The Italian Triumph
World Cosplay Summit is an international cosplay meeting, sponsored by TV Aichi and held annually in Nagoya, Japan since 2003.
Only starting from next edition in 2005 the Summit will sport the nature of a real world cosplay championship, where singles and group representatives from some european countries (Italy, France, Germany and Spain), from America, China and Japan will be competing against one another with their costumes to crown the World Best Cosplayer.
In order to choose the representatives from the participating countries Mr Shirakawa (the TV Aichi delegate) and his assistants have travelled the World, attending the designed national competitions and choosing by themselves the representatives who will fly to Japan.
It must be pointed out that, although this chance is open to any cosplayer regardless of the gender, girls have been privileged, mainly because of imagine and sponsorship issues.
For a cosplayer, competing in the World Cosplay Summit is a dream come true: flying to the animation's home country, with everything completely paid by the production (first class flight and four star hotel), and living a week among television [...]
- studios, interviews, photo sessions, parades, sightseeing and a final stage.
In fact each cosplayer is requested to take at least four costumes (one of which will have to be made specifically for the contest) and to wear them during the stay in Japan.
Costumes must be taken from japanese animation and videogames, but only the one worn the day of the final show will be taken into account for the crowning.
The Journey and the arrival in Japan
Friday 29th July
Astral date 29 July 2005
Francesca and I leave from Malpensa for Frankfurt where we will meet up with sisters Emilia and Elena and, presumably along with the other individual European representatives, we'll take flight towards Nagoya.
During the months before the Event, the Italian Team has kept in tight contact to decide together what costumes to take to the Land of Rising Sun, especially because we were given limitations (only Japanese costumes: anime, manga and videogames) and some advice, such as a choice of different types of costumes (classic, new, etc), which we tried to exploit to our advantage (in reality only one of the costumes would be chosen to obtain the Title - in other words the one worn during the final contest - but we tried to arrange group cosplay, which helped us with other engagements).
The trip wasn't exactly smooth, not only because of the [...]
- extraordinary adventures with the magical box which held my costume and pieces of different weapons, but especially because we were given two awful seats - between two infants who kept whimpering the whole 12 hours trip! And let's not mention the disgusting food ;___;
During the never-ending journey we get to know German Anya (Francesca's twin... I swear, the two of them were separated at birth!!), French Dounia (who, for us, will always be remembered as Fergaaaaaan) and Spanish Carla. We land at destination at 8.30 the next day, Saturday 30th July.
Saturday 30th July
As soon as we arrive, we are fetched by emissaries of Tv Aichi among which Edo-san, official Japanese-English translator, our safety boat during the WCS week: we find out that 99% of English-speaking Japanese work in the airport.
Once out of the airport... here be dragons.
There is hardly time to arrive at Tv Aichi's central studios and eat terrible cold [...]
- obento (remember the lunch-box Japanese students eat from?) before we go to our first official engagement (and here I was expecting something more from the umeboshi - small red ball, in the middle of rice, which tasted awful).
Therefore we are made to quickly change so that we can assist to the live special on the Summit, assembling pieces of interviews and videos released by every candidate during the filming in each country caught on video by the Tv troupe months before.
Then, after a ritual briefing - Japanese love these meetings - we are subject to photo shootings and the first of a long series of interviews by some magazine (we will never know which).
In the evening after having laid down weapons (literally) and luggage in Toyoko-Inn (underground's Marunouchi stop) we get to meet Deandra, the individual American who has just arrived. And maybe to be forgiven for the awful lunch, we are treated to a sumptuous dinner in a very "In" restaurant - after having sponsored us with shirts, brooches and other amusing official World Cosplay Summit gadgets.
I believe it's one of the rare occasions in which there is the full Tv Aichi staff, [...]
- except the last party; in fact there are Mari Kato & Atsuko, our major references, along with crazy Mr. Shirakawa - he who had chosen the contestants for Italy at Romics - the silent and charming Yamaguchi, Ed, Richard and Kimi the other two translators, very nice and helpful.
Parade during the Osu Festival
At the hotel we find out with horror that Japanese breakfast is cold onigiri (rice balls). Like the good Italians we are we go straight to the conbini (24hour minimarket) in the hopes of finding something similar to cake.
Not only will we find some decent brioches but also the infamous Pocki - small delicious chocolate covered sticks of many flavors... Mikado evolution. From this day on they will be a must in our trip.
But combini are full of many delicacies and absurdities that it's useless to resist... we must take pictures!
