One of the biggest challenges about working at Tofugu is the grind of a typical workday. Case in point? Taking a rented middle-aged man to review a cosplay studio, then walking the streets of Akihabara dressed as the superheroine leader of the Soldier Sailors and a turquoise-haired singing robot hologram with two million Facebook friends.
See what I mean? Just another boring day! 😁
This one started when we arrived at Studio Crown, a cosplay studio, with our rented ossan, Yasashii Shufu. We had signed up for the studio's $200, three-hour "Tourist Service Cosplay Experience," which included full costume and makeup, a photo session, and a stroll around Akihabara.
When the elevator door opened, a pretty and extremely genki girl in cosplay greeted us. "I'm a cosplayer named Chamomile," she explained, "but everybody just calls me ‘Chami'."
We had signed up for the studio's $200, three-hour "Tourist Service Cosplay Experience," which included full costume and makeup, a photo session, and a stroll around Akihabara.
We exchanged greetings and received our itinerary: first, Chami would put her seven years of cosplay experience to use by helping us put on our costumes, wigs, and makeup. Then the studio would take photos of us in their professional space. Finally, Chami would push her becostumed fledglings out of the nest so we could fly… actually walk around Akihabara in cosplay.
"Sound good?" she asked.
"I think so…" Our ossan didn't sound so sure, and I wasn't certain myself.
"So—what do you want to cosplay as?"
I don't think either of us had even thought about an answer. But because I knew the whole experience would end up as an article, I wanted something interesting. "Do you have a Sailor Moon costume?"
"We sure do," said Chami.
"I'll do that! Do you have any other girl character cosplay that would fit Ossan?"
She thought for a moment. "Oh! We have a Hatsune Miku outfit that's big enough."
And like that, we had chosen our costumes. Chami and the other staff were very nice, and helped the rest of our team choose costumes of their own. Viet transformed into something from Attack on Titan; Sean became Goku from Dragon Ball; and Mami turned into Ayanami Rei from Neon Genesis Evangelion.
One thing we learned right away: if the company doesn't have your size of a certain costume, you can't cosplay as that character. Better to call ahead or bring your own! We weren't choosy about who we were, though, and that made it easier.
Becoming the Character
We began our transformation by putting on our costumes. Sailor Moon's top turned out to be so tight it barely fit—I thought I heard a little ri-i-ip as I pulled it on. Yasashii Shufu is slimmer, and had an easier time of it, but we both felt pretty constricted. I don't know how Sailor Moon does it! Actually, I do know—she puts on her clothes using moon magic. But there wasn't a full moon, so unfortunately that was in short supply.
Next we had our makeup done, which took the majority of our transformation time. Chami was a pro at this and concentrated on Yasashii Shufu first.
Our ossan seemed to be doki doki with Chami's need to get really close and touch his face. I could hear him saying things like "Ah! Chami rubbed my head!" and "Ahh, this is nice!" Throughout, she kept adding layers of makeup. It was going on thick. I suppose she had to make our faces look smooth, like a drawing. Who knew that grown men don't have skin like teenage girls?
For me, the process was similar, though Chami had to start by putting tape on my face to "make it more smart," as she put it. My translation: "You have kind of a fat face."
Ossan and I both put on fake eyelashes, and I opted for a pair of insanely blue contact lenses. He declined because he already was wearing contacts and didn't want to switch them out. He probably wanted to have perfect 20/20 vision so he could see what a beautiful Sailor Moon I was becoming!
Tip: if you're coming to Studio Crown—or any cosplay studio—and want to wear colored contacts, it's a good idea to bring your own if you need a certain prescription.
Chami worked efficiently, keeping up the conversation so there were never any awkward silences. Like a good hair stylist, she knew when to talk and when to focus. Transforming into Sailor Moon was a great experience all around, and definitely not something I could have done alone.
