Cosplay Feature: Princess Mononoke

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Although my childhood memories are primarily punctuated by cartoons like Batman: The Animated Series, DuckTales, and Disney’s Gargoyles, I was exposed to a handful of anime in my youth. One offering in particular – Studio Ghibli’s Princess Mononoke – resonated with me for years to come. To some degree it retains a special place because it was one of my first forays into the world of Japanese animation, but it additionally warrants fond recollection for a powerful story and moving performances. When I was invited to Katsucon 2012 as a cosplay guest – a massive honor and an amazing experience – it only seemed natural to take on San’s deceptively simple garb from the Ghibli film.

Construction of the costume took about a month, working a few hours here and there after work. I started with San’s mask, as in my eyes it’s the most iconic part of her costume. The mask began as a bamboo bowl from Target, which I chose because of its light weight and durability. I shaved down the bowl with a razor, plotted out the eyes and mouth, burned the sockets in with a soldering iron, and began mold the clay accent pieces. When everything was shaped, I popped it in the oven to bake. After cooling, I filed off any paint that still adhered to the mask so the natural grain would show through.

My primary goal in the costume was to ensure everything looked hand made, and as such little sanding was needed. I actually carved lines into the dry clay to make it appear made of wood, too. When it came to painting I avoided oversaturation, so that the rings would show through the bright pigment. I hand painted the small details, again, not really worried about achieving perfection.

The ears were made similarly, entirely out of clay and carved to look like wood. I also made the teeth on San’s necklace out of clay – painted an off white and then slightly yellowed for a realistic look.

The crystal dagger was fairly easy. I ordered a glass napped point on Etsy, and painted the back with blue nail polish. It’s a simple trick that works very well and doesn’t compromise the transparency of the glass. I used a friendship bracelet and some leather cording to finish off the piece.

San’s actual dagger – her primary weapon – is made out of Wonderflex. I left the edges intentionally serrated so it would appear to be made out of bone. Again, I used a slight off-white color. A spare piece of curtain rod became the handle, completed by wrapping leather cording around the grip. I also made the earrings out of Wonderflex, painted a pearlescent shell color.

I completed the dress and vest in one night without the aid of a pattern. I chose a thick, rough looking linen for the fabric, knowing it would fray and look more authentic as I wore it. I used the same fabric for the head and arm bands, attaching beads accents I purchased to match the design.

The shoes used to be some ugly fashion boots, complete with fur and a massive zippers. I stripped them down to the bare bones, and hand-sewed on new soles so they wouldn’t look manufactured.

The fur cape was a last minute addition, and something I was very concerned about leading up to the show. When my order arrived, it was a very distinct silver color – not the pristine white I had ordered. I almost settled due to a lack of time, but my boyfriend surprised me with a new, accurate order that arrived the night prior to my departure. Cutting it up and securing it in place wasn’t difficult, but was very messy.

The day of the convention, fellow Katsucon guest Linda Le helped me paint my face, as I’m absolutely horrid at anything involving symmetry. She also cut and styled the wig for me, making it look as light and feathery as San’s own hair. I finished up the costume with a bit of “dirt,” which was in truth black and brown hairspray diluted with water and stippled on my arms, legs, and face.

I spent the first half of the day in my full Mononoke ensemble, which was very well received by other Ghibli followers. I then returned to my room, removed my mask, and bloodied up my mouth and hands. Fans of the film recognized the look as the first time they see San, attempting to aid her wounded wolf-kin.

I shot with both Anna Fischer and LJinto at the show, and am so, overwhelmingly happy with the photos. The Katsucon hotel was an ideal place for the shoot – the lighting and atmosphere was perfect, and there was even a little stream running through the courtyard.

I am by no means through with San – I intend to wear her again to several more conventions this year. All I need now is to find myself an Ashitaka!

WIP Gallery

 

Katsucon 2012 Gallery

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41 thoughts on “Cosplay Feature: Princess Mononoke

  1. One of my all-time favorite movies + one of my all-time favorite cosplayers. Nice work. So beautiful and fierce!

  2. Wow, this is pretty cool. Came across this website, whilst reading in my daily info sesh. Thoroughly impressed by not only this but the other stuff on your page. Interesting to see how much detail and thought you put into each of your costumes. Definitely sharing and subscribing.

