In character

seen and heard

Animated conversation

Members of the Japan Animation Society on the joy of being two-dimensional.

Edited and condensed by Carrie Golus, AB’91, AM’93

For the University of Chicago Japan Animation Society, the highlight of the year is the Anime Central convention, held in Rosemont in May. Photographer Tom Tian, AB’10, caught up with four of the club’s semirecognizable members on the way in.

Natalie Rivera, ’14, as Ivy Valentine from SoulCalibur game
Major: East Asian Languages and Culture
Hometown: Chicago

I’ve been interested in anime all my life, I guess. I grew up watching Pokémon and stuff like that. I’ve been cosplaying (costume playing) for about a year now.

I did not take public transit this year, or walk around outside of the convention area in cosplay. I have taken public transit in previous years, and the reactions range from friendly requests for pictures or hugs—especially when I’m cosplaying a famous or popular character—to being pointedly ignored.

The friends I have in anime club and the ones that I cosplay with obviously love it, but other friends of mine think it’s completely ridiculous and weird. My family doesn’t really care one way or the other.


Phoebe Allardice, ’14, as Pit from Kid Icarus and Super Smash Bros. Brawl game
Major: Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations
Hometown: New York City

Pit is kind of fun and cocky but also takes his job really seriously, which appealed to me. I was also excited to make the costume for him, because I wanted to make the wings. I love a challenge, and I think Pit does too.

I wound up wearing my costume in the taxi back—not recommended: I had to sit leaning forward the whole way so that my wings didn’t scrape the ceiling. On campus after the convention, I bumped into a girl carrying her own set of wings. She was playing Cupid in a ballet production, and she asked if I was too, so we had a laugh about that.

I find the way anime brings Japanese culture and Western culture together really fascinating. A lot of anime uses Western elements and symbols, but in a very different Japanese way. Most anime is very easy to understand for a Western audience, but it gets so much richer and often funnier when you understand the culture it’s coming from.


Sabrina Hsieh, ’14, as Soren from Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn game
Major: Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations
Hometown: Redmond, Washington

Soren has always been a favorite character of mine. He is the strategist of the mercenary band that Ike leads. He is disdainful and often downright mean to almost the entire cast. The only exception is Ike. The stark dichotomy between Soren’s interactions with the one person he actually cares about and the rest of the cast is quite fascinating.

In terms of subject matter, anime spans from very serious psychological thrillers like Naoki Urasawa’s Monster and investigations of gender roles like Fumi Yoshinaga’s Ōoku to Yakitate!! Ja-pan (Freshly Baked!! Ja-pan), which is about competitive bread making. There’s really something for everyone.

Cosplay presents a really good opportunity to pick up new skills—many of which are very useful for Scav. I’m partial to sewing, so I tend to make cosplays that rely more heavily on that area. Phoebe makes great prop weapons out of wood, and Holly is really talented at making plushies and changing skin colors.


Holly Kassner, ’15, as Caliborn from Homestuck webcomic
Major: Classics
Hometown: Western Springs, Illinois

Caliborn is the major antagonist in the story and very powerful with time-manipulation abilities. Caliborn is young, and we get to see him make things difficult for himself, act immature, and simply be a murderous violent brat throwing a tantrum while destroying all reality. I can simultaneously laugh at where he embarrasses himself but also be scared for what he’s about to do next.

This is by far the strangest, creepiest costume I’ve ever done, but I’m very proud of it. Since Caliborn is part of a species called cherubs, one of the multiple alien species in the comic, I had to think about how I would make his skull-like facial features. I ended up using craft foam covered with makeup for the distinct cheekbones and eyebrows—the eyebrows go on my real eyebrows so I can still raise and lower them). It’s a fun challenge for me to attempt to recreate 2-D characters and clothing into actual clothes.



Natalie Rivera, ’14, as Ivy Valentine from SoulCalibur game; Phoebe Allardice, ’14,
as Pit from Kid Icarus and Super Smash Bros. Brawl game; Sabrina Hsieh, ’14, as Soren from Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn game; Holly Kassner, ’15 as Caliborn from Homestuck webcomic. (Photography by Tom Tian, AB’10)