Eventually we were ready. Costume? Check. Makeup and wigs? Check and check! We thought that was it, but then Chami held up a pair of pantyhose. "You'll both need to put these on to cover your leg hair," she explained. Wait, what? She looked a little closer, adding: "Actually, you're going to need two pair."
I have to say, putting on pantyhose was probably the most difficult part of the process. Once successful, however, we had fully transformed: Ossan and I had become extremely beautiful, young, realistic anime girls. See for yourself!
The Photoshoot (for the Tofugu Company Calendar)
As they shot our pics, we could tell that Ms. Hazuki and Chami clearly enjoyed their work, and tried to take the best photos they could of us. And their photos were amazing.
We had our costumes, our made-up faces, double pantyhose to hide our leg fur, and plenty of sass. It was time to take pictures! Instead of by moonlight, though, as they say in the Sailor Moon opening song, we ended up using the studio's professional lighting equipment. Oh well!
For this part of our day, Ms. Hazuki, the CEO of Studio Crown, came out to take our pictures and guide us through poses. Chami served as an assistant, moving our hands into place when it became clear Ossan and I had no idea what Hatsune Miku and Sailor Moon would actually do. "Hold your negi like this. Put your hand like that. Move a little to your right…"
We shot individual photos first, hatching a plan to later get the girls back together (just like in that fanfic I wrote… remember?). The ossan went first. Despite having never modeled or cosplayed before, he was a natural. Any nervousness he had showed before had vanished, and he was having fun giving it his all.
As they shot our pics, we could tell that Ms. Hazuki and Chami clearly enjoyed their work, and tried to take the best photos they could of us. And their photos were amazing. As for the NG photos, we had to take those ourselves…
Following our individual poses, it was time for Sailor Moon and Hatsune Miku to unite! For those shots, we chose our characters' signature poses: "holding a leek" [left] and "pointing two fingers into the sky to hint at the existence of a secret, second moon—the moon that lies underneath our flat Earth, and therefore cannot be seen (but the science and evidence is all there if you really look…)" [right].
I think we did a great job, though all the thanks should go to Ms. Hazuki and Chami. The photos that Studio Crown took were processed and arrived later. Here they are—untouched and un-Photoshopped in any way! Clearly they didn't need to edit our photos because of how beautiful we were.
First, Sailor Koi—sorry, Moon! Sailor Moon…
…and Ossan Hatsune Miku!
Here's the shot of us together:
Time flew, and suddenly we were done. Taking photos of two grown men dressed up as anime girls felt like the most natural thing in the world, which is a testament to the Studio Crown staff.
After the ossan and I were done, we got the whole crew plus Chami together to do a group shot, though it was clear that Mami was too in-character to enjoy it.
Dressing up alone would have been interesting enough, but we were getting the Tourist Service Cosplay Experience, and with that comes a walkabout, where things got even more exciting. It was time for the public debut of Ossan Hatsune Miku and Grimacing-Flexing Sailor Moon!
Walking Around Akihabara as Sailor Moon and Hatsune Miku
we were warned not to stay in any one spot for too long. If a crowd gathered and we caused a disturbance, the police might come, and no one wanted that.
As we rode Studio Crown's elevator down to the street, Ossan and I were a little nervous. We'd never done anything like this before, and it was exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time. Yet the moment we stepped outside and onto the busy street of Kanda Myōjin near Akihabara Station, everything changed. We were no longer ourselves. The makeup was a mask; our wigs were a helmet. And our pantyhose were just… tight—really tight. Perhaps it was this tightness that squeezed us into joyfully becoming our characters, free of embarrassment, inhibitions, or shyness.
We had to follow a few rules:
- First, once we were outside Studio Crown's premises, we were like Tom Cruise in every Mission Impossible movie: disowned. Everything we did was our own choice, and Studio Crown wouldn't take responsibility.
- Second, we had to wear man-Spanx. Apparently it was illegal to show the amount of butt I was showing.
- Third, we were warned not to stay in any one spot for too long. If a crowd gathered and we caused a disturbance, the police might come, and no one wanted that.
