Dress up for a prize

Cosplayers and their fans will descend on The Cathay today, as the J-Obsession 2014 showcase of Japanese pop culture begins.

The three-day event includes a cosplay competition, parade and live contemporary Japanese music, as well as an interview and showcase session with renowned Japanese cosplayer Naoya Kirihara. Part of the cosplay performance group VENaS.S, Kirihara is known for dressing up as male characters.

She will also be one of the judges for the J-Obsession Cosplay Competition, with 11 acts competing as either groups or individuals for the top prize, worth more than $10,000.

Contestants have five minutes to perform and showcase talents such as singing, dancing or putting on skits in their costumes.

Arts and drama teacher Siti Adila Abdul Halim, 22, will be participating in the competition for the fourth time. Having previously come in second, third and fourth, she is gunning for the top spot this year.

She will dress up as Candy, from the Japanese anime series Candy Candy she watched when she was 12. Her performance will involve two costume changes.

"I've done the costume change idea quite a few times," she says. "I really put a lot of effort into my costumes, and as they come off, they get more amazing."

She made the costumes herself, one of which costs about $70.

Another contestant, Ms Phoebe Oh, will enter as Hatsune Miku, a humanoid persona voiced by a singing synthesizer application. She will present a dance for her performance .

"The reason I join competitions is to portray the characters I like on stage, the way I want it," says the 18-year-old student. "I don't really join to win."

Her costume cost her less than $100, which she saved from working in part-time jobs such as jewellery designing.

Mr Jovi Lum will compete as part of a trio, cosplaying characters from the Japanese anime series Kill La Kill and performing a comedy skit.

The 23-year-old national serviceman will play Sanageyama Uzu, a teenager who fights with a shinai, a bamboo training sword. He fashioned his costume out of foam and rubber bought in Chinatown and industrial areas, and which cost him less than $80.

"I'm in platform shoes for this costume," says the cosplayer, who came in third at the Anime Festival Asia's Regional Cosplay Competition last year with his team-mate, Ms Tessie Tan, 26.

"A few days before competitions, I usually wear the shoes and go for brisk walks and jogs at 2 to 3am around the void deck of my home, so that I can get used to them," he says, adding that moving freely in costume in a competition is a must.

He adds: "Cosplay is an art to me. It's a form of expression for me and the characters I'm portraying on stage."

One of the competition's judges, Mr Jason Koh, says he hopes contestants can step out of their comfort zones for the upcoming costume duel.

Adds Mr Koh, 32, account director at cosplay blog Neo Tokyo Project: "It's time cosplay performances move beyond mere costume changes and dance routines."

J-Obsession, now in its fifth year, is presented by The Cathay. More than 500 people attended last year.


Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.