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Cosplay Contest

Sakura-Con 2023 Cosplay Contest Official Rules

IMPORTANT:  Rules and Regulations HAVE CHANGED since the posted rules for 2022, so please be sure to read thoroughly.

See your favorite characters come to life on stage!  The Sakura-Con Cosplay Contest  is a competition showcase of costume construction and stage performance, open to Cosplayers of all levels of experience.  This is not a Popularity Contest or a Look-a-like Contest.  You may choose to sign up for Construction (sometimes known as Craftsmanship) Only (Walk-on), Performance Only, or Performance AND Construction  (limit one entry per person).

Due to the popularity of this event, we have to be strict about submissions.  Sign-ups are processed on a first-come- first-served basis, separated by category.  All submissions will be reviewed by the coordinator/Cosplay Staff in the order they are received. Those not completed fully and correctly according to submission requirements below, will be rejected and asked to re-submit.  Please take the time to thoroughly read the rules, look at all the examples provided, and ask any questions before sign-ups are open.

For any questions regarding the rules and sign-up details, please contact the Cosplay Coordinator* at cosplay@sakuracon.org

*Cosplay Coordinator and staff have the final say on rules. Failure to comply may result in disqualification.  SakuraCon and ANCEA are not responsible for any damage or loss to a prop or costume brought on-site.

Contest Format/Time Requirements

Participating in a Cosplay Contest requires time commitment for the show itself, but also at other times during the convention.  Be prepared to devote the necessary time during the weekend to check in, attend a judging session on Friday (for Construction entries), and rehearsal on Saturday before the show.  Any scheduling conflicts must be brought to the coordinator’s attention ASAP to see if any accommodations can be made.

General/All Entries Rules and Information

  • All contestants must be registered attendees of Sakura-Con and possess a Sakura-Con Convention Badge.
  • All costumes and performances must adhere to the Sakura-Con policies. No live steel, no functioning or previously functioning projectile weapons, no indecent exposure, etc… please see Sakura-Con policies for a complete list.  Additional rules (listed below) also apply.
  • All sign-ups are Online Only — No Entries will be accepted for the show or wait-list at the convention.   Applications will be accepted from Noon Pacific Time, Sunday, January 29th, 2023, until 11:59PM Saturday, February 11th 2023.  If all slots fill before sign-ups close, entries received after hitting the entry cap will be placed on a waiting list.  If any confirmed entries drop, places will be offered to those on the waitlist in order of who signed up first.
  • This is a SC-13/PG-13 event – please keep this in mind when planning your performance/walk-on. No cursing will be permitted, and any innuendo must have an equally obvious non-suggestive interpretation.  If you are unsure whether something is allowed or not, please email cosplay@sakuracon.org.
  • The use of makeup techniques, bodypaint, and/or bodysocks with the intent to alter your skin/features to resemble a *real human race* different from your own, will not be permitted.  This is grounds for immediate disqualification.  If you have questions, please reach out to the cosplayer coordinator.
  • No Original Characters – this means things like your own DnD characters, Fan-Derivative Original Characters (Like “Sailor Earth”), a character from an original story you/your friends created, your Fursona, etc, are not permitted.  Fan Art, mashups between multiple fandoms (like “Sailor Princess Peach”), and customized combination ‘player avatars’ made from existing components available for your use in MMO RPGs, are OK.
  • Each contestant may only appear on stage in ONE entry, whether this is a walk-on or performance entry.
  • You must have some kind of foot covering that is more substantial than socks. Shoes or boots are required. This is a matter of safety. If your character does not usually wear shoes, the ‘inaccuracy’ will be forgiven; If you are adamant about the look, consider shoes that match your flesh-tone, or clear shoes.  This is non-negotiable.
  • Size and Mobility of your costume should be taken into consideration. For purposes of safety, your costume should conform to the following limitations while worn:
    • Can fit/be maneuvered through a standard ADA doorway (the size/type in your home, not a convention center double-door)
    • Should not significantly inhibit the cosplayer’s ability to navigate safely backstage in dim lighting/getting on-and-off stage, with minimal assistance (Limit 1 handler).
    • Should not significantly inhibit the cosplayer’s ability to navigate the main stage.
    • Any use of height-enhancement equipment (such as stilts or platforms) may not be home-built, and may not raise the cosplayer more than 8 inches off the ground.
  • Only contestants appearing on stage (Cosplayers / Ninjas) and approved handlers are allowed to be in the green room/backstage during the show. Entries with very large or unwieldy costumes, or other special circumstances will be allowed to bring one (1) handler with them, but they must be requested and approved by the Cosplay Staff.   Handlers should only be used if you are incapable of using your hands/maneuvering your costume alone, or you have other health needs.  Bag-holders, Make-up Assistants, Moral-Support, etc, do not qualify as Handlers. We will have a staff-monitored space to store your personal belongings while you’re on stage, if needed.
    A Parent/Guardian may accompany participants whose age requires them to be under this supervision according to SakuraCon policy.  Entrants must notify the coordinator of any handlers/guardians that will need to be present.  This is all for safety/security, to make sure we know everyone who should or should not be allowed backstage, and to make sure the limited space is not overly crowded.
  • Any substances that may cause damage or mess to the stage, equipment, or other entrants costumes are not permitted on stage, in the green room, or anywhere backstage.  This includes but is not limited to anything oily, greasy, or that can stain; liquids, fire, smoke/smoke machines or anything requiring an external power source, dry ice, confetti/powder/small debris.  This also includes items made of glass or certain ceramics, which can cause a hazard in the event they are accidentally broken.
    If something is not listed here but you are unsure, please ask the cosplay coordinator.
  • Surprise the audience, but never surprise the staff/crew —  Any ‘surprise elements’ must be run by the cosplay coordinator for approval.   Absolutely NO jumping on or off stage.  No acrobatics/flips/cartwheels will be allowed.  Violating this will result in disqualification from the competition, and participation in future SakuraCon cosplay contests.  When in doubt, ask.
  • At time of sign up, all contestants will be required to link to a file-share folder containing the appropriate files/documentation for your entry type.  Google Drive is preferred, but DropBox or One Drive are also acceptable.  At the time of sign-up your folder MUST contain:
        A) Reference Images of your costume
        B) Progress Pictures of your costume so far (for construction entries)
        C) Additional items as detailed in the rules below, depending on if you are a Walk-On, or Performance.

