September 22, 2015

My cosplay story – Self-esteem issues, dealing with hate & victories!

Hello there!

First of all, sorry for the long title I didn't really know what to name this post. Secondly, yes, I know very well that the whole topic of the cosplay hobby and its impact on someone's self-esteem both positively and negatively along with all the other issues that come with a hobby that focuses on visuals has been talked about, like, OVER NINETHOUSAAAND times already.
I still feel like it's a topic that is always on the top, always there lurking in the background and something that very likely affects everyone who ventures into this hobby, sooner or later. We all have our stories to tell.

Yes, I am writing to you today because I feel that it's about time that I share my own story about my cosplay journey and how it has left impacts on me. This won't be solely about the typical issues we face I will talk about some very personal things that are tied together to how it all came to be and why this hobby is now so important to me.

~ I really hope that you will take your time to read this. ~
Prepare a cup of your favorite drink because this won't exactly be a short read. ;)

But before I open up about what I've kept unspoken inside, I want to make sure that everyone is aware of a few important pointers, basically all of the opinions etc in this text are just my personal thoughts and experiences and are not to be taken as an all-encompassing absolute truth; I'm just rambling on about feelings I've had over my (cosplay) life and how they've had an impact on me as a person, how they've shaped me into who I am and all of that kind of stuff. This is all a very personal text and parts of it aren't even directly cosplay-related (but still relevant to the bigger picture) and yeah, it was really hard to write... and even harder to publish. I actually wrote most of this post a long time ago (we're talking about more than half a year here) but I just couldn't get myself to press the "publish" button; it was scary to reveal so much about myself.

So, with that cleared and out of the way I think it's time to creep under my skin and see what has been raging in there over the years. Follow with!

Okay so, first things first, which means that I'll start off with a bit of early con history for me I started cosplaying for real in late 2009 and the reason I say 'real' is because even before I "officially started" I had done a few clothes of some of my Original Characters and this was before I even knew what cosplay was. My first cosplays were from InuYasha and Bleach, respectively, and one of the reasons I chose to start with cosplaying from more well-known series –except for liking the showswas so that it would be fairly easy to meet and connect with new people.

The reason?
I had very few friends before I started with cosplay.

Yes, I'm one of them too one of those people who've had a harsh childhood and especially so doing school times. So yes, before I get to the cosplay part I first feel a need to tell a bit about my early life, to fill out some background information, so please bear with me.
You see, my first few school years I spent in southern Sweden in a school that was super chill, friendly, had a nice environment, was accepting of different people and even had a geeky feel to it. We were living the golden first age of Pokémon and the accompanying Trading Card Game, as well as the first Game Boy Color games – they were the craze in school. I was a part of the Pokémon boom too and came to terms with pretty much everyone who approached me. Many people would play with me during the breaks (both older and younger than me) and the word "bully" was something I didn't know existed.
But that luxury didn't last long some unlucky family matters happened, my parents divorced and moved hundreds of kilometers away from each other. I went with my mom up to a whole new town and dad stayed in my childhood town in the south. It hurt my little heart to choose with whom to go...

Little did I know that the school I would start in after summer vacation was the complete opposite of what I had been used to. Yes, I'm not even exaggerating when I say that the first day in my new school I was treated by my class as some exotic being because I was from the south and because I was new and had a different dialect; I was basically the "new kid in class" and so, because of it, everyone appeared super-friendly and played with me - they did everything I wanted.

- Why?
Because everyone were supposed to make me feel welcome. How fake and hurtful it would be later was of no concern I was just to be led into believing that they were my friends...

Oh, how much don't I regret being honest about my interests, being honest about who I was back then? I've realized long ago though that it never was my fault, but I've always wondered how it would have been had I not spoken those seemingly forbidden words - would everyone still had known me as 'that one kid'? That one person who was the perfect misfit?

Enough pondering of things that can't be changed now let's get back to the story. 
So, the first school day in my new school I was the naive blue-eyed kid who didn't even know that you could have enemies and that the enemies could be not only your class, but the whole school. I completely failed to see how deceitful and rotten people could be. 
I hadn't seen it coming at all; I had been used to an environment where being yourself was natural and perfectly okay and even expected of you that there existed no "wrong interests" that weren't even allowed to exist, to be spoken. Admitted. 

If I only had known, back then, that revealing what was my greatest interest would inevitably turn it into the greatest shame as well; that one and one word alone could peel away all my human worth in a flash.

