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Costumed anime fans, assemble!

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Tall, pointy ears; cotton-candy-coloured wigs; men wearing bright bodysuits with fuzzy wolf heads -- this can mean only one thing: Ai-Kon.

The celebration of anime took over the Winnipeg Convention Centre Friday and continues today.

Winnipeggers certainly are willing to go to extremes for the event.

"If I take off my pelvis, I can sit down, but I have to spread my legs apart" said Joshua Cook, who used strong cardboard and rigid fibreglass to build his full-body costume, complete with a helmet. He put on the finishing touches using yellow and black spray paint to create what he called the "bumblebee effect."

Cook, who has attended Ai-Kon for three years, said he comes to see "old friends and old faces." He enjoys the cosplay contest, where contestants bolt on stage wearing homemade costumes and, depending on the character they are imitating, strike poses that range from darling to barbaric before a handful of photographers, a panel of judges and hundreds of Japanese art enthusiasts who scream for the best costumes over thundering techno beats.

Although he has entered the contest before, Cook had a new trick up his rock-hard sleeve this time around -- a small camera strapped to the front of his breastplate.

"A lot of people ask me what it's like going on stage as a Spartan with all these people screaming at you," he said, adjusting the camera. "I am going to show them by capturing it on video and putting it on YouTube."

For Faythe Taylor, half the fun is getting ready for the convention, which started 11 years ago at the University of Manitoba.

"I am a cyber-zombie," said Taylor, who had a blood-coloured substance smeared across her nostrils, neck, and teeth. "I used fabric glue for the zipper," she said, referring to a stark-white zipper pasted to her forehead, creating the illusion that her face was splitting in half.

Other Ai-Kon attendees make even larger commitments. Tracy Olson made the trek from North Dakota to get her cosplay fix. Olson explained the anime-loving population at home is "sparse" and she has flown as far as Chicago for conventions.

"I heard so many great stories from anime when I was a kid, and I love the art style."

Olson was dressed in "armour of inferno from Ronin Warriors." Her white costume featured a two-faced mask and long, sharp shoulder spikes.

Her armour could not defeat Paul Alvarez's Ironman, however. He won the cosplay contest in a costume almost identical to the one from the Hollywood blockbuster.

"Whenever I am wearing this suit, I feel awesome," Alvarez said.

The convention wraps up around 4 p.m. today, after a weekend packed with other contests, video game competitions at both the convention centre and Imax Portage Place, and autograph signings from well-known anime voice actors. Both weekend and day passes are available through Ticketmaster. For more information, visit ai-kon.org .

kristy.hoffman@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 22, 2012 A3

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