KANAME☆ (Cosplayer) Interview
Probably one of the most well known male cosplayer in the world, we caught up with KANAME☆ in Thailand for his fan event on November 23, 2013. Hear Kaname's thoughts on topics ranging from the current state of men cosplaying as well as helpful tips to encourage more men to cosplay.
T-ONO: How are you enjoying your time in Thailand so far?
Kaname: When I come to Thailand, I'm actually invited all the time. A lot of Japanese people get stomach aches because of the different styles of food. So the people who invited me always takes me to Japanese restaurant because they worry about my stomach.
I actually don't like spicy food. So I avoid those food, but I still try to eat something Thai by eating Japanese food that is arranged in their way.
Also I went to a nail salon. It's actually my second time going to a nail salon overseas. When I cosplay as Kaito from the Vocaloid series, I actually do some pedicure, so I try to go to those nail salon when I have the time overseas and ask them to do it. That's actually one of my hobby when I go overseas (chuckles.) Also especially the prices are so cheap here, when I get it done in Japan, it costs about seven to eight times more than doing it here.
T-ONO: Why do you think there are more female cosplayers than males?
Kaname: Probably, when a illustrator design a characters, they try to take out the specific details of the character, for instance the wrinkles on its face, stain on their skin, body hair and etc. So usually the characters looks clean, and when you try to portray that character, one of the important aspects is how clean you can make your self look. When it becomes to that, girls are way more advanced than men. Also now a days, the anime contents are gearing towards girls a lot more, so there are more girls who wants to cosplay as the character they like.
Also, girls looks at their cosplay really strictly. So for example, when a man cosplay, he is just plainly doing it because he likes the character, so he will just wear the costume of the character but nothing else and be satisfied more often. However, when women see that cosplay and they think that cosplay is awful, they actually start bashing the cosplayer. Women are really strict on their cosplays. Also the ratio between male and female cosplayers in Japan are 2:8. So to be a male cosplayer in that environment with getting strict opinions from girl cosplayers could be a harsh world for the male cosplayer. This statistic can also represent the whole otakus in Japan. There are more women otakus than male otakus in Japan. At least I feel that way, so male cosplayers are having a hard time.
So to be a male cosplayer, I feel like you need to be consistent with your own style, and don't worry too much about how other people think about you. There is one thing that women cosplayers hate about male cosplayers is how they do not perfect their own appearance. Male cosplayers are really good at crafting parts for their cosplay, like swords, mechanical arms, any kind of props in general. Women cosplayers are good at sowing their costume, so clothes in general. Also they use make up to perfect their appearance for the cosplay, and that's what they think that male cosplayers lack. So I always keep that in mind and try to perfect my own appearance when I cosplay.
So I actually take care of my skin and my appearance in general, even more than the girls so I can compete with the girl cosplayers.
T-ONO: What advice would you give to new male cosplayers?
Kaname: There are actually a lot I can give, but the main advice is to not worry about what people think about you and just cosplay as the character you love. People can say that your cosplay looks awful or you don't fit that character, but don't listen to them and just keep on doing what you like and the result will come. Be really confident about your cosplay and have the mind set that you are the best cosplayer, and always give it your best when you are cosplaying.
We actually have a gift of having a great body, compared to girls. We have skills to make the costume, you just need to be careful about how you look above your neck.
For character performance, as a boy, I think everybody acted out your favorite character or hero, so I think you don't have to worry about that.
I will give you a example that you might understand. Cosplay is like making plastic models, it's like making a one giant plastic model. Pretty easy right? (smiles)
T-ONO: Makeup is a large portion of cosplaying. What type of products do you use and what tips or hints can you provide to men on wearing makeup successfully?
Kaname: There is no techniques involved when I use make up. The first time I started cosplaying, I had a friend who was working at a hair salon so I asked him for advices on how to do a make up for cosplaying as Cloud in the Final Fantasy series. Other then that, it was pretty much trial and error.
I'm actually not really good at make ups, so parts that I can't get it right, I try to make it up with the angles and the structure when I take the cosplay photos.
I try to incorporate other things to as much as possible to make my cosplay better each time.
I actually don't really have a certain make up tools that I use, I use pretty much what my female friends recommend, or use foundation cream that matches my skin. If I use the color that's actually closer to the character, sometime the color between the body and the face looks different, which makes the cosplay weird.
T-ONO: What can you say to help alleviate some fears that makeup is only for women?
Kaname: I found out after I started to cosplay, but there are two types of make up that people uses. The first one is the women's make up, and there is make up that actors use, cosplay make up is much more closer to the actors' make up.
Make up is not only a tool that makes women beautiful, there are men who uses make up to emphasize their appearance. They might use it to show the detail of the shape of an eye, or use it to show there face a little smaller. So it's not really used everyday amongst men, but they do definitely use them.
T-ONO: Do you still work at a butler cafe?
Kaname: I worked at a butler cafe for a year. There were actually people who came from overseas to see me there.
T-ONO: What was it like working at a butler cafe?
Kaname: Well, it was pretty complicated, but as a cosplayer, cosplaying as a butler is like thing you want to do at least once. Also during that time, there were a lot of anime that featured a butler in them so it was easy for me to decide to actually work at a butler cafe. It was actually quite fun.
In Japan, people believe that you can define somebody's personality from their blood type. My blood type is A, so I have a really serious, need to do anything perfect kind of personality, which I thought is perfect for a butler. However, I am not really good at talking to girls. So when I worked there, I try to not think that I am talking to a girl, but concentrated on staying in character so I don't have to think about how to talk to a girl.
