Interview with Mina and Jaky (Team Yorozuya Senpai), representatives of Mexico at the World Cosplay Summit 2014.
Nowadays, Cosplay is a cultural phenomenon that has expanded globally. The biggest proof of this is the World Cosplay Summit, an international contest in which 22 teams representing countries from all around the world participate to see who is the best cosplayer. This year, Mina and Jaky had the honor of representing Mexico, and won the Audience Award (Nico Nico Douga Award). We contacted them to have a short interview about how they first got in to cosplay, the Mexican scene, and what it meant to them to be able to represent their country at the WCS, and their image of Japan after fulfilling their dream to visit the country.
BMJ: When did you start doing cosplay?
TYS: Four years ago, we entered into the Cosplay world.
BMJ: How did you first approach the Cosplay world?
TYS: Well, to tell you the truth, we never had any intention of cosplaying in such a complex way, nor did we intend to be so committed to it. We started after we visited a manga convention that was held in a very small town in our state (Tabasco), and we were very attracted to it as a new way to enjoy our love for anime and manga, so we decided to give it a try. To be honest, the first time we ever did cosplay was very funny, our costumes weren’t very good, honestly speaking, they were very simple. However, it was a very fun experience; we enjoyed it a lot and had a great time with our friends and enjoyed taking pictures with fans. We really loved seeing the fans excitement when they recognised our characters. All of that made a very positive impression on us, which lead us to continue cosplaying. Afterwards, we decided to do something much, much better and it became like an addiction for us. We became perfectionists, always looking forward to do better costumes and we set new challenges for ourselves. Of course, all of these just increased our interest in Cosplay, and we invested more effort in to making our costumes, until we finally became to love Cosplay.
BMJ: Ok girls, be honest, tell us which was your first cosplay?
TYS: mmm.. Shall we tell you???? Hahahahaha! Our first costume was from the anime series Katekyo Hitman Reborn, we cosplayed as Lal Mirch and Viper. However, to be honest we don’t even have pictures of those costumes. It was something very quick; we decided to do it on the spare of the moment. Sincerely, those costumes were quite bad. We tried to make them with things that we already had at home; we didn’t even wear a wig! But that was our first cosplay, something improvised. We can say that it was a “Cosplay Fail” hahahaha!! We even painted our hair blue!!! It was something really crazy!! At that time, we didn’t have any experience of doing Cosplay, and we thought that it would be easier to paint our hair, but it was a total mess. We even painted the roof of our house blue!! It was quite an experience, but now we remember it and we just laugh, it was very funny. Every person who does cosplay probably has had a very funny beginning. Nevertheless, in the end, it is something that we fondly remember. The moment we attended the expo with those simple costumes and fans recognised us, we knew it was worthwhile, and that became a huge motivation; especially because those were our favourite characters from our favourite series.
BMJ: I can totally relate to that. Once I tried to do Cosplay, a long time ago, and realised that you have to overcome many obstacles to gain the skills to be a good cosplayer.
TYS: Exactly! When you start you really don’t know what to do, so you end up using your imagination and begin experimenting; this way, you acquire experience and start to learn new tricks. For example, you learn which type of fabric to use, where you can get the right accessories or how to make them by yourself, as well as how to distinguish among the different types and brands of wigs. For example, there are some fibers that can be styled very easily with hair wax, others that are made of plastic and some others that are made with natural hair, with the latter you have to be very careful, because if you use hair spray or wax you can destroy them. What we try to tell people is that even to style a wig, there are special techniques. We normally use a hair wax that is very easy to find in supermarkets, but we learned that after many experiments and many spoiled wigs. We also use the cheapest hair sprays, because those are the ones that have the least amount of chemicals. But we only learned all of this through the experience of making many cosplay outfits.
BMJ: You have talked a little bit about your beginning in Cosplay, which was around 4 or 5 years ago. In all that time I suppose you have already made a lot of costumes, how many complete cosplays do you have?
TYS: To be honest, we really don’t have that many. We have the personal policy of preferring quality over quantity. When we start a new cosplay project, we work on it in a very detailed way. Therefore, we take more time to raise the money that we need, in choosing fabrics and other materials, shoes, accessories… If we aim to make a completely detailed costume it will take us around 6 months or more to finish it. The quickest project we have ever completed took around 3 months. The costumes we have are from Katekyo Hitman Reborn, Hinsengumi, Bakumatsu, Lukido, Obento, Opera, Neko no Ongaeshi, Hen no Kuni no Alice… we have between 10 or 11, maybe a dozen cosplays, all in pairs. Whenever we decide to work on a project, we do it as a team. We have always worked as a team therefore we always choose two characters from the same series. Our personal rule is that they have to be a representative couple of an anime, manga or videogame. We also have to research the characters, for example, if they are from an anime we watch the full series; if they come from a manga or a novel, we have to read it; and if they are characters of a video game, we have to play it. For us cosplay is not only a fashionable thing to do, not a simple trend; it is something which we are really passionate about. Therefore, to start a new project it has to pass through our filter: we have to like the character, the series… we may even have to feel as though we identify with them.
