Heroes of Cosplay Catch-Up: Episode 4

grumpcat

After watching episode four, I have decided that so far, three was the peak of the series for me.

Four reintroduced a lot of themes I struggled with initially in the first two episodes that seemed to have been addressed in the third.  Not exactly successfully, but they implied a hopeful progression toward a TV show I wouldn’t be ashamed to be watching.

Too much to ask, evidently!

(And that’s saying a lot. I have some pretty crack TV shows that I really should be embarrassed for watching…)

This episode centered around the cosplayers preparing for Anime Matsuri in Houston, Texas. It’s a fairly large convention that is anime focused as opposed to comic books or pop culture, and is the first of its kind for the TV show to document.

The narrator explains that the anime convention’s cosplay contest is a step above comicon contests, because there’s an expectation for better craftsmanship and quality. I can’t really disprove that, but I would like to think that the kind of costumes that anime cosplayers make tend to be more complicated by nature of the fact that characters they’re pulling designs from often have more complicated costumes. Either way, it seemed that for our cosplayers this episode, that was a big priority – having better-than-adequate craftsmanship because the attention would be there.

Let’s start with the cosplayers this episode:

  • Yaya – Judging. Also redoing parks of her Lineage 2 Dark Elf costume
  • Monika – Miaka from Fushigi Yuugi
  • Victoria – Yui Hongo from Fushigi Yuugi
  •  Holly & Jessica – Grumpy Cat & Maru the box cat/ internet cat meme
  • Becky – Judging the Marvel contest and interviewing cosplay competitors. She was dressed as Black Widow and Pinkie Pie over the course of the episode.
Holly & Jessica made a kaiju for a Pacific Rim video!
Holly & Jessica made a kaiju for a Pacific Rim video!

The most important things that happened this episode:

  • Holly and Jessica were asked by Guillermo del Toro to produce a Pacific Rim Kaiju costume for a Power Rangers style viral video with Jaegers. Somehow this was not as important as Anime Matsuri costumes.
  • Victoria was asked to represent a company at a convention the week before Anime Matsuri. Somehow this was not as important as Anime Matsuri costumes.
  • Monika had an interview for an internship at Blizzard in LA and surprisingly, it was more important to her than the Anime Matsuri costumes, yet she managed to finish hers just fine.
  • Victoria’s husband Jimyo did a ton of work for her costume, which she appeared very ungrateful about.
  • Yaya is one of the judges for the convention contest and she chose to redo parts of an older costume to make it better.
  • Victoria and Monika collaborated to make joint costumes, which didn’t go so well thanks to their differing opinions in work ethic and time planning.
  • None of the cosplayers won. Victoria’s costume fell apart while being picked at by the judges. Holly and Jessica had to admit they didn’t make the bodysuits, which were a pretty large part of their costumes.
Look at that face. Monika is NOT THRILLED with Victoria.
Look at that face. Monika is NOT THRILLED with Victoria.

The most unimportant things that happened this episode:

  • Yaya had an all-day photoshoot for her 2014 calendar. Not only was it originally supposed to be 3 day shoot, but she also poorly laced her corset and nearly passed out. Proper corsetry could be an entirely different article, so we’ll leave it at that.
  • Jessica has a wool allergy but did not have time to find an alternative yarn for their wigs, which made her incredibly sick.
  • Becky asked Monika to collaborate for Kansas City Planet Comicon and Monika turned her down, citing issues with Becky’s craftsmanship. The irony there is that Monika collaborated with Victoria, whose costume literally fell apart at the pre-judging.
  • Jessica gets yelled at by a security guard for sitting in the middle of the floor because she feels ill.
  • Becky tells Holly and Jessica about what Monika said to her, so they offer to work on a group costume for Kansas with her. It was definitely not at all planned or scripted. Nope. Not one bit.
Jessica's and Holly's costumes finished. Holly's expression is my favourite.
Jessica’s and Holly’s costumes finished. Holly’s expression is my favourite.

