☆ CICAF 2017 - Part 1: Arrival & Competition Day ☆
It’s been a few weeks since I got back from my trip overseas, and the end of CICAF 2017. Now is probably a good time to write about the whole thing, before the details fade too far from my mind. I’m going to be breaking this down into several entries, because each day was so full, this report could get very long if I don’t!
First off, I want to say, this event was AMAZING. I’ve had an experience with one international event before, but that was World Cosplay Summit, and it was also about 7 years ago. To be doing another international event after so long was both exciting and nerve wracking. I wondered, how would it compare to WCS? How different would it be, or would it be the same? Would I have the stamina to get through a large scale event like I did when I was 24? The uncertainties were many, but in the end, it not only did not disappoint, but the experience exceeded my expectations! I’ll save the compare and contrast for later -- for now, let’s get into a run down of the days! Day Zero and Day One sort of blurred together for us, so I’ll tackle both of those together.
Day Zero for us was sort of a blur. On Wednesday morning we (Myself, Rynn, and Indra) flew to San Francisco to meet up and take our flight together to Hangzhou. Because of the length of the flight (just under 13 hours) and the time-difference, we ended up arriving around 8PM on Thursday evening. WOW. I slept off and on during the flight, so when we arrived I wasn’t as exhausted as I thought I would be. We were the last of the teams to arrive in China, and the competition was the very next morning, so we knew we had a busy night ahead of us. Due to us living in completely different parts of the country, we still needed to re-check and revise some of our choreography since we had to lengthen our skit to 3 minutes for the finals (while most events these days has a pretty standard 2:30 maximum time limit, CICAF is much different as has a 3 minute minimum, asking that skits be between 3 and 7 minutes). We also weren’t sure if we were going to be able to assemble our sets that night with the rest of the teams, or if we would have to do it in the morning before the competition. Luckily, the others waited for us to arrive, so as soon as we got to the hotel and checked in, we dropped our bags, grabbed our sets and props, and got on the bus to the convention venue. Although they hadn’t in the past, this year they were allowing teams to set up their props and backdrop pieces, and store them overnight. We were SO RELIEVED by this. Talk about hit-the-ground-running! The bus ride from our hotel to the convention center was nearly half an hour, so it gave all of us a little time to chat, although Rynn and I were pretty quiet since we were kinda fried, and everyone else had had a couple of days to get used to each other. Thanks to my pre-sorting all of our set pieces, assembly went SUPER FAST. We were completely done in less than an hour, and had a chance to look at and walk the stage. They offered to let us do a full run with our audio and sets, but as we had not been able to revise our choreography yet, we settled for just having a chance to walk the stage, and get a feel for the space. Once everyone had had a chance to do that, we headed back to the hotel. Rynn and I were up until around 2AM refining our new choreography. It was only 4 hours of sleep, but I woke up naturally at 6AM. Rynn, on the other hand only slept about an hour since she just couldn’t fall asleep/stay asleep. Whoops.
Day One, the first official morning waking up in China, was Performance Day. Thanks to Jet Lag, We woke naturally, no alarms needed, at around 5:45. The breakfast buffet at the hotel didn’t start until 7AM, but we were awake, so we just stayed awake. By 7AM we were ready to go, so we went downstairs with Indra to get our grub on. Knowing that we were going to be fed during this event, but not when or what, we immediately decided that it was in our best interest to fill up as much as we could on breakfast every day.
The spread was AWESOME. They had steamed buns, various types of vegetables, gyoza, eggs, noodles, several types of rice dishes… not to mention your standard breakfast staples like cereal, yogurt, coffee, juice… it was amazing. Normally I am not one to eat first thing in the morning, because it tends to be difficult and makes me feel nauseous. Jet Lag must have been on my side again, because I was STARVING, and ate about 3 plates worth of food. Once we were done, we headed back upstairs to do our makeup and get at least partially in costume. While getting ready, I randomly had Smash Mouth’s “Allstar” pop into my head. I mention this, because this became a re-occuring thing throughout the entire weekend, and I still don’t know why, because it’s not like I had heard the song anywhere recently. Rynn and I started singing it and broke into hysterical laughter because we could not believe how insane the lyrics actually are, or that we remembered them so perfect. Once we were made-up and zipped into our dresses, we went back downstairs to catch the ride to the venue. We all piled into this nice bus, and off we went! Rynn and I sat in the way back so we had a place to set out ladders (which we had taken back to the hotel to practice with). We were not the only ones in partial costume, or even no costume at all, which was interesting! Many people brought their costumes and got ready in our back room area, which had several mirrors, and some larger changing booths that would mostly be in use the rest of the weekend for all of the Chinese cosplayers.
