I guess if I could recall on what started my passion in the first place was my very first convention at the 2nd annual MetroCon. Now, I’ve always known about cosplay as well as seen photos of it, but can never really say that I’ve been exposed to it directly until my first convention. I had to slap something together with my high school freshmen budget; so, I went as school uniformed Shinji Ikari from Evangelion. While it was nothing fancy at the time, it was the quickest cosplay I could think of, being that I also just got done watching the anime for the first time as well. From what I could remember, I got some people to recognize me; but for the most part, I was floating among the sea of others, and it was horrifyingly awesome so much that I didn’t know how to react. After that experience, I wanted more; I wanted to dress up again as I did when I was a kid, but this time it felt fulsome, as I had a desire to become icons that I was growing to love in my adolescent years. That compassion led me to have fun with Halloween and finding others that shared my desire with it.

Kilik from the Soul Calibur (specifically, his Soul Calibur 4 appearance) was one of my more challenging, but rewarding cosplays that I had the privilege to take part in. This started back in late 2012 / early 2013, as the inception of another group cosplay from my friends were brewing. Coming down from our award-winning “high” of the Inuyasha group cosplay from the 2012 MetroCon, we came up with the process of making a Soul Calibur group, narrowing down to who we wanted to be. There was a fairly long roster of characters to pick from, but something about Kilik’s personality drew me the most to him. What also helped is that I played him the most in the video game, just to the point where it almost felt like an honor to personify him. Call me childish, but what I really think brought me to the decision was wielding a staff; believing it was not only my cosplay’s extension of the character but I could do some cool poses with it as well.

I’m not all that crafty, going as far as to say that my painting and drawing skills were very armature at best. The construction of the cosplay was a group effort, being that everyone had a hand in each other’s cosplay assembly. The real genius behind our group was my friend Sarah , whom normally did commissioned cosplays, specializing in creating weapons and armor pieces. She taught me how to really use a sewing machine and basic concepts around armor/weapon crafting, enough so that these ideals stuck with me to this day. As chaotic as things were, she made sure to keep everyone in line and assign us roles to ensure that everything got done. Not going to lie, but there were some real challenges between time crunches, getting everything and everyone together, and warranting that nothing falls off. The end result was well worth the time and effort of everyone.

Now, we did enter for the cosplay contest during the 2013 MegaCon, seeing very stiff competition from others all around. To cut to the chase, we did not win. Yes, it was disheartening, but that is always in spirit of competition that you never let it get to you, even if you placed all of your blood, sweat and tears into the thing you love; you just have to find way to keep your chin up and soul moving, because at the end of the day, you are still embodying the person that you had enough passion to build-upon and exemplify. We did get a lot of positive responses on how well detailed our cosplays were. What was nice about it all is that the feeling of pride, knowing where things first started verses to that point in time when describing how pieces of the cosplay were made and how it all came together. I still loved it; throwing the staff around, doing crazy things within the cosplay and in the group as it was a great experience no matter what.

Since then, I can’t say I’ve done much with cosplay, if anything at all. I know that I haven’t attempted to make anything that elaborate since Kilik, but that hasn’t stopped me from yearning to get back into it. My fiancée, Katherine (whom was also Elysium for our Soul Calibur group), has often been my encouragement to keep on going with cosplay, as her bubbly and loving personality has always kept a small ember of fire burning in my soul for it. Between work and school, as well as a lack of funds, it’s placed a damper on what cosplays I wanted to do, but my dream is to come back blazing with a couple’s cosplay with my amorous fiancée.

In all honesty, cosplay has opened my life to a path that made me to whom I am now. It’s given me the fuel to be open about my passions between gaming and anime, as well as helped me overcome modesties, such as nerves and standing in front mass groups of people. My family was kind of apprehensive of it at first, finding it odd or possibly strange concept to grasp; but, when they started to see that I was engaging with others and getting out to the point where they became aware that it was really making me very happy, I wouldn’t say they encouraged it as much as they did allow me to let it blossom in my own ways. Many of my friends were obtained through either connections of cosplay or just reaping the fruits of culture that was surrounding it.

As time passed, even into my later years (to this day), I have new friends question why I did it or find it funny to a point, but I’m never embarrassed by it. Ever. Sure, there are some questionable photos of me out there, but never to a point where it was ever damaging to a reputation or had co-workers and others take a few extra steps back from me. I would often tell them that like anyone’s passion towards a hobby or event, the moments that I cosplayed made me feel alive and empowered; the feeling that I can be a representation of a factional character, which brought me closer to others that understood my passion, as I could show people outside of the craft that it’s harmless fun and an unique experience that anyone of all ages and generations can still be a part of.

If I could tell my younger self, or even anyone else of that matter, on advice for cosplaying, I would say is be true to your passions and never suppress them due to some fear how you look or how the cosplay can look. Anyone, of any race, body type, gender, nationality, religion, or personality all has the ability to make something great out of cosplaying. Do not feel ashamed or disengaged if some reacts oddly towards to the way you look. Feel prideful on the way you’ve depicted that character, even if it might be your first time or experimenting as something else. Cosplay is an art at heart, where it’s only as good as the person doing it, never by how the world might judge you. Even if things start falling apart and you feel like it will not go anywhere for you, never give up your passion as long as it still stays lit in your mind and body. There is always someone or groups of people that have been where you are that can help and make you feel right back to how it all began, so never give up and always keep dreaming on that next big cosplay.

- Kyle Kortvely