Cosplay competitions have become a staple of pop culture conventions. Crunchyroll Expo, an annual celebration of Japanese culture and media hosted by the titular anime brand, is no exception. Though this year's event had to move online this year because of COVID-19 (coronavirus) -- rebranded as Crunchyroll Virtual Expo 2020 -- cosplayers were still given the chance to compete in Crunchyroll-Hime's Cosplay Cup; a competition open to everyone from beginners to advanced practitioners.
Among this year's judges was Rock M. Sakura, who RuPaul's Drag Race fans will remember from Season 12 of the hit competition reality show. Though the drag performer's time on the show was cut short after failing to impress in the Ball challenge, Rock M.'s anime-esque painting and kooky personality left an indelible impression on viewers. The TV star was joined on the judging panel by Svetlana Quindt, better known in the cosplay community as Kamui Cosplay. With over a decade's worth of experience, Svetlana has made a name for herself -- along with her partner, Benni -- as a master craftswoman of armor and weaponry. And she's not been keeping her cosplay secrets to herself: her YouTube tutorials have amassed millions of views.
Ahead of this year's Crunchyroll Virtual Expo, CBR caught up with both judges to talk about their respective crafts, influences and some pretty outlandish performance ideas.
Rock M. Sakura
CBR: How excited are you to be on the other side of a judging panel?
Rock M. Sakura: Yes! I’m so happy to finally be a part of judging that doesn't end in me losing. All joking aside, I’m excited and nervous at the same time. I absolutely love the art of cosplay, and I know that every single person who submits a look is going to wow me. So, I’m pressed to see if my indecisiveness will manifest. I will probably be screaming the whole time, to be honest.
If you were invited to a future All Stars season of Drag Race (fingers crossed!) and entered the Werkroom in cosplay, what would it be and why?
If I entered the room in another cosplay, I would want it to be nice and niche, but extremely polished. I would probably come in as the girl from Uzumaki whose hair is SUPER SUPER high and swirly or the guy with the acne from Junji Ito.
I read that you do a performance to Utada Hikaru’s “Simple and Clean” where you mop the floor with your wig and am now low-key obsessed with the idea. Apart from that, what’s the wildest video game-inspired number you’ve ever come up with?
I mean, that number is definitely high up on the list with game-inspired numbers. I would have to say that my wildest number that’s video game-inspired is a number where I do “Jump Up Superstar” from Mario Odyssey and I have trampolines on stage to make me jump super high. I also have a number as Chun Li where I BREAK watermelons with my thighs.
CBR: As a professional cosplayer and crafter, what do you look for looking for when judging other people’s cosplay?
Kamui Cosplay: When it comes to costume competitions, my judging is based on the guidelines of the contest. Overall, I would say though that I look especially into the level of detail, accuracy, choice of materials and the general difficulty of the costume creation. I think about how many different materials, techniques and tools were involved in creating a costume, but also count how difficult it was to learn a specific skill, for example. Effort and patience are important for my own personal judging and I highly appreciate if someone wasn’t scared of the challenge to bring a certain character to life.
Looking at your portfolio, it's clear you specialize in weapons and armor, in particular. Are you drawn to characters that are armored and weapon-based, or do you just especially enjoy creating those kinds of costumes and props?
I think both. I love strong, female characters like my Warrior Princess Xena, my Barbarian from Diablo III or my Hunters from Monster Hunter. Even as a child, I always loved [and] enjoyed stories of powerful, brave and fearless women and wanted to become a hero myself. In addition, Worbla, foam and electronics are some of my favorite materials to work with, so creating huge armor, light-up props and crazy stuff feels very natural for me.
What’s the most elaborate cosplay you’ve created to date, and how long did it take to put together?
I think Aloy from Horizon Zero Dawn is my most elaborate costume so far. I worked for three months on the project, but my husband Benni and his brother Jakob did also a huge part here. While I did the sewing, created the leather armor, the pouches, quiver and the wig, they worked on the 3D printed armor and bow of my costume. It was a huge teamwork effort that was a lot of work for all three of us. The result, however, was worth every second we put into it!