Photo: Shannon Cottrell/LA Weekly, Ejen Chuang and friends at Cosplay in America Release partyCosplay in America is a gorgeous tribute to the people who attend anime conventions. Photographer Ejen Chuang spent a year traveling to cons shooting cosplayers. He published the coffee table-style book on his own and is now traveling again, this time set up in the artist alley at various conventions with his labor of love.
I had a chance to look through the book at the Cosplay in America release party in Los Angeles a few months ago. The layout is slick and the photos are lovely. Chuang did what I hope more people will do in the future, portrayed cosplay as art.
Here's a wonderful video interview Chuang conducted with a Porco Rosso cosplayer.
• Cosplay in America website
• Cosplay in America: Amazon
• Cosplay in America Release Party
Photo: Shannon Cottrell/LA Weekly, Voltaire at Comic-Con, 2010
Before I ever went to a convention, I went to lots of music festivals. The two aren't that different. By Sunday, both kinds of events are filled with thousands of people who aren't sure if they just want to go home, or if they never want the weekend to end. While you probably won't find a lot of comic book signings at a music festival, you will find music at conventions.
You can tell a lot about a convention by the artists they bring in to play live. Pacific Media Expo, the Asian pop culture convention that takes place in LA every November, is small, but has a cool party vibe to it. They'll feature up-and-comers and people from the Tokyo club scene, like fashion designer/DJ Takuya Angel. Anime Expo is massive and has national appeal. They'll book artists that are extremely popular within the fandom, like AKB48 and Morning Musume. Comic-Con doesn't offer music as part of its programming (a shame, as the only things that might get me to spend all day in the Hall H line would be the prospects of seeing Orbital and Matt Smith perform the Dr. Who theme and a William Shatner concert), but there are Con-related shows and parties held offsite. We caught Voltaire playing a steampunk party this year.
Shannon and I met about two years ago, when we were paired together for the same assignment. Then, at one point I said something to her like, "Hey, want to go to Anime LA with me? There will be lots of cosplayers. You'll get cool photographs."
I'm admittedly an anime nerd, so I had been to Anime LA before, and to a few other cons. Shannon had been to Comic-Con, but hadn't attended any anime events. I'm not sure if either of us knew what was going to happen that weekend. But by the end of it, we had become reporting partners and developed a serious con addiction. Our mission, henceforth, was to scout out every convention, plus fan gatherings in between conventions, and cover them. That summer, we scored our geek fantasy assignments—Anime Expo and San Diego Comic-Con International—and the obsession grew worse.