A small dream came true at East European Comic Con 2014


More than two months have passed since the East European Comic Con 2014, but this is not intended as a review, so I don’t feel that guilty about writing this late. I just want to tell the story of my experience and keep it as a dear, precious memory, which I shall revisit time and time again, just to remind myself what I am capable of achieving.

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I am leaving the country in less than a month. It’s scary. I’m so terrified. I am going to have to adapt to a new environment, where things work differently than what I know. I want to learn new things, expand my horizons, put my mind to work, but I can’t help feeling scared. I am not leaving forever, just for three years, as I intend to be back after getting my PhD. However, one of the downsides of me leaving is not being able to attend the events and conventions that enabled me to meet with people I cannot see that often and with whom I have gathered many wonderful memories in the past few years.

This saddens me, but I decided to end it in style, to challenge myself and cosplay at the last two events I would be able to attend (for a while) – Otaku Festival 2014 and East European Comic Con 2014. I did Homura Akemi for Otaku and I had a blast. For EECC I wanted to do something simpler at first (i.e. Makise Kurisu from Steins;Gate), but, after giving it a lot of thought, I decided to do something I really wanted from the bottom of my heart, but thought it was impossible for me: Princess Hilda from The Legend of Zelda – A Link Between Worlds.

Hilda is very different from Zelda, but not necessarily her opposite, as it might seem. Far from the wisdom and nobility that Zelda embodies, but nevertheless magnificent in her own way. Although a being with magical powers, she is so very human and very close to my heart. Indeed, she makes terrible mistakes, but she is capable of listening to the voice of reason and assume the consequences of her actions. It takes a great spirit to understand that what you achieve is shaped by how you achieve it and not the other way around. That the means are sometimes much more important than the end. That you have to let go when you take the wrong path and backtrack, even though you have to give up on your goal, on what you love the most. And I admire her for that. She is an amazing character and definitely one of my favourites from the series.

However, no matter how much I love a character, my crafting skills are what they are. And time was very short, especially for working on two costumes. Between classes, exams, my dissertation and AMV making, I had very little left to invest in cosplay, but I did my best. For Hilda, I cannot pinpoint a single element and say that it was the most difficult. For me, everything was difficult. I made types of clothing I hadn’t tried before (i.e. circle skirt – a huge one – and a petticoat). For the props, I used materials I hadn’t worked with before (i.e. wood, craft foam, air drying fimo). I was so sleep deprived that I forgot the sticks for the staff in the train when I got back to Iași from the Easter holiday, and ran around desperately for a couple of hours before I recovered them – thank you, kind student who recognized me, despite not being in my classes, and kept them safe for me.

The worst was when my sewing machine refused to sew, the top of the wax container came off, spilling hot wax on the carpet, I accidentally hit my staff and the top broke when it fell (I will never understand why I used chopsticks to the make the skeleton, when they are made to be broken), and I spilled half a bottle of silver acrylic paint on the same, previously challenged carpet while finishing the tabard. I sewed a petticoat by hand during the train ride (a whole 7 hours of sewing) and was saved by the friend I was staying with in Bucharest, who had a sewing machine less stubborn than mine. After (yet another) sleepless night, the costume was ready. And it felt like a miracle. I have no idea how I managed to pull it off.

However, I was late for the AMV showcase, which was to take place around 9 in the morning. I arrived at a little past 10, having a decent amount of time to get ready for prejudging. I was still a little panicked, but, when I entered the hall, my “Time glow” was being projected. And I stopped. I put my bag down and I just watched it. Emptied my mind of worries and took a deep breath. Yes, everything was going to be just fine. There were very few people in the audience and they had no reaction to the videos being played (not to mine and neither to the others that followed), so I felt it as an intimate moment between a past me telling present me that it was going to be ok, that I was going to make it.

I was awestruck and giddy after finishing putting on the costume. I couldn’t believe my eyes, everything was fine! Not perfect, definitely, and I am aware of all its flaws. But it was fine, it looked decent enough. I was not prepared for what happened when I left the changing area, though. Everybody stopped in their way to look at me and, for a while, I thought something was wrong with the costume but then I realized… They were looking because they liked it! I could barely take two steps without being asked for a photo and that went on for the whole day. It was an amazing feeling, it felt as if I was dreaming.

Everybody was really nice and sweet. Especially the judges: Yaya Han, Kamui and Giada Robin. I hadn’t stopped to think that I was going to be judged by such wonderful ladies with such amazing careers in cosplay. I just thought of them as people sharing the same passion and being, obviously, at a different skill level. Of course, Yaya flipped my seams. Things were not so ok underneath and I knew that, but she was still very sweet to me and impressed by the paint job on the tabard (I’m quite proud of that myself). Kamui asked me about the armor, but it was so weird to call it that, it is child’s play compared to what she does. Nevertheless, they were all very nice and they told me I looked really beautiful. That almost made me melt. I don’t think of myself as being pretty – I’m ok, but not more than that. Hearing it from such lovely ladies… An infinity of “thank you”’s couldn’t have expressed the gratitude I felt.

