Work Hard, (Cos)play Hard

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Sophomore Jodie Reyna shows off her completed cosplay of her own take on the anime character, Kaneki Ken.

By Minju Kang, West Ranch High School

West Ranch sophomore Jodie Reyna is not your typical high school student. After going to classes from 8 a.m. to 2:40 p.m., JV basketball practice, a satisfying workout at Lava Gym and Hot Yoga, and soon-to-start ROP culinary class, Jodie comes home to a unique hobby: cosplay.

“[Cosplay] combines the words costume and roleplay,” said Reyna. “[It is] basically like dressing up for Halloween, but Halloween would be everyday for you.” Fans of Japanese manga, or comic books, and anime, television animation, may “cosplay,” meaning that they portray the characters they read or watch.

Jodie ventured out into the cosplay world as she was enjoying anime culture, especially the shows “Hunter x Hunter,” “Hotaru x Machinegun,” “Barakamon,” and “Hotarubi no Mori e.” Since the middle of last summer, she has portrayed five different characters, even re-creating the female version of Kaneki Ken, a former human turned into an one-eyed ghoul, from the anime, “Tokyo Ghoul.”

So where exactly does Jodie show off her creations?

“I go to anime conventions or any convention where the people there understand what I’m dressed as,” said Reyna. “At first I didn’t have anyone that inspired me in continuing this, but meeting new people and seeing them cosplay for their own enjoyment and for the enjoyment of others really stood out to me. That feeling of happiness for me and for all [the people around me] is what I always look for.”

Jodie is planning to visit Anime Expo, an extremely popular convention held in Los Angeles promoting Japanese animation. She has two cosplays underway for this event in late June: Tachibana Hotaru from “Hotaru x Machine” and “the other one is a surprise.” During her free time, she usually handmakes her costumes, especially the props that piece the entire character together.

“It usually takes a month or month-and-a-half depending on my schedule,” said Reyna.

The character she will cosplay as, Tachibana Hotaru, for Anime Expo is an energetic blonde student with green eyes, willing to fight for what is right. Jodie will wear a wig and the character’s recognizable orange and black hoodie, as well as hand-make the padding underneath. Since Jodie has brown eyes, she will purchase colored contacts online.

Conventions aren’t the only places where Jodie presents her cosplays. When she isn’t occupied with an upcoming social event, she shows off her designs via Instagram.

“[My] account: @sho_odie mostly focuses on the makings of a good cosplay, such as the makeup, DIY props, [and] the costume,” said Reyna. “But occasionally I’ll post somewhat pro pictures of my finished cosplays too.”

Through the art of cosplay, Jodie engages in many new friendships with peers of common interest. After attending Anime California, a convention for anime and video games, months ago, Jodie has gained an exciting opportunity to look forward to.

“So I met these three awesome people that cosplay too,” said Reyna. “These are random people of different age groups… two Filipino guys probably in their twenties, and a girl who is in her freshman year of college. Because of our similar interest, there was no difficulty getting to know each other better. People would occasionally ask for pictures of us because our cosplays were all from the same show. We crossed paths again [so] we eventually became long-distance homies. We all still talk to this day and we are all planning on cosplaying characters from the same show at Anime Expo. [We will be] performing a little skit on the big stage.”

Anime Expo offers fans chances to present their creativity and passion as long as they are confident and prepared. Starting around the month of December, Jodie and her three friends will begin to rehearse together.

“We aren’t very much pros in the performing arts, but we just wanted to try something new,” said Reyna.

Society sometimes views cosplayers in a negative light, labeling people as freaks or obsessed for dressing up as fictional characters. Although cosplay has its stereotypes, as long as the people behind the costume are passionate and content with their activity, nothing should stop them from expressing their admiration of anime and manga.

“Truthfully, I don’t care if anyone sees me in [a stereotypical] way because they aren’t the only people in the world I should base my thoughts on,” said Reyna. “The ones I should think about is the ones that care and if what I do makes those people happy then I’m down for whatever.”

Although cosplay is a term we don’t necessarily hear in our everyday lives, it is definitely an interesting hobby pursued by some teenagers like Jodie. Work hard, (cos)play hard.