SakabuCon is the second of the two anime conventions in New Mexico. The first is our “winter” anime convention, Con Jikan, (featured in An Anime Winter Wonderland) and SabakuCon is our “summer” anime convention. One of the distinctive elements to this convention is it’s architectural location. There is only one building on the Albuquerque skyline that can arguably be called a pyramid, and that would be the Marriott Pyramid. This strange cubic structure with red striping down its sides was our retreat for the weekend. A few friends from my previous job and I booked a room for the convention to avoid the 45 minute drive up from Santa Fe every day. It was a decent room, this was not one of our resort hotel stays but it served well as a landing pad for quick changes throughout the weekend.
I sped up from Santa Fe in my green Veloster on Friday afternoon, testing speed limits and yelling at stupid drivers trying to get to the first cosplay panel. I do not know why SabakuCon did this, but its best programming, as far as panels go, was on Friday. Most conventions use Friday as a preview day giving the fans that can attend a first look at the dealer room and there may be some minor programming since most people (me included) have work or, for the young anime crowd, school. So, having programming that begins at 12:30PM on a Friday featuring main guests is less than ideal. I did end up taking the afternoon off of work to barely make this panel, something I’d like not to have to make a habit of. Cosplay, anime and conventions in general are an expensive hobby and paying for that hobby means not taking off of work. Anyway, some food for thought for the SabakuCon team.
My first panel of the day was Group Cosplays featuring the cosplay guests from Las Cruces: Quintilla Cosplay, MaraSan Cosplay and Nikki Karay. Let me just start by saying that this group of cosplayers were some of the best cosplay panelists I’ve had the pleasure of learning from. They were very open about where they were in their cosplay journey and, therefore, shared all of their knowledge in a very down to earth style. They specialize in doing RWBY group cosplays with groups as large as the high teens, so they were very knowledgeable on the ins and outs of cosplaying with a large group. The first slide, titled Making a Plan, including advice like: make sure everyone has a chance to mingle outside of cosplaying, decide on characters with compromise, and plan breaks for the group multiple times each day of the convention. The next slide titled Poses and Helping Out covered: deciding and practicing poses for photos, deciding on how in character your group will be, doing regular checks for costume elements throughout the day, staying hydrated and maintaining awareness of how everyone in the group is doing throughout the day. For competition with a group quality matters, a certain percentage of each costume must be hand constructed as specified by the convention, practice your poses or skit and decide beforehand what happens with the prize money should your group win. The level of quality also matters, it should be standard throughout the group, but if you’re not competing it only needs to look good from 5 feet away. As with any relationship in life, communication is key and setting up a group message to communicate helps as well as: scheduling hangout times unrelated to cosplaying to keep morale up; sending each other work in progress photos; meeting up to work on your cosplays; and be willing to ask for help. Finally, set a deadline before the convention to prevent anyone from putting something together last minute and cast the main characters as hard working cosplayers you know will come through.
My next panel which was double booked because of the sheer amount of programming on Friday was supposed to be Women in the Anime Industry with Christina Vee well known for voicing Ladybug from Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug and Cat Noir and Dorothy Fahn with a laundry list of voiced characters, my favorite of which was Margaret in The Seven Deadly Sins. This panel did happen, both voice actresses did speak, I only say “supposed to” because the subject matter of the panel was less than glossed over. To be fair, SabakuCon did not provide a moderator and the actresses were left to their own devices which ended up being incredibly anti-feminist for a panel titled “Women in the Anime Industry.” There were things said like “Why isn’t there a Men in the Anime Industry panel, huh?” Don’t meet your heroes rung in my mind as I left to seek out the other panel I wanted to attend in this hour, but unfortunately only found an empty room as the Advanced Wig Styling with Rabbit + Hare did not happen.
