Another Nishi Fest, Another Award!

I entered my Kena cosplay into the Cosplay Contest at Nishi Fest in Arlington this past Saturday!

Was honestly surprised to hear that Nishi Fest was already happening again since we just had it in October. It was another one-day con and another one for the books!

I spent weeks telling myself I wasn’t going to enter Kena into the contest. I knew she wasn’t Master-level because it wasn’t entirely made from scratch. Like my other contest builds (with the exception of Seraphine), Kena was a passion project that I happened to enter into a contest. This meant that I opted for convenience for some pieces and altered or modified existing garments/pieces rather than making them from scratch.

It wasn’t until Sunday, March 13, the very last day to register for the contest, that I decided to jump in, mostly because I already knew so many people that were competing! There was Kaseydidwhat as June the Bounty Hunter (Avatar: The Last Airbender); Ace as Cherry (S8 The Infinity); and ToughCutie as Dani (Hooky). This coupled with knowing that Miko Miko Cosplay—who you’ll recall was Nishi Fest 2021’s Best in Show winner—was judging, meant I just had to join them. (I apparently am helpless against peer pressure.)

I went in knowing that the best I could hope for was a Judge’s Award. A Best Master or Best-in-Show was not going to be likely. But you know what was 100% likely? Fun! (Cheesy, I know, but nevertheless true!)

Hours before arriving at Nishi Fest. This was one of the first pictures of the full cosplay with the completed staff.

Pre-judging

There were three times the entries this time around. Last Nishi Fest, there were only 8. This time, I think there were 26! The setup was a little different (larger!). Whereas in October, there was one room for registration/pre-judging and one green room, this year included one registration/pre-judging room, two waiting rooms, and two changing rooms! I never even set foot in the other three rooms. So, I actually missed out on meeting about half of the contestants, which is a little bit of a bummer to be honest but that’s my fault for not peeking into the other room to say hi. (Making a mental note about that now for next time.) Our green room did have quite a bit of fun—some would say too much—by playing a “Name the anime opening” game via Youtube and the TV that was in there. At one point, most everyone yelled out “KISS KISS FALL IN LOVE” to the Ouran High School Host Club opening and contest-runner Indra had to come in and tell us to keep it down because we shared a wall with the judges’ room.

The judges panel consisted of AKrCos, Bindi Smalls, and the aforementioned Miko Miko Cos. I was surprised to be greeted by Tock Custom who opened the door to let me into pre-judging. (According to Miko, he just kinda showed up and was like “hey need any help with the contest?” and then was keeping time.) After speed-running talking about my build process and forgetting to breathe, I went back to the green room. (But not before telling Tock on the way out that I had literally just used his video about soldering details into foam that week to finish Kena’s staff.)

Ashweez as Kena takes a selfie with Kaseydidwhat as June

Walk-on

The stage portionof the contest—similar to last time—included a walk-on portion as well as being interviewed briefly by return host Stella Chu. Last time, we were asked a 2-3 questions, but this time there was only time for one each. As we were lining up to go to the stage, the detail of “oh hey you’re gonna have to talk” was sprung on us, must like it had been last year. I felt more prepared for talking this time around because I assumed the format would be the same as last year.

I wasn’t first to walk the stage this time (Kasey was, much to their dismay). I was somewhere around the first third of contestants. I have no idea how they set the order. Part of me thinks it’s just registration order. Soon, it was my turn. I walked out, hit a pose, walked out further onto the stage, and then hit my staff to the stage floor to hit the button that would light it up. (I’ll have a build post about my staff soon! Just have to finish writing it.) I was extremely pleased to hear the audience react, which told me that the light did indeed show up from the stage, something I was very concerned about! Stella took that opportunity to ask me how I lit up my staff and I explained the circuit very briefly and then exited stage left.

Backstage

After doing my walk-on, I went backstage to watch and cheer on the rest of the contestants from the monitor.

I have to mention this one moment from backstage because it honestly made my day. I felt like I had already won something from this moment. After a few minutes of watching the contest, a contestant’s mom approached me and asked if I was the Seraphine from last Nishi Fest. Puzzled, I said “yes” and she told me that she and her daughter like to do mother-daughter weekend activities. When they were trying to figure out what to do for one such weekend, they found my Nishi Fest 2021 vlog and decided to go! If I remember correctly, this was their first con, first cosplay, first contest. I was overwhelmed to see that someone had actually found my vlog and went to a con because of it! Absolutely floored.