(By the way we are surprised to see widespread distribution of automatic beverage vending machines; we'll find out the reason very shortly: Japanese summer is so hot that one risks a heat stroke if one doesn't restore lost fluids)
Right after lunch we change clothes in Tv Aichi offices, we arrive in Osu neighborhood, one of the most important in the city where the temple of the Goddess Kanon makes a fine display of itself and where an already-set up stage awaits us and hundreds of spectators in anxious waiting, even though the uncertain weather. For the occasion Francesca and I wear the clothes of the [...]
- Pretty Cure duo, a very successful anime in These Lands, while the two sisters Emilia and Elena are Umi & Hikaru - fantasy version from Magic Knight Rayearth.
The cosplayers are called one by one on the stage and introduced with simple questions to which we answer in English, after which three of them (among which me) venture on a totally Japanese karaoke on the notes of as many themes: French Dounia sings Cutey Honey, Spanish Carla a j-pop piece by Arc en Ciel (Blurry Eyes) and I the opening of Saint Seiya.
We also meet that which will then be known as "Lupin Family"; they are representatives of Chubu area, a very young family where the mother wears sexy Fujiko's black overalls, the father is a perfect Jigen and the two kids, overly cuddled by everyone, are Lupin and Goemon in chibi version... simply adorable!
Singing moment ended, a real parade starts through Osu neighborhood, with Italy in the lead which opens a procession of hundreds of cosplayers (besides the WCS participants the parade was open to all cosplayers) surrounded by photographers, passerby and curious onlookers of every age that filled the streets while the staff defined the [...]
- spaces to avoid constant filtrations by the public.
After a full hour of walking, pictures, filming everything ends in a famous cafe situated on a gigantic anime shop, a very special cafe because the personnel works in cosplay! At the entrance we run into a giant Zaku of Gundam... worn by some crazy of which I still ignore the identity ^__^.
This is a time of party and complete frenzy, hundreds and hundreds of cosplayers meet surrounded by photographers and otaku who go wild when another karaoke starts, during which as good Italians we drag the crowd on the notes of Evangelion and other hits like Mazinger Z and Koutetsu Jeeg (even after the music ends). You'll smile to know that Francesca and I were offered as prizes for the bingo: in other words the winners could take pictures with us on the stage!
Free Time in Tokyo
Before starting with promotional commitments tied to the WCS we get to go on the ritual trip to the Capital.
Two carefree days which we use between cultural visits (Asakusa Kannon temple, Tokyo Tower...) and wild shopping in the most famous districts of the megalopolis: Akihabara (realm of otaku and electronics), Shinjuku and Harajuku, paradise of shopping and entertainment, where we actually see ganguro and gals and we taste many goodies only seen in animes: takoyaki, fried octopus inserted on sticks like skewer for walking around, manju (tipical sweets with bean jam filling), grilled yakiniku etc etc...
During this occasion Francesca and I purchase what will be the vacation's torment: the masks of Hyottoko (the Japanese drunk) and of Caroto (a four-eyed character with waky expressions)... from now on it's pure madness (later on even Robbberto will join us with the mask of Hyottoko's female counterpart, alias Okame).
Entr'acte, jokes.. these masks are really useful in any occasion and make the Japanese laugh; equipped with these dumb masks we make spectacle of ourselves in more than one occasion in most of our free time...
But I [...]
- still haven't told you that the day we were visiting the temple of the goddess Kannon in Tokyo we ransacked those famous sashes seen in different animes (think for instance of Godai in Maison Ikkoku when he had to study).
Each one has different slogans which go from Banzai to Kamikaze and in particular mine quoted the ideograms of "Tokko", which means "Special Attack!"
Equipped with sash, most of the Italian team wandered around making tourists curious, people who sorta considered us the main attraction of the tour of the temple, and what did we do?
Well we made their day by posing Karate Kid style worthy of being remembered.
Anyway back to our visit of the city, the most touching thing was certainly the legendary pedestrian crossing of Shibuya and the statue of the Hachiko dog around which bands of young musicians performed with their retinue.
And incidentally... you will never believe... but... in a hotel in Tokyo... someone stole my lingerie!!! A complete set of white lace hung out to dry has mysteriously disappeared and no it couldn't have fallen bellow because there was a [...]
- balcony... I have no words...
Free Time in Nagoya
Still free time, this time in Nagoya!
We take advantage of this to visit the city's castle and to continue our wild shopping while the Japanese summer, hot and humid without belief, makes any movement very hard and unbearable... In the evening, after having eaten at a classical restaurant (Katsudon power, make up!) we head off to the karaoke to better end this day.
Shigehiro, a nice native met by the guys who are the Italian team's supporters (good old Roberto, Amon & Paolo, Francesca's boyfriend) joins us.