I was disappointed enough that I convinced @skyberry13 to drive down to keep me company. She was working this weekend and was going to be unable to attend the convention, but we got her a Friday badge and ran to take our seats in The Snow White Jellyfish on Ice panel with Josh Grelle. This panel was the perfect pick me up and did anything but let us down as the previous panels had. Josh voices so many incredible characters, but the two I know him for are Yuri Katsuki from Yuri on Ice and Kuranosuke from Princess Jellyfish. This voice actor is an incredible ally to the queer/trans community. In his panel he was intent to speak about how a cross dressing character like Kuranosuke had never been done before in any media, much less the anime community. He raved about how happy he was in being a part of so many fans’ journeys to their trans and other identities. This panel was the best of the weekend already. I will try to find a link to someone who filmed it because I was close to crying in this panel. Fun fact, Josh was staying on our floor in one of the rooms across from us and my roommate was squeeing over him so hard. There were many jokes all weekend about not waking Josh by being too loud.
Next, was Styling the Unstyleable with Gorgonize Cosplay. This young cosplayer and her troupe were only three years into cosplaying and had such a mature mastery of the art that we both walked away informed. They were well spoken and gave three demonstrations on wigs right there in the panel. It was incredible and we both learned some things we might put into use for our upcoming A-Kon cosplays!
Our last panel of the night was Cosplay Crossovers: mixing your favorite characters and shows, by the main cosplay guests from Las Cruces who gave the first panel we attended. Technical difficulties struck so in true convention fashion we gathered around their lap top for their presentation. As RWBY cosplayers they do allot of crossovers with those characters to keep them fresh which included turning them into sailor scouts from Sailor Moon. This, of course, was their first suggestion: choose which two fandoms you want to cross over. Commonly crossed fandoms that are easy to transition into are Disney, Pokemon, Harry Potter and Star Wars. There are also different types of outfits like maid dresses or swimsuits that would mix it up. Key elements: try to choose the most iconic aspects of both fandoms. This can range from color scheme, to hairstyle and accessories. You can be the character from one fandom with the clothing style from another. While one might show through more, wearing the wig of the character you want to emulate helps it shine through. Another great tip was to get inspiration from fanart.
I know that the cosplay contest @skyberry13, @calicoqueen and I recently judged at ClexaCon (Clexa Con Ends with a Bang: Cosplay Masquerade), not only had a winning crossover of Valkyre from Lost Girl and Rufio from Hook, who walked away with Best In Show, but also had a winning group who coordinated from different parts of the globe through a Facebook Group to show up cosplaying the “12 Days of Hautmas” from a fanart of artist, Diana Benitez, who actually had a booth at ClexaCon. It was pretty cool and very inventive seeing characters re-imagined like that. We definitely plan on doing some crossover cosplays in the future.
Unfortunately, after this panel @skyberry13 had to drive back to Santa Fe. So, I took my roommates to the Friday Night Rave. It was pretty underwhelming and they were selling glow sticks instead of giving them away. We danced as a group in the corner for a bit, but then we left for some more adventure which we found in the game room. Of all the game rooms that I’ve visited at conventions this one was the most fun I’d had. There were retro game consoles, along with all the new gadgets. We played Super Smash Brothers well into the night before retiring to our room somewhere around 1AM, excited for the next day.
We slept in till 9:30 and groggily got out of bed. I was cosplaying Adrien Agreste from Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug and Cat Noir so I had a wig to dawn. It was my first time putting on a wig by myself since @skyberry13 was not there and let me just say it did not go well. It did not help that the styled wig had spent the day in a hot car during work the day before so it was not holding any of it’s shape. Also, the miraculous ring that I had spent forever searching hobby stores to find and spray painted silver once I found one was nowhere to be found. I ended up calling @skyberry13 in tears begging her to come down to Albuquerque before work. While she was on her way I went down (feeling self conscious about my wig) to attend my first panel: Seven Deadly Sins.
I’ve never been to a panel where cosplayers give the panel as their characters before and I was excited! Fortunately, Immobliss Cosplay were incredible as Elizabeth Liones and Gowther both dressed in their bar maid uniforms. They sipped out of mugs from the bar throughout the panel and even had a shrunken Hawk who sat on the table as well. Listening to this two banter about other characters was a great first experience of in-character panels!
