For those, like myself, who have never cosplayed before, the task seems very daunting. The idea of creating an outfit based on your favourite anime or comic book character seems quite laborious and expensive. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to create an outfit if you want to cosplay; there is nothing wrong with buying a pre-made costume at a store. This is what Cape Town cosplayer, Kuroneko Cosplay, did the first time she started cosplaying. She knows from experience how difficult, but rewarding, it can be creating cosplays. Wearing her Dragon Age T-shirt and Assassin’s Creed necklace, I recently sat down with her to discuss the world of cosplay and the processes that are involved when creating an outfit.
Dale: Where did you come up with the name Kuroneko Cosplay?
Kuroneko: Well, it’s actually quite simple. I have a black cat at home – he’s really naughty and everything – and I was struggling to come up with a name so since I know a bit of Japanese I was like “ok, how about Kuroneko?”
Dale: What first got you into cosplay and how long have you been doing it?
Kuroneko: I did Japanese for a while and one of my friends in my Japanese class – he’s a photographer – taught me about cosplay because he knows I love anime. So he suggested I come to one of the picnics.
Dale: The picnics at Kirstenbosch?
Kuroneko: Yeah, so that was probably 2013 and I was like “ok, I’ll do this”. So yeah.
Dale: Which character did you first cosplay as?
Kuroneko: Uchiha Itachi from Naruto. I bought most of my stuff from Gadget Time (laughs), used my own hair, didn’t have any contacts and didn’t know if I looked right.
Dale: So you were just starting out then, just trying it out?
Kuroneko: Yeah, that was for the first picnic.
Dale: Why do you cosplay? What does it mean to you?
Kuroneko: For me? Cosplay…hmmm… is dressing up and portraying a character that I love, hanging out and having fun with friends who share the same interest and it’s just fun to create an outfit and become the character.
Dale: How do you go about creating your cosplay? How long does it usually take to create an outfit and props?
Kuroneko: It varies from outfit to outfit. I’m great at procrastination (laughs) so I do things in the last week; but once I’ve chosen my character I’ll look at the design and see what materials I need, how I can go about doing that and I go buy my materials from the fabric store or from Plastics for Africa and then, if I’ve left myself enough time (laughs), I can go slowly on it. The biggest cosplay takes about a month. (Laughs) I’ve made a cosplay in a day before.
Dale: (Laughs) Wow! I give you props for that!
Kuroneko: (Laughs) That was my gender bend of Ezio from Assassin’s Creed. It was before my trip last year and I was like “I’m going to Rome. I should do an Assassin’s Creed cosplay in Rome” and I figured this out the day before we left.
Dale: And then “Boom” you made it? (Laughs)
Dale: Which cosplay would you describe as your best one to date?
Kuroneko: My best one been made or my best one being my favourite?
Dale: Like which one would you say you are the most proud of? You can give more than one answer if you want to (laughs).
Kuroneko: Well, I really like my Kikyo cosplay from Inuyasha – it’s a hakama and kimono which I made. That, I think, is my most well made one. It took me three hours to make the patch (laughs). That one took me two days to make because I didn’t have a sowing machine until the week before rAge and I was making that one for rAge. I really like that one.
Dale: Which one would you say wasn’t your best one to date, if you don’t mind me asking?
Kuroneko: It’s fine; cosplayers are very critical of their own work. Maybe my Mirajane Satan Soul Halphas one from Fairy Tail because those wings (laughs) and that tail (laughs) and I left it at the last minute for UCON. Yeah…I would remake that one. There’s a lot of my cosplays that I would remake actually (laughs).
Dale: To what extent do you use wigs and contacts for your cosplay creations?
Kuroneko: Now, all of my outfits. The first time I didn’t have a wig or contacts. The first thing I got was my sharingan contacts for Itachi and now I buy wigs, I buy contacts, it’s a must for my cosplays.
Dale: And where do you usually get your wigs and contacts from?
Kuroneko: Wigs, I generally look on the eBay bidding because you can get things for really cheap, even though it takes a while to arrive. Contacts, there’s iso lens from the international side but locally I get from Baka Sakura’s Costume and Crafts – she orders them in from overseas and sells them locally.
Dale: What is the best and worst part about cosplaying?
Kuroneko: I think the best part is hanging out with friends and seeing them in their cosplays. Often people recognise the characters and it’s very nice when somebody recognises your character. You can be like “yeah, I made this” – especially children (laughs). The worst part…hmmm…probably when a costume doesn’t turn out quite how you want it to, it can be very disheartening. Also, when you go to a convention and wear an uncomfortable cosplay or a cosplay that makes you very hot (laughs).
Dale: Cosplaying can be very expensive and time consuming – I haven’t done it myself but I know (laughs). How do you overcome these challenges?
Kuroneko: Well, to cover the expenses I work part-time at Musica and I sometimes get a monthly allowance from my parents (laughs). Time wise, yeah…(laughs) I do procrastinate a lot but whenever I have time and I’m motivated I can get through a costume really quickly, but yeah, expenses and time is always a challenge with cosplay.
Dale: Which cosplayers inspire your work?
Kuroneko: Local or international? Because I have a lot (laughs).
Dale: It can be both, really. It doesn’t matter.
Dale: Like how does she do it?
