I swear our GPS is trying to kill us

One of our local radio stations was having a free concert. Free stuff is free, so me, my sister, and her roommate decided to drive out to Philly to see it. Unfortunately, we had never been to this venue before. We decided to follow our GPS.

Yeah. Bad idea

For some reason, our GPS decided to take us through North Philly, which has a reputation as a… less economically affluent area. Now, as much as I make fun of Philadelphia, it’s not that bad of a city. Central City is nice. There’s some very safe and pleasant areas. If you don’t go looking for trouble you will, for the most part, avoid it.

North Philly is a little different, however. The borders of North Philly are fuzzy, but they contain a series of neighborhoods that has sunken deeper into poverty over the years. As a suburbanite, I can’t say much firsthand– but I’ve heard that the neighborhoods are highly segregated by race, that drug trade is common, and North Philly is home to a bit of gang activity. In other words, it’s not the place you want to be in.

But the crooning voice of our GPS (set to Australian-English: Male) decided that, hey, the fastest way to get to the concert was through North Philly. Who were we to argue?

Our GPS, in addition to falling in and out of functionality, also gave us a nice meandering tour of North Philly. We got to see all sorts of new things!

It seemed as though we would never get out of there. On and on and on we drove, nervously following the directions of our GPS whenever it decided to actually work. And the scenery rolled by… (here, courtesy of Google Maps)

My sister’s roommate and I eventually cracked under the mental strain, and totally lost it:

We ended up arriving to the concert an hour and a half late. At this point, there was no parking left at the venue, so we decided to leave our car by this fine alleyway:

…complete with lovely brick garden.

It was all worth it in the end, though. I got to see Tyler Glenn’s hair.

Neon Trees rocking some neon hair.

Why I like cosplaying

I’ve always been pretty shameless about my dorkiness. Pokemon, video games, manga, comics– I’ll proclaim these loves to the heavens. But there’s one love of mine I’m more hesitant to mention:


Cosplay, broadly speaking, is the art of dressing up as a character. Typically the term implies characters of Japanese origin, such as from manga or video games, but cosplay can include characters from any source. To clarify, here’s some examples:

Link from the Legend of Zelda series.

Babydoll from Sucker Punch.

Jesse and James from Pokemon.

The thing about cosplay, though, is that it has a bad reputation. Because not all cosplayers are good. More often than not at an anime convention, you’ll come across cosplayers like this:

Sailor Moon?

Might Guy from Naruto?

Which is why I have actually heard people say

I mean, liking comics is one thing, actually dressing up in costume is something else entirely. So back in high school, when I went to my first anime convention, I didn’t dress up. I had always wanted to, but I felt as though it was just too dorky. But then, when I went, I found a huge surprise:

By not being in costume, I was the minority! In fact, I was missing out on a lot of the cosplay revelry. I was amazed. So I decided that the next year, I needed to cosplay. This was going to happen.

And it did, the night before, as I threw together an outfit:

Yup. I dressed up as a Pikachu. Kind of crazy, huh?

Less so than I thought. At anime conventions, not only is cosplaying commonplace, but photo-taking is as well. Dozens (not an exaggeration) of people came up to me and asked to take my photo:

And I, in turn, assaulted tons and tons of people asking for their photo:

I even got roped into a group of Pokemon cosplayers staging a Pokemon battle:

My friends still have the video from that "battle." It shall never see the light of day.

It was nerdy. It was dorky. It was all things geeky. I should have been ashamed, embarrassed out of my mind.

But instead, it was really fun.

And now I realize why.

Everyone was there for the same reason: we all loved manga and anime. Sure, maybe our costumes sucked. Sure, maybe we didn’t look a thing like our character. Sure, maybe our dorkiness was looked down upon by the rest of society.

But there, those days, in that dimly lit convention building, we were all there to simply appreciate the geek culture we all knew and loved. We just wanted to have a good time. Every effort was appreciated. No judgement was passed.

I was once told that the root of cosplay is confidence, and it’s true. You can’t rock a cosplay without a good deal of confidence. After all, stepping into public dressed like a cartoon character already takes a degree of courage. All those “bad” cosplayers, who we laugh at, make fun of– they, at least, had the confidence to try. They put effort into their costumes. They, and I, and everyone there, just wanted to have fun.

After I returned from my convention that year, I showed my friends the cosplay pictures I had taken– good and bad. They laughed and hooted and roared at some of the worse cosplayers. I chuckled along, but felt horrible for doing so. For all I knew, people were doing the same to me.

I guess the moral of this story would be to be shameless. Though people may think you’re weird, and nerdy, and a total loser (and trust me, those are three things I get a lot) there’s no reason to, well, care. Because there are always those who will accept you. And like you. And screw the ones who don’t.

Which is why I’ll show my latest cosplay with pride. I’ve been working on this costume for hours on end, and finally completed it. It’s of Rinoa Heartilly from Final Fantasy VIII (whose haircut I actually requested back in December):

Don’t judge me bro.