At the end of the panel I got a call from @skyberry13 who is the sweetest partner in all the world for driving down from Santa Fe to deliver me a new miraculous and fix my wig. I did treat her to lunch at Jason’s Deli as a thank you before she drove away for work. For Adrien Agreste I painted stripes onto a black shirt with fabric paint. (Not as easy as it sounds) There are certain fabric paints that are totally useless unless you want them to be clear, so the first dozen coats of each color did not show up. The stripes were already taped in place with painter’s tape so when I got the right “matte” fabric paints I just painted over my failed attempts. Unfortunately, the tape was totally useless and the lines were all over the place so I had to touch up with black fabric paint which was still visible under ligtht, but was the best I could get it for this convention. The wig was from Amazon styled by the incredible @skyberry13. The rest of the costume was a closet cosplay as I literally had the white button down and skinny jeans in my closet. I’m still learning to do male contouring so I’m definitely missing @queenbreadsama who did my amazing makeup for Lars from Steven Universe.
Anyway, feeling more confident about my cosplay I attended the Sempai Chit Chat panel with voice actors: Dorothy Fahn, Josh Grelle, Bryce Papenbrook (Chat Noir), Chris Patton and Christina Vee. Some of these guests we had seen the night before, but with the addition of Chat Noir’s voice the panel was invigorated. There was allot of discussion about how many of Chris’s blooper burps were used for monsters in other anime without his knowledge until a couple years ago. There is apparently an unusual amount of burping in the voice acting industry. At least that’s what I walked away from this panel knowing. After this, there were really no panels of interest for me until late that afternoon so I hung out with my furry friend @iceboislushie.
We ate at the hotel’s lobby food setup, which actually has a pretty good Teryiaki Rice Bowl and they went out of their way to customize their menu to SabakuCon. We wandered around the vendor hall for a while looking at wares and trying to kill time before Bryce Papenbrook’s panel: Efforts & Reactions in Anime & Video. This panel was really fun and interactive because the idea behind it was to teach us (the audience) how to be a voice actor with lessons like: “what’s it sound like to get punched in the face, blown up or eaten by a Titan?” We spent the entire panel making noises we had never made before at the count of three and then the panel room would burst into laughter after we had given our best imitations. If you’re ever at a convention with Bryce Papenbrook and he is giving this panel I highly encourage you to attend!
My next activity is what I had been looking most forward to at this convention. As soon as the schedule lineup had been released this activity topped my chart on what I wanted to attend. Now, I do not think @skyberry13 and I have talked about this on here, but in college our sorority’s sweetheart DM’d a D&D campaign at the local gaming store, The Gathering Place. It was our activity every Sunday after church running the entire rest of the day, but many of the others in the campaign were our sorority sisters and we had a great time. Anyway, that is our history with tabletop RPG games and I was so excited to join in a campaign from the world of Dragon Age. I got to the game a little late because I’d changed out of my cosplay into street clothes for all of the evening activities. But as I sat down it was like a dream because across the table from me there was a Qunari and a Mage cosplaying their own characters from Dragon Age. I picked up an elven character card with the male name of Falos, silently cursing myself for forgetting to bring my steampunk dice set. In this RPG you use a 3D6 and a 1D6 for rolls. In this character card you can see what my stats were. I mostly used my double blades, but towards the end of the campaign I pulled out my bow. But I’m getting ahead of myself, the campaingn was set in Orlais which is my favorite area in all of the Dragon Age franchise mostly because of the book The Masked Empire by Patrick Weekes. This is, of course, the book about Empress Celene and her maid Briala’s love story, a totally great read if you a) like lesbian romance novels without overly sexualized characters or b) love Dragon Age. Anyway, I was literally jumping up and down that the DM had set our campaign there. Our quests took us to: Val Royeaux, the capital city of Orlais; Halamshiral, in the elven Dales, and the Arbor Wilds. I was also excited that I had picked an elven character given the nature of the area. Our troupe battled a Wyvern and The Grand Oak, an ent like creature.
