J-rock is a huge genre and style of sound that promotes Japanese rock music around the world. There are sub categories and genres that spur off the initial title of J-rock along with the fashion that surrounds the name as well. With anime-esque hair, outlandish clothing, men dressed as women, women performing deep growling vocals, and a mix of classical, rock, heavy metal, and pop combined to create unique and unforgettable songs.
Now it’s no secret that at the MCM Comic Con there is a love for Japanese culture, fashion, food, drink, and music. But something else that is growing year by year is cosplay within the scene. With J-rock becoming more prominent and with the popularity of cosplay booming more than ever it was only a matter of time till we saw amazing costumes and replicas of our favourite Japanese rock stars.
I got the chance to interview 18-year-old Kei from Scotland, a bartender and social media intern for EZCosplay Costumes who often attends conventions during her free time and has a thorough love for the fandom she is part of. Below are a few of her thoughts about cosplay, J-rock and MCM Comic Con.
How were you introduced to cosplay?
I got into cosplay through a friend and seeing their posts about going to conventions on my Facebook. I always loved the idea of dressing up, so I went scouring the web to find a convention that was local to me so I could try it out. The convention I found was Dee-Con in Dundee, it was free so I thought, “Why not?” – though it was short notice and I only had two weeks to decide what I wanted to cosplay! I made a really quick cosplay of RUKI (the GazettE) from The Suicide Circus. It was an utter failure, but even though my cosplay wasn’t great, I really enjoyed the community and atmosphere. Everyone was so welcoming.
How did you get into the J-rock scene?
I was introduced to J-rock by a good friend of mine from England. He had always been a Japanese rock fan since he is half Japanese. We were just about talking music one day and I asked about the “girly” looking band of men he always listened to, which went by the name of ‘the GazettE’. The first song he introduced me to was ‘Invisible Wall’ and from there on out, I found my love of Japanese rock. Although my first ever J-rock song was in fact GACKT’s ‘Vanilla’, at the time I wasn’t aware that it was J-rock!
Do you have a personal favourite group or people within the J-rock scene?
This is a hard question. I’ve been a J-rock fan for many years now so my list of bands has grown since the GazettE. I now listen to a wider range of bands and artists, including X Japan, VAMPS, L’arc~En~Ciel, ACID BLACK CHERRY and GACKT, so choosing just one is really hard! But if you’re asking now as I answer, I’d say my two top bands right now are X JAPAN and VAMPS. My bias from each band would be Yoshiki from X JAPAN and HYDE from VAMPS. Yoshiki’s music really enchants me and I am teaching myself to play piano so I look up to him. He lost his father at a young age, as did I, so his lyrics and melodies I can really relate to. As for HYDE, I just adore his personality, quirkiness and how he is so down to earth. Again, his music has brought me to meet some of my best friends now and I’ve had the opportunity to meet him and KAZ at their London shows. Attending their concerts with my friends has brought us all a lot closer than we’ve ever been.
How do you feel about J-rock and the Japanese culture becoming more accepted within the western world?
I am really glad because when I first began getting into J-rock, which would be around four years ago now, it was hard to listen to music from another country. I was judged in high school because of this. People just didn’t understand why you would listen to music you didn’t understand initially. But I found myself listening on a daily basis anyway because I really enjoyed the new sounds and melodies. It was refreshing from the generic rock music that English-speaking bands produce.
What are your thoughts on cosplay?
I love it! I feel like I can really be who I am without anyone judging me. I’ve met so many amazing people through cosplay, including my best friend, and I am super glad I chose to give it a try. The community is wonderful, with everyone always helping each other. Of course, there are always rough patches, but everything has its rough spots. My favourite thing about cosplay is the idea of bringing a character to life or just becoming your favourite idol for a day, showing your love and passion for them and just being who you are.
Why do you attend MCM London Comic Conventions?
I’ll have been attending MCM London Comic Con for around three years this October. I go because it’s a chance to see the friends I’ve made up and down the country in one place, over a weekend. Both May and October have been highlights of my year for the last two and a bit years. I work on new costumes ready for debut at both MCM London events, and since the crowd is more varied and larger than at other conventions, there is always someone who recognises your costume, even though I usually go for pretty obscure cosplays when it comes to J-rock.
Do you have a formula or routine you follow when creating your costumes?
I don’t have a routine or formula, per se. It’s more like I watch a PV (promotional video) or see a photoshoot and really enjoy the look of a certain member of the band or the artist and decide that I want to copy that look. From there on out, I’ll source out reference images, the more high quality the better, though high quality pictures in J-rock aren’t always easy to get hold of. For example, I’m currently working on GACKT’s ‘Requiem et Reminiscence II’ look. The character name goes by ZERO. So first on Google Image I would search: ‘GACKT – Requiem et Reminiscence II’, and other similar phrases to gather what I can. Then I’ll look onto fansites for scans and other images. If it’s a cosplay that I am really passionate about, I’ll even go purchase photobooks to make sure I am as accurate as I can possibly be while keeping to my budget.
