It's great to be an otaku today, though I’m certainly not as hardcore as some fans. My shrines to Tenchi Muyo have been packed in boxes, but my dining area still features a beautiful Vampire Princess Miyu poster, and action figures are scattered around my house. We grow up, we get new interests, but we’ll always be otakus at heart. We’ll see someone with a Naruto t-shirt and give them a smile and a nod, that is, if we don’t have time to start up a whole conversation about the inherent coolness of ninjas.

When I started doing columns here at, it was great because suddenly I was in touch with my audience. People from all walks of life, all demographics, could give me input, correct my mistakes, and point out something I forgot to factor in.

I’m excited about Version Vibrant, and I can’t wait to try out my columns again. I do plan to put in more information and news updates about topics I find interesting, as well as focus on my columns about aspects of otaku life. I plan to set up a tagging system to identify different topics, so if you’re only interested in one thing, you can just check on that.

Some of the topics I’m planning to cover are:

Anime Conventions, AMVs, Otaku Socialization, Cosplay, Dealing with Parents, Writing, Publishing, Artists Alley, and Making a Difference in the Anime World

As always, check out the site at

Crafting a Costume :: Cosplay Mayhem P3

Crafting a Costume :: Cosplay Mayhem P3

Let's talk about some basics of costume construction today.

Do you fancy yourself good with a needle and thread? Or at least feel confident enough not to end up with too many new holes in your fingers?

Hopefully you have an idea of what exactly needs to be sewn. Depending on if you are making the full costume or just adding details to a thrift store base, you'll want to take different strategies to costume creation.

If you want to make your costume from scratch, well, good luck. I've only made one costume entirely from scratch, and that was my set of Vampire Princess Miyu robes. My mother helped me, but essentially we took a night robe pattern that was the right length and created two robes. The interior robe was her red robe and the exterior the white, though we didn't put any sleeves on the interior one since that would be more cumbersome and they would not have shown. I then sewed a long sash with pointed ends for around my waist. (Reference picture (

This would be the convention where I learned that a sash is not really enough to keep a robe like that closed, no matter how Miyu might fare on TV. Keep that in mind--you might need to make minor alterations to make the costume feasible for an actual human to wear.

The nice thing about simply adding details to an existing piece is that you can do it anywhere. For my first convention, a good part of my Lina Inverse costume was made in the back seat of the car on the way to the con. Of course, we also had only decided a week ago that we wanted to cosplay and one of the members of our group had already gone crazy trying to sew four cloaks in five days.

Finishing an existing piece mostly requires figuring out what needs to be added and then hand or machine sewing it. In fact, glue will work for some details, but it might fall off after repeated use.

Any time you are using fabrics, especially more difficult ones, make sure you know what the washing and ironing needs are. Most fabrics should be washed before you start sewing or before you wear them, but that isn't always true or necessary. Ironing can also be a tricky thing, because it might need low heat. If you don't have a lot of experience sewing, ask someone at the craft store. They are usually full of information and very friendly.

Art byNightambre
Hot glue guns are your friend!

Armor & Weapons
Tricky, tricky--armor and weapons pose a problem for any cosplayers who don't have the money to buy these items. But it is a challenge that many people enjoy.

Now, I'm not really comfortable with a blowtorch or metal working tools, so I tend to make my armor out of more harmless things, like flexi-foam. If there are any local historical reenactment groups in your area, that would be a great place to start if you want to learn how to build real armor.

There are a lot of ways to make armor and the internet is filled with ideas on how to make the needed pieces. In fact, you might even be able to find instructions on how to make the specific character you need. I found a great site with instructions on how to make armor out of many different materials.

Other accessories
Jewelry can be tricky to come by, as often the character wears a very specific piece. Most craft stores have a jewelry section and making a piece might be your best bet, at least for simple necklaces, earrings, or bracelets. Thrift stores can be a good source of jewelry, but it often isn't exactly what you want, and you might need to modify it with paint or glue.
If you have the money to spend, you might be able to purchase a good match at stores such as Claire's and Hot Topic, which tend to carry a lot of different styles and colors.

Other accessories such as gloves, boots, and belts are also best found at thrift stores. Each of these can be made, but they probably aren't something you want to try without knowing something about it first. For odd colored boots, you can make fabric boot covers. Make sure you measure well and I've found it's easier to use a real boot underneath, with a way to tuck the top into the original boot (this way the solidity of the original boot keeps the cover straight and boot-like). A friend made boot covers over a pair of ballet slippers, but they weren't as solid as a real boot base would have been and the fabric over her leg kept trying to slip down, despite using elastic.

There are quite a few websites that sell cosplay accessories like ears, contacts, wigs, and other specialty items. If you are particularly good at making specialty accessories, you might make some extra money by selling your own products.

Hopefully I've given you a base to start on your costume now and some ideas on how you will tackle each aspect. Next time I'll talk more about altering your own appearance: make-up, wigs, contacts, etc.

Mario Style Cars!

Found via Boing Boing, here are some awesome real life Mario customized cars.

I also saw this Mario fan at Sakura Con, though the picture is from ComicCon, with her amazing Mario. Wish I could find my own picture I took of her, but my hard drive is a mess right now. So courtesy of flickr.

