Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Competitions- only for the talented?

This is a subject that has been recently discussed on Finnish cosplay forum at aniki, so I thought of revealing my thoughts about cosplay competitions.

We haven't participated in any competition so far, because there have been regulations that doesn't fit our current projects. It might be that we have a pair cosplay, when you can take apart in the competition as group, minimum three persons. And we don't wan't to compete against each other in individual competition, because... well, that is'n how we roll.

The categories in competitions are really hard to put together and they alter drasticly in different conventions. I can see the pain behind dividing the branches of cosplay in separate groups. J-rockers and anime characters can't be put on same categories, just because the sources and the reality aspect is so different. And levels of costuming skills and experience should also be taken consideration, if the goal is to offer equal chances to everyone. That makes four different groups already. And if you start to look for more evaluations you come up with more, that is for sure. Before you know it cosplay competitions are like dog shows, all categories have their own judges on their own rings.

I think the most functional assemble is to divide the experts and novises in different groups. If the convention has a theme, let's say, like japanese pop culture and fashion, there could be specified group for lolita, ganguro and other costumes related. In Finland I have seen this alignment of making something for everyone. Hello, that doesn't work and eats up audiences interest in the competition.

Even thought Finland is a small country, we have nice collection of conventions. It's likely that there will be enought competitions to attend to, even if they are more defined and narrowed. One convention shouldn't include everything. Not only for the amount of work it needs to be organized well, but also to help cosplayers finish their costumes properly and to be proud to show them off. And because the fan base and number of cosplayers have increased, it would be wise to make conventions more confined than they are now.

Of course you can't forget groups and pairs. They should have different evaluations than in individual competition, like show elements and dynamics. I haven't seen too many group performances which have intriqued me. Usually they are build on fanservice and yaoi, because they work for the audience. Ok, yes, you should entertain the audience, but the judges are the ones who should be convinced. Also with your costumes, even if they are not the first prior in evaluation. Sometimes costumes in group competitions are just pain in the eye. In pair or couple categories especially costumes and the craftmanship should be somehow in the same level in an entry.

One thing that personally irritate me, is the "And the next group entry is number... umm... number 18, because numbers 15, 16 and 17 haven't confirmed their participation." Well, that is nice. Perhaps we could have been on the stage if they would have informed earlier that those mentioned groups don't have the courage to step up and get their act together. I may be harsh about this, but I has happened to us. Young and enthusiastic cosplayers sizzle about their debute entrance on group cosplay competition and then they just lack the interest. Not all the drop-outs are like that. Some may have real issues, more than they just didn't feel like it.

That makes me think is pre-selection a bad thing? Nowadays bigger conventions require background tapes from the participants. That shows already commitment from the group and will reduce the number of drop-outs. So, good thinking. In individual contest pre-selection isn't that important. Judges work is made easier with forms, where competants need to fill beforehand information about the character. I don't know, haven't done them, but also descripting the costume as detailed as possible would be rather helpful. I say big no-no for purchased costumes in competitions, but everyone can't necesseraly make everything by themselves. Commissioned items as part of selfmade costume I see rather acceptable, if and only if the information about those objects have been given in advance. This way the judges can evaluate the costume as a creation of cosplayer and as a whole package.

One subject that has been discussed is the standard of the costumes seen in the competition. It has been pointed out that it has gone down. I have noted it also and really the best costumes can be seen outside the competitions, wandering around the area in all their grace. Which get to me to the prizes and positions. No more plushies and stupid honorable mentions which are handed out like free samples of tissues. Competition IS a competition. Sometimes cosplay needs to be serious business in order to get the hard working and ambitious costumers to participate. They don't step up just for pat on the head. They want criticism and proper evaluation. It would also make the judges work more interesting and profound.

In every competition I have seen so-and-so costumes worn by people who are eager to be seen on stage and taking part in the competition for the thrill of it. They are usually quite young and cosplay is their new interesting hobby. No, they should not be taken out, because they might grow to these hard working and ambitious cosplayers, but then again they should not compete from the prizes next to novises and experts who really are there for the win. There is always problem with half time shows. The time when the judges are making the decisions about winners it could be possible to have more playful and entertaining competition. Like show-class, newcomers or something. Selected jury could give honorable mentions for the participants and point out things that could be taken concideration when making a costume. This way real judges can concentrate on their work, the best cosplayers could be selected and the newcomers could have their moment in spotlight, gathering confidence and having a nice experience.

How to make that happen? Strict participation rules for the real competition. Of course they could wary between conventions, but all together they are way too loose right now. Seems like anyone who is quick enough will be qualified.

One matter that flares up a little fury inside me, is the case where talented cosplayers drop out from competitions because of some whining individuals, who can't take it when well made costumes win the prizes over and over again. That is really pitiful, because those cosplayers usually deserve to be the winners and have worked really hard for their costumes. Again I have noted that the whiny ones are more likely beginners. Note: the experts have also made their first costumes and usually they are not too proud of them and seeing pictures of them makes them want to have a moment of good old facepalm. Improvement is a result related to that and that is something I personally am trying to achieve. Hell, I try to beat everyone who have made the costume I'm working on. That is healthy competition.

Cosplay competitions are the main events I'm looking forward to when attending conventions. I want to see accurate and well made costumes that stand out and are worn by costumers who have put time and effort in making them. The other, rich and playful side of cosplay can be seen around conventions and in the internet. Fun and games for everyone equally, but also something to fulfill the needs of ambitious ones.

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