Wednesday, 5 September 2012

STGCC 2012: Tadaaki 'Jacky' Dosai (Interview)

A ‘must-know’ figure in the cosplay industry, Tadaaki “Jacky” Dosai started cosplaying since 1995. Jacky has organised various cosplay events in Japan and his rapid rise in popularity came when he was appointed as the official cosplayer for companies such as Capcom, Atlus and SNK.

Check out his interview below!

Since his first overseas cosplay event at the ANIME EXPO in 1999, Jacky has visited more than 20 countries and attended over 100 conventions overseas.

In 2005, he was appointed the first-ever Chief Editor for Cosmode.Net. In the same year, he started his participation in ANIME EXPO as judge, making him the first professional stage cosplay judge in the world. 

In 2009 alone, he was in the judging panel for 12 international cosplay competitions.

Jacky is currently in charge of the following projects:
  • Vice president of USA’s and manager of Asia region
  • Official Rule Director of World Cosplay Summit
  • Overall Producer of COSMODE GATHERING
  • Director of Stage Cosplayer Choice team, Japan
  • Organiser for the Tokyo Game Show Cosplay event
  • Representative of Prayers from Cosplayers

In the meeting room provided for STGCC, we (Emi and Seren) were able to meet Jacky face to face for the first time, and yes, we were super excited! Cool and composed, Jacky appeared laid back and we had a light hearted chat with him. 

*PS. Seren also got a Matcha Sakura Kit Kat from him after the interview when she met him on the event grounds ^^

Jacky was cosplaying as Kotetsu from Tiger and Bunny, and looked every inch like the character~

This isn’t your first time in Singapore is it?
No, it isn’t. It’s my second time here.

So what parts of Singapore do you particularly like?
About Singapore? Well, I quite like all of Singapore in general, as usual. The people here are kind, the food’s good, and the city itself is beautiful. This time it was a bit different from my last time here as I’m staying at Marina Bay Sands and the casino has a great impact.

Seeing as this is your second time here, what do you think of the cosplay scene in Singapore?
Well, my impression of it hasn’t changed since last year, and I still think it’s the one place where the Western and Asian scenes can merge and gather. For example, if we’re talking about Street Fighter, there’s a character who is known as Gouki in Japan but is called Akuma in America, but in Singapore there are people who are familiar with both names. Analogically, that’s my impression of the kind of country Singapore is. Working with the Cosplay Summit, I always feel like there are a lot of people here who have a very deep understanding of the series that they are cosplaying for, and I think it’s exactly because of that that the cosplayers can give a good performance. Well, right now since the convention’s only just started, not all of the cosplayers are fully prepared and out and about, so I’ll have to wait before I can see if there has been any change since last year, but I think it’ll just be as usual with everyone getting together and having a lot of fun.

Well, as cosplay is both your hobby and career, how is it that you are able to strike a balance between the two?
Well… how should I say this? It’s difficult. No matter what you do or where you do it, making your hobby into a job is going to be very difficult. For example, there are situations where you turn your hobby into a work and as a result, end up hating it, perhaps because you have to turn your hobby into a tool you use for earning an income and that gets stressful. Well, in my case, I don’t really profit from this (cosplaying). My real job is a worker at the American company, but I’m doing this (cosplaying) voluntarily! It’s not guaranteed that I will be able to continue working with Cosmode or the Cosplay Summit. I’m only doing it because I love the cosplay world, and you know how there are other cosplayers who are more experienced than you are? Since I’m kind of taking over from the previous generation, I want to make this cosplay world into one where the next generation of cosplayers will find it fun to be in. So since I’m doing this voluntarily, it’s not very taxing on me. Well, I actually really like business, but when it comes to this I don’t have to think about profiting and it’s all good so long as everyone is having fun. …and that’s how I find the balance. (laughs)

What do you look for in particular when looking for a character to cosplay?
I’m not really concerned about the popularity of the character, I just do whichever one I want to do. If there’s a series with this particular character that I like in it, I think more about what I can do for that character as a cosplayer rather than just going straight to cosplaying him/her. For example, I’m cosplaying as a character from Tiger & Bunny now, and I’m actually a fan of the character Barnaby! But with the kind of appearance I have, it’s rather difficult to cosplay Barnaby, so I’m doing Kotetsu instead – well, I am actually that old anyway, so – and putting myself in a position where I can get really excited about a Barnaby cosplay that is better than what mine would have been. I did Macross Frontier’s Ozma last year, but I’m actually more of a fan of Ranka! I did Ozma /because/ I liked Ranka. So… how do I put it? I’m the kind of person who doesn’t mind not doing the character I like best. I guess this might be a bit different from what cosplayers normally do.