The best/worst quotes of the episode:

  • “I absolutely look like the rejected member from Kiss right now.” Jessica, on removing her wig after the contest.
  • “Cosplay isn’t about alienating people or elitism or being big jerks. It’s about going out there with your friends and just having fun and getting better at your craft.” Holly, referencing Becky telling her about Monika
  • The Skype exchange between Victoria and Monika “brainstorming” what characters to dress up as. Not at all scripted of course and man, could Monika be more deadpan? “What about Fushigi Yugi? Did you watch that when you were younger?” “I’ve always wanted to cosplay as that.” Oh, come on.
  • “The Pacific Rim shoot was something we put our hearts and souls into, possibly at the expense of our internet cats costumes.” Ok, Jessica. One word: PRIORITIES. Also, look at Holly’s face when Jessica says that:
Evidently Internet cats < Pacific Rim, according to Holly.
Evidently Internet cats < Pacific Rim, according to Holly.

My biggest issues with this episode:

  • How many cosplayers were showcased – nearly DOUBLE the number from episode 3. There’s just way too much going on to properly showcase each cosplayer and give them the attention they deserve. The whole episode felt incredibly rushed and oddly focused, again.
  • Seventeen minutes into the show and they were already at the convention. Really? We didn’t see ANY shots of Holly and Jessica making their costumes, and only a quick shot of Holly molding the clay for the kaiju’s head. We saw a good amount of Monika’s costume assembly, but the others were only shown actual costume-making when there was a problem going on – and even then, the focus was on the drama of the problem, not the actual costume.
  • The cattiness. I know, it’s a reality series, but it just makes me unhappy. I’m sure that these girls are getting the worst of their personalities shown to the world (which means Chloe must be beyond incredibly nice in real life, if they couldn’t find something negative about her), but it’s just so artificial and unnecessary.
  • Scripted scenes. There were so many unnecessary ones. Instead of having Victoria answer a fake call on her cell phone about getting the job for the different convention (which literally was ten seconds and come on, no way was that the real call), have her just talk to the camera about it. Something sensible. These cameras aren’t following the cast around 24/7, it makes sense you would acknowledge them at some point.
Monika's & Victoria's final costumes. Really pretty.
Monika’s & Victoria’s final costumes. Really pretty.

What I liked about this episode:

  • Pre-judging! I haven’t been to a convention that does this and it makes so much sense. Basically it separates the time on stage presenting your costume and talking about your costume. Pre-judging happens before you’re on stage and it’s a one-on-one opportunity for the judges to talk to you about your garment. The stage component is an actual skit – with background images and music, etc. It was really cool that they had an opportunity to talk to the cosplayers individually about their costumes and examine them close up, instead of just the time onstage.
  • Monika constructing her costume. I think that in preparation for her commenting on Becky’s craftsmanship, they focused a bit more on showing Monika’s off. It was cool to see her draping with purchased patterns and modifying them to do what she wanted.
  • The Guillermo del Toro video behind the scenes. It was really cool to see how the kaijus and jaegers moved and watch them have to fix things on set, etc.
  • Yaya’s expressions, especially when Victoria’s costume fell apart at pre-judging:

yayafaces

I also really liked her quick explanation about using Worbla, though I wish they had elaborated some instead of assuming the audience understood.

Yaya using Worbla (tan) and craft foam (green) to mold the shapes for her Dark Elf costume.
Yaya using Worbla (tan) and craft foam (green) to mold the shapes for her Dark Elf costume.

Again, this episode felt so rushed, I wasn’t the least bit surprised when they didn’t win anything at the end. When your whole episode is focused on the problems in cosplay and the severe time constraints they put themselves under, you aren’t setting your viewers up to care considerably when they don’t win. Some of the competition at this convention was incredible – it must have taken them months to construct such insane, complicated costume and watching the cameras briefly show off the other competitors, I really wanted to know how they made their costumes instead of the girls we were focusing on. And that’s not the girls’ faults.

It sucks because SyFy isn’t giving their spotlight cosplayers the chance to show the skill-sets they have and the work they’re actually capable of, because they’re perpetually frazzled and in a constant state of catch-up. Instead, you get this semi-focused, kind of wandering conglomeration of an episode that struggles to pick a direction, at the expense of the cosplayers’ reputations.

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