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.

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