing remain in effect it’s gonna lead to more conventions getting canceled or rescheduled, not only for health concerns, but also lack of content to provide to attendees,” Li said. 

Miyazaki said she’s unsure how conventions will be affected for the remainder of 2020 and into 2021. 

“I hope some of the later ones will be able to happen, but it seems like coronavirus isn’t going anywhere, and conventions are unfortunately a great place for viruses to spread,” Miyazaki said.

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