This year the US preliminaries for the World Cosplay Summit were held at Katsucon. The competition had be previously held at AM2 in 2011, Fanime in 2010, and New York Anime Festival in 2009 and 2008. In 2005 and 2004, preliminaries were held at Anime Expo. The winner pair from the US preliminaries will go on to Japan to compete against other teams from across the world.
The WCS was created to promote international exchange through the Japanese youth culture of manga and anime. The event is hosted every summer by TV Aichi in Nagoya, Japan. In 2011, seventeen teams competed, and team Brazil were crowned the winners.
I have been to dozens and dozens of masquerades at anime conventions large and small, and this was the best costume contest I've ever seen at an anime con. I've seen hundreds pictures and videos from many masquerades I haven't been to, including Worldcons and Costume-Cons (where many of the entrants have been costuming longer than I've been alive). Many of the performances I saw at the preliminaries could have a shot a best in show at either a Worldcon or Costume-Con. The combination of craftsmanship, performance, hard work, and dedication was evident.
A total of twenty-two teams competed in the preliminaries (although one had to drop out before their performance due to illness). Teams had to consist of two people cosplaying from the same series. On Friday they were judged on craftsmanship, then on performance when on stage Saturday night. The source material of the teams ranged from video games to anime, well known and obscure, with lots of amazing detail put into their costumes and practice put into their performances. Videos of the performances can be found at ACParadise.com (along with videos from the masquerade).
The judging panel consisted of past US members from 2005, 2008, 2009, and 2010. This was a fantastic choice of judges because they've seen the finals first hand and know what is successful there and what isn't. They must have had a very, very difficult decision, but I think they choose their first, second, and third place teams well. Any of the top three teams would represent the US well at the WCS. All three were very dramatic, engaging, and could be enjoyed by not only those who knew nothing about the source material, but those who knew nothing about anime and masquerades as well.
Third place went to Bejitaballs Cosplay, who chose Revolutionary Girl Utena for their skit. They had a gorgeous backdrop which lit up. At first it seemed like it was just a backdrop to set the mood, but it also hid Utena's Rose Bride dress. I've seen a lot of quick changes in masquerade where costumes come off, revealing another one underneath, but this one had Akio putting the Rose Bride dress onto Utena. The orchestral version of The Rolling Stones' "Paint it Black" was a great choice of music to accompany their performance.
Second place went to Cupcake Cosplay, who chose Ah! My Goddess for their skit. Their costumes were among the best of the entrants, flawless with amazing details. They had two pillars embedded with hundreds and hundreds of lights, that lit up in time with the music, creating a cage for the evil Morgan to entrap Belldandy. They also used ribbons and beautiful dancing, combined with amazing music, and it was evident that the pair spent many hours practicing. The end was amazing, as Belldandy's wings expanded upwards as she broke free from her cage and defeated Morgan.
First place went to Coconut Bubble Sex Cosplay, who chose Princess Tutu for their skit. The presentation started with Rue in a beautiful gown on stage, with a curtain behind her. She opened the curtain to look at herself in the mirror, and then when she turns her back, Princess Kraehe appears in a haunting light, and then disappears when Rue turns around. This game of cat and mouse with the mirror goes on as the music intensifies, until Kraehe reveals herself to Rue and comes out from behind the mirror. Kraehe, performing amazing en pointe ballet, overpowers Rue and places her behind the mirror, representing the internal struggle of Rue and Kraehe. From the audience, the mirror effect was amazing, with a sharp contrast between Rue's reflection, and Kraehe haunting behind it, creating a very chilling performance. Unfortunately, the effect wasn't as strong in the video.
Many congratulations to Coconut Bubble Sex Cosplay on their win. Diana and Katie will no doubt represent the US well. The WCS US Preliminaries will be returning to Katsucon next year. They have created a Twitter account and Facebook page to report on their preparations and from their upcoming trip to the WCS.
With the bar raised as high as it was by this year's teams, I can't imagine how next year's teams will top it. If you are at Katsucon next year, make sure you check out this event.