Asia crowns its best cosplayers

SINGAPORE - It's not everyday you get to see fantasy characters resplendent in full armour and flowing hair leap out from screen and battle it out on stage.

In one of the largest cosplay competitions held in Southeast Asia, the Philippines team took the crown for best cosplay in Anime Festival Asia (AFA) 2011's Regional Cosplay Championships.

The Philippines duo, Amado Carl Hernandez (AC) and Zhel, were cosplaying the characters Gabranth and the Warrior of Light respectively from the Final Fantasy Dissidia video game.

The competition featured the top cosplaying teams of two from five participating countries: Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines.

This year's festival had a turnout of 85,000 attendees over the three-day event, 14,000 more than last year. It's the festival's third time hosting the cosplay competition.

The competition tested the cosplay enthusiasts' creativity by judging them not only on their elaborate costumes, but also on stage performances accompanied by music and video clips.

The Philippines team won hands down as they presented an original opening clip of a fighting scene, followed an impressive clash of blades as the action was taken onto the live stage. However, what really clinched the crown and made the crowd go wild were the LED lights incorporated into the protagonist's costume, which illuminated the Warrior of Light in an ethereal glow mid-way through the performance.

The costumes were the result of 96 hours of hard work spread over two to three months, the winning team told AsiaOne.

However, it was all worth it for the cosplay veterans, as cosplaying is a means to show their love of the characters and challenge themselves.

This view was also expressed by the Singapore team, who sadly did not make it into the top three.

Peggy and Ash, who cosplayed Tsunashi Takuto and Shindo Sugata from the Japanese anime Star Driver, said they enjoy cosplaying as more than a hobby, because it presents a problem solving challenge as well.

AsiaOne caught up with the winning team to find out more about the work that went into their costumes.

Can you tell us more about the character you are cosplaying, and why you chose that character?

Amado Carl Hernandez (AC): This character is Gabranth from Final Fantasy Dissida. He is also from Final Fantasy XII, the main anime in the series. He is the antagonist. I chose this character as he is very challenging to cosplay, and we really wanted to push ourselves. Also, I really like the dual swords thing.

Zhel: My character is the Warrior of Light from Final Fanstasy Dissidia. I chose this character because it is my favourite character, and of great symbol to the whole story.

How did you make your costume?

AC & Zhel: Basically it took us about 96 man hours to make this costume, spread across two to three months, on the weekends or when we were free. The material for the costume is craft foam, also known as rubber foam or rubber sheets.

AC: The swords are made of cardboard, craft foam and the handles are made of wood. We did a dry brush effect on the armour and swords to make them look tarnished and give them a weathered look. Everybody makes armour that looks shiny, so we wanted to do something different.

Zhel: For my character's makeup and wig, I do it myself. It takes me around 40 mins to get into full makeup and gear.

Did you find it time consuming?

AC: The making actually didn't take that much time, because the adhesive used for the costume is superglue. The time consuming and laborious part was actually the planning stage, on how to make the parts.

Zhel: Yes, it's time consuming, but you can make time.

How did you get into cosplaying?

AC: I work as a freelance artist, making sculptures and paintings and studied making props. I started off making props and costumes for my friends who were into cosplay. But I got into doing cosplay myself later, in around 2008. It's my first time joining AFA, but I've joined cosplaying competitions back in the Philippines. I've won about 10 or so cosplay competitions in total. But compared to others, it's not that many.

Zhel: I am a nursing graduate. Cosplaying is my hobby and I've been doing for about four to five years. But I've always been into games, anime, manga and even American comics.

This is the first time we are cosplaying together. We got to know each other online on Multiply, about two years ago. We started messaging each other, but only managed to meet up last year as we live in different cities.

(Multiply is a social networking service that allows users to share media, such as photos, videos and blog entries.)

What advice would you give cosplay beginners?

AC: We have the Internet, and it has a lot of information on anything, from prop-making to acting. My advice is you should really do a lot of research on the character you want to cosplay, and see if it suits you. Because you must know the character you are trying to portray.