Dressed as Cardcaptor Sakura in a Lolita-style red dress, bonnet and pure white knee-high socks, ordinarily-shy Claudia Blanche is perfectly at home wandering around Wollongong Town Hall among Marvel Comic heros, Star Wars characters and other pop culture creatures brought to life for cosplay event, Comic Gong 2014.
When not studying a Bachelor of Arts (majoring in Japanese) and a Bachelor of Communication & Media Studies at Wollongong University, 18 year old Claudia enjoys donning anime character costumes and participating in cosplay events.
“I always felt like an outsider at school because I was interested in anime and manga. I thought cosplay might be a really great way to embrace my love of these things and also meet new people with similar interests. It definitely hasn’t disappointed!”
“My family isn’t interested in anime and manga, and my dad avoids situations where he has to dress up like the plague, but all my family are incredibly supportive of my hobby, whether it be assisting me in creating my costumes, sourcing materials or taking me to conventions,”
“My first cosplay was of Celty Sturluson from the anime series Durarara!!. She’s kind of like a female version of the headless horseman – an Irish mythical creature called a ‘Dullahan’ to be exact. I identified with her when I watched the anime series because we have very similar personalities. She’s an urban legend in Ikebukuro (the place she lives) and people treat her like a monster, when actually, she displays a lot more humanity and goodness than any of the people in the show. I really empathised with her because like me, she didn’t fit in,”
“Since I’ve come to uni, I’ve been totally overwhelmed that people actually think my interests are cool! I don’t feel like an outsider any more.”
Claudia’s mum Leanne Blanche has had any fears about her cosplaying allayed since accompanying her daughter to conventions: “I suppose I do worry sometimes, will people think she’s unusual? But I think once you go to conventions in Sydney and see just how many people do it, there’s going to be unusual people in whatever field you look at. It does attract some unusual people, but she has met such nice people. The whole vibe at conventions is really friendly and supportive. I feel really comfortable there,”
“For her it’s like being a pop star for a day. Everyone knows the characters that she cosplays as, they all want photos with her, so it’s a fantastic experience for her,”
“Last time we were at the Dendy, they had anime movies and it was a dress-up competition as well. She was in her Sakura outfit, and as we were leaving, we went past a wedding. The groom came over and said to Claudia “My wife loved Sakura as a little girl! Will you come and be in our wedding photos?” So she was in all these really beautiful wedding photos with the bride.”
Claudia has big dreams for her cosplaying future: “I plan to enter the World Cosplay Summit Competition in the future. Cosplayers from all over Australia and other countries around the world are judged on their costumes and acting abilities. The country’s best cosplayer then gets to represent their country in Japan at the World Cosplay Summit. I’m aiming to be that person!”