    Please see the Sample Folders and details in the rules below for clear examples of what your folder should look like for each entry type.

    If your folder share link does not work for cosplay staff (example: if we must request permission to view your folder, the link is broken, or link goes to a single file in your folder instead of the main folder), you will be rejected and asked to submit again. We suggest having a friend test that your folder can be viewed by anyone with the link, and that the link is correct, before submission!

    • All contestants are required to check in at the convention on Friday, and attend tech rehearsal on Saturday.  For Construction entries, your scheduled Friday Judging slot will act as your check-in.   Specific times and locations will be announced as the convention approaches and the schedule is finalized.  Failure to comply without communication to the cosplay staff will result in an assumed drop-out, and disqualification.  
    • Although there will be awards in both Performance and Construction, *Best in Show* will be awarded to an entry that displays excellence in both their selected division of Construction AND in Stage Presence/Performance.  For differences between Performance and Walk On, see the detailed rules below. (Performance entries without construction will only be eligible for performance awards.)
  • Due to the popularity of this event, we have to be strict about submission criteria.  Sign ups are processed on a first-come- first-served basis, separated by competition category (categories detailed in the rules below).  All submissions will be reviewed by the coordinator/Cosplay Staff in the order they are received. Those not completed fully and correctly according to submission requirements below, will be rejected and have to re-submit. 

Construction  

For those entering in Construction (sometimes known as Craftsmanship), there will be (2) portions: the Prejudging portion and the Stage portion.  For Stage, you may choose to enter as a Walk-On, or Performance (more on each of those further down).  

Construction will be evaluated on the following criteria:

Execution – How well the costume is constructed and finished.

Fidelity* – How closely the costume resembles the source material and/or how well it interprets and reminds the judges of the design of the source material.  (adaptations made with intent/purpose and explained adequately to the judges will never count against you in this area).

