First of two parts
(Editor’s Note: This is the first of a two-part series featuring our exclusive interview with the World Cosplay Summit Communications Head Ed Hoff during the last day of Toycon 2013.)
Just as the third day of this year’s Toycon winded down to become a historic event with the country’s first ever World Cosplay Summit National Finals, a tall Evangelion mecha cosplayer roamed amongst the throng of attendees and cosplayers still lingering around the venue. He thoroughly enjoyed taking pictures with other cosplayers, doing an impromptu cosplay routine at the Dragon Nest booth, and simply taking in the festive atmosphere that Philippine conventions like Toycon are known for.
Evangelion Unit-00 costume is a Canadian who, for 15 years, has fully embraced Japan’s cosplay culture and formed part of the team that made Nagoya, Japan the mecca of global cosplay.
His name is Ed Hoff.
Ed Hoff is the Global Communications Head for the World Cosplay Summit. He flew in to Manila to witness and judge the country’s first ever staging of the WCS National Finals during Hero Face Off 2013.
When asked about the common denominator between judging the Toycon cosplay competition and Hero Face Off, Hoff says that “it’s having fun with costumes and taking it to the next level by getting up on stage, and in front of other people.”
In an interview with ZEN Otaku Honbu after the country’s first representatives to the World Cosplay Summit were awarded, Hoff explained the beginnings of WCS and how he became a part of the event’s organizing committee as its de-facto ambassador.
The World Cosplay Summit started out as a part of the events division of TV Aichi in Nagoya which, like other Japanese television stations, had a penchant for holding cultural events as a tool to foster better connections in the community. Over ten years ago some of the WCS event founders went to Japan Expo, an anime convention held in France and were impressed how foreigners embraced Japanese culture abroad.
“They saw how (the) Japan Expo wasn’t so big at that time… but they were amazed at how foreigners… were celebrating Japanese culture… So they were very impressed by how this culture was being celebrated, and they thought ‘Why we don’t we do the same sort of thing in Japan’ and that was kind of the initial idea to start for WCS.”
He became close friends with Tokumaru Oguri, who went on to become a co-founder of WCS, recalling a friendship that started in 1998 which he relishes with delight.
“A tradition in Nagoya is to go to Horikawa, a river in Nagoya and jump in the river after a win for a big celebration,” Ed recalls. “So I heard about this great traditional Japanese cultural thing and I wanted to go and see this tradition, so I went down. And halfway down the water people started saying ‘Oh, Ed is going to jump over the river’, and I’m like ‘I’m not gonna do that, I’m just gonna watch, I’m just going to observe,’ and so it ended up, I jumped with Tokumaru.”
The idea for the event came up while Hoff was doing television work for TV Aichi, and the said network wanted someone who knows a lot of languages. Aside from English and Japanese, Hoff speaks four more other languages. As the WCS started out with Germany, France and Italy he was a good fit and he said at the time he had no idea what he was getting into.
From that point on, the World Cosplay Summit evolved from just a simple three-country affair to a competition with 20 regular participating countries and three Observer nations, including the Philippines.
Although there are 23 partner nations in the event, he still wishes for more countries to participate in the event. In fact, many other countries have showed their intention to become part of the competition. However, he obliges them to join as observers first to have a grasp of how the World Cosplay Summit works.
According to his research, there are around 90 to 100 countries around the world that hold cosplay events each year, which he sees as an opportunity for the potential growth of the Summit.
Though Oguri wanted 50 countries to compete in the 15th year of the WCS, Hoff believes that having a large number of participants joining in every year would be detrimental to the success of the event.
“I just think that ten countries joining would be you know a big– I mean, [it’s] logistically [a] very difficult thing to do. I don’t think it’s necessary to make a big thing,” Hoff says.
He adds that having three countries join in every year is exciting and special because those countries are highlighted in the event.
“It should be that participation is something that should be celebrated on our side and the country’s side also,” Hoff adds. “It’s not so much an achievement in the sense that we succeeded in fielding a nation but I think it’s a general celebration on both sides.”
The World Cosplay Summit is held every year in Aichi prefecture, 260 kilometers away from Tokyo. From July 27 to August 4 this year, the chosen representatives from 23 countries will be heading to Aichi’s capital Nagoya for the Summit.
The Summit begins with a Nishiki parade where a street in Nagoya will be blocked off to traffic for two hours, allowing the cosplayers from both the Participating and Observer status nations to show off their cosplay creations on the red carpet.
Aside from the cosplayers, the Governor of Aichi and the Mayor of Nagoya participate in the parade together with the previous winners and participants of the Summit.
“The next day, they go to Osu, which is the Akihabara [of Aichi],” Mr. Hoff adds. “[They will be joined by] about 1,000 cosplayers from around Japan. At the head there are the representative cosplayers, [and] there’s also the cosplayers from the Observer status [nations who will] participate in it as well.”
These events all lead up to the Championship event to be held on August 3. Here, cosplayers from the 20 participating nations all compete to become this year’s WCS Champion. A Runners-Up award and a special award are also handed out to two more winners.
Stay tuned for the conclusion of this series, where Ed Hoff talks about the Philippines’ participation in the WCS and various issues related to cosplay.
UPDATE: Mr. Ed Hoff has personally messaged the Events Editor to clarify some information on the feature article, and the article has been edited corrected.
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