I’m going to take a minute now to talk about how this contest works, as part of the whole of events at CICAF. Throughout the weekend, there are MANY cosplay contests. For example, in the morning before us was a dance group competition. On Saturday, there were several more contests, and it seemed like there was another event after us on Friday, too. So for CICAF, the International competition is just one of many, which was kind of cool! In total this year, there were teams from 8 different countries. In performance order was Hungary, France, Switzerland, Singapore, Spain, Denmark, USA, and The Netherlands. The stage was absolutely huge -- probably the largest I’ve been on in terms of Convention stages. The background screen was nearly the size of the whole stage, and was entirely LEDs. It was AWESOME. Almost everyone made use of the video screen. As you can imagine, with only 8 teams, the show went pretty quickly. One interesting thing they did is, after each performance they brought you to the front of the stage, and then the judges (or in our case, one judge, the only one who we believe spoke English) told you two things they liked, and then one critique. It was a bit shocking to all of us as we weren’t expecting it (there was no precedence of this in previous years, according to the organizers) but it’s apparently very common in China’s cosplay competitions. We weren’t going to know the winners until the next day at least, so the show ended without the usual High or Anxiousness of waiting for awards/places. We all relaxed and ate lunch (which the event provided) in the back room, then we went out to walk the floor for a bit in costume. It’s not an understatement to say, we were practically mobbed. Since the competition was on Friday, the crowds weren’t as intense as they became the rest of the weekend, but compared to any American con I’ve been to, it was still VERY busy, and a bit difficult to get around. The attendees aren’t used to seeing anyone who isn’t Chinese, so all of the international cosplayers got a TON of attention. An interesting thing too, is that they more often than not want a picture WITH the cosplayers, instead of just a picture of them in costume. Rynn and I, dressed in our fluffy white dresses, giant flower and teddy-bear-coat, were particularly popular with small children, which was SO funny, I felt like I was working at Disneyland. :) We walked around the convention center for maybe an hour, and at one point we passed a booth that was playing “Butter-Fly” (the first opening for Digimon, and our second anthem for the week), which we danced and dang to like the weebs we are. After we climbed a LONG set of stairs to the third level of the exhibit hall though, I basically overheated instantly. I went from “slightly uncomfortable” to completely flushed and “Get this off me NOW.” and Indra and our guide helped peel me out of the bear portion of my costume. My hands had become swollen from the heat, and I was basically done after that. We shopped a little bit, and Rynn bought a Yuri on Ice bag, before we went back to our meeting room. There, we packed stuff up to head back to the hotel. I was in that dress (which is just slightly too tight) for around 7 hours, and I was SO happy to get it off.
We were allowed to leave our sets, fully assembled, in that back room for another day. Whoever wins 1st place is invited to perform their skit again at closing ceremonies on Monday, so we were all allowed to leave our sets and props as a convenience for whoever would come in 1st. I cannot say enough, how great this event was for making our lives as convenient as possible. Once we got back to the room, I took a shower, and then made the mistake of trying to copy Rynn and take a short nap. Bad idea. I never fully woke back up and was a zombie. I barely made the walk down the street where they took us for dinner, and both Rynn and I, along with Marlies from the Netherlands and a couple others ducked out early. We were in bed dead asleep by 8AM and slept for a solid 10 hours.
Day One was EASILY the most jam-packed of the days, which was both amazing and exhausting, obviously. It was great because we were so high on adrenaline we went probably a lot longer than we would have otherwise, and the jet-lag was largely on our side. It was also nice to get the competition out of the way immediately, because it made the rest of the trip just that much more laid back and enjoyable.
Next Time, Day Two!