Wednesday, 29 July 2015

NCC 2015.

Armour comfort level: now that I managed to maneuver myself into sitting position I'm not moving a muscle until I absolutely have to, let's hope I won't need to pee.
Con report time? Con report time!

I recently represented Iceland in the Nordic Cosplay Championship in Närcon, and by now you may have read quite a few reviews of the con and the competition itself from many sides of the matter, so I'll try to avoid repeating things too much and only talk of the things that affected me. Buckle up!


You read that right, team Iceland arrived on Tuesday and began to cause their assistant grief right from the start - due to a Certain Team Member's goof-up the assistant almost didn't realize we were going to arrive on that day (I'm not naming names here to protect myself)(but it was my fault).

The flight was quite eventful! We were entertained by a drunken, middle-aged Icelandic lady who was afraid of flying, screamed when the plane took off, talked her neighbours' ears off, hit on the poor lad and told his wife she could have him back "once she was done with him", harassed the stewards (I counted two butt-pats), tried to elbow one when he refused to sell her more alcohol, made weird, sexist jokes and topped it all off by screaming the landing part as well. When we were finally in Oslo she broke into a loud HALLELUJAH I LOVE GOD AND HIS SON WE DIDN'T DIE.

We all breathed a sigh of relief to be finally rid of her and went to find something to do while we waited for our connecting flight. Alas, Oslo airport is possibly the most boring airport in existence so we just ended up walking aimlessly around. Upon boarding the plane to Arlanda we noticed our relief had been too soon - sure enough, same lady, now even more drunk, same show until Sweden.

We arrived to Linköping in the middle of the night and got first night rooms in a nearby hotel/motel/old farmhouse place. Cute place, nice rooms, horrible IKEA bunk beds that killed the whole team's backs. Note to IKEA, your bunk beds suck.

Assisting Morrigan waiting on the backstage.


We were finally let to the sleeping hall. Originally the talk was hotel rooms, but at some point those turned into a sovsal regardless. Positive: you get to know the other teams, chat and hang out with them. Negative: cold, seriously cold. Motion detectors in the lights, meaning that the first night everyone woke up to the lights turning on when someone needed the bathroom, after that the detectors were taped blind... but that just meant that the room was dark the whole time the tape was on. The room could be locked, but since no one had the key to it that would have meant being locked outside of it, so we had to keep a box in between the door to make sure we could get back in... which was a security hazard since the same building was used as a general con-visitor staying place.

On Wed we also hit the exotic H&M (which Iceland doesn't have) and the exotic McDonalds (which Iceland used to have but they bolted the moment the economy crashed). Many things were bought.

This day the rest of the teams began to arrive. It would have been a perfect day for the NCC to arrange some kind of a get-together where we would have been able to introduce ourselves and get to know each other but alas, much like last year this didn't happen. I had attended NCC before as an assistant so I knew where everything was, but I heard from the other teams that they were feeling quite lost... an introduction meet-up could have solved this problem since the experienced ones could have shown the new ones around and helped them out.

Flemeth's half armour makes for an excellent McMeal tray! 

Very, very, very busy day. Putting on the cosplay, pre-judging, two photoshoots, one lunch break, taking it all off and doing an interview in "civilian" dress. We also had our first stage rehearsals. I walked a few blisters into my feet that day.

This day also showed me what really was not working for the NCC competitors. First of all, according to the webpage we were supposedly VIPs and would be "treated royally". Now, I know the Bernadotte are fairly chill as royal families go, but I've a feeling they would also feel a little unhappy about the following:

- No changing rooms for the VIPs, we changed either in the changing rooms meant for everyone (which meant crowds and queuing) OR in the sleeping room which was shared by all competitors, men and women alike. I don't have a problem with changing among strangers but I would understand those who weren't comfortable with the idea of changing their underwear (for f.ex. putting on a binder) in front of a group of strangers.

PROPS FOR COVERING UP THE WINDOWS TO THIS ROOM THOUGH. Last year the problem was that everyone outside could see in while we were undressing and dressing up, this year that one had been solved.

- No toilets for the VIPs. We had to queue just like all the con-goers, despite the fact that our schedule was ridiculously tight. Also... this is not the fault of NCC or Närcon, but it bears saying to the regular con-visitors: if you're so afraid of brushing your teeth in front of others that you absolutely MUST lock yourself in the toilet to do that, know that I'm hating you with supreme passion for every minute you're taking in there while I'm waiting to pee. I will glare at you when you finally get out.

- No showers for the VIPs either. Again, queuing for the public ones, again it wouldn't have been so hard if the schedule hadn't been so busy and ran so late.

- No food specifically for the VIPs. Well, two food tickets per day for con tent food for which we had to queue just like everyone else. No allergies or diets taken into account aside of vegetarian options in the outdoor food tents, but since the vegetarian options were cooked on the same grill with meat... well. In any case one of our team members couldn't get gluten-free food and she absolutely cannot eat gluten, big minus for that.

Verdict: I don't mind queuing or tight schedules as such, but please Närcon, at least don't call this VIP treatment. Still, this was my first big cosplay competition so I had nothing to compare things to and all in all personally I was quite happy all day, if a bit stressed.

Exotic McDonals meals. Btw our assistant Seaster was so on top of things that I don't know how we would have survived without her.

Competition day! Man I was stressed all day long, I can only hope I didn't take it out on my poor assistant or other team members too badly. My entire apologies and a half if I was a menace! -.-

Most of the day was free, we only had one dress rehearsal and the show itself. Here's where things began again to go wrong.