It felt like I had met with a huge culture collision what was the most popular thing in one place was the lamest in the next.  
Needless to say that almost every single day since day one of the remaining years of my 9-year compulsory school (which were more than half) was a living hell. I was constantly getting my belongings destroyed, I was ridiculed, looked down upon, treated like air, laughed at whenever I turned, chosen last for group activities and just being constantly reminded that I was the odd one out. People would even steal my belongings and run away with them, steal and eat my pre-lunch snacks –which I had taken with me from homedirectly from my backpack etc. Also, when the teachers would pick groups I would always hear someone shouting out stuff like "eew no, not that one! Don't come into my group!" when my name was mentioned, accompanied by glances that made it clear that I was but poison to them.
Oh, and even though I somehow managed to avoid most physical violence I still got some of it. There was this one winter day when I was playing outside in the school's yard, behind two small storages, when out of nowhere a bunch of other guys came, pushed me so that I slipped on the ice and fell face down and then proceeded to gang up and shoot with some clubs, possibly floorball big lumps of ice and packed snow on me when I was lying all helpless on the ground. I don't know who they were or what they wanted I don't even know if they knew me. But I can tell that it hurt a lot and I'll never forget it. Teachers didn't lift a finger afterwards either and why was that? Because I never saw their faces, so they couldn't be identified how could I have seen them when the only option I had left, at that moment, was to wait out the assault? I had to keep my head down or I would have gotten a goddamn ice lump straight into my face...

The only times my classmates took contact with me was when they needed help with something that I excelled in; otherwise I didn't exist to them.

Even though I've gone through hell I still found a few golden corns in the dust; I managed to get myself two friends who were real to me, two friends who have helped me stand up and stay strong and never give up on who I really was. They accepted me early on and even today I am still in touch with them you know who you are. These two people whom, funnily enough, were born on the same day although not related by blood might not know it but they were my saving grace and safe net during most of my childhood. I can't even begin to thank them enough for not freezing me out after day one. It was very important to have someone who honestly cared, someone who wouldn't judge me based on a single difference; a difference that everyone else thought was the only factor that decided whether or not I was to be treated like an equal...

Okay, so I guess that will do for a description of my early life. No sugarcoating added.
I did leave school behind me with a lot of scars and trusting issues (I've had my fair share of fake friends and backstabbers) and this of course was visible when I started attending my very first few anime conventions I was very careful, distant, observant and I didn't really talk unless spoken to. I made sure not to trust anyone too fast because it was a mistake I had made back then way too many timesand it always hurt.

But I soon realized that pretty much everyone I talked to had experiences similar to those I was carrying - most of us had been victims of school bullying. In some way we all were the same.

I started to catch a glimpse of a pattern maybe there was a connection why people who were into the same basic things as I was were, for some reason, more likely to get shunned by society? 

But along the years I've also been forced to realize that everything had a dark side even those that seemed to be a safe haven at first. I started hearing and reading about convention & cosplay bullying and for the first few seconds it was almost too hard to believe until I remembered that humans are only humans in the end and that, in every community, there will be rotten apples and those who have a need to step on others to make themselves feel better.

But why does this happen in a safe community that already mostly consists of former victims to begin with? Why would anyone in their right mind want to hurt one of our own; most of us probably already carry deep scars from past experiences. Why do we have to damage the already damaged ones more and make a meant-to-be-safe environment unsafe by doing so?

There's many questions in life that I'll probably never stop asking and I'll likely never get answers to them either. Mankind works in mysterious ways...

Now that I've gotten that out of my chest I think that I can move on to tell about some of the thoughts and, later on, issues, that I've realized and faced along with this costuming hobby. But, first off, I think that I'm not too wrong in saying that cosplay is a visual hobby, right? I mean, in a way you are a walking piece of art while you're wearing your costume and trying to recreate a character and look as much like said character as possible. Then again, not everyone cares as much about accuracy and bringing the character to life. But I'd be lying to myself at least if I said that cosplay was not about visuals at all and well, with a visual hobby like cosplay you're bound to sooner or later run into a myriad of things that will make your self-esteem waver and shake especially if it was already shattered before you started this hobby. I'm definitely not saying that self-esteem only ever goes down with cosplay, oh no no! 
But just let me first talk about some of the issues I've faced along the way when I became more aware of where I was standing in this hobby and how it made me realize different things.

Before I started cosplaying I had very low self-esteem and confidence. I used to be that guy who couldn't even back up his own words to defend himself. I was so weak that it was ridiculous - I hated it and it made me hate myself even more, to the point that I stopped even trying to fight back hurtful words thrown at me. I shut myself out. Gave up. It was easier like that; to ignore them and hope they stopped.

If I only had been awesome enough to get rid of
the annoyances like this...
When I went to my first anime conventions everything was heaven people were kind, they complimented me and my costume and were actually genuinely interested in how I had made some parts of it etc. It made me feel like I was actually worth something and that I, maybe even more importantly, belonged to this community.
I got new friends and I am sure that after a few conventions under my belt and some completed costumes later I actually started to feel a weird feeling inside me... something I had barely even grasped at before.

I felt that I was maybe even beautiful.

