Anime conventions are just the best! The cosplay is on a vastly different level of mastery across the board whether you are a novice or master. This makes the inevitable masquerade the highlight of the convention because the costumes are riddled with impeccable details and creativity you will not see anywhere else. Con-Jikan is certainly no exception to this rule. While it is not the only anime convention in the Duke City, it offers more interactivity for attendees than it’s counterpart. Especially considering that Con-Jikan is only in it’s fifth year, the UNM students who put it on have made it one of the greatest anime experiences you can have in New Mexico. It is also a winter convention which lends to a whole sub-genre of anime for cosplay: winter cosplays! They are so popular at this convention that during the scavenger hunt one of the required pictures was of a group in winter cosplay.
We were thrilled to tackle a winter cosplay and what better costumes than our favorite anime: One Piece. Now the cosplays we chose are not cannon in the show, but were from one of the drawings by the original artist within the manga. It was also a cosplay that would be easy to piece together from pre-existing items. Most of the main clothing was thrifted and modified with fur, buttons and other embellishments. Working with fur is a whole other animal, but fortunately we have some friends who are Furries and were more than happy to give us some pointers. There was also embroidery and leather-working involved in the embellishments for Luffy’s costume. We shared a time-lapse video of the One Piece Pirates emblem being embroidered for the hat on our Instagram if you want to check that out.
Now I’m not sure how they market this convention because unless you hear about Con-Jikan from other cosplayers or follow them on social media there is nowhere else you would learn about it.
Last year our cosplay Sempai, Dustbunny Cosplay, was one of the guests. Had we not caught her social media post announcing she would be in Albuquerque that weekend we might have missed out on the once in a lifetime chance to meet her! Dustbunny is an absolute sweetheart. She is truly a master at her craft and has an incredible backstory. In fact, it was her Tumblr rise to fame story which inspired us to create MaeBerry Cosplay and this blog. So here we are full circle, a year of cosplaying and blogging later attending the convention where it started.
Con-Jikan announced early in the planning stages of the convention that they would focus their resources on attracting animation and voice actor guests for their fifth year. Given the focus anime conventions place on cosplay I do not believe the gamble of giving cosplay a back seat at this convention paid off. I cannot speak for anyone else, but the only reason I even knew about the convention last year was because of the cosplay guest they were inviting. The convention runners probably felt some pressure from the larger comic enthusiast community of Albuquerque to up their attendance in this way. While comic cons feature more animation and voice actor guests leading to higher attendance, that choice is part of their brand and intended for their specific audience. Comic conventions began as trade shows for people working in the comic industry. Anime conventions were born out of the fan-base for anime and manga. That is not to say that many anime conventions do not also feature voice actors/actresses and animators, but if you have to choose between the two, since this type of convention was created by the fans for the fans, cosplay is the best bet. Of course Con-Jikan still had some cosplay guests, unique in that they were both graduates of UNM: Cree Nicole or Kamon Tari. We were impressed with Kamon Tari’s cosplay charity initiatives with donation opportunities at her booth all weekend and Cree Nicole had some awesome aluminum prints of her Daenerys Targaryen cosplay from Game of Thrones at her booth.
This year Con-Jikan started with their first ever Preview Day on the Friday before, opening their dealer hall and attempting to host a Con Market featuring attendees who want to sell their own things. With a $5 fee for 5 feet of space in this market and a filled out application you could get rid of some old cosplay wigs, costumes or other anime related paraphernalia. These events at anime conventions are usually more like trading meetups and rarely have a fee. This is probably where Con-Jikan has some room for improvement as only one dealer signed up for this event. They also had some anime screenings on the Preview Night, one of which was my favorite Korean Drama: Nodame Cantabile! All in all I understand that attendees found the first Preview Night of Con-Jikan enjoyable, if just to connect with their cosplay friends and begin an awesome weekend.
We arrived on Saturday in our One Piece cosplay just in time for opening ceremonies which ended up being an hour and a half late. I’m not sure when the dealer hall actually opened as we left to get breakfast. By the way, the best place to eat near the MCM Elegante, where Con-Jikan was being held, is The Range. It is a mom and pop diner with everything you could want only a short walk from the hotel. There were fresh baked pastries and mimosas of different flavors (to start off your convention weekend on the right foot if you’re the drinking sort) with other New Mexican and American breakfast food options. We enjoyed a delicious breakfast there as Nami and Luffy, which the weight staff seemed to enjoy.
Our common practice at conventions is to attend all the cosplay panels we can. Last year I attended all three of the cosplay panels at Con-Jikan put on by the UNM students running the convention. I found Broke Man’s cosplay incredibly insightful and made me wish I had been able to fit a note pad and pen into my miniskirt for Robecca Steam from Monster High. The panelists discussed all the second hand stores, fabric stores and other places in Albuquerque to purchase items to create low budget cosplays. The panel was packed and there were great questions all from locals who had not heard of many of the stores. I walked away with many more ideas than I entered with.