Complexity – How wide the range of skills used in the project, and the difficulty level of those techniques.

Creativity –  Thoughtful use of materials, ingenuity, personalized embellishments, etc.

*Original Design entries will be evaluated on Thoughtfulness/Appeal of Design, rather than Fidelity.  More on Original Design entries below.

The Prejudging portion will take place on Friday of the convention, during a time slot that you will sign up for after general contest sign-ups have closed (you will be notified via email when these will open).  During judging, contestants will display their costumes to a panel of judges, where they will have a chance to inspect costumes and props from a close distance. Contestants will be evaluated one entry at a time, in a private room with the judges and cosplay coordinator or assistant coordinator present.

Construction Entries may be entered as either Individual, or a Group.

Individual entries will be judged on the quality and construction of a single costume (including props and accessories) and will have 5 minutes with the judges.

Group entries may have 2 to 9 cosplayers.  They will be judged based on the quality and construction of the group as a whole — the entire group will receive a single score, and have up to 10 minutes with the judges.

  • Costumes must be made by the contestant (or for groups, by someone in your group).
  • You may model a costume for someone else, but the creator of the costume must be present at prejudging, to answer questions about the costume build.
  • Commissioned costumes,  Mass-Produced/Second-hand Purchased costumes, or Costumes made entirely from assembling/modifying purchased pieces (“Closet Cosplay”) are not eligible for Construction evaluation/awards.   These types of costumes are only permitted to participate in Performance entries, and will only qualify for Performance Awards.

All Construction entries, Individual or Group, will register under ONE of the following categories.  Groups must enter under the category of their most experienced group member:

  • Novice: Sometimes called Beginner.  You belong here if you have never won a cosplay contest award*, or have entered three (3) or fewer contests in the past.
  • Journeyman: Sometimes called Intermediate.  You belong here if you or anyone in your group meet any of the following criteria:
    • Won an award* in Novice at any convention -OR- Journeyman  at an event smaller than SakuraCon.
    • Have participated in more than three (3) cosplay contests before
    • Have made more than 10 costumes.
  • Masters:  Sometimes called Advanced, this level is open to anyone who would like to compete here, but you MUST enter Masters if you or anyone in your group meet any of the following criteria:
    • Won an award* in Journeyman/Intermediate or higher, at another event.
    • Won a first-place Build-Type award (1st Place Needlework/Tailoring, Armor, etc) or placed Top 3 overall in a Build-Type competition.
    • Have hand-crafted 30 or more costumes, regardless of award or competition experience.
    • Work professionally in a way related to cosplay.  Examples include:
      • Commission work and/or selling pre-made cosplay accessories, that accounts for 50% or more of your income.
      • Working regularly for industry events/booths in costumes you have made.
      • Being a full-time content creator in which at least 50% of your content centers on cosplaying/cosplay building.
      • Being a full-time sewist, tailor, costume fabricator, or other fashion professional.
  • Original Design:  Regardless of your experience, this category is for costumes based on designs by the cosplayer, or someone in their group.  If your costume fits the criteria for Original Design listed below, regardless of your experience/history, you will be entered into Original Design.  This category will be a blend of skill levels, as well as groups and individuals, and includes costumes that are:
    • Based on any fanart drawn/imagined by you or someone in your group.
    • Mash-ups of multiple existing fandoms (example: Sailor Princess Zelda, Mario in the style of Borderlands, etc)
    • Style re-interpretations (“Regency” Princess Serenity, “Punk” Tanjiro, “Dior” Belle, etc)
    • Your Home-Brew Style Gijinkas (Anthropomorphized interpretations of non-human characters, designed by you)

Costumes based on fan-arts by others not associated with your group (such as well-known artists like Sakizou, No Flutter, Hannah Alexander, Zach Fischer, etc) do not fall under Original Design, but will need to provide proof of the artist.  Details below. 

Please Note: These are guidelines.  Judges and staff reserve the right to adjust your category if they deem that you/your cosplay was entered at a level too far below the appropriate category according to your skills/experience.  Entrants will not be bumped to a lower category than the one they enter.