I'm not saying this to fish for compliments or the whole "oh don't say that, you're pretty" jazz. I'm saying it because it's a true feeling I've had for most of my life believe it or not but I've pretty much never perceived myself as someone who looked decent.
I used to hate my mirror image still kinda do and I avoided cameras like the plague itself, for most of my life. I'm fairly sure that at least 16 years of my life I didn't give a flying shit about how I looked and that's because I was set on believing that it was a lost game since the day I was born; it also didn't help that one of the reasons I was bullied in school was because I was different in both interest and looks. No one saw me as attractive, not even close. I was the so-called ugly and different guy and I wasn't exactly thin or athletic back then either which didn't help my self-image. 
But since I started cosplaying I've had to come to terms with my looks and even try to do something about them why did I otherwise take up a hobby that requires you to stand in front of a camera and look confident?

I had to start caring about what I looked like and I had to find ways to make myself look at least a little bit representative and similar to the character I was portraying. I had to do it even if it meant telling lies to myself until I actually started believing in them.

Cosplay made me start to pay serious attention to my looks and yeah, by that I also mean that I had to learn how to use makeup I'm up for some hard shit and finding photo angles that would make those few good traits –which I was actually content with lessen the focus on the myriad of problem areas I had. 
There was a lot of learning and trial & error ahead and I slowly started to think that "hey, maybe this is the thing for me!" because, after all, at this point cosplay had given me so much joy and positivity that I had been missing in life; it had filled out that empty hole of disappointment, anxiety and hopelessness that had been inside me for all this time. I somehow needed this hobby to survive and now I had to do my best to keep it up. To keep my breathing hole open.

But at some point, when I had grown confident enough in myself, I had also started doing one of the common mistakes I saw photos of so picture-perfect cosplayers (photoshopped or not) that I couldn't help but comparing themselves to me, unconsciously or consciously. And then, I started to see that seemingly even in cosplay it played a big part whether you were attractive or not cosplayers who had a pretty face/body and a nicely crafted cosplay were often much more popular than someone who only had the nice cosplay and not all of the admirable physical traits. 
I suddenly felt insignificant. Discouraged. Almost disgusted with my realization.

Why did our society's forced-down-the-throat beauty standards have to have such a notable role in this faraway hobby too?

Then again, I should have seen it coming the standards are bound to bleed into cosplay and everything else that we do as well; there is no escaping it. The more mainstream cosplay becomes, the more likely it is to be corrupted by mainstream standards as well.
Cosplay is maybe even as much about building a social community with like-minded people as it is about practicing the (visual) hobby, so it's kinda bound to happen that people in and outside of it will, at some point, start to categorize and rank other cosplayers based on more than just their costuming skills alone. If you weren't good-looking you had a harder time getting acknowledged for your superb crafting skills; same thing if you happened to have the "wrong skin color for the character" or something else that you can't control that the armchair critics could flame you for.
All the beauty standards etc do have a strong hold on us thanks to advertising, television, and media; we are exposed to them all the time, everywhere, and, whether we want it or not, we are formed by it until we realize something is off and break free. Needless to say that all the images and whatnot that we've been constantly fed with since the day we were born will affect us, even in cosplay; the tightly boxed standards of attractiveness will be right there and, unless you fit nicely into them, they will remind you that you might have to work twice as hard as someone 'prettier' just to be considered a "good cosplayer". 
Even if the cosplay community strives to be a welcoming safe place, at least on the outside, we still can't escape the world around us just by being a part of something that is considered very different – the "normal standards" will still enter together with each new community member.
We aren't safe anywhere from being judged, having others assume things about us and being valued differently based on our physical appearance, sadly – the world is not that good of a place yet. But we should work on making our way there.
I could go on and on about this but that's for a different topic so I'll leave it at that you get the drift.

Society has already done enough harm to the whole body image issue and it would be much better if we could, somehow, keep it out of the cosplay community.

But yeah, wish thinking right there. Seeing my dear hobby having this "who is pretty and not pretty will determine how far you can get"-crap applied to it as well (that I had wanted to escape when I started cosplay) didn't sit quite right with me at first and, for a moment, it honestly felt bad. It wasn't what I wanted out of this hobby that tends to market itself as something that everybody can do and enjoy – I just wanted to have fun without the fear of being compared to whoever had done the costume better than me or who was blessed with prettier genes than me... or both.

It didn't matter what you identified as - all had the same thing going on; if you wanted to become recognized for your work then you seemed to need a bit more than just an amazing cosplay or a well-crafted suit of armor.
Suddenly my favorite hobby had turned into a beauty contest.

My feelings in a nutshell.
I had started to become very self-conscious; suddenly all my flaws were at least ten times more obvious and they all were glaring at me! What was just a fun crafty hobby -that was all about being a geek in a costume appreciating and showing love towards the source material- had now turned into a constant sea of fear and being painfully aware of everything that was wrong with my body... and my costume.

It wasn't enjoyable to pose in front of the camera anymore. When someone asked for my photo the only thing I felt was horrible discomfort and anxiety - I was always painfully aware that the photo could so easily look unflattering.

