Taiwanese cosplayers Akatsuki Tsukasa (红月司) and Judy Seven were in town lately to help promote the launch of SingTel mio TV’s new anime-centric channel, ANIPLUS HD. I was really lucky to score an informal interview with them at SingTel HQ during our coverage of the event, and I came away extremely impressed by the 2 ladies’ dedication to their craft.
Before I go into the interview proper, here’s the lowdown on these 2 splendid young women.
Akatsuki Tsukasa (红月司, or just 阿司 to her fans) shot to fame for her amazing renditions of Boa Hancock from One Piece and Sheryl Nome from Macross Frontier. She has been featured in several Taiwanese and Korean magazines and has also made numerous TV appearances in her homeland.
Of late, Tsukasa has been traveling around the region to attend cosplay events as a celebrity guest judge. Consistently ranked as one of the top 10 cosplayers in the world on worldcosplay.net, she currently has over 63,000 fans on her official Facebook page.
Judy Seven is an up-and-coming cosplayer who is a close personal friend of Tsukasa and is often seen in photoshoots with her. She has been steadily gaining popularity with her portrayal of characters such as Nitroplus Co. mascot Super Sonico, as well as Ranka Lee from Macross Frontier.
Judy is comparatively newer to the cosplay scene, currently ranked #163 on worldcosplay.net. Her official Facebook page, which she started only recently, has already accumulated over 7,000 fans in a short span of time and is steadily growing.
Like Tsukasa, Judy has also been a celebrity judge at anime events in Hong Kong and Singapore and is looking well on her way to becoming the next big thing in cosplay.
30 minutes with Tsukasa and Judy
The girls were very bubbly and easy-going, and the session was very candid and pleasant. Both ladies were dressed as characters from the anime Psycho-Pass during the interview, and despite the scorching weather, both Tsukasa and Judy posed for a number of outdoor photos in their outfits and makeup. It couldn’t have been very comfortable for them under those conditions, so I really take my hat off to them.
Note: This interview was originally conducted in Mandarin and has been translated to English for the benefit of our international readers.
Q: How long have you known each other?
Tsukasa: It’s been more than a decade. We’re like 2 old hags now! (laughs) 2 old hags who love to hang out together!
Q: What gave you the idea of cosplaying together?
Judy: We actually got to know each other at a cosplay event. And we were both doing similar cosplay… were we? (looks at Tsukasa for confirmation)
Tsukasa: I’m not sure, I recall we just got together and started talking for some reason.
Judy: Oh wait, it wasn’t an actual cosplay event, more like a school fair. So we were both at the school’s cosplay club, and it was there that we got to know each other… I think! (chuckles)
Tsukasa: Yeah I remember now, we were both dressed as characters from Harry Potter, that’s why I noticed her!
Judy: That was during our junior high school days. Now it feels like a thousand years ago! (laughs)
Q: How do you decide upon which character to cosplay? Do you look purely at the character’s aesthetic attributes, or do you consider his/her personality as well?
Tsukasa: If I come across a character that I like while watching anime or playing a video game, I’ll just think “I really like him or her”, and that usually translates to my desire to cosplay that particular character.
Judy: We’ll definitely consider the character’s personality during the process. In fact, sometimes we will cosplay characters that look relatively plain, but have great personality.
For example, the character I’m cosplaying right now (Akane Tsunemori from Psycho-Pass) looks kind of plain, doesn’t she? (laughs)
Q: What is the most challenging aspect of making your own costumes?
Tsukasa: It’s usually the props like armor and weapons that are the most difficult to make. Basically anything that isn’t fabric tends to be difficult to work with. Like, um… (turns to Judy)
Judy: Lightning! From Final Fantasy 13!
Tsukasa: Yes, that’s a good example. The real challenge lies in getting the armor to fit well and mold properly to the contours of your body. These projects tend to fail because of that, and we’ve had experiences where we had to rebuild the outfit several times!
Q: Was there any specific project that gave you a lot of difficulty?
Judy: Oh, we had a lot of trouble building the 3D Maneuver Gear from Attack on Titan. When we decided to make that outfit, the series was fairly new and the anime wasn’t even released yet, so we could only rely on the manga for reference. That was really difficult! And the worst part was that we ran into bad weather which ruined the final coat of paint, so we ended up having to rebuild the whole thing!
Q: Among all of the characters you’ve cosplayed, which one sticks out as the most unusual?
Tsukasa: Let’s see, have I done any non-human characters? (pause) Hmm, no, I don’t think so. All my cosplay subjects so far have been human! (laughs)
Judy: I’ve cosplayed as a male African-American character once! I had to use lots of makeup to darken my complexion, as well as get my features to look extremely masculine. And I had to wear an Afro wig to complete the look! (laughs) Basically, in situations where we don’t resemble the character we are trying to portray at all, makeup is your friend!
Tsukasa: For me, it would be dressing up as a Gothic Lolita. I find it really difficult, as I look nothing like that in real life. I guess makeup does have it’s limits!
Q: Aside from anime and video-game characters, have you ever cosplayed, or considered cosplaying as characters from other media? Such as Hollywood movies, TV shows, or novels?
Judy: I’ve actually cosplayed as a member of (Japanese pop group) Triple-A before! I’ve also done Kamen Rider!
Tsukasa: We’ve had some experience with characters from western animation studios, such as Dreamworks and Pixar. In fact, one of our upcoming projects is Elsa and Anna, the sisters from Disney’s Frozen. You can look forward to that!
Q: Is there a particular character that you’ve always wanted to cosplay, but haven’t been able to for various reasons?