I really don't know what to talk about to girls, after all, I am an Otaku. (chuckles)
T-ONO: How do you decide on your cosplays? Do you take into consideration your fans?
Kaname: Despite the fact that a lot of my fans love my work and I would want to please them, I love cosplaying and that's why I started cosplaying. So I try not to take people's opinion on deciding on a cosplay and just cosplay as a character that I really like. When I decide on a cosplay, I actually think about how to make the costume in precise details, about the fabric to use, how to construct it to make it look like the actual character and really focus on it to a point where I won't be able to think about other things anyways. I actually do detailed research on each cosplay I do. That is when I cosplay as a hobby.
There is other time I cosplay and that's work. As a official cosplayer, I get offer from companies to go to events overseas to promote their company. They actually make the cosplay for me at those occasion, however I actually try to take part in constructing the cosplay. I actually give them certain fabric that I believe is the best for the cosplay and ask them to make the cosplay with that. I coordinate the whole cosplay, it's like I am promoting the character itself.
T-ONO: Recently you’ve cosplayed as a character named Benten from Zone 00, who is a male character that looks like female, what made you decide to try cosplay that character?
Kaname: That was actually supposed to be a joke. We decided to make a cosplay CD rom with only male cosplayers between my friends and I. I was just supposed to be a guest cosplayer in that CD. I didn't want to dress up like a girl, but I thought it was OK if it was a male character that looks like a girl.
T-ONO: You don't want to dress up as a girl?
Kaname: No, not yet. My body still looks too manly to dress up as a girl, so I thought Benten is the perfect character to cosplay as. Also I really loved this character, he is the manliest man I ever seen, except for his appearance. That's why I gave it a try.
As I said earlier, the men are still the minority in the cosplay industry, and I wanted to show the girls that men could also do great cross dressing too. It was still suppose to be a joke, but while I was making the cosplay I started to get really serious about it. People seemed to love my cosplay and I loved how it turned out too. I'm going to talk about a topic that could be little risque, woman cosplayers can't show there nipples during a event right? However men can, and I feel like we actually have advantage over that.
The cosplay sure made me look like a women a whole lot, but I assure you I am not gay and I do not have a cross dressing hobby. I am simply was a boy who loved Gundam and Power Rangers. (chuckles)
T-ONO: Will we see more of this type of effeminate cosplay from you in the future?
Kaname: Of course! (laughs) It's actually fun! But it is really hard to form my body to look like a women. However, as a man, I do want to cross dress at least once in my lifetime. Benten is a perfect character for me to get use to dressing up as a girl, so I probably will cosplay as Benten again in the future.
Oh yeah, when I first showed my Benten cosplay to my friend he told me this. “ I can actually bang your Benten.” (laughs) So next time I cross dress, I want to make him say something more ridiculous than that. (laughs)
T-ONO: Following up on previous question, crossplaying has been quite common amongst female cosplayers, but have only recently been more common for male cosplayers to cross dress as females, what are your thoughts on males crossplaying as females?
Kaname: I'm going to talk about crossplaying in general. I am completely for crossplaying. Cosplaying as the character you love is what cosplaying is all about. However if you are going to crossplay, I hope they do it to the extreme. Actually look like a women. There is a lot of people in Japan who just wears the costume and a wig and say they are done. I guess they are having fun so it's alright but I want them to impress people. Make the girls jealous because you are more beautiful than them.
Make the transvestite in Thailand go “wow, cosplayers are awesome.” Well I don't want people to go extreme and cut their penis off. Please stay as a man. (chuckles)
T-ONO: What was it like meeting your international fans the first time?
Kaname: I didn't go to an event as a guest when I first went overseas. The first time I went overseas for cosplaying was the US and Korea. It was a really small event in Korea, and not much people knew me there. They introduced me as a Japanese cosplayer and that was it. I didn't know what to do too, so I just concentrated on having fun and tour Korea.
When I went to the US though, I went to Anime Expo as a reporter for a cosplay website called “Cure.” I wasn't invited, but I went there to, in a way, challenge my self. I cosplayed as Cloud, my favorite Kurosaki Ichigo, and Sanji. Not the regular Sanji, but the Sanji from the wanted poster. A lot of people love that cosplay. (chuckles) I felt like I got to communicate with a lot of foreigners there.
The first time I actually went to an event and was introduced to my fans was at CLAS:H in Indonesia. It was my first time going on stage, and before even getting up on stage, the whole crowd was going “ Ka Na Me, Ka Na Me!” and the moment I got up on stage, a big screams of the girl fans actually surprised me a lot.
I want people to enjoy my cosplay like that again.
T-ONO: As one of the top male cosplayers in the world, what do you see yourself doing in the future?
Kaname: I think the fame and popularity is actually temporary. When people get used to my cosplay, I feel like it will die off. I never focused on fame really, I just really loved cosplay and that's why I am cosplaying. If I can just keep on doing what I love to do. I don't want to be stuck doing certain genre, but want to be able to cosplay as anything, to be an all-mighty cosplayer.
Cosplay is a hobby and business for me. It's like a big event that takes place my entire life, and is an event to enjoy. So I would keep doing what I love to do.
Special thanks to Mr. Kondo and Negibose.
Interviewer and Event Photos: Eddie Lai
Questions: Eddie Lai and Theodore Mak
Audio Transcription: Arthur Arends