I had started to know how to photograph myself and I knew what angles I had a better chance of appearing decent in, but trusting someone else with the camera was as horrific as it was crucial to get a bigger variation on my photos; it had to happen at some point I had to spread out. 
I was harsh on myself and every time a photo was especially bad I just wanted to fall through the floor. My self-esteem would sink rock bottom. I didn't want to believe that the hideous stranger on some of the photos was how I could look in the eyes of someone else that it was real. It couldn't be the same person, not now when I had finally started coming to terms with the guy who looked back at me from the mirror after all these years! 

The more I thought I looked good one day, the more I crashed when there was a bad photo of me on the next.

Cosplay was like fuel for the anxiety and in 2014, as well as most of 2015, believe it or not but I was several times feeling so bad about it all that I considered quitting cosplay altogether and not even going to any cons and, if I did anyway, then I would either go in my casual clothes or only cosplay characters that were hiding every part of me that I was at war with.

I also had the misfortune of ending up on a horrible site because of a chain of events where I did nothing wrong that criticized, ridiculed, laughed at and dehumanized both me, my personal life as well as my cosplays. It was disheartening to say the least; everything confidence included that I had built up along the years was dented deeply just because some internet asshole wanted to start drama and bring in the popcorns on the expense of a real human being.
Did I really deserve getting those completely tasteless rude comments and being dehumanized to the point of being an object, an 'it'? It's seemingly so easy to hate behind the screen under a safe anonymous identity, knowing that no one can pin you down for your disgusting behavior...
I'm not gonna lie I utterly despise these kind of heartless, cowardly and emotionless humans with no conscience of what is right and wrong. Those who laugh and bark down on others to up themselves are of the most pitiful kind and karma should get them in the end.
Sure that cosplay is an art form and everyone appreciates art differently; you will never be able to please everyone. But that doesn't give you the right to be a full-fledged jerk who left all their common sense at the door. Some people will also say that by putting yourself out on the internet, clad in cosplay for all the world to see, that you're asking for it

One hundred times no.

No one deserves hate for something that they do for their own enjoyment and, especially, not for something that doesn't harm anyone. Ever. 
Little does whoever spews a hateful comment online or in real life realize how much of a long-term effect it could have left on the victim; it could leave a scar that won't ever fade completely. A few bad words could linger on for a lifetime, if uttered during a fragile moment or to a sensitive person, and that's not okay it's never okay.
Sure that "internet is a cruel place" and all that but someone, please, tell me why said sentence seems to justify for some that it's okay to be a human shithole and add to it? Stop cosplay hate in the end we are all humans, in costumes, having a good time. 

We all have different tastes but really, everyone should have been taught the golden rules on how to be a good human being:

1. Do to others what you want them to do to you.
2.  If you don't like, don't look.
3. If you don't have anything nice to say then say nothing at all.

Why would anyone in their right mind want to make the world a bad place? There is already so much cruelty out there, we don't need it to infect our hobbies too...

Being rude only shows everyone else that you are the one, who, inside, is the ugliest of them all.

Basic respect is the key to a better world and you know what? In the end anonymous hateful comments are those that have absolutely zero worth to you – that's what you should tell yourself. Because seriously, why should you let yourself be tossed around, affected by and stepped on by some faceless stranger, who is too much of a coward to tell their opinion face-to-face anyway? Why should they get to feel powerful by making you give up on what you love doing; why should you even consider letting the haters win?
If you enjoy hurting others, for your own pathetic amusement, then you're pretty wrong in the head and need some serious help. Haters inflating their own ego and getting kicks out of laughing at innocent people achieve only one thing in this life – the achievement of being a disgrace to all of humanity.
Don't misunderstand me though; constructive criticism for example is perfectly fine when asked for but, if no one wanted or asked for it, then fucking don't automatically proceed to shove it down someone's throat and think that it's okay. That just makes you a jerk, period. Don't crash someone's happiness because it didn't please your eyes. There's also a big difference in constructive feedback (when wanted) and just pure hate.
And I don't think that people who actually are more experienced than you at cosplay are the ones who talk shit online like they have no tomorrow and no life; experienced cosplayers should know better than pressing down and shit-flicking on those still learning. It's more likely to be those who can't do better or who don't even cosplay who are the ones barking. It's always easier to judge and talk bad about someone when you haven't been in their shoes, now isn't it?
Think about it – every time you do or say something mean to someone else (for example: spill very personal information about them or create lies to give them a bad reputation), would you like it if someone did the exact same thing to you, or worse?? Probably not, am I right? Then don't do hurtful things to others either – it's as simple as that.
Wake up, World.

And I will tell you one thing – ever since that one horrible event I haven't had many a day when the words thrown at me (and the rest that was done to me) haven't come back into my mind, like a ghost from the past. I have decided to move on –to not let them bring me down anymore– but doing such disgusting injustice towards a single person is just plain wrong and sickening on so many levels. Nothing made me deserve being exposed like that. It's something that I can't pretend never happened. It leaves a lasting scar, even though it healed.
I urge everyone to think before they act
– the laugh you get from ridiculing someone (online or in real life) might last no more than 5 minutes and then you move on to the next thing to do, but the victim you made fun of will likely bear the memory and the pain much longer than they should ever need to. Much longer than you, the bully, will ever remember. 
And it can burn and haunt the victim's mind.
Every. Single. Day.

