(Editor’s Note: This is the last 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. Here, Hoff talks about the Philippines’ participation in the Summit, as well as raging issues in the global cosplay community.)
When asked about his thoughts on the Philippines becoming a part of the Summit as seemingly long overdue, Mr. Hoff lamented that there are 25 other countries that didn’t get in the Summit, or at the very least, not yet.
“How long you let other countries go before you and you say ‘okay, my turn now’, there’s arguments for every country, and I understand that fans want to know, they want to know, and I would love to give it all to them,” Hoff says. “But in life, it just can’t be like that all the time, unfortunately. So I ask people’s little bit of patience, enjoy… the process, and ten years from now. When we look back, it’s going to be nothing, but right now, at this very moment… A little bit of patience and it will come. “
There are at least 40 to 45 organizations currently in talks with the the WCS team, each vying to become the Summit’s local partner in each of the 25 nations they are considering. Hoff compares the process of choosing an organization to work with for each country to choosing a marriage partner.
“I really believe that having organizations working together for the community, on the whole, is healthy,” Hoff adds. “When there is struggling, fighting against each other, the community itself hurts, so I mean there’s much more beyond that in selecting organizations to work with… There are many factors involved, and you have to make sure that you’re the best organization to work together.”
He also adds that media plays a big part in the event.“We live in the media world now,” Hoff says. “We power of media, the meaning of the media, increases yearly, it’s almost how the media should go, or how far the media should not go, almost, in some senses, but we have realized that we have our lives online, and the media plays a big role in giving us information online about what’s going on.”
He also revealed that 2013 is the first year WCS will be independent of its broadcast partner TV Aichi. Although the station will is considered as one of the Summit’s co-organizers, WCS is moving to become an independently operating group.
“I believe that the event going independent and becoming an independent entity is also a good move,” Hoff elaborates. “As the event grows, as the event develops, then you kind of leave home, move out of the house, and sort of live on your own and try to develop.”
He is personally interested in forming good relations with other organizations to have a very dynamic and organic support for cosplay. He says that the WCS have formed relations with the likes of the European Cosplay Gathering and Cosplay Masters Competition, which is based in Portugal.
“If we have a number of organizations working together, globally, it’s very important to… coordinate [if] possible, and work together where possible, at least, a lot of communication, i think it’s very important to do that, it makes for a very dynamic, organic support for cosplay itself, is a positive, whether we feel whatever from it… and I think that’s cosplay itself ,” he says.
Back in April, Anime Alliance Philippines announced that they have been chosen as WCS’ official Philippine partner, granting them the right to officially hold cosplay competitions to determine the country’s representatives to the Summit.
Mr. Hoff says that basically, the Observer status is the foot in the door for the country’s eventual participation in the Summit, and being an Observer nation, the country is one step away from becoming a full participating member of the Summit.
“It’s learning the ropes, learning how everything is done, with each year not only the countries grow but the event itself grows and there’s more involved in it and its quite a big step from not participating to participating so, it’s good to get countries to come out, check it out, learn about it and it’s like you put in a door for full participation,” Mr. Hoff says.
The WCS gives organizations on observer status pointers and tips on how they will execute from the regional level up to the international level of competitions. The observer nation will also be mixed with other observer nations and the participating nations and have a performance on the WCS Championship stage, but not to compete, but to show a performance.
“The representatives of each (observer) country will be getting up on the championship stage, but will not be performing in the championship itself, they do not have to put together a 2 and a half minute performance, compete against other nations, or to be judged by the judges themselves, are they participating in the championship, no, are they getting up in the championship stage. Yes. They’re experiencing it they’re mixing with the other countries, to see how everything is done, and learning at the same time” Mr. Hoff added.
The observer status will also help organizers see how the event is being run and how they should create the best preliminary competition possible for their own countries.
When asked how long a nation’s Observer status will last, Hoff says it more often than not lasts for a year, but may last for up to two years in some rare cases.
Does that mean that the Philippines will be entering the main competition in 2014? Hoff doesn’t fully guarantee it, “but there’s a very high probability that for 2014, the Philippines would be a participating as a partner nation.”
He says that his experience during the Toycon weekend was amazing, despite having a tough time on the judging of the Face Off category. Still, he mused that being a judge in a cosplay competition isn’t as hard as being an organizer.
“I don’t see it as hard, really, I see it a lot more enjoyment than being difficult, and if it was too difficult, and if it was too hard, I wouldn’t be doing it anymore.” He said.