Kuroneko: Yes, how does she do it? She’s amazing at that! Umm…I think Baka Sakura – she’s probably one of the best cosplayers at sowing as well…wow! There’s quite a few others actually (laughs), but with international: the really well known one is probably Jessica Nigri – she makes such good cosplays; also Yaya Han, her sowing skills are amazing and Reika.
Dale: Which conventions have you been to? How many conventions do you go to, on average?
Kuroneko: Well, I’ve been to UCON and I went to rAge last year and I’m hoping to go again this year. I also really want to go to Kin Con – the problem with most of these conventions is that they are in Joburg (laughs) so they’re very expensive to get there.
Dale: And now you’re at University and wondering how to get there.
Kuroneko: Yeah. Oh, Free Comic Book Day also counts!
Dale: Yes, it does.
Kuroneko: So there are two that I go to in Cape Town and then rAge and Kin Con in Joburg but other than that, I mostly go to cosplay picnics.
Dale: If you could choose to attend any convention in the world, which would it be?
Kuroneko: San Diego Comic Con, without a doubt!
Dale: I thought as much!
Kuroneko: Without any hesitation! (Laughs)
Dale: Well that was an easy one to answer! When you are cosplaying, to what extent do you become like your character?
Kuroneko: If it’s for a convention or something I’m mostly myself. So when I pose for photos or if there is somebody who looks really nice in character I can be the character a little for them. I’m also in character for photoshoots, but other than that it’s mostly just fooling around.
Dale: For people who have not cosplayed before, what advice would you give them?
Kuroneko: Start with an easy character first (laughs). Start at your skill level; you can do any character you want but I suggest you start at your skill level – I made that mistake with a character I wasn’t ready for (laughs). Go for a wig and contacts; they may be more expensive but it does give the outfit that much more “oomph” to it – it makes it much more effective. Also use make-up; even if you’re a guy, make-up is very useful for cosplay. You can change your face shape, hell, have your eyes look dopey, you can make yourself really look like the character. Don’t feel bad about buying your costume if you want. Making it is non-essential but it is something that I and many other cosplayers enjoy doing. And just have fun! Have lots of fun! The cosplay community, especially in South Africa, is very friendly and we welcome newcomers (laughs).
Dale: Even though it feels daunting at first? (Laughs)
Kuroneko: Yeah, but don’t feel intimidated by it (laughs).
Dale: What future cosplay have you got planned?
Kuroneko: I’m currently working on a dress for Hawke from Dragon Age – the dress is from the DLC Mark of the Assassin. It’s for the Cosplay Ball that is probably happening in July. I’m also working on Hawke’s rogue outfit. I’m also working on Valla from Heroes of the Storm (laughs). So those are probably my big ones at the moment. Valla is for rAge, on the Friday, and on the Saturday I want to do Ahri’s Dauntless skin from League of Legends. I’m not quite sure what I want to do for the Sunday yet.
Dale: So you’ve still got a lot to do?
Kuroneko: Yeah, I’ve got some big cosplays planned (laughs).
Dale: Favourite anime or manga?
Kuroneko: This is the hardest question! Ummm…I’m sorry, this is really difficult (laughs). Can I choose a few?
Dale: You can choose a few
Dale: Oh yes! Elfen Lied was a good series!
Kuroneko: Yeah, that was really good and the manga was also really good! My mind goes blank when you do this (laughs).
Dale: Favourite video game?
Kuroneko: Assassin’s Creed, Dragon Age and Skyrim.
Dale: I thought so, based on your outfit.
Kuroneko: Oh yeah! (laughs)
Dale: Dream destination to visit?
Kuroneko: I want to go to Japan one day, especially for the World Cosplay Summit. Also San Diego, for Comic Con.
Dale: Interests and hobbies outside of cosplay?
Kuroneko: I like drawing, mostly anime characters; video gaming (obviously); I also enjoy writing. I also recently started doing archery.
Dale: And how is that coming along?
Kuroneko: It’s actually quite good. I love it so much! I’m hopefully getting my own bow soon.
Dale: Interesting Facts?
Kuroneko: I’m not that interesting (laughs).
Dale: You don’t have to answer if you don’t want to (laughs).
Kuroneko: I did Japanese for 2 years. I’m also learning Mandarin right now.
Dale: How is Mandarin coming along?
Kuroneko: Really difficult! Japanese, at least, has the two alphabets that are like the sounds. Mandarin doesn’t have that, it just has the equivalent of Kanji.
Dale: Yeah, but you also have to use tones when speaking Mandarin.
Kuroneko: Yeah, Japanese has tones but it’s more implicit tones. Mandarin, however, you have to know the four tones.
Dale: Because you could say one thing and mean another?
Kuroneko: Yeah (laughs).
Dale: I heard that you have tattoos.
Kuroneko: Yeah, on my left arm I have an Assassin’s Creed symbol with wings next to it and underneath it there is Elvish writing, from Lord of the Rings, that says “Nothing is true. Everything is permitted”.
Dale: That is very clever!
Kuroneko: Yeah. I’m hopefully getting another tattoo on my back soon that my best friend is designing for me.
Dale: Do you know which design you want?
Kuroneko: Probably a dragon, with its wings stretched out, holding a sword. So yeah, you could call that another hobby; getting tattoos (laughs).