Special interview with Tsupo, representative of the UK ECG Group team. Tsupo chats to us all about Japan Expo, the benefits of group cosplays and how to pursue your cosplay talents!
How did you first become involved with cosplay?
I started watching anime from quite an early age but mostly kept it to myself, until one of my friends from college invited me to come with them to MCM expo, there I started meeting cosplayers and eventually started myself.
What is your favourite cosplay and why?
My favourite cosplay to wear is probably Kise Ryōta from Kuroko no Basuke. I adore his character, as well as loving the series, and I always have a good time with my friends when we cosplay from it. However, a lot of hard work went into making Mahmut from Shoukoku no Altair so he probably comes in close second.
What inspires you to choose your next cosplay?
It depends really. Most often I’ll see a character design that I like- then watch/read/play whatever it may be, and then if I like it, I’ll cosplay from it. Ultimately it comes down to really loving a series or character, or both!
When you’re not cosplaying or at a convention, what can we find you doing?
If I’m not at University, then I’m usually with friends! I enjoy going out with a few drinks, but I enjoy seeing shows, galleries, exhibitions, theatre and anything interesting I can find going on in London. When I have time I make my own clothes and working freelance: helping with bridesmaid’s dresses, designing for small independent hair or accessory designers and whatever work I can find. Of course, I love shopping (and spending money) too!
Of course, I watch anime, read manga and play games too. My favourites at the moment are Magi: the Labyrinth of Magic, Kuroko no Basuke and Shingeki no Kyojin. I adore JRPGs like Nier and Lost Odyssey. I also play the Clarinet, tenor saxophone and guitar. After I had passed grade 8, I took part in several Jazz bands and orchestras. I enjoy going to concerts and listening to music as well.
How did you feel when you were selected as a UK representative? Did you do anything to celebrate?
I was totally shocked. It wasn’t expected, with all the really great cosplayers that we competed against. After it had sunk in, I was excited; I couldn’t wait to start working on cosplay again. It was during exam time, so I didn’t really have time to celebrate, but we went out for dinner with some friends after the event which was really nice.
Who are you cosplaying for Japan Expo in July?
For the finals we’ve decided to do Frodo and the Witch King again from LOTR. We’re making several new props, prosthetics, a costume change and a new performance! After a long time deciding, we chose to wear LOTR again rather than a new costume because we had loads of ideas that we didn’t have time for during the prelims. We’re essentially putting as much effort in as making two whole new costumes, but because of the huge amount, financially and time wise, we had already spent on the costumes, we wanted to improve them and put them to good use again!
We’re also big long term fans of LOTR. It was difficult not being excited to do it again, especially with the Hobbit being released.
What was the most challenging part of this cosplay to make?
There wasn’t really one specific challenging part of the cosplay. It was difficult achieving the standard I had set myself throughout the whole process- trying to imitate costumes made by professionals is a lot more difficult than the typical Japanese anime an gaming cosplays I’d made previously. Researching was probably the most time consuming; I’d cut my own patterns from blocks but finding exactly what fabrics had been used- the shape, size, seams, top stitching, buttons, lining- all of that was sourced so that I could imitate exactly how Weta had made the clothes. Clood’s cosplay was also very challenging, too. Each Ring Wraith had 6 layers of robes individually designed with different fabrics, weathering, embroidery, trim and details in the movies. As there was no accessible detailed information on the Witch King’s costume, I had to design and pattern cut each layer of robe myself and we designed the embroidery based on some of the Rohan concept art.
My Mithril Mail was also very time consuming. I hand wove over 10,000 tiny aluminium rings which was 50+ hours work. The collar was challenging as well- using expensive materials such as gold leaf and Swarovski crystals for the details meant that I had very little room for error!
How are you feeling about the finals approaching in July?
I’m feeling very excited. We still have some parts left to finish, but hopefully everything will go very smoothly. Unfortunately because my course at uni is so demanding, I’ve had a lot of problems making time to work on cosplay up to and during my exams. Thankfully Clood has been very supportive and we’ve have been quite organised and have worked around my time issue as best we can.
What are you most looking forward to about Japan Expo?
Definitely meeting the other contestants. It’s going to be amazing getting up on stage in front of 15,000 people, but I really can’t wait to see what the rest of the European cosplayers bring to Japan Expo. Spending time and meeting new people is definitely going to be the highlight of my weekend and I hope I’ll come back to London with some new friendships.
How was the decision made to cosplay with Clood?
We met years ago at a small convention through a mutual friend. We started spending more time together when we realised we had so many common interests, and I found Clood to be such a friendly, caring and easy-going person to be around that I couldn’t help but want to cosplay more and more with her. I can vaguely remember we were watching LOTR together. My mother had made a joke about me being short and fat enough to be a hobbit- and so an epic journey began…
What are the benefits of group cosplays?
In my opinion, cosplaying with a partner or group is always the best. Whenever I have any problems or stresses- Clood is there to pick me up and cheer me up, and we bounce ideas off each other. Making cosplay is never a chore because we’re spending time together as friends and working towards a goal together. Many things that should be tedious or stressful end up being fun when we’re messing around and having a laugh.
Any tips or advice for others looking to start a dynamic duo?
My advice would be to partner up with a friend that you trust and genuinely care about. Clood and I are close friends out of cosplay too- she’s there for me when I have life and love problems and recently even stayed up the whole night to help me with my last uni deadline. It’s so much more fulfilling when you’re achieving with a great friend, and the process is much easier when you can be yourself and have a good time.
You have won cosplay awards and have a strong social media following, but do you see cosplay as a professional career, or as a hobby?
My personal opinion is that cosplay is purely a hobby. For me, I think it’s important to keep a healthy balance between non-cosplay life- to have lots of different friends and interests in lots of different areas as well as cosplay. I have lots of ambitions that I would like to fulfil in a professional career after university, but cosplay is a treat to encourage me to stay motivated and organised if I’ve been successful and working hard on my course. I work hard and try my best in cosplay but I never take it too seriously otherwise it would suck all the fun out of doing it!
What advice would you give to others looking to pursue a professional career through there cosplay talents?
As brilliant as cosplay is- it’s important to remember not many professional workplaces or individuals consider cosplay very highly compared to formal education. If you’d like to pursue a professional career in costume or prop design- definitely go for it! But be prepared to work hard and my advice is to find placements or take short courses that look great on your CV so you can produce a portfolio with interesting work that isn’t just cosplay. I’ve had to work hard to get to where I am now, getting a job at 16 to pay for my extra-curricular art classes and short courses, as well as school, hobbies and ECG 2011 was really tough to juggle, but it really paid off getting into my top university of choice. Around London: Wimbledon College of Art, Central Saint Martins and London College of fashion all have great short courses and facilities for costume/prop/set/fashion design.
What is the best part for you at being in cosplay at a convention?
Spending time with friends. Whether it’s on a photo shoot, drinking, partying, or just relaxing- seeing my friends is always the highlight of any convention.
What changes have you seen in the cosplay community over the years you have been participating?
Cosplay has become a lot more popular! A lot of people are taking it more seriously and taking part in competitions, and achieving a higher standard which is inspiring.
Would you like to represent your country? Take part in ECG 2014! the preliminaries will take place at HYPER JAPAN in London on 27th July. Download entry forms at:www.hyperjapan.co.uk
Photo credits – Main image and Shiro Yoshiwara – Enja cosplay, Shoukoko no Altair – Anstellos.com, Rei Ayanami – Emzone.deviantart.com, Black Rock Shooter – Blasteh