anibee Features: Ed Hoff!
We often talk about cosplay, cosplayers, and even the competitions that they take part in. But what about the people who work behind the scenes to bring us these epically-scaled events?
In a recent trip to Akihabara, we got to speak to one of the main people behind the World Cosplay Summit. Organiser and Global Communications Supervisor and also a big fan of anime & cosplay himself - it's Ed Hoff!
anibee: Hi Ed! Please introduce yourself and tell us what you do in the cosplay community!
Ed: Hi! My name's Ed Hoff! I am originally from Vancouver, Canada, and I have been living in Japan for 14 years now, with 13 years in Nagoya and having just moved to Tokyo last year.
I am an organiser of the World Cosplay Summit. My job is basically to work beside the Producers of the event, giving them advice, background on the competition, and my thoughts with regards to any major decisions. I also am responsible for communicating with various other organisers and cosplayers involved in WCS from all over the world, both past, present, and future, giving them information that they need.
anibee: You play a huge part in the World Cosplay Summit! How long have you been involved in WCS, and how do you feel it has changed over the years?
Ed: I have been involved with WCS since its inception in 2003, so it's been over 10 years by now!
Being the only organiser that has participated in the event for every year since the beginning, I can say WCS has definitely changed dramatically over the years. When it started, no one ever imagined it was going to become something so massive!
WCS Founder, Tokumaru Oguri, who is a very good friend of mine, had the idea for the event when he attended the Japanese Expo in France back in 2002 and saw how the people there enjoyed Japanese culture. The first WCS event was then held the year after, and it had representatives from 3 countries; Germany, France and Italy; invited over to have a chance to meet other Japanese-culture fans and enjoy being at the heart of the country of their dreams. That's right - the first WCS wasn't even a competition, and Japan wasn't a participant!
More Japanese cosplayers, as well as other countries, participated in the subsequent years. More countries came with skits and mini-performances prepare to show on stage, and that's when we saw the potential to make the event into a competition. It was in 2005, when we decided to include the Championship, and while we had some challenges as lots of things had to be changed, but we definitely saw lots of potential in the set up too - and the rest is history!
anibee: It can't be easy managing an event of such scale year after year! What keeps you coming back?
Ed: One of the best things has to be whenever I meet the cosplayers from all around the world.
A lot of them tend to be people who have never left their countries, or have never met a person from another place such as Malaysia or Japan etc. So coming to a place like Japan is quite literally a dream come true for them!
Having lived in Japan for so long, I've grown pretty accustomed to many of the amazing things here and even miss out on them sometimes.
But when cosplayers who arrive here in Japan for the first time get all excited and go all "Holy crap, is that a Police car with an Image Character on it?!", they help me 'see' these things again and appreciate Japan for what it is which feels amazing - and keeps me young too!
Many WCS alumni also tell me how the competition had been a huge highlight of their lives. Hearing this and knowing that I had played a part in that really touches me, and it's a privilege that I'm very honoured to have.
anibee: What do you feel is required to be a champion of WCS?
Ed: While I am the advisor and one of the organisers of the event, I don't actually have any deciding power over the judgement of the actual championship, so I can only speak on a personal level here.
It's an obvious thing to say that being innovative and eye-catching is important, but I sometimes feel the focus should be more balanced out. For instance, there have been recent trends in WCS where contestants were adding as many LED lights as possible, or adding more and more props and side objects to the stage.
While progression and adding to your skit like this is a good thing, I still feel that the primary focus should be on the central performance itself. Having a dramatic fight that really conveys the story, a comedy skit, and generally doing something that really communicates with the audience is what really impresses me.
Doing something that really utilises the 3 minutes contestants have on stage, instead of just adding more physical things, is what I personally feel really makes one stand out in WCS. Don't worry so much about the glittery things!
anibee: There are many who always go the extra mile to be the best the can be in cosplay, but there are some who feel that cosplay should just be "for fun" - what's your opinion on this debate?
Ed: Being a cosplayer of 4 years myself, I can totally understand where people are coming from regarding this debate and I do agree with them. Cosplay should be about fun, and I most certainly do enjoy doing it my way, with my friends, especially when a new show we like is out (or we rediscover an old one). It's just my way of spending my time with the friends I love, and it's important to focus on that core of cosplay - that it's a hobby.
But at the same time, one can't deny that the nature of cosplay is attention-seeking. It's literally all about being "LOOK AT ME!" - getting a little competitive is part and parcel of it. Getting fixated on a goal in cosplay, and in life in general, isn't a bad thing either.
By taking part in cosplay, I feel it's kind of important to accept both these sides to the hobby. Hopefully by working together as a community, we can balance these things out and make the positives outweight the negatives and let everyone be able to enjoy the hobby their way!
anibee: Any advice for cosplayers who are aspiring to take part, and perhaps even win WCS?
Ed: Just go for it. Give it a shot - and don't give up!
The best stories are really the ones from teams who have tried time and time again and finally succeed. One team from Italy had been trying for many years to qualify for WCS and when they finally did - and even won that year - the feeling of satisfaction they had for the whole experience was priceless.
The road to competitive cosplaying isn't easy at all, but if you keep at it and work hard; while still remembering to enjoy yourself; it will be an amazing experience for you and your partner!
Truly moving and inspirational! Would this motivate YOU to work towards being the next World Cosplay Summit Champion??
Check out the Official World Cosplay Summit page!