I arrived with pen and paper in hand ready to take notes and catch those store names I’d missed last year. Unfortunately this year’s Broke Man’s cosplay was not a reflection of the year prior despite boasting some of the same panelists. Not only was it the only cosplay creation panel at Con-Jikan, but it also did not ring true to it’s success last year. The presenters were distracted, one of them even fell asleep behind their table for much of the panel. If one walked away with anything from this panel it was: buy costumes from Asia on EBay. I’m not sure I would endorse this. We do buy allot of our wigs on Amazon to save cost and they are pretty easy to work with, but buying your entire cosplay online is not only a gamble but can often be more expensive than making it yourself. If we sound disappointed it is only because this panel was so good last year and there were so many like it.
Our next activity was the Scavenger Hunt whose program description is the reason we HAD to participate given what we were cosplaying: “Ever seen One Piece? Well it’s kind of like that. Search the Con-Jikan grounds for a list of things. Finish the list and get a ribbon.” The list was a decent size and provided the opportunity to interact with other attendees in cosplay while exploring some landmarks within the hotel itself. Fortunately our friends had arrived by then and were able to assist us in some of the group poses we needed to complete the list.
We did our best and came in a close 4th earning a beautiful One Piece themed ribbon for our badges. Ribbon collecting is one of the main activities at this convention. All attendees with ribbons wear their badges with pride and when Sunday rolls around many badges touch the floor with the amount of ribbons on them. All vendors in the hall have their own ribbons to distribute, many are given out with purchase but some vendors put you to the test in order to earn their ribbon. If you plan ahead at this convention for the low price of $25 you can order your own ribbons to pick up with your tickets and distribute as you will. Look for MaeBerry Cosplay ribbons next year!
Afterwards and during the scavenger hunt two other cosplay related events were going on: Cosplay Chess and the Kirei Cosplay Cafe sessions. Cosplay Chess is always a favorite for cosplayers to be featured in an arena where they can put on their best show taking down other pieces from different worlds and genres. Kirei Cosplay Cafe were dressed as Overwatch characters, offering tea and cake with experiential sessions all afternoon leading up to the Masquerade.
There is limited seating in front of the Main Stage so I recommend always getting there as early as the call for contestants at the Masquerade. We managed to get some decent seats that, while they were further back, allowed me to step to the side and get some good shots of the stage. The two local cosplay guests as well as Bek, who runs the local cosplay shop Just Cos Cosplay Supply, judged the contest. Bek and her associate were dressed up as the cover art characters for Con-Jikan year Five which was an ingenious and well executed cosplay. The Masquerade had the perfect number of contestants to show off the best of Con-Jikan’s cosplay while not tiring it’s audience. There were many notable acts. One Yuri on Ice cosplay group did a choreographed dance to Chicago‘s “Cell Block Tango” and placed. The group who got the craftsmanship award had hand painted embellishments on their kimonos.
The night did not end with the Masquerade. There was still a Kigu Cookie Party and Karaoke afterwards with attendees and guests mingling in their Kigus, feasting and singing their hearts out. While everyone else was partying @skyberry13 was busy in our room preparing the wigs for the next day’s cosplay. one of which was not only gravity defying in the center, but had to have the rest of the wig entirely sculpted out.
We got up early to finish our wigs and mount them properly. Fortunately, the panel we wanted to attend did not start till noon so we had some time. Our Sadie and Lars cosplay from Steven Universe was pretty much a closet cosplay. I did iron on the logos for The Big Donut and @skyberry13 cut and styled the wigs, but aside from that everything was store bought. It is a great easy cosplay if you’re able to figure out how to have Lars hair.
The panel we were excited about on Sunday was: Overcoming Your Cosplay Insecurities. This panel had a great lineup of local cosplayers from different backgrounds and centered around the important motto that cosplay is for everyone! Two of the panelists actually make wigs for Just Cos Cosplay Supply. After discussing potential areas for insecurities around cosplay and methods for dealing with them the panelists went around sharing their own insecurities with cosplay. Their cosplay insecurities ranged from getting the makeup right, to body type, eating disorders and gender nonconformity. All of the topics were brought up with genuine feelings that many cosplayers face and were resolved with collective understanding. This sharing expanded to the audience where attendees were able to introduce themselves and express their insecurities with cosplay. It was a very nice and intimate experience where I believe everyone walked away with more confidence in their cosplays than ever. There is video footage of the panel from an attendee that filmed half of it which can be found here on YouTube.
This panel was the perfect end to an incredible weekend at Con-Jikan! Check back on January 1st for our new and improved website featuring the unveiling of our new logo!