Another memory I'll be bringing home is certainly...
Such is the Taiko No Tatsujin called, a very fashionable videogame, where one beats the rhythm of the chosen song on classical Japanese drums.
As in these type of simulators there are obviously different types of combo to carry out depending on the face of the stamp that appears on the screen and different levels.
Even the choices of songs varied; lots of j-pop but also lots of anime themes (we had much fun on the notes of Lupin, Uruseyatsura, Hokuto no Ken...), something international and [...]
- different classics (like the Italian Funiculi' funiculaaaa)
The Italian team became addicts of The Drum and more than once made spectacles of ourselves in front of astonished Japanese.
When we were starved of this game we would wander around the streets of Nagoya and Tokyo obsessingly repeating T_A_M_B_U_R_O (Italian for drum) which sounds like a Japanese word so much that we wondered what it meant "wonder if tamburo really means something in Japanese and we're drifting aimlessly screaming something like "AntiPanic Handle" *_*
Tryouts, arrival of foreign teams and Karaoke contest
Thursday 4th August: Tryouts
The date of the contests is nearing and therefore we meet with the director (Mr. Kubo) and the light officer to explain what we intend to do for our performance. These are long and well-organized meetings, because we won't be able to rehearse on the Expo's stage, therefore everything has to be studied in every small detail in a totally different context. Because of a series of misunderstandings me and the Spanish and German girls weren't warned that the recitation assigned to us individuals has to be singing but since I personally have already prepared something different I am given carte blanche on my performance which consists of singing but not only that. We spend the afternoon and time before dinner rehearsing our parts in Tv Aichi studios then bone-tired we return to the hotel in preparation to the tour de force that awaits us the next few days.
Friday 5th August: Arrival of foreign teams and Karaoke contest
Each contestant has different appointments.
France, Spain, Germany, America [...]
- & China team also arrive together, so while the individuals of each country are sent to welcome the groups the others are split between a Tv program at the Expo and rehearsals for the contest.
The evening schedule should be an invitation by one of the sponsors of the Kermesse, the Joysound, at a buffet dinner with karaoke in the mega-hall in their head office.
All the teams, individual or in group, perform with songs (strictly in original language) but I manage to involve the head of Joysound (Mr.Yoshida), a lively fiftish man, into a duet with me on the notes of Mazinger Z and I win the contest among a bunch of flowers and amiable hugs and pats on the shoulders ^_^
The prizes for all contestants are also many gadgets representing the irresistible Expo mascottes: Morizo & Kikkoro.
These two funny characters that you see infested every corner of Nagoya city because they're mascottes and testimonials of the Expo.
Since Expo is devoted to nature the two characters should portray some kind of tree or nature spirits; their Japanese names are Morizo (the fatty) and Kikkoro (the dolly), soon italianized into Maurizio and Kikko.
Too funny!!! *_*
They were on every surface, gadget (legal or not, I suspect) and other more, basically they were everywhere, they also had animes!!!
Tv program & meeting cosplayers
A pretty busy day.
In the morning and early afternoon we are busy as extras in a Tv program, with the usual interviews, then a Tv that cooperates with Aichi decides to follow the Italian team through Nagoya streets in the making of a special on the WCS.
After returning to the main television office we have the official meeting with all the contestants cosplayers: we finally meet all the members of the different Japanese teams.
You must know that the Japanese representatives both individual and group are 4 with a total of 16 people. Three groups and three individuals are selected for as many regions of Honshu (the biggest archipelago: Kansai (corresponding with the west area, that of Osaka), Chubu (corresponding with the central mountainous massif which separates the other two areas, the region where Nagoya stands) and Kanto (the plain where Tokyo stands). From the net were chosen none other than Barbie and Kaie, two of the most famous cosplayers in the world, whose pictures as Sailor Moon (Eternal version and Princess Serenity) and Sailor Venus have traveled around the world.
This friendly meeting, the first with all the contestants, has the [...]
- purpose of explaining how the final stage would take place, the rhythm, the down times, the preparation.
As such we find out the parade order and we learn more information on the place of the event (Aichi Dome, inside the Universal Expo which this year takes place in Nagoya), on the jury (preside by Reiji Matsumoto, Captain Harlock's dad), the songs us individuals have to sing together (the first verse of Evangelion, in each language) and the different entrances and leavings.
We are explained the prizes which will be handed out: one as best individual cosplayer, one as best group and lastly the most important that as best WCS team decided by the total of points earned by the individual and the team. We really get into the competition spirit now.
After the rich buffet once back in the hotel we spend the night rehearsing our parts: I do it in the hall while the girls who need more room in the nearby parking lot. We say good night to each other on edge but determined to do our best.
