Thursday, May 23, 2013

Maniwa Houou - (or how I learned to dress like a giant chicken)

It's that time of the year again - con season!  I spent the last weekend at Anime Central in Chicago, which was a new convention for me.  Photoshoot pictures will be forthcoming, but in the meantime I figured that I should make a construction post on How to Impersonate Local Wildlife (---> maybe if you live near Chernobyl and your local wildlife includes a six foot tall, bright red avian monstrosity).  Give a warm welcome to Maniwa Houou of Katanagatari.
Chicken?  No, no, see, he's a PHOENIX   >__>
So we can argue about the fact that the white bit at the top is probably his hair, and that beak is just sitting on his hair, but let's be honest- your wig hair is NEVER going to do that properly.  So just go all out and make a full-on chicken helmet.

Let's start with the helmet, which was probably the most craft intensive part of the costume.  I started with a chicken wire base that I molded onto the shape of my head - which is easier said than done.  Chicken wire is surprisingly inflexible (or perhaps I am just unaccustomed to using animal enclosure materials), so after wrestling for an hour or two and pulling out far too much hair, I just went ahead and used my head-shaped wig stand.  And make sure that you leave a hole in the back of the head- this is necessary for the "hair" that will end up sticking out of the back of it.

Make sure to tuck in those stray wires..chicken wire cuts hurt
Another word of warning:  After the clay is applied and hardened, the helmet will be considerably tighter than it was when you fitted it.  I basically have to force the damn thing onto my head - take this into account unless you enjoy crippling migraines.

I used half-gallon milk cartons to stabilize the beak section, and then just masking taped the living daylights out of the whole thing.  I used cereal boxes as the weird wrap-around face claws, and stuffed cotton into the open spaces to keep it from falling in on itself.  I also did a layer of paper mache, but it quickly became evident that it would not end up being smooth enough.   So what did I resort to?  My go-to material for everything, stone clay!  I also poked four holes in the top to make sure that I had somewhere to stick those floating diamonds.   Let it dry, sand the shit out of it, and you've got yourself a giant chicken helmet!  Life accomplishments, man.
Who DOESN'T love shitty quality bathroom mirror pics - This is post paper mache, pre stone clay.
Then just paint, seal with mod podge, and voila!  You are now ready to terrorize small children.

The floating diamonds (because I really have no better word for the things sticking off the top of his head) are just wire with craft foam glued onto it and painted.

And now for the "hair."  Due to its weird-ass gravity-defying anime-tastic shape, I decided to make a giant squiggly thing carved from a two layers of a three-foot roll of black craft foam with wire mod podged in-between the two pieces for malleability and stability.  Note to self: make sure the wire is thick and sturdy enough.  Thin wire just ends up dragging pathetically behind you, and you want some nice gravity-defying action going on.
Apply mod podge on the outside for shininess like whoa
And now we move on to the feather cloak.  This gave me more trouble than anything else in the entire outfit.  Not because it was particularly hard: just because my stubborn-ass brain refused to use sensible materials like felt, and instead originally opted for fabric.  Twice.  With disastrous results.  I was determined to get the totally unrealistic three-dimensional shape of the feathers from the anime, so I forced myself to step outside the box and then throw the box out the fucking window.  After much trial-and-error (but let's be honest, it was mostly error), I just took two pieces of felt, cut it into a zigzag cloak pattern, sewed them together, and stuffed it with the innards of a poor, innocent, $1 pillow from Goodwill.
The gloves were equally irritating to make.  I ordered shoulder length yellow gloves from  - incidentally, the same place I got the matching tights - and I prepared to turn them into claws.  So, in a moment of my infinite wisdom, I bought orange fabric dye to color the hand part of the glove.  Thing that sounds like a great idea in theory but ends up smelling really dreadful and burning your esophagus: dyeing fabrics.  The lines were just drawn on in normal black pen.  The claws were easy enough- I just bought long fake fingernails, trimmed them to points and painted them black.
Why does almost every cosplay I do seem to have claws
The belt was just yellow craft foam with those yellow chains you can find at Home Depot hot glued on in sections.   The craft foam itself was attached to a wide belt with sticky velcro (not one of my better moments), but crunch time is crunch time, I'm afraid.

The tail was also made out of two layers of craft foam reinforced with thick wire.  Craft foam is your friend...make good use of it.

The pants were fairly simple - I just found some white wide-legged yoga pants online, hand-sewed on some red panels and put elastic into the bottoms so that they would come in at the knees.  

As for the tights, I ran out of time to actually paint them properly, and ended up using electrical tape cut into thin strips, which worked to great effect.  The downside is that it takes a bit more prep-work every time you want to wear the costume, but it probably looks cleaner in the long run than actually painting them.

And the final product....
Do I look like a crazy person yet
And after spending an ungodly amount of time sweating in this heat-absorbing costume, this is how I felt after getting back to the hotel room:
Minus the whole "being a dude" part
I'll make a separate post for the sword- I think this madness has gone on long enough, as it were.  I'll be back with sword construction and photoshoot pictures.  Join us next time, on "What the Fuck is That Crazy Person Wearing."
Dance, chicken, DANCE

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