What advice would you give to those wishing to do J-rock cosplay? Do you have any tips or tricks for anyone wanting to make costumes of stars from the J-rock genre?
Those wishing to do J-rock cosplay, I’ll stress this; Gather as much reference photos as you can, whether it be official photoshoots, candids or even screen captures. Every picture helps! Practice different make up and hair techniques as J-rockers have a large variation of make up and hairstyles. But with J-rock cosplay not being generic enough, make sure you have a budget that is sensible for the cosplay you want to do because wigs, costumes and little accessories will add up and may cost more than you thought. So budget wisely and always scout out the cheapest seller with the best feedback to buy your items from! I always allow for a large budget because J-rock cosplays can’t always be bought like your typical anime or game costumes. For instance, my HYDE – VAMPS Halloween Party 2010 dress was commissioned and cost me around £180, including the wig. But it’s absolutely beautiful and worth every single penny. It looks just like his and I couldn’t ask for more. But it wasn’t a cosplay you could simply buy online. To achieve the level of accuracy I got, I had to get A LOT, and I mean A LOT, of reference photos for my commissioner and make sure I was willing to spend that much on one outfit.
What about the make-up and hair? It is pretty unique!
J-rockers are known for their odd and often thin eyebrows and extravagant make-up. I usually do many make-up tests before the event I aim to debut a cosplay at, so I have time to perfect it. I didn’t do that the first time I cosplayed and the result was a disaster. So I learned my lesson. But master concealing your eyebrows and drawing eyebrows along with the make-up before the event. Wigs are also another thing that can be costly in J-rock cosplay. Luckily over the years I have learned how to style elaborate J-rock hairstyles on various wigs. I’ve styled wigs for Yasu from ACID BLACK CHERRY’s Kuro Neko ~Adult Black Cat~ PV, RUKI’s The Suicide Circus hair and his INSIDE BEAST hair. I usually reserve a budget of £30-40 for my wigs, and that includes styling products, wefts and commissioning a base wig if need be.
Of all your previous cosplays, which have been your favourite and why?
I’ve been cosplaying for just under three years now, and I’ve worn a variety of costumes. Though, I’ll have to say, I really do love my HYDE – Halloween Party 2010 and my RUKI INSIDE BEAST (Red Suit) cosplays! I’m really happy with how they turned out, and I feel like I’ve mastered the make-up. The feedback I got from the cosplays were amazing: I felt overwhelmed. Though my HYDE cosplay is special to me because I wore it to meet HYDE back at VAMPS’ London show in March. He smiled brightly at me. It’s a moment I won’t forget.
What advice would you give to those attending MCM London Comic Con for the first time?
For the people attending Comic Con for the first time I’d advise getting a Weekend ticket. You’ll gain faster entry and it’s worth the money, plus you don’t have to wait in endless queues for hours just to get in. Also, get there early and make sure you have snacks and water for queuing if you have to. Be prepared for large crowds, especially on the Saturday! If you’re cosplaying, make sure to bring make up to touch up during the day and I always carry a sewing kit in my bag, in case myself or a friend have a cosplay malfunction. Hairspray is good too for keeping your wig styled!
Are there any cosplayers or J-rock entertainers that you would like to see at MCM Comic Con?
There are so many people I’d love to see at MCM Comic Con – from HYDE, GACKT and Yoshiki (again) to cosplayers like Reika!
What are you cosplaying for MCM London Comic Con? If people want to grab a photo of you this weekend is there anywhere particular where they can grab a snap of you?
HYDE from Halloween Junky Orchestra, with my cosplay partner cosplaying Rina from the same group today. Then on Saturday it should be hide from X Japan, and hopefully GACKT Requiem et Reminiscence II look! I won’t be locked down to one location at Comic Con, but if people want to catch me they can always message me on my Facebook page! As for photoshoots, I have nothing planned, but if there are photographers interested, again send me a message on my Facebook page and we can arrange something!
I would like to say a big thank you to Kei for the interview. If you would like to contact Kei regarding her passion for J-rock or cosplay then you can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Deviant Art. Don’t forget to keep checking back to MCM Buzz over the weekend for further photos from Kei as well as other cosplayers and updates from the MCM London Comic Con, where our photographers will be looking out for more fantastic cosplayers. If you have a costume you’d like to show off, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for our team!