So yeah, let's backtrack a bit back to the visual anxiety of cosplay. I know, this post is getting long.
At one point I was indeed weakened again, for various reasons, and I kept thinking that it was for the better that I would just take at least a break from cosplaying and going to anime conventions; I was nearing the burnout and the hopeless feeling crawled back in I didn't want to participate in something that would end up focusing so much on if you were lucky with the genetic lottery or not, and if you were deemed good enough as a cosplayer to please every single fucking pair of eyes out there.
I just didn't feel any kind of excitement and joy towards cosplaying and attending cons; it was as if the little flame of hype, which I had felt in my early cosplay years, had died down and was nowhere to be found. But at the same time I knew that if I didn't go to any cons I would just feel bad anyway, as well as let the fear win aided by the multiple pressures or not.

I still ended up going to conventions almost as if nothing had happened but all along I was trying to not let it show that, maybe most of all, I just wanted to run and hide somewhere far away. Somewhere where no cameras could target me and no eyes could spot me and possibly see what I thought was wrong with me.

If we skip forward to more recent times then I've been dealing with these thoughts on and off but I pulled through it all in the end. Sort of.
After all the bad feelings, short-comings, failures and pressures I've arrived at the conclusion that there is no point in dwelling over what hurts you, maims you, whether it be the demons within your head or someone else who is playing the demon. There is nothing good coming out of comparing your costumes to those of someone who has been into the hobby for much longer and thus has more experience the only thing it will do is crumble your self-confidence.
There isn't any good in listening to those who judge and talk bad about you without offering any helpful advice either. Why would you worry about your skill level and compare yourself to others when you can spend that time to make new costumes and improve? We shouldn't be too harsh on ourselves and neither to newcomers in the hobby; with cosplay you learn a lot just by doing and trying. No one starts as a professional and I personally think that the biggest personal success is when you can, along the years, notice notable improvement on your costuming skills!

No one knows the best tricks from the start. We all learn through mistakes and successes; all those things we made in the past are there to remind us that we have improved.
That said – never talk shit about someone who is still learning, and the truth is that we never stop doing just that. The whole life is a learning process, whether it's about cosplay or something completely different. The day you stop learning is the day you die.

I've had some wonderful people help me with fighting off these bad thoughts when they resurfaced and overwhelmed me and I'm really thankful about the encouragement given; sometimes when everything feels dark it's an amazing feeling to know that you still have friends, who love you exactly as you are, and who will always hold your back even when you can't stand up by yourself anymore.

I am still not completely over it all but I'm trying to treat all the remaining issues, each in the way that it is needed; I'm trying to change my lifestyle to be a bit healthier I'm a horrible sweet tooth and start working out more seriously and, maybe most importantly, I'm also trying to tell myself that no one shall ever dictate how and why I cosplay, ever!

I'm trying not to let the visual pressure of a visual hobby get me down too much but, at times, it's still hard; I just never had that much of self-confidence to begin with, even though, for some people I've met, I seemingly come off as the opposite...? This is also why I'm happy about every single positive comment and compliment that I get and that's because kind words are the best cure to lifting up a new and stronger you out of the ruins. So even if I don't always answer, know that I am grateful to each and every one of you. ♡
I cosplay for my own joy and enjoyment, but I wouldn't have gotten this far without your support and neither would I have met so many wonderful souls. 

I'm not striving to get anywhere really far and become popular in this hobby, it's not my goal - my goal is to spend my time doing something that I love and genuinely enjoy doing. Any positive attention that I get along the way I take as a bonus, but it's not the driving force for why I am into this hobby - I cosplay because it gives me joy in life, friends, a purpose to put my creativity to the test as well as a way to express my love for some of my favorite characters.  

Cosplay is a splash of color in my everyday life.


Oops, I hope I even make sense and that this all wasn't for nothing. I know that it's probably heavy to read through, but I'm just a human and affected by negative spirals just as well as everyone else and hey, I thought it better to get it out of my head instead of keeping it all inside. I probably forgot to mention a lot of things too...

It was really really hard to write this all down and show it to the world, honestly. No joke.
Did anyone even read all of it...? *hands over a virtual cookie*

But, in the end I want to mention that I wouldn't trade this hobby for anything and neither would I change the experiences that I've had.
What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.
 I am not ashamed of who I am and neither should anyone else be ashamed of who and what they are. Show the world that you roll in your own confident way and if someone has a problem with that then they can gladly go, take their stinky attitude with them and roll in the opposite direction. Haters are but a waste of your breath, so pay them no mind they don't deserve to affect even a second of your life. You're too precious to be hurt.

