A Short History of the Singapore Cosplay Scene, Part 1

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…wait, no, wrong story, this one is about the Singapore cosplay and anime scene.

Where did it all start? No one really knows. Reports have come in from various sources that in ancient times, there was a group that was called the RKFC (Rurouni Kenshin Fan Club) who actually cosplayed in void decks and community clubs, where anime was only something you could find in VHS tapes and had to be more often than not ordered from the US of A.
And before that, another group of people enshrouded even further in mystery, the Black History (bonus points if you get the reference) of the Singapore anime cosplay scene. No one really knows what happened to those brave souls, or if they even cosplay anymore…I don’t think so, to be honest. They’re probably all married and with kids now.

But I like to imagine that they still have their old costumes which gather dust in some forgotten closet or another, to be taken out and examined at birthdays and Christmases with oohs and aaaahs and little children peering at them…ok I don’t think that will happen either.
But those are tales for another time. I can only tell my story and my own part in it, and so that’s what I shall do.

I was but a callow youth of 13 and had gotten my first taste of anime and all I knew that was that I wanted more. So did what any teenager with a computer would do – I used the Internet. I can’t remember how, but somehow I found my way to what in those days called the MAC, or Miyuki Animation Club. It was the first (and only) anime club in Singapore and I showed up a table in some hawker centre with my little sister and Mum in tow and I uttered the immortal words “Hi, I’m Zhou Tai An, a 14 year old Chinese male, and I’m interested in anime.” Yeah, it was like Alcoholics Anonymous and a dating site all rolled into one. Not the most normal of introductions, but there you go.

They were, however, a great bunch to hang out with. We talked about Robotech (remember, this was in 1995 or so) and Vampire Hunter D, and Ranma 1/2, and the other classics of that era. It’s been so long ago that I can’t quite remember everyone and everything, but I do recall saying “hey, don’t kick Saber Riber” while discussing the robot horses of Vampire Hunter D.
Saber Rider. Does anyone even still remember that when it aired on TV Tiga? TV Tigs doesn’t even exist anymore. Sigh. Memories!

(BTW, anime trivia fact – Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs was known as Sei Jushi Bismarck, but it wasn’t very successful in Japan, which is probably why it was sold to World Events Production on the cheap, just like a lot of other anime at that time.)

But back to Singapore cosplay. The founder and chairman of the MAC at that time was a guy named Mak Kum Shi. He was…not one the nicest of people. (Sorry Mak, but I have to tell it like it is.) He had ego issues. Big ones. He wanted everything to be done his way, all the time. He would listen to you but not really pay much attention to what you said or did, and he once dreamed up this crazy idea of making an animation featuring a girl riding a floating air-conditioner over Orchard Road. Yeah, the guy had issues alright.

Why the name MAC? Apparently he had a Japanese girlfriend named Miyuki once. Whether that is true or not, only the man (and perhaps the girlfriend) know.

There was still nothing by way of cosplay in Singapore at that time. MAC activities were limited to talking on forums, chatrooms and IRC, and occasionally watching anime together. Let’s fast forwards a couple of years or so.

There was this mailing list called SGAnime that it seemed every anime fan in Singapore was on.
The moderator was named Kujaku (though I believe she now goes by the handle Evacomics?) and there were some lively discussions held there. In the MAC, Mak eventually passed down the torch to a lady named Alice. She was a nice sort but not very hands-on when it came to leadership, and so all we did was meet up in Fengshan Community Centre to well, watch anime.

But enough about the behind the scenes politics. You want to know about cosplay. Back then there was only one event every year, the aptly named EOY, or End of Year.

I still remember that very first cosplay event. I went as Larva from Vampire Princess Miyu, and my sister went as Miyu (and my mother sewed her costume thinking that it would be the first and last time…how wrong she was!) Those are some of not only the happiest memories of my time spent cosplaying, but also of my entire life. My sister didn’t want me to go make a fool of myself onstage singing Getter Robo, so I contented myself with joining the crowd and singing Zankoku no Tenshi no Teeze instead, probably my favorite song in the whole Universe.

I met a lot of friends and compatriots there, most of whom still stay with me to this day. The highlight of that event was most probably the transforming Escaflowne, which a friend of mine made with loving detail from the Escaflowne artbook out of cardboard. It’s probably not a big deal by today’s technological standards, but hey, back then everyone gave him a huge round of applause. I even did a writeup of the event which is probably lost to time in some hard drive or something somewhere. Timewise this was probably about 2000 or so.

Here’s where I enter the picture again. Through the SGanime mailing list I met Joash Chee, whom I introduced to Alice at the first event, leading to him taking over the reins of leadership of the MAC. And so under Joash’s expert guidance the MAC flourished and grew strong. I know I’m making Joash out to be some kind of kingly figure but that is actually not so far from the truth. He was (and still is) one of the most capable administrators and leaders that I know.

At around this time Kareshi Kanojo no Mise (which is still around) popped up, Singapore’s only fine purveyor of anime merchandise. There were more EOYs, and more cosplays, and much joy and jubilation was had by all. Other events soon followed. There was Comic Fiesta (which I only attended twice) It’s technically not part of the Singapore anime scene but the Malaysian one, but since we were so closely related everyone I knew who went to one went to the other. J-rock was also on the rise and it started spilling over into cosplay as well, causing some tension between both fandoms. All in all it was a exciting time.

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