Fangirly Review - Speed Racer (or enough sugar to make your eyes fall out)

Fangirly Review - Speed Racer (or enough sugar to make your eyes fall out)

You know that term eye candy? Guess what, it was invented for this movie. I have never seen anything less filling and more fun. Don’t think too hard on it and don’t worry about a plot. Just enjoy being thrust into a Mario Kart world.

Like Iron Man, I knew pretty much nothing about Speed Racer going into this. I knew enough to get the pop culture jokes, but that was it. I really wasn’t expecting to enjoy it as much as I did, but… I was mesmerized and enthralled the whole time. I constantly found myself laughing and I cared about what was going on. For characters that weren’t particularly deep, they were certainly easy to connect with.

I haven’t gotten to watch it in IMAX yet, but that may just prove to be too much for my little brain.

If you like the old show, if you like Mario Kart, or if you just like being entertained with no risk of having to think (great for those of us coming up on finals), go and see this movie.

Now, I’ve just got Prince Caspian, Indian Jones, and Sex and the City to look forward to. My brain might explode this month.

Fangirly Review - Iron Man (or Transformers meets Superhero Comics)

Fangirly Review -Iron Man (or Transformers meets Superhero Comics)

This month started with Iron Man. Now, I will not pretend to know anything about the existing Iron Man universe. I was an X-Men girl, and that was enough different comics for me to keep up with. I rarely ventured into the rest of the Marvel universe.

That being said, Iron Man was everything a comic book movie should be. There was dumb shit, there was humor, there was sexual tension, and there were robot battles.

I enjoyed Fantastic Four because it made fun of itself as a superhero movie, though the rest of the movie wasn’t all that stellar. Iron Man did a similar thing, but somehow it never quite seemed as stupid. Instead, it was pure entertainment. This isn’t the kind of movie that you go to for a deep meaningful experience; it’s the kind of movie you watch when you wanna see awesome effects and amusing dialogue.

I highly recommend this movie to all comic book fans and everyone else in-between. It’s pretty much Transformers, the superhero adventure.

And for your enjoyment...

Thrift Store Scavenging :: Cosplay Mayhem P2

Thrift Store Scavenging :: Cosplay Mayhem P2

All right, so this time we're on to planning out your costume and a little bit about shopping for clothing to remake into costume parts.

Planning Time
Well, now that you know a bit about the glorious traditions you're upholding, let's start with some planning.

First, why do you want to cosplay? Do you just want to do something fun with your friends? Do you like showing off? Or do you want a chance at winning the cosplay events?

Each of these goals is going to take a different strategy, so let's start with the simplest.

All of my cosplaying has been a result of me and friends just wanting to have some fun at a convention. None of my costumes took more than two weeks to make, and many were sewn in hotel rooms and cars. Of course, none of these costumes have been winners, but it was still fun to walk around, be recognized by others, and do group photos.

Before you get started, let's make a plan for the costume. Find some good color pictures that show as many angles of the character as possible, and then start to dissect it. Look at all the elements of the costume and think which pieces you might be able to find at a thrift store (such as a white button-down shirt) and what you might need to sew and craft by hand.

Also, keep in mind what the character looks like in general. Do you need contacts/wigs/special make-up for this costume? If you're on a budget (or have little time), it's good to take a look at the whole costume right now.

Sketch out each element of the clothing. Figure out what layer might connect to another. Now is a good time to think about how you're going to make other items like armor or jewelry.

Make a list of each piece that you need to buy, from clothing to jewelry, including accessories. Know when you make out this list how much time and money you have. Many cosplayers I've talked to who have complicated costumes have saved up over a year to put them together, buying the perfect materials whenever they could afford it. How you want to spend your money is up to you, but unless you have a well-paying job, you should take the money issue into account upfront.

Art by Annie Jia
And don't forget to think about the issue of safety while cosplaying. Large wings and blindfolds may be cool in anime, but don't always translate well to real life walking.

Thrift Store Scavenging
If you're planning to cosplay, the first thing you should do is become familiar with your local thrift stores. Typically, you have two types:

Goodwill/Salvation Army/Donation Stores – These are purely subject to the whims of the donating public. They have the cheapest items and an interesting selection, but you may need to visit quite a few to find everything you want.

Consignment Shops – These are slightly more expensive, and the owners get part of the sale money. Often these stores cater to a certain audience, like vintage, formal wear, or military, and you can sometimes find some great designer clothing and formal wear.

Find out the location of all of the stores that might have what you need. Sometimes even your local megastore (Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Target, etc.) might have clothing items you can get for cheap that are the style you need. One nice thing about going to stores like that is you will get a better size and color selection.

Most of my costumes came from thrift stores. I trimmed shirts, hemmed pants, and even cut open a robe to make Miyaka's priestess outfit. With some ingenuity and creative talents (and a fear of sewing a whole costume), a lot of pieces can be created out of already designed clothes. The nice part about that is you don't have to do all the work, especially when the item you need is something ordinary, like a blue button-down shirt. Trying to sew a shirt is much more difficult than finding one.

Still, these costumes can sometimes seem less professional, so take your time and make sure you are still putting in your best effort, even if you are mostly reassembling pieces.

Next time we'll talk about sewing costumes from scratch. A difficult, but rewarding part of costume making.