It wasn't long before people started approaching us. Once we were comfortable and radiating confidence, tourists began requesting to take pictures with "the famous cosplayers of Akihabara." If only they knew!
We were photobombed by the old gray-haired lady on the left:
Also this guy:
Unlike the tourists, the Japanese people who saw us looked a little disappointed, though they still snapped pictures of us with their smartphones. They probably wondered why Sailor Moon kept frowning and flexing at them.
Sailor Moon and Hatsune Miku are famously goal-oriented characters, and so we decided to come up with some games to play. Anyone lucky enough to make eye contact with one of us was immediately asked which of us they thought was cuter. Journalistic integrity requires me to reveal that Ossan Hatsune Miku won, 10 to 7.5. (I have no idea where that .5 came from.)
Because we were superheroes and youth icons, we zeroed in on any loitering teens we saw, creating our own version of "Scared Straight," where cops and ex-cons warn at-risk kids about what it's really like to be in prison. Our message, whatever it was, was clearly scarier. We would approach the teens and ask them why they weren't in school. Then we'd say things like, "You'd better study hard or you'll end up like us!" I do believe the two of us saved some lives that day.
Before we knew it, our time on the streets had run out, and it was time to head back to Studio Crown and pay our bill. It was probably good timing: I was starting to actually believe I was Sailor Moon, crew member of a Moon Boat, Scouting Division.
Joking aside, I really did appreciate becoming another person. While I was cosplaying, it felt as if all my social anxieties had melted away. I could talk to strangers, flex and grimace for any camera, and not have a care in the world. I wasn't me; I was a character, and social norms would not constrain me!
In thinking back on the experience, I feel as if I can now understand why people enjoy cosplaying. I don't think I'd do it again, necessarily, but I see why people do it. You can easily jump into another level of direct human interaction, something society is missing (and plenty of people are craving) more and more as we become a culture where those connections have grown sparse or vanished altogether.
Getting Back to the Moon Base
If you think you're too shy, or haven't done cosplay but think you wouldn't be into it, I hope you'll consider giving it a try. It's not for everyone, but that's precisely why it's so much fun.
We returned to the proverbial lunar shipyard to peel off our Spanx, pantyhose, makeup, and costumes. As I removed mine, I slowly came back to Earth, and Ossan and I jabbered about what we had just done as if it were some kind of grand achievement. There was me, a thirty-year-old American, and him, a forty-something-year-old Japanese ossan, chatting like a couple of giddy schoolgirls about our day. Even now, I would easily put the experience on my top-ten most fun things I've done in my life.
As we put on our regular human clothes, another group was coming in. They had rented the studio to take photos of their own cosplay and were setting up. It was time for us to leave. Reluctantly, we said our final goodbyes, and returned to the everyday world and our everyday selves.
If you think you're too shy, or haven't done cosplay but think you wouldn't be into it, I hope you'll consider giving it a try. It's not for everyone, but that's precisely why it's so much fun. You can be someone entirely new for a couple hours. No embarrassment. No anxiety. Just a hairy-legged Sailor Moon walking the streets of Tokyo.
One recommendation, though: absolutely go with a friend! While it might be fun on your own, sharing the experience with someone else and talking about it afterwards is what it's all about. Cosplay is actually a very social thing, and the more people, the more interesting it gets.
Hope to see you out there, Sailor Scouts!
Despite having zero interest in cosplay, I came away from this experience with a new perspective on things. Having the rented ossan there certainly helped, but I had a really good time, with the highlight being walking around Akihabara. I’m not sure if I’d do it again, but the time I did it was exceptionally fun. Highly recommended to try at least once, even if you’re not into this kind of thing.
The service was professional and delivered what it was promised to provide. We had a great time, and that is what’s important, yeah?
Their service was very good. The staff was extremely nice and professional. If you want to do cosplay in or around Akihabara, I’d recommend this place.