Los Angeles native AngieRikku grew up surrounded by Asian pop culture and Japanese anime. Add in that she’s a junior at Otis College of Art and Design studying Fashion Design and it comes as no surprise that AngieRikku is also a damn good cosplayer. Though AngieRikku obviously has a soft spot in her heart for Rikku from the Final Fantasy franchise and is on a mission to cosplay all of her dress spheres from FFX-2, her cosplay portfolio includes many other kickass ladies and is likely to only get more awesome as Angie completes more costumes! Read below for the full interview…
You have a very strong interest in Japanese culture and have spent several years studying Japanese. Would you say your broader interest in Japan stemmed from watching anime and other form of Japanese pop culture, or vice versa?
AngieRikku: My broader interest in Japan definitely was born out of watching anime. When I was younger, I always wondered what the symbols on the backgrounds in Sailor Moon were. Upon researching online, I found out that Sailor Moon was Japanese! Rei’s Miko uniform, the Shinto shrines, Lita’s (Makoto’s) homemade lunch, and of course the iconic seifukus themselves led me to look deeper into what made Japan unique, considering I was only about 8 at the time.
You are currently a student at Otis College of Art and Design. How has your formal education influenced your perspective on cosplay and costume creation?
AngieRikku: I have to say that having the opportunity to spend one year in fashion design and one year in the product design majors really contributed to my cosplay. Otis’ fashion program is pretty straight forward as to what their target audience is being high-fashion. Cosplay isn’t well received at Otis so I don’t bring it into my education as much as I would like to. However, everything I learn about garment construction, textile science, patternmaking, and silhouettes I bring into my costume creation. On the other hand, Otis’ product design program is more open to the idea of entertainment design. Product design showed me that even if you’re confused in the beginning about what you are making, it will all come together at the end with enough research, brainstorming, and hours and hours of hard work (with caffeine and little sleep).
Many cosplayers (myself included) find prop-making very intimidating. What are some tricks and techniques you use when making new props? Are there any specific materials that you like to work with?
AngieRikku: When faced with a new prop I think about what materials would be appropriate for the prop (via weight and texture), how those materials can be manipulated, and how durable the chosen materials would be. I really enjoy working with MDF and wood as they are easily sanded, take most types of paint very well, and are strong. Sometimes wood isn’t a good choice, especially for thick items (for example my Berserker Rikku pauldrons and horn). I like to use foam as a core for things that need to be light and either work fiberglass or paperclay over it depending on the size or amount of detail.
What is, for you, the most essential part of making a cosplay costume?
AngieRikku: I tend to pay a lot of attention to the little details. I think that is what transforms a good costume into an extraordinary one! The types of fabric, buckles, snaps, jewelry, and shoes used on a costume really reflect the overall feel of the costume. If I can’t find something perfect for the costume, I’ll end up making it myself! For example, Rikku’s shorts from FFX (FMV) are not only lime green denim but they have lighter green pinstripes spaced relatively far apart. I was lucky enough to find the perfect denim but there was no way I was going to find it with the pin stripes too. I ended up satin-stitching the pinstripes into the fabric!
Sexism and misogyny in geek culture has become a pretty hot topic for debate. While videogames and comics have created many strong, talented, and intelligent female characters, they are also heavily sexualized. Do you ever feel like this puts female cosplayers in a difficult position? You, for example, feel a very strong connection to Rikku’s character…but do you ever feel like people assume that cosplayers dress as her just because of her sexy designs?
AngieRikku: I feel that the sexualization of such female characters does make it difficult for cosplayers to portray the character accurately while being physically and socially comfortable at the same time. You have to have a lot of confidence to pull off these characters. At Comic-Con 2003 I was dressed as FFX-2 Thief Rikku and was approached by a photographer who said, “Oh you’re that sexy girl from Final Fantasy.” I understand that that is how non-fans of the series will remember me, but I would like to be remembered as Rikku, not “that sexy girl”. Rikku is a cute and very cheerful girl who kicks major butt but when I see cosplayers posing as her in a sexually suggestive manner I feel that that sends a message to the audience that people do cosplay her just for the sexy designs.
Recently, it also seems very common for people to assume that women who cosplay are only interested in being models. What are your feelings on cosplay ‘models’ versus cosplayers who actually make their own costumes?
AngieRikku: I feel that cosplay models and cosplayers alike enjoy what they do. I feel they differ in the fact that models dress up, style their hair and make-up, and pose for photos being the one and only star of their composition. Cosplayers on the other hand are more hands-on where they place more emphasis on challenging their craftsmanship skills to make a costume and then dress up for photos that display the artist and their works of art.
Have you ever wanted to cosplay a certain character but decided not to because you were concerned about how it would be received?
AngieRikku: I did come across that with Cammy from Street Fighter. A good portion of the fans and general audience know her by her thonged leotard and butt. Of course one of her victory poses does showcase her backside so that is part of her character. I varied my poses between action poses, stances, and her victory pose showing all sides of the character. I was worried that cosplaying her would have the audience perceive me in negative taste, however, I did not have nearly as many people commenting that way as I did as having “OMG, Cammy!” which made me very happy.
It’s very disrespectful for people to overlook the hard work that goes into creating costumes and only focus on a female cosplayer’s hotness. Why do you think this trend is so common online? Do you think there’s anything that can be done to change this?
AngieRikku: I think the internet empowers people with the freedom to say whatever they feel without the face-to-face social repercussions (consequences) they would experience without the shield of a computer screen protecting them. They can reserve their desired amount of anonymity by posting things online rather than saying them to somebody’s face in the public eye. Because the internet is very unrestricted, I think that changing this trend would require some drastic revising of websites including disabling anonymous posts and requiring some form of identification to obtain IDs for websites where users would be commenting on such photos. I have a feeling that if people’s real names were attached to their posts on the internet that they would say things that could damage their reputation.
To date, what costume are you the most proud of and why? What are your future goals for cosplay?
AngieRikku: That is a tough one… but I’d have to say I am most proud of Berserker Rikku for the sheer learning experience. Aside from being a self-taught sewer, I knew next to nothing about hard goods aside from wood by working with my grandfather. I took Berserker Rikku on in 2006 and I did a lot of researching before I decided to tackle it. I ended up carving the pauldrons and horn from foam, sealing them, fiberglassing them, bondoing them, and sanding the heck out of them. Although I didn’t know how to use the materials I ended up learning so much from trial and error! I ended up redoing my horn with foam and paperclay in 2010 because having a heavy bondo’d horn on my head really gave me a headache. Aside from hard goods, the prosthetic plush feet and paws were new to me as well. I had to learn how to think of things in smaller pieces to actually design them and I really loved how they came out! My future goals for cosplay are to build upon my prop making skills as I’ve finally ventured into silicone molds and resin castings. I want to experiment with many different mediums and progress my crafting abilities. I’ve always wanted to make Dark Knight Rikku (a full suit of armor) but I have postponed it so many times. Hopefully soon I can make that dream come true!
Finally, what are some of your upcoming conventions and costumes?
AngieRikku: I will be going to Anime LA and Fanime this coming year! I’m very excited as the past few years I’ve been focusing on schoolwork and commissions and I will finally be getting to work on my personal costumes! I plan on finishing up some costumes that have been on hiatus including May from Guilty Gear, Rikku White Mage from FFX-2, Wolfie Selkie from FF: Crystal Chronicles, and Amy from Soul Calibur IV all complete with their respective props.
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