The stage was frightening and, being sleep deprived, I couldn’t concentrate very well on catching the cues, but I was Hilda. I felt her pain, her despair, her wish for offering something better to her people. I was in Lorule and I could see it was fallen apart, suffering in agony. I felt that spark of envy and greed, I touched within myself that point where her dark side emerged and I embraced it together with my own dark side. And I was glad. I had made it. I learnt the next day that Yaya Han had posted a picture of me on stage on her Instagram. I was baffled, I have no words for this… I feel so honored.

One of the best moments of the con, that will be forever a sweet memory for me, happened before my performance. I was backstage and I was rehearsing in my mind, when someone approached me and took me by surprise. It was Ray and he had recognized me from Nijikon 2013, when he had been so nice to me and so appreciative of my costume (I was Yuuko Amamiya then). He encouraged me and gave me a fatherly kiss on the cheek that took most of the nerves away. I missed the opportunity to take a picture with him, however, so I only have the one from Nijikon, but my heart will never forget that instant when he made feel less alone in that crowd of strangers waiting to perform.

I had wonderful people with me this time around as well and I also managed to talk a little with some of the foreign cosplayers. I also felt surrounded by the presence of the one who couldn’t be there – because we are humans and can’t be in two places at once, so we must choose what is truly important. But you were there, I know you were, you’re always with me in my heart. I took so many pictures with people, to the point that I could barely see because of the flashes. I found myself a Link and took a picture. A girl even approached me and told me she liked me on stage and that she hoped I would win – I wasn’t prize material, I was aware, but it felt amazing to hear that, I won a bit of the public and that is priceless. So many good photographers asked for shoots and there was even an article that featured me among amazing cosplayers.

I was just a girl with a small, silly dream. And it came true. I was meaning for it to be my last, but… It’s very hard, after you’ve achieved something like this, to just give it up. I simply can’t, I have so many other ideas that I love and I want to grow even more. I will find the time and strength to do them, one by one. And I promise myself not to repeat this story of not being ready in time. I promise to do things right and not rush them in the last minute. I will not give up on my dreams, not while I can feel them at the tips of my fingers. I’ll find the strength to do everything I like so that I will not regret anything when I am old and grizzly and with grandchildren. I solemnly swear that I am up to no good! ^_^

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Anunțuri

Otaku Festival 2014 – Or how happiness is what you make it to be


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For me, the weekend of May 3-4 represents both an accomplishment and a lesson. Despite the lack of sleep and things only being ready barely before the time they had to be ready (which made me panic, stress out and break down many more times than I ever thought I could handle), the memories it left behind are precious and priceless. I wouldn’t trade them for anything and I regret nothing – not a single sleepless second, not a single moment when I felt hopeless and helpless – because it was all worth it and because I know it made me stronger and fiercer than ever.

There were many things that did not go as they should have gone. Not as I’ve seen them done (right) in the past. They bugged me then, but now they seem so distant. I will recall every one and politely pass my opinions as feedback to the organizers. However, in my heart, they shall never overshadow the beauty and fun of the event as a whole. And all these great memories exist because there were people there to make them with. This is where you will always find greatness: in people. Not the merchandise, not in competing, not the prizes, but in pouring your heart into something and then sharing it with friends. I can only describe it as “bliss”. And I could not help crying when it ended. It may very well have been my last time experiencing this.

I made my own happiness. I can proudly say that everything that was joyful was the product of a great deal of hard work. And this was the lesson. I experienced it with my whole being. You don’t just stumble into happiness. You make it for yourself. And it is whatever you want it to be. Whatever you make it to be. Don’t ever feel that you cannot accomplish something. If you really put your heart into it, you can do anything. You can be happy in any way you wish. You just have to wish for it hard enough and support that wish with a lot of effort. Happiness doesn’t just happen. It is not necessarily an end product. It is a process. And if you really want it, you have to give it your all every step of the way.

As I was sacrificing sleep to finish my costume, I was asked why. Why do I cosplay? Why do I put so much effort into it? How is it worth it? I am ashamed to admit I could not muster an answer then. It may have been due to stress and tiredness, but these just feel like excuses to me. However, this turned out to be a good thing, because it allowed me to rediscover the answer. And now I can say it properly.

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So why do I cosplay?
1. Because it is simply amazing to inhabit a character that is very close to my heart. That is my primary criteria for choosing one: they have to speak to me in a deep and intimate way. And I will always love and cherish Homura, the small and weak Homura who went so far to protect her friend. The brave and unwavering Homura who was as much of a heroine as Madoka was. The fearful, but fierce Homura who fought for something that only she understood, while everybody was blaming and wrongly judging her. She is a metaphor for the true value of friendship. I cannot even begin to explain the greatness of embodying that. Of being the incarnation of such an amazing individual.

