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-mâché 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 appliquéd 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.