The Good and Bad of Cosplay Melee

COSPLAY MELEE -- "A Night at the Space Opera" Episode 101 -- Pictured: (l-r) LeeAnna Vamp, Yvette Nicole Brown, Christian Beckman -- (Photo by: Dale Berman/Syfy)

SyFy once more attempts to turn the world of cosplay into a reality television show with its new series, Cosplay Melee. Cosplay Melee very closely mirrors the format of Face Off, an acclaimed special effects makeup reality show also hosted on Syfy. Each episodes introduces four experienced cosplayers who are presented with a theme and are tasked with making both an accessory piece (after which one contestant is eliminated) and full costume (which decides the winner of $10,000) around that theme.

Since the initial release of trailers in February, the cosplay community has been abuzz with anticipation–would the focus be on drama or craft? Would its portrayal of cosplayers be flattering or damning? And, most importantly, would it just devolved into rigged trainwreck as Heroes of Cosplay did? So far, with two episodes released, the general response to Cosplay Melee among cosplayers seems to be positive, with the exception of a few valid nitpicks.

Good: The focus on the craft

Much to the delight of its cosplayer audience, Cosplay Melee is focused on the innovative craft processes behind cosplay. The first episode alone showcases an enormous range of techniques, from the use to body filler to smooth a prop surface to the use of EL tape for lighting accents on a weapon. Voiceover from the contestants explained each showcased technique in a good amount of detail, a nice bonus for viewers with an interest in trying out these techniques themselves. Overall, there was a refreshing lack of hostility or drama between the participants; the banter in the workroom seemed good-natured, and the other finalists both offered the winner genuine congratulations.

Bad: Requiring cosplays of original characters

Even though cosplays of original or crossover characters aren’t uncommon these days, the definition of cosplay according to Google (and in the mind of most people) is “the practice of dressing up as a character from a movie, book, or video game, especially one from the Japanese genres of manga and anime.” Cosplay Melee directly contradicts this expectation by requiring its contestants to conceptualize and create costumes of original characters, based around a different theme each episode. Although contestants heavily draw inspiration from existing franchises and characters, it still seems a bit incorrect to define this act as “cosplay.” A major component of cosplay is accuracy to and interpretation of an existing character design, so exclusively creating original designs removes a fundamental element of what most people consider cosplay.

Good: Talented participants

The contestants all had exemplary craftsmanship and a lot of crafting wisdom to share in the voiceover and commentary segments. Although cosplay handles and social media info was neglected, a short introduction and previous works were provided for each contestant, demonstrating excellence in their craft and ensuring the viewers of an exciting and well-matched showdown.

Bad: Unqualified judges

Yvette Nicole Brown (of Community, Drake & Josh fame) serves as the peppy celebrity host of Cosplay Melee. Although no one can blame producers for wanting a little star power on their side, Yvette is almost positive to a fault during judging–when one has little expertise in cosplay, there’s only so much feedback they can provide as a judge. LeeAnna Vamp, a cosplay model, serves as another judge, but has little to offer in the way of craft experience; the portfolios of the contestants outclass her own.

So what do you guys think – is it worth a stream?

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