When I asked for their names and introduced myself as “Ash” the daughter replied with “I’m Ash!” Meanwhile, we were standing next to ToughCutie who is also an Ash so that was quite hilarious!

Team Ash: Ashweez, ToughCutie as Dani, and Ash as Amity (Owl House)

So thank you to Yudi and Ash for saying hello and telling me that story! I love moments like these!

And the winner is…

After watching everyone else’s walk-ons and interviews, it was time for the awards. Similar to last time, I had a very hard time hearing the audio from the stage. I was straining to hear it. We got ushered to the stage ramp so that the winners could quickly get on stage. It was a little easier to hear it from there thankfully. There were lots of awards so I’ll try to keep it brief!

Bindi Smalls Judge’s Award went to gigan.cosplay as Shulk (Xenoblade Chronicles)

AKrCos Judge’s Award went to Kieshar as Lucius Malfoy (Harry Potter) — who was the Journey cosplayer at Anime Frontier!)

Miko Miko Cosplay’s Judge’s Award went to… me! I was so ecstatic. I got a medal and it even says “Miko Miko Cosplay” on it, which makes me want to cry.

Left to right: Stella Chu, Ashweez, Bindi Smalls, AKrCos, and Miko Miko Cosplay

Best Novice went to Cactus Jedi as Red Hood (Batman) — who was my line buddy for both pre-judging and walking the stage! We also learned that we had both attended Cosplay Prom back before the panini hit, so it was cool seeing him win!

Best Journeyman went to Tsukisu as Marika Mizushima (D4DJ)— who was also an Anime Frontier award winner. She actually won my Judge’s Award and I didn’t even realize it was her until I got home lol the power of cosplay. Didn’t recognize her at all.

Best Master went to Kasey!!! As June (Avatar the Last Airbender) — I couldn’t be prouder! If I was gonna lose to anyone in my category, let it be to Kaseydidwhat.

Best in Show went to Licca’s Dollhouse as Totooria Helmold (Atelier Totori: The Adventurer of Arland) — who not only competed for ComfyCozyCon 2021 but I’ve also slowly gotten to know through Discord! Very well deserved! I remember sifting through his build book for ComfyCozyCon and my god there is so much work that went into that cosplay!

What we learned from this contest is that I am very slowly starting to recognize all the DFW cosplay contest regulars. It’s a great feeling getting to see everyone’s work and how passionate they all are. I am infinitely addicted to competing and I think a lot of it has to do with building so many great connections with awesome, talented cosplayers. We all can relate because we go through the gauntlet together.

What’s next?

While no one recognized my character Kena at all—I kept getting asked if I was from Avatar, which tracks since I was almost always standing next to Kasey as June lol—I still had such a blast at the con. Thank you to everyone who has been cheering me on digitally during this build. I’m typically one and done with builds: I make it, finish it, and move onto the next one. I rarely revisit cosplays and improve them because I opt for taking lessons learned from them and just incorporating it into the next cosplay. But Kena is different. I want to do her justice and I know I can do better. I know that I rushed and crunched on that staff, which shows with how unstable it was. So, I’ll be making improvements to her.

Like I said earlier, I know she wasn’t quite contest ready, enough for a Judge’s Award but not for Best Masters and definitely not Best in Show, which has been a goal of mine since reaching Masters. I got some great feedback from Miko after the contest (and before we went to the after party together) that I hope to incorporate. The biggest being that my staff prop is too wibbly wobbly. It’s an unstable noodle. I knew this going into the contest but didn’t have time to fix it. (I had multiple people at the con point out how “fragile” and “bendy” it looked, which, come on y’all — rude.)

Now, with some guidance from other fellow crafters, I’m hoping to improve the staff for A-kon’s cosplay contest in June, even if it means remaking it entirely. I also intend to make the garment pieces and bag that I had originally altered/modded so that everything in the cosplay is self-made. Oh and do proper boots/socks. And maybe improve the necklace. And maybe also— you get the point.

I’ve got 10 weekends between now and then, so wish me luck!


All stage photos were screenshots from video taken by Floofy!

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