Both: Way too many! (laughs)
Judy: Actually I’ve always wanted to do certain characters who look extremely ordinary, because those are actually the most difficult to portray. Maybe they just look like regular Japanese high-school students, but precisely because they look so ordinary, it can be very challenging to bring out their personality.
Tsukasa: I agree, the most plain-looking characters are often the toughest to cosplay.
Q: As 2 attractive young women, have you ever encountered any embarrassing or compromising situations at cosplay events? How did you deal with them?
Tsukasa: Well, we’ve had guys try to chat us up, which is usually not a big deal. But some photographers will be packing equipment that allows them to take compromising pictures of us. So we’ll always have to keep an eye out for people like those, especially if we have never seen them before. If we spot someone with questionable equipment in the vicinity, we’ll make up an excuse to avoid having our pictures taken for a while.
Judy: Depending on our outfits, we have to be mindful of camera angles. Like if we’re dressed in short skirts, we’d really have to be aware of where people are shooting us from. We’ve had people try to sneak their smartphone cameras beneath our skirts, and in full view of the public too!
Tsukasa: Also, maybe because of cultural differences, the photographers in Japan tend to be more blatant about these things. You can clearly tell that they’re focusing only on certain parts of the body when shooting. I’ve even been asked to lift up my skirt several times! I just pull the “I’m a foreigner, I don’t know what you’re saying!” card when that happens. (laughs)
Judy: Thankfully this sort of thing happens a lot less back home in Taiwan, but if it does, we’ll back each other up, or get help from a male friend. If things get too bad, I suppose we could always just leave!
Q: What do you think are the main differences between Japan and Taiwan with regards to cosplay culture?
Tsukasa: Many cosplayers in Japan tend to stick to the classics; they prefer to dress up as characters from older anime or video games who have iconic status, such as characters from older Final Fantasy games, for instance.
Judy: Yes, in Taiwan, cosplayers are more “fashionable”. They’ll have a tendency to cosplay characters from a more up-to-date selection.
Tsukasa: I think in Japan, cosplayers are more laid-back and enjoy the process more than their Taiwanese counterparts. They have lesser reservations about attempting something new or different, and will do whatever it takes to attain perfection for their outfits.
Judy: Agreed! Taiwanese cosplayers tend to be more worrisome; they’ll keep wondering if they’ve gotten the outfit right, about whether or not the character suits them, and they end up stressing themselves out over it. They’re also more conservative when it comes to trying out new techniques and it can really hamper their creative process.
Q: The both of you must be really busy. Have you had time to keep up with your gaming habits?
Judy: Of course! (laughs) I’ve been playing (Chinese RPG) Legend of the Ancient Sword II (古剑奇谭 II).
Tsukasa: I’ve been playing some dating sims and music games lately, but not much else!
Q: Do you have any beauty secrets to share with our female readers?
Tsukasa: Um, eat well, sleep well… (laughs)
Judy: Then eat more, and sleep more, and have supper as often as you can… (laughs) Oh, and play video games deep into the night!
Tsukasa: And make sure there’s a restaurant nearby that’s still open at 3AM so that you’ll have somewhere to go when you got the munchies! (chuckles)
Judy: We don’t really believe in dieting or trying too hard to maintain our figure, because we feel that the extra effort spent will probably be counterproductive. We don’t want to end up looking haggard or tired all the time due to all the stress!
Q: Speaking of which, do you feel that cosplaying places a lot of stress on you?
Tsukasa: I suppose every job comes with a certain amount of stress. You just have to deal with it.
Judy: Agreed, and since we’re both doing something that we are very passionate about, we feel that the accompanying stress is acceptable.
Q: How do your family members feel about your hobby?
Judy: They’ve accepted it now. Of course back when I first started, they would say “Why are you doing this? It’s such a waste of money!” and stuff like that. You know, the typical reaction. (chuckles)
Tsukasa: Yeah, they used to question me about spending time and effort on outfits that I can’t wear under normal circumstances. But I got them into the habit of watching anime with me, and they ended up loving it! My father actually became a pretty big fan of Slam Dunk back in the day. Eventually, my family members even started giving me suggestions on characters that I could cosplay. They definitely do not object to my cosplaying nowadays, and they feel that as long as I do what I need to do, it’s a good thing for me to have a hobby that I’m passionate about.
Judy: We both have full-time jobs outside of cosplaying, and we make sure that whatever money we spend on our outfits does not take away from our contributions to the family.
Tsukasa: And as much as possible, we do our best to ensure that cosplay does not interfere with our family lives.
Q: You mentioned you both have full-time jobs. How do you cope with cosplaying and work at the same time?
Judy: Well, from time to time, we’ll have to apply for leave to attend events, like for this visit to Singapore! (chuckles)
Q: And your boss doesn’t mind that you’re putting work aside for this?
Judy: Actually… he doesn’t know! (both ladies start laughing really hard) Some of my co-workers know what’s really going on, but they keep it to themselves too, thankfully!
Q: What about other people, like your clients, for instance?
Judy: We generally don’t mention it to them, because most people will start asking lots of questions when they find out about what we do. We try to avoid being put into such a situation, but there have been times when I’ve visited clients who recognized me! (chuckles) It was pretty embarrassing, but it can also be a good conversation starter, so I suppose it’s not always a bad thing.
Q: Have you had time to enjoy the local sights and sounds?
Judy: We’re heading to Universal Studios tomorrow! We’re really excited about that!
Q: Thank you both so much for your time. We really hope you enjoy your stay here!
Tsukasa and Judy: We will, thank you! 多谢，多谢！