Sempai Noticed me!
This post’s alternate title is ‘I like sharks’.
Please note that all Tsundere sharks are from /r/TsundereSharks and are wonderful.
You may have noticed a trend in Cosplay to talk about one’s Sempai. While it’s mostly used in a joking memes (see Shark-chan above), I think the Sempai culture is definitely worth talking about. Especially since it can be such a double-edged sword when it comes to how people approach cosplay, and ultimately how they feel about it.
*ahem, sips tea* Let us begin.
What *is* a sempai?
From the second most official definition site ever (TV Tropes):
The concepts of sempai (“senior” or “upperclassman”; technically spelled “senpai” * ) and kouhai (“junior” or “underclassman”) permeate Japanese society … Older students (or workers with greater seniority) are known as sempai, and junior students/workers (or kouhai) are required to defer to them, and address them with the honorific -sempai. In return, the sempai is obligated to look out for, and protect, the kouhai.
Er…that’s nice, but how does that apply to Cosplay?
Unless you’re actively competing in ICG rules Masquerades, there’s no formal ‘class levels’ that distinguish cosplayers. Instead, sempais are the cosplayer(s) we look up to, whether it’s because they are exceptional seamstresses (ShushuWafflez), wonderful worbla engineers (Kamui) or savvy business women (Yaya Han).
Cosplay Sempais are really interesting to me, because in general, they’re created by those who look up to them. Yeah we ironically joke about ‘OMG SEMPAI NOTICED MEEE~~~’ but there’s more than just cosplay-hipsterism going on here.
There’s a real sub-culture phenomenon here that I want to sink my teeth into.
[Two shark puns, one sentence. I’M ON FIRE!]
The Benefits of Sempais
Whether you call them a sempai or not, cosplay or cosmake, there’s probably someone in your cosplaying life that you look up to.
It might be because…
- They’re super sweet with everyone
- They’re magnificent costume constructioneers (if imagineers is a word, constructioneers can be too. Shutup.)
- They’re organized, and finish before 4 am the day of the con. (also called ‘the Unicorn’ because I don’t believe they exist)
- They’re confident in whatever they cosplay
- They put on the best skits evar!
Looking up to someone is great, it lets you learn from how they do things, and inspires you to try new things (after watching them do it, and succeed or almost succeed). Basically, they’re good at something YOU want to be good at.
I listed mine above, Kamui is a wizard with worbla (huehuehue, cuz she made a Wizard this year. Get it?) and Shushu is one with sewing. Yaya is a smart business woman who makes a living off doing what she loves. When I look at what they’re working on, I’m inspired to improve my own skills. Sometimes I’ll learn something new, or look up how they approached a particular problem.
In boring-ass-business speak, my Sempais are great benchmarks for my own cosplay development.
Benchmarking: Using the progress of another person or company to map out how you want your own development to be, based on goals and timelines.
Plus, there’s nothing like the pride and excitement you feel when a Sempai notices you and your cosplay.
Sempai Cons (no not the fun kind of ‘con’)
Okay, so Sempais can be great. What’s not so good about them?
Protip: It’s not the Sempais that can cause problems but how we view them.
When you look up to someone, especially someone that you don’t know for realsies, it’s easy to forget that they’re just people too. They get tired, overwhelmed, sick. If they’re cosfamous or legit famous, they might get swarmed at cons and not notice you.
This is apparently from Fairy Tale?
Which sucks, especially if you were sure you would make an impression, but don’t. It’s easy to take it personally, or get upset if the Sempai doesn’t have time to say hello. But, see the point about being human. If you were fighting off a cold and trying to deal with a bunch of people, you might not notice everything too.
Protip: don’t stalk your sempai. Stalking is legit-super-very-bad. And illegal.
And then we get into this somewhat controversial point:
Sempais don’t owe you recognition. Or time. Or shares. Or anything really, unless they actually owe you money for something I guess. But that’s different.
Hell, they might not even know you think of them as your sempai! Have you talked to them before? If I walk up to kamui and started talking about her and asking her to share my page because omg she’s my sempai, she’d might smile, then slowly back away. Or she might just stand there and feel awkward. (may have to do with the fact I’m also amazon-tall, but youknowwhatImean.)
Protip: don’t be that person who asks for shares, unless it’s to get word out about a good cause or event. ‘Likes’ and ‘Follows’ are neither.
This is, of course, not to say that Sempais want to avoid Kouhai, but rather be like ‘hey, manage expectations and you’ll get pleasantly surprised.’
General Tips on how to Kouhai to a Sempai (oHai!)
As with all of my tips, YMMV. But so far I haven’t severely creeped out my sempais (as far as I know).
- “I really admire…” “I loved how you did…” “Your [costumeThing] was so cool! How did you make the thing?” are great ways to start a conversation.
- If Sempai is running off to a panel, or eating, let them go. FOOD IS IMPORTANT. You can find them later for a conversation.
- Don’t let yourself get discouraged by Sempai’s skills. They’ve probably been doing it longer. Remember benchmarking!
- Don’t feel too worried about asking for a picture. But ask, yeah? Don’t just walk up and cling to them. That’d be weird. Real weird.
- If they don’t notice you, don’t get discouraged, there will be other opportunities. Not meeting Sempai is not the end of the world.
- It’s totally okay to get to know Sempais and have them become friends (<3 You Shushu!), and Sempais might change as you improve your own skills and meet new people.
- And if you find out that you don’t like Sempai? Find a new one. There’s plenty of other fish in the sea.
*bah-dum-tsh!* I apologize for nothing!
xox, a very punny Calamity