BMJ: Wow!!! It seems that you are very professional.
TYS: Hahaha! No, of course not. This is just a hobby. Cosplay is a hobby, first of all, it has to be something you do to have fun and enjoy yourself. If we like the characters, then we make the costumes. For example, for the World Cosplay Summit we chose that project (The Cat Returns) because it is a movie that we really enjoyed. When we watched it for the first time it gave us a very warm and beautiful feeling, and we really identified with the characters; as a result, we decided to save this project for an important event, that’s why we chose it for the summit. In the end, we need to have a good feeling about the series or movie, in order for us to be inspired and to give our best on the project.
BMJ: How easy or difficult is it to do cosplay in Mexico? In Japan, for example, there are many specialised stores that sell cosplay products, but in Mexico it’s different. Please tell us a little bit about your cosplaying experience in your country.
TYS: We do feel that we are at a little bit of a disadvantage. First of all, we don’t live in Mexico City, which makes it very difficult to find the places where they sell the materials. For example, when we made the Opera costumes, one of the dresses needed some real feathers; the problem was that we couldn’t find them in any store. We had to ask a friend that lives in Mexico City to get them for us and send them by mail to Tabasco, increasing the costs and making it all the more expensive. In that moment we were so desperate to find them that we even thought about buying them online, but the price was too high, because although in theory it is a very simple material, we weren’t able to find it here! We even researched methods to make our own feathers with fabric, but it was very complicated and in the end it didn’t look very good, and it didn’t have the visual effect that we wanted. This all shows that there are not many places to find materials and as a consequence the price tends to increase a lot. When we made the costumes for the World Cosplay Summit we took advantage of the fact that we needed to make a trip to Mexico City to get our visa in the Japanese embassy, and we used that as an excuse to do some shopping. However, we had to buy more materials than we actually needed, just in case we could not find the material in our own state if we ran out of supplies.
In Japan you can find paints or materials of a very good quality, something we have never seen in Mexico. The difference in the quality of the materials is amazing!! We were very surprised!! In Japan you can find wigs, contact lenses and many other specialised products that don’t exist in our country. This has forced us to learn new skills. In Mexico there still exists an old, sexist image that girls like us would not get involved in learning about plumbing, wood crafting or carpentry materials. We had to learn a lot of things that commonly people do no associate with women. That idea is so strong here that we have even been denied service in some hardware stores because we are women. Nevertheless, little by little we have challenged those stereotypes and we have learned a lot of new things that we probably never even cared about before, all because of Cosplay. Thanks to Cosplay we also got involved in online shopping, due to the fact that we have been forced to get many materials via the Internet. This has been very good on one hand, because it removed the fear of buying goods online, but it also has made us frustrated when the product we buy doesn’t quite match its Internet description. In a nutshell, we can say that the price and difficulty to do cosplay between Mexico and Japan is very different, but it also has pushed us to use our creativity to make our costumes.
BMJ: What do you think about the Cosplay scene in Mexico? Do people accept it?
TYS: The acceptance of Cosplay in Mexico has steadily grown in the last years. When we started, it was something that many people thought was weird, very strange… something very exotic. However, it has become more and more popular, mainly because of the mass media influence. It has encouraged a cosplay “boom”, and, as a consequence, the cosplayer community in Mexico has grown. One very important factor is that the Asian influence in Mexico has also grown; as a result, larger majorities of people nowadays accept these new trends. Today, globalization, the media, the positioning of Japan as a world power, all have strengthened the Asian influence in our country, and as a consequence, people are more accepting of these new hobbies. Nowadays you can see all types of people listening to Asian music, for example.
On the family side, you can find all kinds of opinions. There are people who consider cosplay to be a waste of time and others that see it as a nice hobby, one that encourages creativity. Families always have different points of view. For example our parents have never rejected it and they even encourage and support us. The negative opinions come from our brothers, some accept it, others criticise the fact that we invest a lot of time and money in to it. However, since we started winning contests and got invited to different events and places, that before we were not able to visit, like the WCS, where we had the honor of representing Mexico, they have changed their minds. Even if we don’t get paid to do cosplay, it has opened the doors for us to be able to see many places around the world.
BMJ: You just mentioned that currently there is a cosplay “boom” in Mexico, meaning that more and more people are cosplaying today. So we would like to ask about the spaces and forums in Mexico to do cosplay, do places like this, where cosplayers can meet to exchange ideas and share their love for this hobby, exist in Mexico?