* for the sake of this competition, Judges Awards / Honorable Mentions do not count towards Award Wins — Only Level (Novice/Journeyman/Masters) or Category (Needlework/Armor/Etc) are considered.

  • All costumes and props must be at least 75% made from new or repurposed materials, by the entrant.  Found/modified parts or props are allowed, though they must not comprise more than 25% of the whole costume, and must be disclosed at time of judging. (eg: shoes that were painted or covered, tights or simple gloves, a purchased undershirt or pants that were modified in some way, are all types of items that may be permitted, as long as 75% of your total costume is hand-made by you.) — if you’re unsure, ask the coordinator.
  • Size and Mobility of your costume should be taken into consideration, and for purposes of safety your costume should conform to the following limitations while worn:
    • Can fit/be maneuvered through a standard ADA compliant doorway (the size/type in your home, not an extra-high, convention center double-door)
    • Should not significantly inhibit the cosplayer’s ability to navigate safely backstage in dim lighting/getting on-and-off stage, with minimal assistance (Limit 1 handler).
    • Should not significantly inhibit the cosplayer’s ability to navigate the main stage.
    • Any use of height-enhancement equipment (such as stilts or platforms) may not be home-built, and may not raise the cosplayer more than 8 inches off the ground.
  • All costumes must be derived from an existing fandom/published piece of media.  Completely Original Characters such as your own DnD character, Fan-based Original Characters (Like “Sailor Earth”), a character from an original story you/your friends created, your Fursona, etc, will not be permitted in this competition
  • Derivative Work/Fanart re-designs and avatar characters compiled for the player character from MMO/Console Games are all permitted, with appropriate reference art.
  • Costumes made based on non-canon designs (fan art) that were NOT designed by you must be able to source the artist (Sakizou, Hannah Alexander, Zach Fisher, Sunset Dragon, No Flutter, etc) and provide proof of the artist.  Examples include: links to or screen-captures of the artwork published on the artists own platform (Patreon, Deviantart, their own website, etc) where their name (and possibly other works) can be seen.  “I found this on tumblr/pixv/pinterest/art-share account” is NOT an acceptable source.
  • Designs commissioned explicitly/exclusively for you/not publicly available must include proof of the exchange with the artist, and/or a link/screen-capture of where their other work can be found.
  • Original Designs must provide your concept art and/or your inspirational materials in place of traditional ‘reference images’ – for example, if you are doing a mash-up design of Mario in the style of Borderlands, but have not created a single ‘completed’ image, you would include images of Mario from his original source(s), as well as images from Borderlands.    Historical mashups may include pictures of the character from canon, as well as examples of the types of garments you drew inspiration from. One canon image with no additional references will not be accepted.
  • Entrants may not enter a costume which falls under any of the following:
    • Has been entered in any previous year of the Sakura-Con cosplay contest.
    • Has won/placed in a main Category Award at a convention where costumes are divided by Build Type rather than Experience Level (ex: Best Armor, Best Needlework, etc.) or placed “Top 3” Overall.
    • Costumes made by someone else, if the maker is not present for judging.
    • Has won an award in Masters or Best in Show at any major convention:
      • Top awards from single-day events will be permitted as long as additional work has been done on the costume since.
      • Novice and Journeyman award winning costumes from other conventions may be entered, ONLY at a level above the award received. Example: a Best Novice/Beginner award winning costume must be entered in Journeyman/Intermediate.
      • Individual award-winning costumes may be allowed if they are being entered as part of a group (or vice-versa), or if they received a performance award with no construction.

The Stage portion of the contest will take place on Saturday, usually in the first half of the day but with an exact time TBD. During the show, entrants will either present as a Walk On or Performance.

Stage Presentation

All entries will participate in the show portion of the contest as either a Walk-On or Performance 

Walk-Ons are short presentations of your costume on stage, and usually consist of simple moves, and periodically stopping to pose for pictures.  Expressly for showing off the costume/character’s demeanor, Walk-Ons are for Construction entries ONLY.  (If you are not having your costume judged for Construction, you must be signed up as a Performance.)