2. Because I once wished to be an actress. Yes, please don’t laugh :”> I have neither the talent nor the adequate personality for this, but cosplay allows me to do the little that I am capable of in this sense. Remember what I said earlier? I can do anything if I just wish and work hard enough for it. I won’t do it like a pro, but I will do it the best way I can. And God only knows how many times I rehearsed before I had to go on stage. Of course, nerves and tiredness overwhelmed me and I acted a tad different on stage than how I had planned, but what the heck? For a minute, I was Homura, and her pain was mine. I felt it and it made me shiver and tremble. And Madoka’s ribbon against my cheek felt warm, although my hands were frozen from the nerves. And then the realization of not being alone made my eyes tear up and my heart melt as I thought of that special “someone” who was there, watching me, and I can only hope that I conveyed at least a bit of that to the audience.

3. Because the feeling you get when people recognize your character and want to take pictures with you is irreplaceable. The way their eyes light up when they see you, the way you get called by the character’s name when you’re walking through the hallway – they’re the best kind of acknowledgement you could ever hope for. Who cares about prizes? Only a few (very talented and hardworking) people get them. That does not make the rest less worthy. In this sense, we are all winners :) And I must mention this amazing thing that happened to me. I spent most of the second day of the festival in the main hall, because of the AMV and group cosplay contests. On one of the rare occasions that I went out, a girl called out to me and was very excited to see me. Someone had told her there was a Homura around and she really wanted to take a picture with me. There. Top that kind of goose bumps with anything of material nature. I dare you. I double dare you.

4. Because all of this is infinitely better when you share it with friends. And I had the best kind of cosplaying and non-cosplaying friends with me there. I had a blast. There are no words that can accurately describe this, so I’ll just let the pictures say the rest.

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Of course, there is a second passion of mine linked to this event – AMV making. I look back and I laugh at my unknowing little self who, back in 2007, made her first AMV. I found it and rewatched it after the event and for once I can say that I’m happy my YouTube channel was deleted a couple of years ago. Technically-wise, it was really bad. But it had what all my AMVs have always had, despite the level of my editing skills – feeling. A message. A story. Something to convey to the viewer. And that is actually why I started editing – because I wanted to tell stories, to send a message across using this medium. I’m glad I never swayed from that. And I plan on remaking all my old AMVs that had poor editing, but good ideas.

As for what I made for this year, I am a bit ashamed of myself because I barely finished the second one in time to catch the deadline. And then I discovered technical problems with both of them (such as quality issues and some black scenes that Sony Vegas was so kind to render) and had to re-render and re-send everything – thank God the team in charge of the contest was understanding (if any of you ever read this, thank you!). I invested a lot of time in “Keep me breathing”, because it was different from my usual style and I wanted to make it good, especially because it was about Homura and I wanted to do her justice with both my AMV and my cosplay. This unfortunately resulted in a shortage of time for “Time glow”, which I made in four days and only two of them were (full-time, sleepless) days of actual editing – the other two were for selecting scenes from Steins;Gate (both the TV series and the movie – which I also had to watch, as I hadn’t seen it yet) and Toki wo Kakeru Shoujo. I was very upset with myself, as I had had the idea for this AMV running around in my head for a year and half and I had to cram all the editing in just two days… I solemnly swear never to do this again!

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Fast-forward to the screening – it was an unbelievable feeling. I had amazing people with me there and watching my AMVs on a big screen together with them was great. It gave me shivers, as it always has. As it always will. And it was a nice premiere for “Time glow”, as I hadn’t had the time to put it online, being busy with the costume and all that. The audience liked them both. The applause was overwhelming. Maybe I was just in a very sensitive place, but I felt that they were applauding stronger than they ever had for an AMV of mine. Wow. Baffling. I later learned from someone that they had heard the person behind them say “This is definitely nezumichan’s work” during the screening of “Time glow”. That gave me goose bumps and made me teary-eyed. To be recognized when the AMV is made public for the first time, before the credits appeared… That is unbelievable. Perplexing.

And then it was announced that my AMVs got second and third place. My God. This must be a record or something. Who has ever won both second and third place at the same competition? Who has ever won both second and third place at the same competition while also cosplaying a character that appeared in both AMVs? I must be awesome. Only the first place got an actual prize, but I feel nonetheless a winner as a whole and the kindness shown by all those who liked my work is worth so much more to me.

So do you see how happiness really is something that you make for yourself through devotion and hard work? I came from nowhere, as well. Everybody does. My cosplay was not a complex one, but nevertheless extremely rewarding (especially since I crafted everything myself). I actually made very poor AMVs at the beginning, but here I am now. Unlike cosplay, which I’ve been doing for a little over half a year, my editing skills went through seven years of striving and honing. I’ve learnt and grown so much. I’ll add this pile of great memories to the ones from previous similar events and keep them very dear in my heart. And even though I might not be able to cosplay at conventions anymore, I’ll never stop making AMVs and I’ll always be present through them, even if I might not make it there physically to actually hear the applause.