Photos by Chris Menges
This trio is cosplaying from the popular online game League of Legends. Brittany Cox as Sejuani rides her charter's Boar (Ian Otto) with Mike Pierson as Garen swinging his giant sword in the foreground. CLICK THE IMAGE ABOVE OR SCROLL DOWN TO VIEW MORE PHOTOS

SLIDESHOW: Take Two #72: Sakura-Con 2013

Yes, it happened again. Seattle was invaded by the freaky, the geeky, the nerdy – in other words the coolest of all people. Easter weekend the Seattle Convention Center played host to Seattle's 16th annual anime convention otherwise known as Sakura-Con. First starting out as Baka!-Con in 1998 at Tukwila's Double Tree Hotel, this geeky gathering has grown into one of the anime conventions in the U.S.

So what goes on during these three days of crazy? Well, for one thing, it's a celebration of all things anime. Anime refers specifically to Japanese animation (cartoons) but generally refers to both the cartoons and graphic novels (comics) of any asian origins. Commonly included among the Japanese products are now also Korean and Chinese. I've even seen a few European contributions on the rare occasion. And while US comics such as those published by Marvel and DC (The Avengers and Batman for respective examples) are found in the mix, do not mistake the differences – the serious fans of each will not forgive you.

Most of what makes up Sakura-Con is Japanese: music, culture, clothing, etc. After all, the cartoons and comics are distinctly Japanese so of course its avid consumers would learn to appreciate the culture as well. At the convention there are theaters playing anime 24 hours a day, vendors selling their wares, both Japanese and American anime voice actors signing autographs, Japanese pop and rock music concerts, elaborate costumes, gaming rooms, educational panels, a couple raves and even a masquerade complete with gowns, masks and fancy dancing.

In years past I was an avid attendee. I'm a cosplayer (costume + play = cosplay), meaning that I'm one of those folks dressed up in bizarre and (hopefully) spectacular costumes. Those costumes are in imitation of characters found in fictional media and often handmade by the wearer. I lucked out this convention with some serious media coverage, and you can actually see my Emma Frost cosplay on the websites for King5, Komo4 and The Stranger. Go figure that my Game of Thrones cosplay of Margaery Tyrell, which took far more time to sew but is far less flashy, didn't make the cut.

This year I had the privilege of being one of the three judges of Sakura-Con's cosplay contest. That involved eight hours of private cosplay evaluations Day 1 and several hours Day 2 for the actual show. I had an absolute blast doing it and met some incredible cosplayers in the process. Normally the cosplays entered are all pretty good with a couple standing head and shoulders above the rest. This year was an entirely different story with nearly every entrant having some completely wow worthy element. The bar is definitely getting higher.

Having those eight hours on Day 1 was crucial. Each entry – either group or individual – had 15 minutes to explain to us just why their costume(s) deserved to win. They had previously submitted reference images of the character and progress photos as proof they had made the costume(s) themselves. We were judging on the quality and creativity of the construction and how thoroughly the cosplayer(s) had replicated the original character(s). To answer a frequently asked question, tackling a really complicated costume doesn't guarantee a win. Sometimes it's better to know your limits, to pick a simpler costume but to make it impeccably.

The competition this year did not make choosing winners easy. We had massive props, beautifully made ceremonial kimonos, costumes and props wired with LED lights, a homemade helmet that opened and closed with little servo motors, one trio even had someone in a full-body, realistic animal suit that another of their party could ride! The only word I have for it all is “fun.”

Having now attended both, I think Sakura-Con has a slightly younger and goofier crowd than Emerald City ComiCon. Both are all kinds of entertaining but have different vibes. If you didn't get a chance to attend either one this year, I recommend at least passing through next year. Let the surreal atmosphere wash over you and enjoy because, as I've learned over my years of attendance, the only reason worth going for is to have fun.

'To view more of Chris' photographs, go to his flickr by clicking here.

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