So you’re never going to do Ranka? (laughs)
Ranka… Uh… wouldn’t it be kind of disgusting, if I did it? (laughs) I wouldn’t even want to look at myself. Rather than cosplaying my favourite character and doing a bad job of it, I would rather cosplay a supporting character in order to help someone else who does my favourite character better than I do to shine.

Is there something that you wish would happen with the cosplay scene in Singapore and the world?
Well… (hesitates for a while) Eh… it’d be kind of bad if I said thi- Actually, I’m going to say it. Honestly. I’m only going to tell you (the interviewer) because we’re friends, okay?! I’m going to speak honestly here. I actually really, really hate cosplay competitions. Cosplay is something people do for fun, so I don’t think it’s something we should put a ranking to. I think that even without a contest, without it being for the purpose of attaining a certain rank, people can strive to be able to perform on stage and take good photos. To create a world where people can just simply enjoy what they’re doing, where their fans can say, “Oh that’s good. That’s good.” That’s my dream. Something like what we’ve done with this year’s Cosplay Runway.

Next year, I’m actually starting a new “championship” in Japan next year. Not sure what it’s going to be called yet, but it’ll be something like “Cosplay Japan Cup”, something like that. In that, what I’m going to do is that rather than having a ranking, there would be different levels of achievement that can be obtained. Kind of like how in Japanese schools, the orchestras from each school would gather and perform, but they wouldn’t be ranked against each other. Instead, they’d be given a status of platinum, gold, silver or bronze depending on their skills. I want to create a cosplay contest like that. For example, if there’s a contest where a group performs a 3-minute skit on stage and they obtain a bronze, and experts give them advice, like “This part wasn’t good”, “This part was great”, “I think you should expand more on this part” and “Maybe you could study this area more”, and then the next year they obtain a silver – that sense of happiness? I want people to be able to taste that sense of happiness over a long period. That's why I’m starting that kind of contest in Japan next year.

I watched a cosplay contest for the first time 12- 13? 13 years ago in America, but while I thought that it looked really interesting, in contrast, I also thought that I didn’t really like the fact that people got ranked, and that’s how this idea of mine came about, but… Well, in order to get everyone from around the world to gather in one place, I involved myself in the Cosplay Summit, and somehow managed to stay involved for 10 years, so in order not to destroy this association, I’m thinking of just slowly, bit by bit, transforming the system. So everyone, please support me in this endeavour. 

You’ve mentioned that you really like cosplay performances. Do you agree that cosplay should go beyond standard photographs?

Well I think it’s fine either way. People who want to enjoy photography will enjoy it, and people who want to enjoy stage performances will enjoy it as well. They each have their own way of enjoying what they like. What’s important is how one conveys their love for the character in their chosen method of cosplaying, whether it’s a stage performance, photography, or just walking around at an event. Whatever’s fine, isn’t it? I actually think if people do more than just stage or photography it’d be interesting. Like a cosplay band. If there is respect for the work one is cosplaying for, it doesn’t really matter what one does with the cosplay.

What do you think of things like taking the train in full cosplay gear?
Isn’t it fine? Well in Japan there are people who oppose it but I really can’t stand that! Isn’t it fine to have come to an event dressed in cosplay from home? It could be troublesome otherwise! You’d have a lot more baggage to carry along if you didn’t!
What do you think the difference is between the cosplay culture in Japan compared to in other countries?
Well… I think the greatest difference is that in Japan, even if there’s an event like this, there won’t be a stage.