But all good things must come to an end and I was pulled out of the world of Dragon Age by my roommates excited squeals. They had won the SabakuCon: Team Trivia Challenge and with our arms full of our prizes we went up to our room to change into swim clothes. On our way to the pool we hit up a room party put on my some of our vendor friends where we enjoyed some libations and pizza before excusing ourselves for our nighttime swim adventure. The pool at this Marriott is cut into two halves, the outside half and the inside half, which was an interesting combo but made the pool smaller on both ends. We stayed inside since someone was throwing a graduation party on the outdoor side. After we had our fun we went up to the room to change for the rave. Saturday’s rave was much better than Friday’s. There were more people, the glow sticks were free and the company was good. The rest of my roommates winning team from trivia joined us dressed as Marinette and Alya which had me kicking myself for changing out of my Adrien cosplay. It’s okay, his wig would not have survived the head banging that our dancing included. We left the rave around midnight in search of food which we found in the sweet home style taste of Whataburger. In true Texas fashion we left with our order tent card and went to get some sleep for day three.
I was cosplaying Luffy this Sunday morning in his winter rendition that we had made for ConJikan. This is probably my favorite cosplay so far and not only because I embroidered the patches myself. I love this character so much and he is easily recognizable even if people do not know what version I am cosplaying. We will probably be taking this cosplay to Dallas A-Kon with us. In true Luffy fashion I took the melon mochi I had picked up in the vendor hall the first day which I had been surviving on all weekend to my first panel for breakfast. This panel I had been looking forward to all weekend. Tackling Props: The Beginner’s Intro was put on by the awesome Nikki Karay and is, to this date, the most informative panel on foam props that I have ever attended. She went over the materials that are on the market for this use and their expense brackets. For patterning she suggests choosing a base piece to figure out your initial scale drawing it out onto poster board or using duct taped saran wrap and labeling each piece. Once you have your pattern trace it out onto your material and cut with a fresh blade. To finish the edges sand them with sanding sticks, a dremel and to burn away “final fuzzies” use a heat gun. With that gun heat the pieces evenly on both sides then hold it into the desired shape until it has cooled. The foam will relax so if you want a hard curve, tighten it more than it needs to be so it will relax into the shape you want. Soft-assemble the pieces and outline where they fit together so you know where to glue. Before attaching straps use tape to figure out how long the straps need to be. For extra embellishment you can use googly eyes as rivets, use hot glue to make shapes, the exact-o knife for battle damage and shallow details. To seal the foam before you paint it caulk the seams with a product like Kwik Seal smoothing over with your wet fingers. Then use a spray on plasti-dip with two to five layers depending on the material. If these are inaccessible a mod podge will work. To paint, tape off the places you do not want to have that color, start with the spray painting the main colors and then a sealing spray coat. Weather the colors as needed and then spray on a final sealing coat. To attach armor use nylon straps with sewn in elastic and velcro. You can attach them using hot glue and scoring where they attach to the foam. I told you this was an informative panel! As we are gearing up for creating our long awaited and planned out Dragon Age cosplays I will be putting this knowledge into good use.
The next panel was another of the ones I was most looking forward to, The Art of Transformation: How to Cross-play and Gender-swap by Mara-San Cosplay. She went into the definitions of cross-play versus gener-swap to start. For male to female cosplay she suggested: aiming for the largest option if shopping in women’s sizes, simulating a bust with a padded bra, shaving when wearing lower cut outfits, using makeup to hide stubble and contour the face, wearing shoes lower to the ground helps sell the look and trying to speak in a higher octave. For female to male cosplay she suggested: aiming for the smallest option if shopping in men’s sizes, binding your breasts with either medical wrap or a compression shirt (do either safely as binding can be dangerous), using makeup to contour your face, simulating facial hair with either makeup or prosthetic hair to simulate facial hair, wearing shoes higher off the ground to lend extra height, pitching your voice lower and remembering to remove any nail polish you may be wearing unless the character calls for it. For gender swapping study the character design to see what can be changed to make it more male or female, look up other cosplayers who have gender swapped this character, research fan art of this character gender swapped, consider wearing a longer or shorter wig in the character’s same style and color. Make sure to keep key elements of the character: weapons, props, color scheme, and hairstyle.
And, thus, my stint at SabakuCon was over. There was a panel late that afternoon that I wanted to attend, but I could not justify wasting a whole day waiting around for a panel, so I drove home. All in all the weekend was a success. There were some disappointing panels, but the cosplay was on point and most of the programming was great. Now, to get ready for Dallas A-Kon!