Sakura Con 2017: Riri & the Cosplay Contest

Sakura Con 2017: Riri & the Cosplay Contest

Written by: Riri (@lillyums)

This year’s Sakura Con wasn’t just any year – it was Sakura Con’s 20th anniversary.  Speaking of anniversaries, it was also my 10th CONiversary attending Sakura Con.  It’s been a long time coming to this convention!  What made this even more of a rewarding experience is that I was asked to be a cosplay judge alongside with cosplayers Jechts and Hylian Jean.  Two years ago, I wrote about my experience as a contestant in the Cosplay Contest.  Today, you will hear about my experience as a Cosplay Judge for Sakura Con but with more emphasis on the cosplay walk-on portion of the contest.

The whole cosplay contest included both the cosplay skit contest and the cosplay walk-on.  On Day 2, the skit contest started at 9:00 AM followed by the cosplay walk on.  When the schedule was posted, we had heard several criticisms from attendees regarding the start time.  It was rough, to be honest, even though I wasn't a participant in the contest. I still cosplayed and likely woke up just as early as everyone else to get ready.  The 3 of us sat in the middle of the Main Hall and watched the whole show from there.  In the end, everyone made it! It was done and over before we knew it. 

Jechts, Hylian Jean, and Riri cosplay judges

Jechts, Hylian Jean, and Riri cosplay judges

Both of the contests has been structured very similarly the last few years and have had little changes for quite some time.  The skit contest did not and generally does not have any pre-judging involved.  We show up the day of the contest to judge the skit contest on the spot and decide who would win Best Musical, Best  Drama, Best Comedy, and Best in Show, regardless of category. In summary, here were the winners!

Best Musical : Cosplaimee and Jon McHugh
Best Drama : Royal Potatoes
Best Comedy : TinyPups Cosplay

Best in Show : Ice Cubed

What we recall loving about the Best in Show was that not only their lovely acting and story, but the use of items to enhance the performance on the stage.  This group did a Frozen performance and used bubbles and our favorite Olaf running around in the background to add a bit of comedy to the show.  


Jechts as All Might



The cosplay walk-on generally is more involved and requires pre-judging. This isn’t very different from my experience as a contestant for the walk-on contest that I wrote HERE.  But I’ll describe it again here.  Regarding the application for the cosplay walk-on, after you apply to be in the contest, you’ll be added to the active list or to the waitlist.  Being waitlisted isn’t the end of the world either.  There is a chance that there would be cosplayers that back out for any reason.  You would have until a specified date to provide all the required materials (work in progress, and walk on song) and then after that will receive communication on where you’ll need to be when Sakura Con starts. On Day 1 is the required roll call meeting that the contestants should show up for if they don’t want their spot taken by a waitlister. From there, once the position was confirmed, they picked a judging time that day.  After that, they showed up for their judging time and spent 8 minutes with the judges. So our schedule was pretty much booked from 11:30 am to 5:00 pm judging someone every 8 minutes! What we should have done was probably arrange for some food (or eat beforehand) and schedule in some bathroom breaks.  That was definitely an oversight!

The contest rules were described very clearly and included exactly what each contestant would be judged on.  We judged each contestant on execution, accuracy, complexity, creativity, and overall look.  Execution and accuracy were the most heavily weighed, just as the contest details had initially stated.  Here’s a copy and paste of exactly what it said from the website:

snippet from the Sakura Con cosplay contest page

snippet from the Sakura Con cosplay contest page

At the end of the day, we reviewed all the photos and the notes we took (in my Death Note haha) and made our picks.  We followed the criteria above for judging exactly as we should, rating them on a scale from 1-5 for each section and noted their best attributes.

The following awards were awarded in both the Individuals and Groups category: Best in Novice, Best in Intermediates, Best in Masters. In addition, we awarded Best in Craftsmanship, Judge’s Choice, and Best overall. Here were the winners:







What we recall in our Best Overall winner was that not only did she look spot on compared to the reference photo, but her level of attention to detail was absolutely amazing. The use of lace motifs to create the lace around the dress, the crazy perfect seams, the intricacy of the corset, the materials that were used to make every layer of this cosplay, from the flowers on the hat all the way down to the shoes - she missed nothing.  Her staff was nothing short of fantastic either, and I recall that she had used creativity to arrange these crystals in her staff that I don't think any of us realized she did it that way until she explained it. 

We did struggle on a few choices, and that was expected when you are introduced to so much talent! These cosplayers demonstrated extreme attention to detail and accuracy, including utilizing new techniques to achieve their end goal.  We were in awe of every single person that day. And it's not that others weren't details or accurate - it was definitely very difficult as I said, but when two applicants demonstrated both attention to detail and accuracy, we had to add another criteria (like complexity or creativity) and judge based on that.  Overall, I believe we judged fairly and were not disappointed in our choices. We just wished we could have another Judge's Choice award! Maybe like some more wild cards to have a winner for the group catergory as well.

Many people have asked what it would take to win or at least be considered – well there are no secrets here! The contest coordinator did not leave any details out on the submission page. If you’re going to make cosplay for a contest, being able to demonstrate a little bit of each of the criteria will catch a judge’s eye, including all the details in between.

Does that mean that you absolutely have to rate 5/5 in all criteria in order to be considered for an award? No! Not necessarily. Even though we had to judge on execution, accuracy, complexity, and creativity, execution and accuracy were heavily weighted.  So yes, a “simple” looking cosplay may be rated lower in complexity, but it does not mean that they sacrificed in the other criteria.  For me in particular, since my background is mostly sewing with some prop construction, I paid close attention to seams and cleanliness of a sewn dress and outfit. Overall we had a pretty good team of judges spanning a range of experience in cosplay techniques.

Keep in mind too that people don’t enter JUST to win Entering a contest is a great way to connect with new cosplayers and to have fun.  It’s another way to just get yourself out there, strut your stuff on that stage and wow the audience. My advice for those considering to enter is that if you enter with the expectation to win, then that is never the right mindset and you could be quite disappointed.  Being able to participate in a cosplay contest will help you grow as a cosplayer and connect with others in the same position as you. For me, the one thing I definitely have learned from being on the stage for a cosplay contest is … to make sure you can actually move in your cosplay after you make it, and that nothing will fall off haha.

In the end, everyone were winners to us.  That and I actually learned quite a few new sewing techniques from all of our contestants – that’s the best experience for me as a judge.  It’s constantly a learning experience and you should never stop learning.

Another year at Sakura Con passed and it was another great one for me because of this. I have to thank Diego, our Sakura Con cosplay coordinator, for giving me this opportunity to experience this year's convention as a first time cosplay judge.  Looking forward to next year's Sakura Con 2018.


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