  • Limited to no more than 40 seconds for individuals, and 60 seconds for groups.
  • Does not tell a story or typically contain dialogue, but can showcase the character’s personality.
  • All walk-ons MUST be Construction Entries. All persons who appear on stage during a walk-on must have had their costume judged for Construction – No ninjas, assistants, or handlers permitted.
  • At this time, we do not know what custom lighting, if any, we will be able to provide.  Please be prepared for full lights at all times.  If custom lighting becomes a possibility, it will be discussed with accepted entries as the convention approaches.
  • Walk-On entries are required to submit the following items in their online shared folder, at time of sign up. Entries received without all of these items will be rejected, and asked to re-submit.
    • Reference Image(s) of the costume(s) you will be entering.  These are to be from the source material, not images of yourself.  For most, this means, 1-3 images from the source material, showing as much detail as possible.  For Original Designs, this could mean your own concept art, or a mix of your inspirational materials.
    • Progress photos of your project (This is NOT expected to be a Comprehensive Portfolio at time of submission. 4 – 8 photos per costume, proving you have committed/started the project is expected.)
    • Your audio (pre-cut to the appropriate length) in MP3 Format* – Tech Will Not cut this for you.  
    • FOR NON-CANON DESIGNS: proof of digital or hard copy publication, *by* the artist.  Links, Screencaptures, photos of books, etc.
    • FOR DESIGNS COMMISSIONED for the cosplayer’s use: Proof of exchange with the artist.*Revisions may be permitted at a later date, should you need to make changes.Example of Folder Contents for Canon Designs:
      https://bit.ly/SakCraftWalkOn

      Example of Folder Contents for Sourced Fanart Designs:
      https://bit.ly/SakFanArt

      Example of Folder Contents for Original Design:
      https://bit.ly/SakOriginalDesign

Any questions regarding the rules or application process can be directed to cosplay@sakuracon.org

Performance Rules

Performance entries are longer than walk-ons, and consist of a wider range of presentation including but not limited to short stories/skits, musical numbers, monologues, dancing, and stage/costume tricks.  These can involve the use of oversized props/set pieces, and permit the use of your own stage ninjas to assist on stage during the performance.

Those choosing to enter in the performance category may do so with or without Construction judging.  Performances will be judged based on the quality of the presentation, including entertainment value, stage presence/polish, and audio quality/clarity.