He had met Estapon and Garbin, the two winners of the WCS Philippines finals, right after the competition and congratulated them. He also got their information on the WCS’s social media accounts and also took their contact information as well.
He then says that he has enjoyed the country and he was overwhelmed at the support of the Filipinos, adding that he hopes to come back someday.
“I’m overwhelmed at the support and the help that you get by everyone, and people are concerned about making sure that visitors enjoy themselves, and have a good time and I think that’s incredible,” he says. “That’s really really something that you don’t get everywhere, so it’s unique, and it’s a special opportunity.”
ZENhonbu then went deeper on his insights about the global cosplay scene. When he was asked about his take on whether cosplay should be on the mainstream or just stay underground, he says that everyone should not forget the beginnings of cosplay as an amateur hobby and it should be “celebrated, promoted and nurtured to maintain the qualities that it has.”
“It should be allowed to be developed in its own way, as an amateur hobby, that’s very important, if you lose contact with that, it’s like an anchor, it kind of keeps it in place” Mr. Hoff adds.
He also says that one of the reasons behind WCS’ stringent rules came about over time. The first 2 years of the Summit there was no stage competition and organizers simply brought cosplayers they knew to participate in the event.
“Before then, it was just organizers bringing their friends, so like I said before, when you bring your friends, it’s unfair…. but it’s complicated also because people will say, well, is it fair?… that sort of thing,” Hoff elaborates. “And that you know, it really takes away from the essence of just having pure fun, so we’re in a difficult situation, where we have to select representatives fairly, and in doing so, we have created this, this peak or pinnacle, where we take each year, one team, and put them on the top and say, okay, you’re here, and we did that.”
He then says that cosplay in itself is a search for an ideal, adding that “trying to be an ideal character, this dream character, and for organizations involved also, we want to create the perfect event, but reality gets in the way, and we can never create the perfect character, we can never create the perfect event, there will always be the little issues and problems.”
On the question on buying a costume in stores, he answers that while this is fine by him, the money that these costumes were paid for should go to the creators of the titles. There is also the lingering issue of anime and manga producers not recognizing cosplay.
“The problem of cosplay up until now is that they haven’t been recognized by anime and manga producers and it’s always been kind of black sheep of these elements because there hasn’t been any real money coming into it, it’s kind of pure hobby and there’s nothing really there”, Hoff says.
He also says that the public reception of cosplay on being a “weird” hobby is actually important, as it creates a “social barrier” on where people can enjoy and create relationships among their friends and peers and other members of the community.
“I think it is very important to have misunderstanding, that people do look at cosplay and say, ‘oh, that’s kind of weird,’” Hoff adds. “Maybe there’s misunderstanding, when you have that, you create a social barrier…. and when you have that, you create that space where kids can play, young people can have fun, and do their things, and create relationships between their friends and members of their group and they can enjoy themselves in that way.”
He also says that cosplayers entering the media and becoming cosplayers is part an important debate about cosplay itself, but he respects those who wear the costume and stand out.
“I respect anyone who dons the costumes, even more so if they make their own costumes, integrate themselves with the community, and does things with the community, and you keep to be on and stand out in that way,” Hoff says. “When you stand out, make yourself a target, and that takes courage, strength, and perseverance to do that, and I respect people who do it in a wholesome way, and I support them for doing that thing.”
He noted that there is a big jump on the level of performances for those who joined in as Observers in the summit.
“There’s always a big jump from the first year and second year in countries that participate in the level of performances that appear, and it’s the first three years that…. people really, it’s kind of an awakening…. there is definitely a jump,” Hoff says. “But I think for all, there’s a vast community, we’ve seen very high level, world class level costumes, and with fine tuning…. you will definitely see a jump.”
Finally, he urged those who wish to join the World Cosplay Summit 2014 Preliminaries to give it a shot, research, talk to the alumni and to look into the big picture as well.
“Give it a try, give it a go… you will learn so much from just trying. You will learn more from trying than from not trying. and yeah, it will help you not only in your cosplay, but it will help you with you as a person, and that’s one thing from people who would want to participate… and even beyond that, there are lots of ways to improve… doing something unique and different is also important,that’s up to you, what’s gonna be your creative mark, that you will leave on cosplay itself…. as cosplayers yourselves, you will keep growing also. It’s very important to keep mindful of the big picture as well,” Hoff concluded.
UPDATE: Mr. Ed Hoff has messaged ZEN Otaku Honbu to clarify some corrections on the feature article, and it has been edited & corrected.
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