I've learned so much thanks to cosplay I've gotten so many golden memories, more confidence in many ways, I've gotten a driving force to strive to better my crafts and creativity and show it off and, most of all, I wouldn't even be the person I am today had I not ventured into this wonderful hobby. Sure that life itself can be superficial at times (and a bitch! But if life is easy then you're doing it wrong, haha) and passing hardships will eventually strengthen you, even if they almost crush you to dust at first. If we focus on what we enjoy instead of what we can't change so much about something that we love, then we will be happier and content with who we are and what we do.

Cosplay for most of us is a hobby, not a profession; no one should feel forced to master all the arts that some people might deem "needed to be a great cosplayer" that's bullshit. One would have to be pretty deluded to expect that every single cosplayer needs to be a flawless master at acting, modeling, knowing fabrics, sewing, crafting, hair styling, choreography, video/photo editing, stage presence, makeup, theatrics, woodwork, painting, pattern drafting, material uses, electronics, problem solving, photography etc. One can simply not expect a cosplayer to excel equally in all of the professions possibly included within this hobby that's plain unrealistic.

In the end, every hobby we take on, usually boils down to entertainment and enjoyment we all should also remember that, if it stops being fun, then you need to take a step back and see where the knot is along the rope and straighten it out again.
No one has the right to tell you that you're doing it wrong. The only person's judgement you should listen to in the end it is your own.

Long live cosplay!

September 13, 2015

Kenshin cosplay ramblings and herpderp sword

Hello everyone!

I've kinda semi-promised earlier on at least my Facebook Page that I would cosplay Kenshin this summer but, well, I didn't. Sorryyyy. Some of you maybe wonder why and today I thought that I'll show you guys what made it so that Kenshin got pushed back!

You see, several years back or so I got a sword from Hitsu, a very good friend of mine.
It's a sakabatou (reverse bladed sword) that she had originally planned to use for her Kenshin cosplay but, well, when the sword arrived she was very disappointed in the quality. :/ She didn't want to use it and so it had just been lying around at her place. Later on I mentioned having an interest in cosplaying Kenshin as well – and she just gave me the blade for free. 
I wondered if it was really as shitty as she said and so I pulled it out of the sheath. It probably didn't take more than a few seconds until it became obvious that this sword was so crappily made that I didn't know if I should laugh or cry; it looks so cheap that I don't even have words for it, seriously. I still thought that I could use it as a base and modify it to be usable for my cosplay, so I kept it with that in mind.
This sword was lying around in my apartment for a couple years before I figured out what to do with it. At one point, earlier this year, I unsheathed it to check if it was really as bad as I remembered and yes, it still was. But this time I saw that some random brownish spots had appeared on the blade – they hadn't been there before!

Brown spots...
Still the brown spots but shown in a different light.
I'm unsure if these spots were rust or whatnot; they seemed to be only on the very surface (on both sides) and they just suddenly appeared out of nowhere, even though the sword had been in the same room for years. I have no idea what the blade is made out of; if it's stainless steel it shouldn't be able to rust...?
Whatever it was I did some quick research – I read somewhere online that rubbing it with some iron wool should get rid off it. I didn't give a shit if the blade would get scratched because this thing looks like shit to begin with and well, some scratches would just make it look a little bit cooler. Battle damage, heheh...
Some iron wool rubbings later the brownish color had gone but you could still tell where the spots had been. It was as if I had only rubbed the surface color away and you could still see, on the damaged area, where the spots had been because the contours of their placements were intact. Err? I don't know how to explain.
I should maybe mention that the only area of the blade that got affected was the part that's the closest to the habaki (blade collar) and like, maybe 15 cm into the blade.

But that brown surprise problem was the smallest of my issues with this sword. The thing is that this sword is so poorly constructed that it doesn't even deserve to be called a sword – it's a wall hanger at best. But yeah, as soon as you pull it out you'll notice that something will do a moving/rattling sound as soon as the blade part is out of the sheath and not supported by it. I don't really know how to explain all the things that are wrong with this waste of metal – but I'll at least try.
The most notable problem is that the tsuba (guard) can be turned and spun around at least one quarter around itself. The habaki jumps around and you have to "click" it in place by pressing on its side every time it jumps out of its proper position. The tsuba is doomed to always be off-centered too and well, it looks retarded to say the least...

But instead of trying to explain every single thing that's wrong I'll just show some photos now! I hope that the whole "a picture tells more than a thousand words" is true in this case... x)

Off-centered tsuba. It's easy to notice if you look at the non-detailed
oval golden part in the middle. You can see where the hole is and how much
the habaki part is off the mark.
This is what almost always automatically happened as soon as you took the sword
out of the sheath; everything would just go out of their proper positions.
This thing is not solid...
This photo and the photo below it shows me turning the tsuba with my thumb.
Notice how much it turns out of position!
(the blade part turns a bit with it but not the handle itself)
The blade also turns ridiculously much! Compare the blade's position
with the handle. It's waaaay off.
Seeing the sword doing all of these derpy moves made me wonder how the heck I'm supposed to work with this thing. I then started wondering what it actually looked like under it all...
And so I decided to take this sucker apart! Solve the mystery!

