Have you ever wished you were someone else? That you could just fly off to Neverland and never come back? I know I personally wish I could run away to Hogwarts and have Professor McGonagall place the Sorting Hat on my head. I can hear the Hat’s whispers, telling me I would do well in Ravenclaw as I silently beg to be placed in Gryffindor, all the while just wishing I could find somewhere I belong. At times like these, I am exceptionally glad to have discovered cosplay.
I can still remember the first convention I ever attended. It was my first semester of college and my roommate told me about this convention she’d found online called AWA. For those of you not familiar with AWA, it stands for Anime Weekend Atlanta and is one of the biggest conventions in Georgia. It takes place every September at the Cob Galleria in Smyrna and hosts a wide variety of events and panels which appeal to numerous different genres, from anime and manga to comics and video games. When we pulled up to the Cobb Galleria, we didn’t know exactly what to expect. We’d both thrown together two easy cosplays; I was dressed as Final Form Sora from Kingdom Hearts II, and Amber as Edward Elric from Full Metal Alchemist. We had no idea what we were doing, but we were excited to try it out. We barely made it in the door before someone recognized Amber’s cosplay and rushed forward to hug her. I could tell she had no clue who this person was as her expression became plagued with anxiety. However, as soon as she was released, we started talking to the girl and soon enough, we’d made a new friend!
To say we were shocked by this encounter would be an understatement. However, we soon found that most people in attendance exuded this same friendly, cheerful attitude. Everyone was there to have a good time, and soon I had made several friends who I’m still close with today. I admit that before we arrived, I feared my cosplay would not be good enough and that people would laugh. That was far from the case. Though I was truly amazed by the level of detail put into other cosplays, no one made me feel inferior in my simpler one. And while this first convention, I was too hesitant to ask these amazing cosplayers for their picture, I soon found at later cons that people were more than happy to get their picture taken, even welcoming it. They were even more willing to talk about how they made their cosplays, sharing tips and stories about how they had crafted a particular item and what they would do differently if they could do it again.
My friend and I took our time perusing the Dealer’s Room and Artist Alley, taking in everything with wide, curious eyes. Having grown up in a small town in North Georgia, I had never seen so many geeky items at once in my entire life. There were mountains of plushies, cases filled to the brim with collectible figurines of all our favorite anime characters, and several libraries of manga, video games, and DVDs – including several series I didn’t think were available yet. I was immediately drawn to the case of Dragonball Z characters; my eyes wide with amazement as I took in the exquisite details of each figurine. I could almost hear each little Goku, Vegeta, Piccolo, Krillin, and Gohan’s cries as they powered up for their next attack and I immediately wished I could take every single one home with me. I felt like I had come home after a long journey, instantly revitalized as my stress evaporated away. The entire building seemed to exude talent, creativity, and a passion unlike anything I’d seen before. To see so many talented artists bringing my favorite characters to life through cosplay and art was almost overwhelming, and when it was finally time to say goodbye and go home, I was filled with a renewed sense of creativity.
Now, almost ten years later, I have my own cosplay page on Facebook called Mei Faolan Cosplay and I attend several cons a year –even joining in a few Artist Alleys with my own table, where I focus on making geeky crocheted items such as Harry Potter scarves and Triforce gloves (see It’s Crochet on Facebook for more details). I have so many friends I have met over the years that have become like family. I know I can turn to them whenever I need them, be it for tips on how to make my newest prop or simply to geek out about which cosplays we want to do next. I love planning out how to get the precise effect I’m looking for in a particular item, especially if I get to crochet it. And every time I return to a convention, I am still filled with that same sense of wonder and of finally coming home. There is simply nothing like a con.