Aichi Expo Cosplay Contest
It's a great day, it's here! We leave the hotel in a bus shortly before noon and arrive at the Expo; after having joined with the missing cosplayers, we are immediately tackled for the ritualistic briefing. Then everything happens frenzily in the following order: lunch, stage rehearsal, changing costumes, contest starts.
During the backstage we have time to befriend a few oriental cosplayers while obvious signs of strain can be read in each face, strain that causes the French team to burst into unnecessary tears and forces Ed to officially deny the gossips that had started spreading among some teams who saw the Italian team the already chosen winner.
We are assigned the number of display (Italy is in eighth place) and respective dressing rooms along with translator; in each room there is a screen which allows to follow the state of the show in real time. So while Francesca, Emilia and Elena become Cassandra, Taki and Seung Mina from the videogame Soul Calibur, I with much difficulty and especially thanks to our escort Roberto transform into the harpy Silen from Devilman (live version).
The show is lead by two famous voice actors, among which Toru [...]
- Furuya who for the occasion of course dresses up as the characters voiced by him, his tour de force, that is Amuro Rei from Gundam, Seiya in plainclothes (jeans and red shirt) and Tuxedo Kamen from Sailor Moon.
After having announced country of origin and number of contestant, the contestant comes out from the backstage and is welcomed by the two presenters who ask him some simple questions. Before the performance of the individual representatives, "secret" encouragement messages from family and friends are showed on a maxiscreen.
Useless to say my appearance as the harpy Silen from Devilman with the bloody head of the devil man and the acrobatic performance by the girls of Soul Calibur are welcomed with great enthusiasm by both audience and jury.
I perform on the original '70 opening of the famous anime and simulate a battle which sees a defeated Devilman finally return into the demon Amon in the arms of the beloved harpy who seals the refound love passionately kissing the cut-off head. These are the words sang on the notes of the beautiful bgm featured from Glass no kamen:
"Omae to [...]
- tatakawanakya naranakatta
Omae wo torimodosu tame ni
watashi no ai ni sakaratte.
Mou omae wa Debiruman dewa naku
Watashi no Amon ni modoru no da
Eien ni musubareru no da"
"I had to fight you
to take you back
I had to give up my love.
You aren't Devilman anymore
You returned into my beloved Amon"
Emilia, Elena and Francesca masterfully performed the "exhibition arena" of the three warriors with a performance that was technically irreprehensible under every detail. During the awards all the cosplayers are on the stage while a spotlight keeps moving back and forth to stop on the winners of the category... increasing the suspence while more than three thousand spectators oversee the announcement in religious silence.
- Special award for best Japanese team - Lupin family (representative of Chubu)
- Best individual cosplayer - Giorgia Vecchini (Silen from Devilman)
- Best group - France - Tokyo Mew [...]
- WCS champion team - Italy
It is a thrilling moment when the voice announces "Italy" and all of us run into each other 's arms (maybe with a few emotional tears and many smiles) while streamers and confetti fall from the sky. There would be many more things to add, like the excitement upon receiving the prize (which consisted of a digital camera and another trip to Japan whenever we want for each of us) delivered by Reiji Matsumoto himself, the pride of bringing home something like an olimpic gold, the many compliments received but perhaps the pictures explain more than words. We knew we had done a good job and this recognition was the right award for all our work but we would never had thought it possible. Everything ends on the notes of Cha La Head Cha La, DragonBall Z theme sang all together with Kageyama Hironobu. After the awarding we are literally besieged by photographers and sent directly into press conference with all the other winners for an hour of interviews and picture taking while still unbelieving we enjoy our moment of glory.
A mangaka, part of the jury, was so impressed by my performance that she made a mini [...]
- manga of three pages out of it, which you can see in the gallery below.
Karaoke and Farewell party
The two winning teams, France and Italy, are lead - once again in cosplay - to the Expo for another singing show (Japanese really love karaoke!) on a small stage with more pictures and questions as usual.
As the tension ebbs away we get ready for the farewell party which will be held this evening in a very trendy Nagoya restaurant, Hawaiian style.
But this time it's the Tv Aichi staff's turn to surprise us... not only appearing in Touch cosplay (therefore with baseball uniform) but also playing and singing for most of the evening!
Because of enthusiasm or a glass too much, Mr.Shirakawa gives life to funny shows forcing poor Mari to cut a fake wedding cake with him while everyone goes nuts with games, dances and food!
Once out of the restaurant it's time for the last group picture while the time of goodbyes beat the final phase of a dream 1-week-long that four Italian girls actually managed to fulfill.