TYS: From our point of view, we believe the number of forums and spaces where people are allowed to do Cosplay have grown. The demand for this type of place has encouraged the creation of new ones. Not so long ago, you could only find 2 or 3 events a year; today, you can find at least one event per month, and on many occasions, you can even find 4 or 5 events in the same month in different parts of the country. Event organisers have made a great effort to bring new attractions: international guests, dubbing actors, cosplayers, music bands from Asia… Today all these events give us an opportunity to be closer with everything that we like. Before this, we had to settle only with the few things that we could get from TV and other mainstream media, but nowadays we can have it live, here in Mexico! To this we have to add the fact that there is much more diversity among these expos or conferences, because they have become more specialised. For example, the first expos in the country mixed everything, or they only focused on Japanese contents, but today you can find different types of events. For example, we had the chance to attend an expo that focused only on videogames, which attracted people from all over the world. Before everything was mixed, now you can find more specialised events; you can find anime and manga expos, videogames, Asian culture and even music festivals. Unfortunately, the majority of these events take place only in the center and north of the country. In south Mexico there are still not many events, there’s no one willing to risk organising one big event. Another example we just remembered began this year, is the Geek Expo, which brought guests like Mika Kobayashi and the chorographer of the fight scenes in the Kill Bill movies, as well as many other speakers that are very famous, but one of the best things about this event was that the admittance was very inexpensive. Every day there are more opportunities and diversity for fans.
BMJ: You already had the chance to come to Japan due to the WCS; could you tell us something about your experience as contestants in this international event, and what was it like to have the chance to meet and hang out with cosplayers from all around the world? What do you think about Japan organising these types of events?
TYS: The WCS more than a TV event, is a forum for international exchange. Putting aside the fact that we all share the love for cosplay, being a participant of this event gives you the chance to exchange ideas with people from all the corners of the world. Even if we weren’t able to speak the same language, we were able to communicate, through signs or pictures. The WCS gave us the opportunity to have a cultural exchange with people from many different countries. We know that the way in which you see the world depends a lot on the place and context in which you have grown up, and speaking specifically about cosplay, there are many differences depending on which country you come from. Being part of this event made us change how we view the world, not only towards cosplay, but even at the level of personal values. For example, the level of competition is very different at the WCS than at the local level, and the environment is also completely different. At the WCS, despite the fact it was a competition, there was a very friendly atmosphere. All the contestants thought that just by being there, we all had achieved a huge accomplishment. This helped to create a friendship, even brotherhood amongst all the cosplayers, it was really nice. We have incredible and amazing memories of all the people we met in the WCS, from the organisers, the contestants and the omotenashi students, in fact, of all the people involved in the WCS.
WCS was also a great opportunity to see those little details that are very different among the various countries, for example, Japanese people are very kind and respectful. In small every day things you can see the differences between our culture and Japan. It was a great experience, to have been able to be closer not only to Japan, but to cultures from all around the world, and the best thing is that it was all in the framework of Cosplay. All the contestants talked about the live cosplay in their countries and you can see the differences with your own country and with the WCS. From this experience we now have the urge to go and visit other countries, to travel to other places. WCS was just a great experience!
BMJ: What was the thing that you liked the most about Japan? What would you recommend to other people who are interested in traveling there?
TYS: What we liked the most was the Japanese people’s culture, their kindness and how they treat tourists. We got the perception that the Japanese are very respectful and kind people. Honestly, we can say that they are also very disciplined. Something that people can’t miss is the food! There is a huge difference between eating the real Japanese cuisine and the so called “Japanese” restaurants in Mexico. Another thing that made a huge impression on us was the architecture, it was amazing! As well as the technology! Something that really surprised us, because it is very different to how Mexican people think, is that the Japanese always have in their minds the wellbeing of others, they are always thinking about the wellbeing of the community. We perceived this through small details, like the orderly way in which people cross the streets, or how they move to the left side on escalators in order to leave an open way for people who are in a hurry. Japan is an ideal place to visit or to live in, independently if you like anime or not, because of its people, food… Everything!! Hahahaha!! We have very good memories; Japan exceeded our expectations. Even just walking down the street is a new cultural experience, for example, you can find temples in the middle of the city, something very old and traditional in the middle of the urban modernity. You can find old traditional restaurants in the middle of a very modern building. In Japan you can travel to the past without leaving the present. It is a very beautiful place. Japanese culture is very interesting and very rich, with a lot of history. We would like to make an invitation to everyone to give themselves some time to know this country and its culture. We hope you have the chance to visit Japan, because once you go there, you will always want to go back.
BMJ: One last message for the people who are thinking of starting to do cosplay, in Mexico or in other places around the world.
TYS: Don’t limit yourselves, and put all your effort into fulfilling your dreams. Doing something that you like and that you are very passionate about can open many doors for you. If you persevere, you can be sure that you will be able to accomplish all your goals, never give up on your objectives. Hard work and all the good things you do will always be rewarded; maybe not immediately, but if you keep fighting, rewards will surely come back to you. Don’t pay attention to the comments of people that want to push you away from this hobby, if this is what you love, it doesn’t matter what the others think. Being part of the WCS was a great experience, we learned a lot from other cosplayers from all around the world, the techniques people use in every country are very different, so always be open to new experiences. We also think that how people perceive cosplay in Japan is very different, people are more involved in it, and you can see that they love it and that it is something that can involve the whole family. If you have the chance to do cosplay in Japan it will be something amazing, don’t ever doubt doing it… but do not go to Japan only for cosplay. Japan has many beautiful and great things to offer and you should experience all of them.
BMJ: Thank you very much for this interview, and congratulations on your prize.
TYS: No, thank you guys for the interview and thank you to the people who’ll read it.