Wicked Week’s cosplay contest makes its Columbia debut

By Bianca Kreusel, Deputy Director of Photography

Clapping and cheering from all sides of the Conaway Center commenced as each person stepped on the runway, walking to the front and striking a pose in character. Cosplayers from all over Columbia’s student body gathered into the same space to show off their love of different characters from video games, anime, manga and other forms of media.

Inside the Conaway Center, located at 1104 S. Wabash Ave., the Japanese, Anime and Manga club, otherwise known as JAM, held its first ever Cosplay Contest on Oct. 25 as part of Columbia’s annual Wicked Week celebration.

“I think [cosplay] is a great way of expression,” said Syd Berenyi, a senior fine arts major and president of JAM. “Columbia is all about art and creativity. That’s exactly what cosplay is.”

Cosplay is a merge on the words “costume” and “play” and came about in America in the 1930s, originally called “costuming.” Today, millions around the world take part in the art, and there are no shortage of cosplayers at Columbia.

Twenty-one participants signed up to show off their cosplays, some joining forces as a group and others participating solo.

“I just love seeing people in cosplay, especially at Columbia,” said Jada Lewis, a junior costume design major.

Lewis, Ainsley Olson, an acting major, and Cali Hegeman, a musical theatre major, are all juniors at Columbia and participated as a trio, cosplaying as the characters Death the Kid, Liz Thompson and Patty Thompson respectively from the anime “Soul Eater.”

“Soul Eater” is a Japanese anime and manga series surrounding students at the Death Weapon Meister Academy, where weapon students are paired with meister students and form a group. Liz, Patty and Death the Kid form one group in the show.

“It’s also such a great way to build a new community,” Olson said. “It’s a great way to meet people outside of majors and to connect with people because of this common interest.”

The night started off with Thomas Toohill as Saul Goodman from the drama “Better Call Saul” and ended with Akio-Dora Cuellar as Himouto Umaru-chan from the anime “Himouto! Umaru-chan.”

Best in Show went to Lex Romero as Princess Peach from the video game series “Super Mario Bros.,” and the runner-up was Veronica Leafblad as Edith Cushing from the movie “Crimson Peak.”

Cheers erupted from the crowd as the winners went up to receive their prizes — red wrapped goodie bags from the judges, who were from the leadership team at JAM. Support and fun was the main idea of the event as students complimented one another’s cosplays and danced to music before and after the contest.

“I think [cosplay] is a really great way to express yourself,” Hegeman said. “I’ve always struggled with my body image, so going to these conventions and getting to be dressed up in something that I would never wear normally is super freeing. I’m glad I have it to get me out of my comfort zone.”