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Give SMALL to the Seattle Globalist today: http://bit.ly/givesmall2015
Give SMALL to the Seattle Globalist today: http://bit.ly/givesmall2015

If you live in Seattle, or have ever made a donation to a Seattle nonprofit, you’ve probably heard about The Seattle Foundation’s GiveBIG campaign approximately 600,000 times in the past couple of weeks. (Just in case your inbox is not currently bursting with GiveBIG emails: it’s an annual, 24 hour, “day of giving” campaign in which the Seattle Foundation and its sponsors offer “stretch” funds and “golden tickets” to increase donations to close to 2,000 participating nonprofits).

This year, we’re asking you to Give SMALL to the Seattle Globalist – and become part of something big. We know there’s power in numbers, so today we want YOU more than we want your cash.

Sun as Taiga Aisaka from a light novel series Toradora!. (Photo courtesy of Martina Sun)
Sun (in the middle) as Taiga Aisaka from a light novel series Toradora!. (Photo courtesy of Martina Sun)

Spending hours on detailed costumes based on anime, movie or video game characters might seem foreign and nerdy to some, but the community of cosplay is where many who feel like outsiders find home.

Nothing is too weird in cosplay. An eighty-year-old lady can dress up as Pikachu, and that’s totally fine.

Martina Sun is a University of Washington student who studies pre-med and is a double-major in psychology and International Studies. She also works full-time in a computer gaming company. She is also a hard-core cosplayer.

Cosplay, or costume play, is a popular activity at many events and conventions in the U.S. throughout the year. Sakura-Con and Emerald City Comicon are two of the largest cosplay conventions in Seattle.

Sun designs and makes every costume she wears to a cosplay convention. The process starts half a year before a convention.

“You start planning half-a-year ago.” Sun said. “And you really don’t do anything until a week before. Then you cram everything in a day before.”

The last day before a convention is a lot of gluing and painting, and hoping that the costume dries in time. But costumes don’t dry in a day, so there’s a lot of hair dryers involved as well.

Sun got involved in cosplay a year after moving to the United States. She grew up with her grandparents in Weihai, China, until age 12, when she joined her parents in Bellevue.

Weihai, which is on the east coast of China, is heavily influenced by Japanese and Korean cultures because of its history and geographic location. But now living in a mostly white culture, Sun found anime and cosplay culture familiar. She fell in love with it right away when a friend of hers introduced it to her.

“After I joined the [anime] club, I saw how this group is completely ignored by the mainstream,” said Sun. “That’s why we need conventions to unite the small groups together. But when we were there, we feel like we were the majority.”

A cosplay convention is usually a 24-hour, three-day long event. There’s always something happening: karaoke, costume competitions, and comic book exchange. At night, participants drink and enjoy music, while in costume.

“It’s like a normal rave,” Sun said. “But when do you get to rave with anime characters like Goku?

Sun and friends dressed up as Sen and No-Face from the animated film Spirited Away. (Photo courtesy of Martina Sun)
Sun and friends dressed up as Sen and No-Face from the animated film Spirited Away. (Photo courtesy of Martina Sun)

Sun said that people used to think anime is for losers who read comic books all day, and some might still think anime lovers live in their own world. But this is definitely not the case.

“It’s not like if you watch animation, you become a loser,” said Sun. “We all have our lives, and many are successful in their own fields.”

Three weeks ago, Sun went to a convention with four of her friends: one works at Microsoft, one is a primary care physician, and the other two are lawyers.

Cosplaying is just a hobby, like hiking, skydiving or cooking.

If anything, gaming is a lot cooler than hiking!” Sun said, and paused for a second.

“I like hiking though,” she added, while laughing.

When she first started cosplay in high school, Sun used to feel the judgmental attitude from strangers when she walked on a street in her costume. But now she doesn’t care anymore, because she’s enjoying herself with friends.

“When you go to a convention, everyone is so accepting, and everybody feels like a family member to you,” Sun said.

A contract analyst and an amateur cosplay photographer Elmer Ma said seeing other people in costume makes it easier to mingle.

Because right off the bat, from visual, you’ll notice they share something with you,” Ma said.

Gaming, cosplay and anime have definitely become more mainstream. There is even a reality show on Syfy Channel about cosplay called “Heroes of Cosplay.”

“I feel like the whole ‘nerdy thing’ has changed a lot in the past few years,” said a UW costume club member Vicki Lo. “It’s a little more mainstream now.”

Lo doesn’t care if people think it’s nerdy.

“But that doesn’t stop me, ever,” she said.

Cosplay is more than dressing up as anime characters; it’s also about creating a community where everyone is accepted and welcomed.

Sun met another Tony Tony Chopper of One Piece at a convention. (Photo courtesy of Martina Sun)
Sun met another Tony Tony Chopper of One Piece at a convention. (Photo courtesy of Martina Sun)

Ma knows many of his friends who didn’t speak any English, but make friends in a cosplay convention easily.

He or she “might be having trouble talking to them, but you don’t have to be able to communicate perfectly to enjoy a hobby together,” said Ma.

“When you go to a convention, race, gender, age are not really what you see,” Sun said. “ Those are not important. When you go there, you just hang out with people who celebrate the hobby. So you don’t really judge, or even notice, their ethnicity.”

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    Seattle Globalist staffers at the Collaboratory. Top row, from left: Calendar Editor Forrest Baum, Board Treasurer Rituja Indapure, and Editor in Chief Alex Stonehill. Middle: Editor Venice Buhain, Columnist Anna Goren, KUOW’s Caroline Dodge, visiting for a meeting, and Business Development Director Emily Schulman. Right: Executive Director Jessica Partnow. (Photo by Creative Director Sarah Stuteville)

    The Seattle Globalist is expanding its offices to The Collaboratory, a coworking space and “incubator for social change” in Hillman City (just south of Seattle’s Columbia City neighborhood). The Globalist will now base its operations jointly from the Collaboratory and the University of Washington’s Department of Communication.