Anime Frontier 2021 Masquerade & Weekend Highlights

Anime Frontier was two weeks ago and I finally have time to talk about it. (You can watch my vlogs here and here!) Here’s a little recap of my experience judging the Masquerade as well as some picture galleries with highlights of the rest of the weekend!

Friday

All my work towards the Masquerade took place Saturday, which left me both Friday and Sunday to do whatever I wanted! I don’t want to bore you with a play by play of every single thing that happened during my personal time, so instead, enjoy some photos!

Saturday: Masquerade Judging

I had made Sailor Neptune specifically for this con, knowing that I was judging the contest. I wanted something anime, instantly recognizable, comfortable, and manageable construction-wise in regards to time and money. I successfully completed her a week and a half before the con and donned her Saturday morning.

My judging duties didn’t actually start until noon with pre-judging, which gave me the morning to wander the expo hall and do a photo shoot with Mehreen Rizvi. (I absolutely adore the photos she took!)

After my shoot, I managed to run into some other Sailor Moon cosplayers!

At noon, I met with my fellow judges Podgekinn and Lutavia Cosplay, and the contest runners Cornetto Cosplay (Katie) and Alex Is Crafting for pre-judging. The pre-judging room consisted of a round table on one end for us to place our stuff, a long table with binders prepared and placed in advance for judging, and a set of long tables along the side walls holding a series of bags containing the prizes for the Masquerade winners.

The next ~4 hours was spent looking at all of the entries for the contest. We actually were able to look at some of the build books before we met the cosplayers because some had sent theirs in digitally, which we reviewed on a tablet. Then, Alex welcomed in each contestant one by one, with Katie as our timekeeper. The binders that Katie and Alex had prepared beforehand were extremely helpful, detailing each contestant’s handle, character, series, division, pre-judging time, and short description. There was at the bottom a rubric with the maximum score each category could receive. We were even given a script of the Masquerade itself.

Pouring over the cosplays was such a delight. Each contestant was happy to show us their work and answer our questions. I was also in awe of my fellow judges’ breadth of knowledge when it came to construction and fabrication, and found myself at times a loss for words for what to contribute. Lutavia and Podgkinn were both extremely professional and positive with their interactions with the cosplayers. You could tell they both genuinely enjoyed what they were doing. I, too, was having a blast. I love talking shop. It’s honestly one of my favorite parts about cosplay. By the end, we had a rough idea of who would receive the awards, but knew that this could change based on how the stage performances went. Satisfied, we left the pre-juding room.

Thankfully, I had a little bit of time before I was expected backstage for rehearsal. Used this time to grab some dinner with Kasey (making a very conscious effort to not talk about the contest since they were competing) and catch my breath.

Rehearsal was short and sweet. We were shown our judging table and where we should enter/exit the stage. The doors were opened and we sat at our judging table while the audience started to trickle in. Alex opened up the contest and introduced Mikal Mosley, our amazing MC, who then went on to get the crowd hyped. He thanked our sponsors and then it was the judges’ turn to get on stage.

Before pre-judging, we had been given a script with what Mikal would be asking each judge on stage. I was given the question “What do you look for in a Best in Show?” and had to think about what I wanted to say. I was the first one up (as always, being an “A” name) and think I did pretty well answering the question. I was feeding off Mikal’s electric energy and I think that managed to make its way into my answer. Once Lutavia and Podgekinn both had their time on stage, it was back to our judging table to watch all the entries.

The order was determined by division: first Beginner, then Intermediate, then Advanced. Within the divisions, the craftsmanship walk-ons went on first and were followed by the division performances. (Not all performers were judged in craftsmanship, so there were some we didn’t meet previously.)

After watching and cheering for all the entries, Podgekinn, Lutavia, and I went backstage to the green room for final deliberations. We actually didn’t take very long. A lot of the choices we had made previously still stood up after the performances, but there were some surprises. I had gone into the Masquerade expecting to give my judge’s award to a craftsmanship cosplayer, but ended up changing it to a performance-only entry.

Intermission done, we were brought back on stage, along with all of the contestants. We announced our judge’s awards first, Great British Bake Off style, listing off what we liked about the cosplayer before Mikal would announce the name. It was a little hard to hear the audio from the stage, so the next part was a bit of fun chaos as Mikal would announce the winners and the judges would grab each of them from the lineup, the winners unaware that they had won. We went through all the division and ended on our Best in Show.

Here’s a gallery of all the winners!

After we announced the winners, it was a flurry of photos on stage and gushing to the winners about how amazing their cosplays were.

After hanging out with some friends outside in the water garden and then more chilling in their hotel room, I called it a night and went back to my hotel for some much deserved sleep.

Sunday

Sunday, I went to the (optional) Masquerade Feedback panel. It consisted of Podgekinn, Lutavia, and I sitting in the same pre-judging room for an hour while Masquerade contestants came and got direct feedback from us. I actually spent a lot of this time just listening because Lutavia and Podgekinn were just a wealth of expertise; I was just taking mental notes in my head for ways I could improve my cosplays! I was pleasantly surprised to see so many winners attend the panel. It wasn’t until the following day that I would realize that it is precisely because they attend feedback panels that they won: if you can put ego aside and listen to constructive criticism well, you’re going to go far.

The rest of the day was getting to hang out with friends without the stress of working. Got some decent feedback on my Kaori cosplay, so I was pleased with that!

Conclusion

This was my first 3-day con back since before covid, and I had a blast. Yes, I know my experience is biased because I get the perks of being a guest, but I mostly go to cons to see friends. The dealer’s room, artist alley, and panels are all secondary to me just hanging out with my friends. And considering this was Anime Frontier’s first year, I would say they did a really good job. Sure, some things were lacking (fan-made panels being the biggest one for me, personally), but I’m sure there will be improvements made in the coming years. I’m optimistic about this con’s future.

As for the Masquerade, I’ve never seen, participated, or judged in such a well organized contest before. Katie and Alex both knew exactly what they were doing. They were professional and made our jobs as judges so easy because we didn’t have to worry about anything outside of judging. They kept everything running on time and they gave us all the tools we needed for success. They didn’t micromanage; they trusted us to make the decisions without bias. (Pretty sure all the judges knew at least one person in the contest. It’s a small, tight-knit community, so chances are you’re going to end up judging a friends at a contest at least once!) Leslie, my Masquerade contact leading up to the con, was also very professional in all communications. It’s unfortunate that I didn’t actually get to meet Leslie in person, but I wanted to make sure to give a shout-out here!

And, of course, I cannot overstate how much of a pleasure it was spending so much time with my fellow judges. Lutavia and I had already been mutuals online for some time, so getting to meet in person was wonderful! And meeting Podgekinn felt like meeting an old friend; it felt like we already knew each other. They were both so passionate, so knowledgeable. During our Sunday feedback panel, they were so supportive and gave the cosplayers resources for them to improve their craft. They were so great to work with and I really hope we get to see each other at future cons!

Overall, I had a really great time and I can’t wait for my next con and my next contest, whether it’s competing or judging one.

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