First I took off the kashira, the end pommel, by hitting it with a hammer. It came off by itself after a few strikes. I just lifted it off and was met by the sight of the photo above.
I rolled off the hex nut thingy with my bare hands and lifted the ring under it after that. I then just pulled out the tsuka (handle) and I was greeted by an underwhelming view... to say the least.

Hello, rat tail.
I was expecting to find a rat tail and that's what I found. Poor quality decoration swords like this one are pretty much never full tang. These "rat tail swords" are outright dangerous if you swing them around. I cringe every time I see an obvious wall hanger being sold as a "battle-ready sword", by the way. And I cringe even more when some uneducated person buys a shitty sword like this and starts swinging it around, thinking that it's gonna hold up to the action, and then the blade breaks and just flies off in whatever random direction it feels like flying off to and, well, fucks someone up.

But yeah, as I mentioned earlier I was aware all along that this was a bad quality sword and the reason I took it apart was so that I could possibly fix whatever was wrong with it. I would just keep the main blade part itself and then modify the rest of the pieces – or make new ones from scratch since, well, the tsuba for example doesn't look anything like Kenshin's.

This is just to show that the tsukamaki ends were just... glued in place, randomly. Eh.
The hole that the rat tail was in...
The main issue became obvious as soon as I had separated all the pieces and saw the naked blade – I mean, just look at this weird asymmetrical disaster from hell!

That explains why the habaki was living its own life and why the tsuba could spin as it did!
I need to somehow come up with a way to make the whole thing at the very least symmetrical. But I don't have any tools that makes it possible for me to work with metal and, well, currently I'm a bit at a loss with how to do this whole thing anyway. I need to think what options I have and yes, when I found this out it was also decided that Kenshin would have to be postponed to possibly next year; going as Kenshin without his signature sword is a no-no for me – I need to solve this crap first.
I do wonder if I could possibly use something to build on top of the metal, to make it symmetrical... but I'm unsure what material would be a good choice. Hrmm...

But if we detach ourselves from the sword project for a while I do have almost everything else ready for my Kenshin cosplay; I only need to fix the wig (add wefts and style it) –besides the sword– and I'll be done!
I did a super quick outfit test-run just to see what it looked like. I'm not wearing the wig because it's not done and well, I couldn't find it lol. I might wear a different white juban under for the actual cosplay, it depends.

This doesn't show the real color of the kimono, but close enough...
I didn't want to go with the anime's cerise pink kimono; I wanted something a bit calmer. I've seen that Kenshin's kimono changes colors a lot, depending on what picture you're looking at – it can be anything from the aforementioned cerise pink to a deep red. My fabric is some mix between coral pink and watermelon pink... I guess. xD It's really hard to describe colors!
I wanted to have a light colored kimono since my wig is a light-ish orange. I'm gonna be pastel!Kenshin lol.

That's all I have for now!

September 7, 2015

[Sponsored] Lens review: TheDollyEye Lathae BD20 Blue

Hello everybody! ~

I have a new circle lens review up in store today! ^_^
It's time to review the TheDollyEye Lathae BD20 Blue lenses! This pair was sponsored by the ever-so-lovely LensVillage, be sure to check them out – they're one of my favorite lens stores online and they have a wide array of circle lenses to choose from! ♡ 

My reviews are always 100% my honest opinion.

You can use my discount code "SAMURAI15" to get 15% OFF on your purchase from LensVillage!

Base curve: 8.6 mm
Diameter: 14.5 mm
Water content: 38%
Life span: 1 year (I recommend 6 months)

This might sound silly but ever since the first time I saw the Lathae series I dubbed them the "fish lenses", hahah. The reason for this is because every time I look at the design of the lenses I always think that it looks like there's small fishes drawn in that are swimming around the lens. x) Or it's just my imagination powered by my love for fishes...

LensVillage sends their shipments in those plastic Flexipack bags, by the way. The lenses are always wrapped safely in foam and for every lens you buy you get a free lens case with your purchase. This time I got an animal lens case but I've gotten other types of cases too. :) With every order you also get one of those social media contact/business cards with; the card currently advertises for the Instagram selfie contest but on the back there's also a discount code for returning customers. ^_^ Don't throw it away, it's useful!

This is what came in the mail!
Okay so, as per usual, I put the lenses to soak for the recommended time before wearing them.

The first time I wore these they went on without any big problems. Once they settled into my eyes I didn't feel them much. I wore them for 3,5 hours while playing video games non-stop, aka staring at a screen; at times the lenses would irritate my eyes and twice or so my eyes got watery. The lenses occasionally stung a little and after around 2 hours I considered taking them off, but as soon as I went to the bathroom they miraculously felt good again. These lenses seem kinda random when it comes to comfort! Sometimes they will irritate my eyes or do the whole "temporarily dry lens feeling" but then, out of nowhere, it would just switch over to me barely noticing the lenses for the next 30 minutes.