- Some competitor/s were given last minute no-no scares for things that had earlier been approved. You can read Regzo's report here for more details, my personal opinion is that is was massively unfair and put unnecessary stress on the competitor/s. Besides that confetti cannon was cool to the max, I'm really happy she could keep it.

- No proper backstage. I had lost all hope for any VIP treatment but I still felt a bit disappointed that all we got was two chairs and some free soda... that I didn't dare to drink since we were not provided ANY toilets this time. This was a glaring fault, last year there were portable toilets and I hope they'll return for next year.

- It was cold, so cold. You have no idea how cold it was. The tv team had a tent with heaters but all competitors were told to sit on their assigned parking lot spaces and stay there freezing... buuuut then our super assistant struck again and appeared with her arms full of blankets. Behold:

I still feel cold to remember this.
Team Iceland, blanket burrito version! Still, providing blankets is another thing that the NCC team could easily arrange for the competitors and assistants, it would make a world of difference.

The competition itself went well and we had great time on stage, much thank yous to the stage crew that made all the magic happen and especially the awesome audience! The cheering we got for Mother Knows Best made every bit of discomfort worth it, I felt so welcome because of you. Admittedly though when I first walked on stage and took a look at the sea of people I almost froze out of shock but you were so great, you too strange guy near the front who made a weird grin face and then stood absolutely still with that same look on for ages. :D WTF dude but at least you made me laugh a few times, wondering how long you could keep it up (answer: very long)(did you practice that at home or?).

For the annual rumour that the competition was rigged or the wrong ones won or yadda yadda, no guys, the winners were amazing. Their cosplay skills were top notch and every one of them deserved to win and the winner of the competition was not a surprise to anyone - she was just so good. To address another popular complaint, her assistant didn't break any NCC rules either since the rule of using assistant on stage is somewhat vague and only states that the assistant is not allowed to outshine the competitor.

...yeaaaah ok, I may feel a bit extra prickly about that last part since I also had my assistant playing a large role but let's ignore that I'm feeling butthurt about the critique. :P In any case it was fun to toss my Morrigan around, and to answer the question I've now heard twice so far, yes I punched her in the belly for real (= connected but didn't hit hard). It was her idea, I had permission to. We probably had a safety word, maybe-possibly.

On Sunday we even had time for some sight-seeing! No Bernadotte spotted though.

- Everything was right on time! Last year the schedule was a wee bit lagging and the competition was about an hour late if memory serves, this time the timing of everything from Thursday madness to Friday competition ran very smoothly.

- Thursday's insanity was all in all ok-ish for me. I just hopped from spot A to B to C to D to E to F to G and though it was a lot of running around I was happy that I didn't have to wait at any spot. If anything the schedule ran a bit ahead of itself so whenever I showed up a bit early I could just jump into action and get out a bit earlier too.

- I loved the photographers Shila and Shiro. I just loved them. Both were so friendly and nice and had completely different approach to taking photos, which was interesting! One gave me all free reins on what I wanted to do, the other gave me careful instructions, I liked both styles and can't wait to see the photos!

- The stage crew was really on top of things. I was especially happy about always having someone right there by my arm when I needed help walking down scary parts of the stage, felt good that they had me memorized as a "bad shoes needs help walking"-person. Small things like this may not seem all that important but they matter a lot, like the people who popped by asking how we were doing while we were waiting for our turn to get on stage - these moments really keep you going.

- The cafeteria in Kårallen was a great idea: food available at any time. I hope this one continues next year, but perhaps with a better food stocking plan since they ran out of food a few times.

- Last year the NCC teams could breakfast in the NCC room - it was wonderful, hopefully that returns next year as well. At least bring back the coffee maker, the instant coffee of Kårallen hurt my feeble soul. :P

- NCC team we know you worked really hard for us and even though there were some bad moments this all still counts as a positive experience in my book. I hope to see you all again!


Free day yayyy! Convention roaming, buying stuff (I'm one yukata richer because this one shop just happened to have all my weaknesses in one yukata - a red and white yabane pattern), taking photos of cosplays, con activities, cosplaying something else, happy hanging out time and in the evening a NCC dinner for the teams sans assistants. The dinner was great but I'd much prefer if the assistants were included, it feels cold to leave them out after they've worked really super hard for us for days.

At this point I want to praise our team's assistant some more: Seaster is the most efficient and competent assistant in the universe. Whatever our team might need she had already thought of and was carrying along in her tiny backpack, and many things we hadn't thought of but ended up needing she had caught already. At one point I tried to joke that if any of us was requesting a chair she'd probably have one in that backpack of hers but the rest of the team didn't even laugh for reals because most likely she would actually have had that chair.

In any case I give a warm recommendation for having her as a team assistant for Icelanders of the future. Hint: it's no small perk to have an assistant with her own car, especially since the flights from Iceland often don't coincide with the flights from the rest of the Nordics.


Going home day, but not before we did some sight-seeing in Stockholm and ate ourselves silly. Note to those planning to go to Sweden, the Swedes really know how to cook so go and eat everything, just do it, especially eat lots of cakes because Swedish cakes are my favourite in the world. Just the perfect balance of everything, I knew this in advance and had a ten kilo gaining plan for Sunday.

After the cakes and Gamla Stan we ate some more, then ate some more and then took a plane back home. The air traffic gods were still hating on us though... this time we weren't entertained by the drunken lady but about two dozen small children screaming and crying their way back home because the flight was late at night and they were obviously tired. Little Guðmundur, if you ever read this, don't hit your momma, that's bad.

(For those who missed it this year's NCC was televised and can be watched f.ex. here on Yle Areena for about 25 days more. Our performance is on at 38:05.)

All photos of this post are by our team assistant Seaster.

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