You have been cosplaying for a very long time, but how exactly did you get involved in things like, Cosmode and Cosplay Summit?
I was originally a cosplayer. So, when I went to America in 1999, I thought Japanese cosplay was no good, so I did things like bringing 50 Japanese cosplayers with me to an American convention, amongst other things, but at that time I didn’t hold any power over the media, so no matter what I did it seemed it wouldn’t work. But when I was 29 and I’d gotten married, I thought of just quitting cosplay for good, but then after I quit, my boss at the time said to me, “Hey, you’re really familiar with cosplay aren't you?” Then when I asked why, he said that his friend from university was writing a book on cosplay, so he wanted me to produce a website for it, and that friend turned out to be Cosmode’s Editor-in-Chief. So I thought, “Oh, this must be fate,” and decided to return to the cosplay world for real. Then since I was affiliated with Cosmode and that book had been circulated all over the world, whenever I went to conventions people started asking me to be a judge or a guest, and that’s when I got the chance to meet the director of At that time I was working with a Japanese company called Cospa, but then I was headhunted by and decided to transfer there. So while I was working there and going to all sorts of conventions, I met the producer of the World Cosplay Summit for the first time in a long time, I was asked to help, and… that’s how I got involved about 4 years ago.

Now that you have been involved in the cosplay world for a very long time and hold some measure of power over it, what are the pros and cons of being in such a position?
Rather than being in a position with power, it’s more like I’m in a position where I am required to, and can’t help but to talk about cosplay because of my work, so… Well, the thing about cosplay is that it’s very easily misunderstood by other people, so there needs to be an older-brother-type figure to clear things up, isn’t there? Besides, a lot of cosplayers are in actual fact younger than me, and I do think of them as younger siblings, so I have no choice but to stick up for them! There isn’t anyone else to do it! If there is please introduce me! See rather than being told what cosplaying is by someone who has no clue what he’s talking about, like some university professor, isn’t it better to be told it by a cosplayer?

How has cosplay changed in Japan in the last decade?
Well, I don’t know about decade, but it has changed quite a lot in the last 5 years. The biggest change is probably that cosplayers are now making their own CDs and selling them at events. And… I think that in 3 years, the stage performance scene in Japan will definitely change. Recently, since Cure has collaborated with the World Cosplay Summit, the number of people appearing at events has increased and things will become more interesting.

Since this is the second year that Cosmode is involved in STGCC, are you exploring the possibility that you might become more involved in both Eastern and Western pop cultures now?
If there were the opportunity, I’d be happy to be, as a fan. I have some degree of influence over the world of cosplay, but I’m not involved at all in anime or manga or games, so I have no idea if that will happen or not. I would like it to happen, if only because it’d be easier to support the world of cosplay from such a position.

What about integrating Western pop culture into Cosmode?
That… I would like to do. I once published a cosplay magazine called Cosplay Nation which didn’t involve any Japan-related cosplay, and there was quite a good reaction to that, so I’m thinking I might like to do it, perhaps in a different way and perhaps in other countries.

As Cosmode is involved with this year’s Cosplay Runway here at STGCC, it falls in line with your vision of having less competition in cosplay. Will we be seeing more of this in other events that Cosmode is involved in?
Well, this time it was STGCC that proposed the idea of the runway. Runways are actually out of my area of expertise. My friend, Inui Tatsumi, who runs Cure, is more suited to this idea of a runway. The cosplay scene in Japan is such that there is no stage, so I’d like to introduce the joy of being on stage to everyone through a runway, and then have it expand to stage performances. I’ve actually been doing that with Tatsumi for 5 years now – next month there’s a Cosplay Runway Stage at the Tokyo Game Show. Tatsumi’s in charge of producing it while I do the work behind it. I’m more involved in the cosplay scene outside Japan rather than in it, so I find myself in a position where I want to merge the two. Tatsumi comes to Singapore quite often, so you should interview him. It’ll be interesting. You can tell him that I said it’s okay to interview him. (laughs)

Is your vision of creating a cosplay world oriented around stage performances limited to cosplay runways, or would you also like to see things like plays in cosplay?
It’s not as if everything’s already been done in the world of cosplay, and I think it may be a bit too early to think about things like that. For example, the Japanese team which won first place in the World Cosplay Summit this year trained for a year to be able to put up such a performance. I’m not saying everything has to practise to that extent, but I have only seen such passion put into cosplay very few times. I’d like to see more of such passion before I try expanding the field. I’m doing something interesting at the end of this year – it’s where we give each cosplayer about a minute to act out his/her character in a given situation. So what we’re asking is, in that kind of situation, given a minute, what would your character do? Like an improvisation contest. For example, if the male character has a female character he’s really interested in, how would he propose to her? See, with things like this the reaction varies greatly with each character, and it also incorporated the creativity of the fan, so it’ll definitely be interesting! If it’s like that, I think it’s okay to put a ranking to who puts up the most interesting performance. Don’t you want to do it?