One lens in, notice enlargement.
It's a bit hard to see on the photo but my real eye color is a light blue-gray with a greenish tint.
But seriously, these lenses are gorgeous! owo I remember having wanted to try the Lathae series for a while and it feels great to finally get to do it! I was expecting them to look amazing and they surely do! When worn the lens design looks a bit like a swirl and it's so cool ~
The blue color is amazing too! It appears as a nice medium to darkish blue, depending on the light, and it's wonderful. *_* Oh, and the enlargement effect is great too! These lenses actually appear a bit bigger than what I first thought they would.

Lens photos ahead!
All photos are taken by me, during a September evening with a semi-cloudy sky. There's no color filters or such and that's so that the colors would be as true to real life as possible.

Facing the window in my apartment. (always sunside)
Apartment room light, natural. (lamps off)
Flash photo indoors.
Bathroom light.
Bathroom light again.
White corridor light.
Yellow staircase light.
Outdoors, facing the wall. (back against sun)
Outdoors sitting under the roof's shadow, facing the sun.
Outdoors facing the sun directly.
Outdoors facing the building's corner. (back against sun)
Facing the little window on the door leading outside (staircase).
The second time I wore these lenses they were comfortable for the first hour and then I started feeling them in my eyes and the dry feeling kept going on and off. I wore the lenses for about three hours this time, but I could have worn them for maybe one hour more or so. Eyedrops are your friend with these if you plan to wear them for a longer period!
In other words – comfort is not the best ever (at least for me), but they are wearable.

I'm finding myself really liking the Lathae Blue and I would recommend lovers of blue circle lenses to give them a try! These should work wonders for cosplayers and others who like to use colored lenses to enhance their looks!

Lastly a couple distance photos!

Want to see more Lathae lens reviews?
Check these out: Brown

Psst, discount code "SAMURAI15" saves you 15% OFF on your purchase from LensVillage!

Short summary:

Color: 9/10
I love the blue color, it's one of my favorite blue shades! Looks really good!
Design: 8/10
Amazing pattern that stands out and gives depth to your gaze. Looks almost a bit magical with its swirly "swimming fishes" design, haha.
Opacity: 8/10
I would say that the colored area on these lenses is opaque. Towards the pupil hole it fades off a little.
Enlargement: 6/10
These appear bigger than I thought!
Comfort: 5/10

Comfort seems to be average, although very random. At times the lenses irritate and temporarily feel dry on my eyes and then a bit later it feels like I don't even have contacts on.
Naturalness: 2/10
The print and color are too obvious for these to look realistic but hey, I love these lenses just for that.

That's all! If you have any questions about the lenses just leave a comment ~
Thank you so much, LensVillage! ♡
Shiro Samurai out.

September 6, 2015

Photoshoot: Jason Voorhees from Friday the 13th series!

Hello guys!

Before Närcon this year I asked around online if some cosplayers were interested in having a free photoshoot with me; I'm currently trying to improve my (newbie) photography skills and, because of this, I'm offering free photoshoots so that I'd get both the experience and some portfolio examples for the future of different photos I've taken. :) I got some response pre-Närcon but most fell through in the end, mainly because of bad weather but also a few because of no contact. One of the guys I did get a hold of during the con was Stefan, aka Bygg Cosplay, who actively kept in touch with me both before and after the photoshoot he even called me while I was eating at McDonald's close to midnight before the con, that's saying a lot about how much he wanted the photoshoot. xD
Stefan cosplayed the shady Jason Voorhess and we had decided already in advance to wait for nightfall before I took the camera in hand. Shooting at night didn't come without difficulties though, but we managed by being creative and looking for light sources that we could use.
We took a few photos the following morning too, but the main part of our photoshoot was on the first night.

I must admit that I'm normally not a fan of scary/horror movies and games etc but I still had a blast photoshooting Stefan as Jason. He was kind, easy to work with and even suggested what kind of photos he wanted – which helped me a lot because I had no prior knowledge of his character.
It was a great learning experience to figure out how to get a creepy touch to the photos etc and I definitely enjoyed it! Sometimes it's good to go a bit outside your usual comfort zone just to learn something new and open up yourself for more possibilities and variety! Thank you Stefan!

So now –with Halloween slowly creeping closer– I present to you my second part of the hey-I'm-doing-cosplay-photography-as-well series! Enjoy!
The first part of my photoshooting journey you can see here ~

Cosplayer: Bygg Cosplay
Photographer & photo editor: Shiro Samurai

I'm sorry I don't know the name of the first guy who volunteered to be "Jason's victim". :( The second guy who's being strangled on the daytime photos is Hjallecalibur.

I would really appreciate to hear if you folks out there would like me to keep up with these kind of cosplay photography posts? Is it something you want to see on my blog in the future as well?

Thanks for viewing! ^_^
Shiro Samurai says bye bye ~