By Saturday, Anime Expo had sold out Los Angeles Convention Center, bringing in about 85,000 people. The tightly packed quarters, long lines and July heat didn’t deter cosplayers: they made it through the holiday weekend in armor, super high heels, body paint and oversized wigs. They stood for long stretches of time as attendees rushed towards them with camera flashes blazing. Honestly, I don’t know how cosplayers hang in there for four days.
With so many people at AX, the cosplayers were a diverse lot. Many chose to represent recent anime series like Kill la Kill and Attack on Titan. Some of the old hits faded away this year, though; I can’t remember seeing anyone wearing a Bleach costume and those used to be ubiquitous at anime events. Sailor Moon had a big resurgence, thanks in part to Sailor Moon Crystal, which premiered this weekend. Video games like League of Legends and Assassin’s Creed were popular choices. Alternate versions of established characters from anime, U.S. comics and video games were popular too. Here’s a rundown of the 20 coolest cosplays we saw at the convention this year.
1. Attack on Titan.
Vera and Tori dressed as Titans on the Fourth of July, which is arguably one way of showing your independence.
Vera’s female Titan costume includes a homemade bodysuit, and was a trying experience. She had to hand sew the suit onto her body for a perfect fit before decorating it with acrylic paint. Tori bought her bodysuit, but embellished it with acrylic paint and armor made from craft foam, which is attached to the suit with velcro. “Because I’m a fool that never learns, I saved everything for the last minute,” says Tori. “I haven’t been sleeping much.”
2. Dandy and Meow from Space Dandy.
Directed by Shinichiro Watanabe, who is responsible for both Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo, Space Dandy premiered in both Japan and the United States earlier this year, and its popularity was evident in the amount of Dandy cosplayers who turned up at Anime Expo this year. Here, our Space Dandy is accompanied by Meow, a feline pal whose real name is pretty darn hard to pronounce. Thi, the woman who is cosplaying Meow here, laughed as she gave her character’s name on Friday.
Thi made both of the costumes seen here with “a lot of felt.” She also has a bit of an advantage for cosplay. “I work at an industrial supply company,” she says, “so I get materials at cost price. It’s nice.”
3. Dancing Totoro
Craig Yamaguchi was inspired by an All That Jazz version of “Tonori no Totoro,” the theme song from the Studio Ghibli classic My Neighbor Totoro, to create a snazzy suit that resembled the the film’s titular character. “When I listened to the song, that’s what I imagined,” he says.
Yamaguchi came up with the idea, but he’s admittedly not much of a seamstress. He commissioned a friend to make it for him. “It’s worth the price I paid,” he says. Yamaguchi was a hit inside the convention center, where he danced through the crowd to the song that inspired the costume.
4. Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn in Ballgowns.
“I was bored at work one day and I just started thinking about Batman,” says Chyree. Such thinking resulted in her Poison Ivy ball gown and friend Chelsea’s Harley Quinn formal attire.
It took Chyree five days to make the costumes. She was working on the night before their Friday debut to nail the perfect details, like the fact that Harley’s skirt is actually double-sided: the interior features vertical black and white stripes. “I wanted the stripes to go sideways,” says Chyree, “but didn’t buy enough fabric to do that.”
These cosplayers are the reason that I now know about a fencing game called Nidhogg; if I end up playing the game, it will be their fault.
Sean Hubbard and friends spent a few days making the papier-m?ch? unicorn/Pac-Man thing that accompanies the sword-fighters. One person hides inside the head of the creature, while one or two more will fit into the tail. Then another person will guide the crew around the convention center. “It’s a little bit of a hassle,” says Hubbard, “but somehow, we made it.”
6. Monsters University.
Daron Anton Scott and Zak Mandzak have spent the past couple years dressing as Mordecai and Rigby, the pair at the center of Regular Show. For Anime Expo 2014, they wanted to do something different, and chose Monsters University because it isn’t something you’ll see often at conventions. Plus, says Mandzak, “the characters were really cute.”
Mandzak is Randy Boggs and Scott is Sulley. They invited me to the Scare Games.
7. Lucrezia Borgia, Assassin’s Creed style.
I have long been fascinated by the sordid history of the Borgias, so when this cosplayer, who didn’t give her name, said that she was cosplaying Lucrezia Borgia, I thought that was a pretty interesting choice. Then she mentioned that the daughter of a pope was in Assassin’s Creed and I thought that maybe I should play more video games.
8. Shiro from Deadman Wonderland.
Cosplayer Brittany Cox nailed the look of Shiro from the manga and anime series Deadman Wonderland, making the bodysuit herself and having appliqu?d the red swirls onto the white fabric. Red contacts and beyond-pale makeup complete the look.