Do you believe that the cosplayer should stay in-character so long as he/she is in the costume?
I don’t think so! When it comes to things like being half the character and half yourself… for example, right now I’m cosplaying but if I had to choose I’m definitely more myself now than my character. This character of mine always sits a certain way, but I always, always sit like this when I interview. I’m aware of this, but that’s all. Well, I think you need to do at least the bare minimum for a character. For example, if you’re cosplaying a cute highschooler-type female character, like from K-On, at least go somewhere to hide if you need to smoke. At least do something like that. There’s no need to be a character 100%. Isn’t that kind of scary? See aren’t there a lot of Marvel Comics cosplays here right now? If someone were cosplaying Magneto and were 100% Magneto… wouldn’t that be really scary? (laughs) There’s actually something I say quite a lot to my juniors… I always say, try not to do anything that would embarrass or shame the character you’re cosplaying as. If you do that, it’ll work out somehow.

Are there any new characters that you would like to cosplay now?
Me? Well I’m addicted to Vagabond now, and I’d like to do Hakuouki once too, and Uta no Prince-Sama!

What is the first thing you would do if you were living in Singapore?
Hrm… I wonder…? Cosplay… not cosplay. I’d like to find friends to play with BB guns with. But first I’ll need to find them. The number of cosplay friends I have will probably increase even if I don’t do anything. But people who like BB guns… they don’t show it on the surface like cosplayers do so it’ll be pretty hard to find them. (laughs)

What is the thing you enjoy the most about stage performances?
What I enjoy most? I… hrm. I want to cry. I want to be moved to tears. Oddly, I tend to cry easily, like when I see people working really hard, or when I remember touching parts of an original work. I look forward to crying at a performance the most. (matter-of-fact)

If you see a character you really like being cosplayed, will you get excited?
Yes, I will. I will. But if I’m a judge at a contest, I will try not to be.

Since you’re so busy, where do you find the time to make your costumes?
No, well actually I’m quite free! Every since the Cosplay Summit last month I’ve been doing nothing but playing Dragon Quest at home! I’m free right now. Since my company’s based in America, I work from home and do everything in my own time. I can finish all my work in one spurt and then have a lot of free time.

Will you change yourself to suit the character you are cosplaying? For example if the character is very buff or very slim, will you start working out or dieting?
Yes, I will. I lost 12 kilograms for this character right now. I’ve been trying to lose the weight since February this year. For example, I limit my food intake and take more exercise… Also, medicine. See, even though I look like this I’m 38! So I have to take these Chinese medicines to take care of the visceral fat.

Is your favourite Singaporean food still chicken rice?
I still love it! But I tried something else last year… Sweet tofu? (Beancurd) I really like that too. Also, this has nothing to do with Singapore, but I really like root beer and it isn’t sold in Japan, so last night I went to 7-11 last night and bought a ton of it to bring back to Japan. It’s not good for my diet though. (laughs) I feel like if I had chicken rice as a main, with root beer as the drink and beancurd for dessert, that’d be the best.

Have you ever considered cosplaying an American character, and if so who?
I have! I’d really like to do Gambit. I’m planning something like that with my friends right now. If I do it I’ll upload it on Facebook! 

-End Interview- 

Both Seren and I enjoyed the interview immensely and we hope you do too! I'm especially intrigued by the new ideas proposed by Jacky-san and would love to see more!

Last picture of Jacky and I :

-Transcription/Translation by Seren
-Commentary/Pictures/Layout/Posting by Emi
-Group interview with Anibee, The Neo Tokyo Project, The Cosplay Chronicles.

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