  • Performance is an Open competition —  All entries will be evaluated equally, with awards handed out based on the Genre of the performances (Drama, Comedy, Musical/Dance).  Since many great performances can fall into multiple genres, the judges will determine the category that best fits your performance when they deliberate.
  • There will be a maximum of 20 entries allowed for the Performance Category – 10 groups, and 10 individuals.  Once this fills, the rest will be placed on a wait list.  If a confirmed entry drops, the space will be offered to those on the waitlist based on the order in which they signed up.  If, after signups have closed, there is an uneven number of solo and group entries, wait-listed entries may be offered spots to fill the over-all time.
  • Individual Performances are limited to 1 minute and 30 seconds.  This is non-negotiable (wiggle-room may be given for a few seconds, at the coordinators review/discretion).  You may have ONE stage-ninja and one cosplayer, and still qualify as an Individual performance, as long as the ninja does not fill the role of a Secondary Character (such as via puppetry).
  • Group Performances are limited to 3 minutes and should be planned with this limit in mind.   If your audio exceeds 3 minutes while you are working on it, you must email cosplay@sakuracon.org prior to the audio deadline/submission, to discuss review/approval of any extensions.  Extensions are not guaranteed.  Audio submitted with time-overages not discussed with the cosplay coordinator may be rejected, and your entry dropped from the show.
  • Purchased, Commissioned or “Closet Cosplay” costumes will be permitted as part of Performance entries, but are not eligible for costume awards.
  • Group Performances with Construction must be a Group Construction entry.  There will be no mixing of Individual Construction entries in coordination with a Group Performance.  Not every member of your group performance must enter for Construction (such as if you have some members with purchased costumes), but it must be 2 or more of your group.
  • Performance entries with no Construction will not be eligible for Best in Show.
  • No Original Characters.  This means that completely Original Characters such as your own DnD character, Fan-based Original Characters (Like “Sailor Earth”), a character from an original story you/your friends created, your Fursona, etc, will not be permitted in this competition. 
  • Groups in 2023 are limited to 9 persons, including stage ninjas (Example: 7 cosplayers and 2 ninjas is 9 persons). We should have staff to help you get props/sets on and off stage before/after your performance, but if you need assistance during your performance, you will need to provide your own help.
  • All Performances must be screened for general content.  You will be expected to provide a ‘script’ in your digital file-share folder at the time of sign up!  A script should include any spoken dialogue, general blocking (IE: Character A sword fights with Character B), any style of dance (IE: Belly Dancing, Ballet, etc) or if you are doing a dance cover, a link to video of the original choreography.  The Cosplay Coordinator may ask for additional information or clarification.  If there is anything questionably against the rules or deemed inappropriate, you may be rejected, or asked to make changes and given a window of time to re-submit your entry.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions!  If you decide to make revisions after you’ve been accepted to the show, you will need to notify the coordinator of these changes, so they can also be reviewed for approval.
  • Audio for your performance must be pre-recorded – No Live Microphones will be permitted.   The audio files will be due AFTER final approval of your script, and does NOT have to be included at time of sign-up.   It will be submitted by uploading into the same shared folder you provide when you sign up.
  • Any individual set piece must be capable of being carried by no more than 2 people, and capable of fitting through a standard interior doorway (like in your home, NOT the double doorways in the convention center)
  • At this time, we do not know what custom lighting, if any, we will be able to provide.  Please be prepared for full lights at all times.  If custom lighting becomes a possibility, it will be discussed in communication with accepted entries as the convention approaches.
  • Performance entries are required to have the following items in their online shared folder, at time of sign up:
    • Your Script, to be reviewed for content and approval.
    • Reference Images of the costumes(s) you will be presenting, regardless of whether you are participating in the Construction portion.  If you are entering for construction, this means 1-3 images from the source material, showing as much detail as possible.  For Original Designs, this could mean your own concept art, or a mix of your inspirational materials.
    • If you are entering for Construction, you will also need:
      • Progress photos of your costumes (This is NOT expected to be a Comprehensive Portfolio at time of submission. 4 – 8 photos per costume, proving you have committed/started the project is expected.)
      • FOR NON-CANON DESIGNS: proof of digital or hard copy publication, *by* the artist.  Links, Screencaptures, photos of books, etc.
      • FOR DESIGNS COMMISSIONED for the cosplayer’s use: Proof of exchange with the artist.

EXAMPLE FOLDER for Performance Entries:
With Construction:  https://bit.ly/SakPerformancewCraft (see Construction Rules for examples of Original Design folders)
Without Construction:  https://bit.ly/SakPerformanceOnly

Sign-Up Form Examples

Linked below are screenshots of the sign-up form.  Please use these to acquaint yourself with what you will be asked for on the form.  When sign-ups are live, you will find the actual sign-up sheet linked at the bottom of this Rules page.

SIGN UP FORM SCREEN SHOTS (this is NOT how you will sign-up):  https://bit.ly/SakSignUpExample

Policy

It is up to the contestant to state any possible conflicts of interest they may have. Such conflicts will be evaluated by the cosplay coordinator, and appropriate action will be taken at the discretion of the cosplay coordinator and sakura con staff. 

All awards are final with the exception of those who are found to have been in violation of the rules.  Any claims of Sandbagging brought to the cosplay staff’s attention will be investigated to determine if an award should be revoked.

All contestants are expected to follow Sakura Con policies and codes of conduct. This includes not engaging in Harassment of judges / staff / other contestants, poor sportsmanship, misrepresenting this contest, or otherwise spreading misinformation.  These may result in disqualification and/or barring from future sakuracon contests.  Further action may be taken at the discretion of programming staff.

And remember, have fun!

Cosplay Contest Application Form

Here are some nice cosplay frames you can use: http://sakuracon.org/2023/01/cosplay-line-up-frame/