9. Nui Harime from Kill la Kill.
Kill la Kill is the big hit on the anime convention circuit right now, and at Anime Expo, there were loads of cosplayers taking on characters from the hit series. Amongst them, I saw plenty do their own interpretations – even gender-swapped versions – of protagonist Ryuko Matoi. Nudist Beach characters were also particularly popular. (That was probably a wise choice given the heat at the convention center.) There were even a few cosplayers dressed like villain Nui Harime. Beth, from Santa Barbara, was one of them.
This is a character identifiable, in part, for her massive pigtailed hair. Beth made her wig for this costume. Her first try was “too top heavy.” She made the one in this photo the night before she wore the costume to the convention.
10. Annie and Tibbers from League of Legends.
Props to cosplayers Hiro and Ryan for wearing winter costumes (Hiro made them) in a jam-packed convention center on Fourth of July weekend.
11. Tyrael and Malthael from Diablo III.
Fry and Jon have only been cosplaying for six months, and had never done anything as complicated as these Archangels from Diablo III. Not bad for relative noobs.
12. Samus Aran from Metroid.
While Fry and Jon were working on their Diablo costumes, Tiffany was crafting her Samus Aran costume in the garage that functions as the trio’s workshop. She spent about a month on it, with the shoulders taking a large share of the time to construct. All three used PVC foam for their work, and frequently ran to stores to pick up workout mats that they reshaped with heat guns.
It was Tiffany’s first time making a costume that required more than just fabric.
13. Shredder from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Cosplay is a great conversation starter. Sometimes, though, cosplay can make it difficult to hold a conversation. Take this Shredder as an example. I think he said his name was Rudy and that his friend made the costume, but his voice was muffled by the outstanding mask.
14. Claptrap/Sailor Wubwub.
July 5 was the official Sailor Moon Day at Anime Expo, with a Viz panel introducing the cast of the new English dub of the original series, plus the premiere of Sailor Moon Crystal. There was also a large, Viz-sponsored cosplay gathering for fans of the influential series. Needless to say, there was a lot of Sailor Moon at the con.
Cosplayer Drcane (not in this picture) made the Claptrap seen here. A friend added pigtails, bow and tiara to turn the Borderlands robot into Sailor Wubwub.
15. Sylvanas Windrunner and Lor’themar Theron from World of Warcraft.
Dawn Bright and Owen Lord were doing a Blizzcon test run at Anime Expo; Dawn made the costumes. Her Sylvanas Windrunner piece isn’t finished yet, and Owen was having issues with makeup, as in his chin hairs had fallen. This is why test runs matter.
Dawn works with large pieces of plastic, which she cuts up and forms into armor with heat. She spray paints the work and uses acrylic paint for details. Some of the pieces on the costumes are made from resin. Both she and Owen are hobbyists and do work with the Stormtroopers of the 501st as well.
16. Poppy and Tristana from League of Legends.
These veteran cosplayers used some teamwork to put together fantastic Poppy and Tristana costumes. One focuses on the props – using everything from foam to vinyl flooring – and the other is good with a sewing machine and can rip up leggings to piece them back together as a shirt.
17. Homulilly from Puella Magi Madoka Magica.
This costume is possibly a spoiler from the Puella Magi Madoka Magica universe, which you should watch. It took two gloves and a little paint to make the creepy hands. A box was used to make the stocks. It’s a beautiful and totally unsettling costume.
18. Gandalf the Grey and Hobbits.
Friends worked with friends to put together these terrific costumes inspired by the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. Amy is a “generic Hobbit” who made her costume in two days and used wool and flip-flops to create the illusion of hairy feet. Amy also helped Jon with his Gandalf the Grey costume, while Jon worked with another friend to make the staff. It’s a PVC pipe covered in clay that was painted.
James, who is Bilbo Baggins, wanted to look like he was barefoot. He’s wearing clear Insoles on the soles. Those are attached to his feet with mesh to create invisible flip-flops. All you notice at first is the hair, which was attached with spirit gum. James had a friend make his pipe.
19. Alien from Toy Story 3.
An army of aliens inside the convention hall might be disturbing no matter how Disney/Pixar they are, but a single, three-eyed Toy Story alien is adorable.
20. Rule 63 Sailor Scouts.
With the aforementioned big emphasis on Sailor Moon at Anime Expo this year, some cosplayers chose to dress as alternate versions of the Sailor Scouts. Of course, Rule 63 applied and I saw a handful of genderbent characters from the series. This group took their inspiration from fan art created by a devianARTist named heavenhellexe.
Honorable Mention: Totoro.
It just isn’t an anime convention without one of these guys doing it right.
Previously by Liz Ohanesian
7 Lessons Learned From Watching Star Wars with Someone Who Never Saw It
9 Awesome Things You Might Not Know About Cartoon Network Studios
7 Reasons Why Marvel Superhero Movies Are Really Boring
10 Surprising Facts About Titmouse Animation Studio
The 8 Goth-Rockingest Episodes of The Venture Bros.