  3. Wow, you actually updated the site! Wonderful story Meagan. What amazes me most about cosplayers isn’t how awesome they look in their costumes, although you always look fantastic, but the process of how the costumes come to be is amazing. You’re very talented and it’s so cool that you think of the littlest details to perfect your costume (that is, trying to make it look like it wasn’t manufactured, making the mask look like it was actually hand-carved, etc.). Keep these types of posts coming. :)

  4. Thank you Jared! And yes, I update this site rather sporadically now. It’s becoming more of my central portfolio, with Tumblr taking over as my blog. I need to find a way to integrate the two! :P

  5. Meagan I always see their costumes, two face, anya stroud, Madame Mirage, Excella Gionne, princess of persia, lara croft (loved), etc …
    but
    princess mononoke got a lot of my attention, especially her story, I’ve been researching and soon I will attend the film.
    congratulations on your cosplays

  6. Fantastic costume. You look brilliant. Thank you so much for sharing the details of its construction. Not only is it inspiring, it helps us to further appreciate the little details of the costume.

  7. Meagan, your talent amazes me every time. A quick question, did you use clay around the eyes too? I was hoping to find someone like you who puts this much detail into their costumes and did a how-to. I’m hoping to cosplay as San this year to my local convention, so hopefully I can put the care and sureness into mine as you did yours!

  8. Hello Bri! Thank you for the kind words! Yes, I used clay around the eyes, and then topped them off with shower rings, which I then carved the wood pattern into. :)

  9. Thanks to the good people at Kotaku for directing me to your work. Very impressive portfolio. Is there nothing you cannot do?!

    Princess Mononoke is a seminal piece of animation. Indeed, it was only a year ago that I first appreciated the output of Studio Ghibli. The UK’s FilmFour channel had a season of their animations late last year, including Spirited Away, which defies description.

    For me, Tomb Raider and Half Life were game changers for the industry, and how I approached gaming. Careful structuring and intelligent storytelling are far more of a compelling reason to play games. Your passion for gaming is very evident. Long may it continue.

    Keep up the fantastic work :-)

  10. AMAZING!!! this is one of my childhood classics and my personal favorite of Miyazaki’s work. Stunning <3 I am in love with your ability to bring such an amazin character to life!

  11. Love your cosplay,right up there with VAmp bit me.Any chance u will do some more anime,like say:Rosario Vampire? Keep up the great work.Power Girl would be nice too.Power Girl comic was a great read for me.Issues 1-12 anyway with Amanda Conner art.Rosario Vampire manga is real good too.

  12. Love it, my favorite anime movie. Found my way here after listening to Side mission on Gt.
    After listening to all the side mission I realize what type of girl I want to someday marry, not in a creepy way. Just what I should look for in a girl, after so many bad relationships.
    Keep up the cool cosplay work, your new Canuck friend :P

  13. Oh my gosh could you please tell me where your boyfriend got the white fur cape?? I can’t find a good one anywhere~

  14. How did you make the clay on the mask keep its shape when put in the oven?

    I’m thinking about doing a Princess Mononoke cosplay btw. Any tips? (‘:

  15. I loooooove your cosplay! I have a few questions for you though. I actually tried to find a bamboo bowl at Target, Home Depot, ect, and could not find one that was the right shape. Any suggestions for alternatives?
    Also where’d you get your wig from? It looks so natural <3!

    Thanks sooooo much!

  16. What type of face paint did you use?
    I’ve looked online for a good quality face paint and I can’t set my mind to ordering one. Also, I’m concerned about using paint that will irritate my face.

    Also, I thought it was a cool coincidence, I used curtain grommets for the eyes of my mask (I made it about a month ago – before I stumbled upon your blog!)

    Fantastic cosplay, very beautiful. I am going to my first cosplay this August and I thought Princess Mononoke would be a perfect choice for a first time. I’ve worked very hard on my cosplay and it is turning out wonderful. <3

  17. Sorry for the delay! I actually can’t remember the brand of face paint I used – I picked it up from a party store and it was very cheap. I actually wouldn’t recommend it as my face broke out in a rash after I removed the Mononoke makeup! Did you find a good fit for you?

  18. Hey there! Something like this may actually work:http://www.target.com/p/evergreen-summer-melamine-serving-bowl-with-bamboo-lid/-/A-14370163#prodSlot=medium_1_2&term=bamboo+bowl

    The bowl I picked up had paint on it, which I chipped off/sanded down. I also trimmed it to be shallow. Bamboo is pretty easy to get through with a knife or small saw! It’s hard to find a perfectly round bowl, but if you look at my mask it’s actually a bit flat in the front! Good luck with your costume!

  19. Hi!
    Beautiful photos!
    I’m struggling with making the pelt/hooded cape. do you have any tips?

  20. HI! this is beautiful! i love everything about it! i want this to be my first cosplay! i have on question though, how did you get the fur on to the mask?

  21. Thank you Salmon! Funny enough, I just used hot glue. While it doesn’t work for everything, I couldn’t get the fur off the mask if I wanted to at this point. :P

  22. Well thanks for the tip! LOL i agree, usually i just use hot glue for my best of luck and it works well on many things! also an other question: What was the shape of your fur and which part did you glue onto the mask? From your pictures, it looks like the necklace is attached to it too! so it kinda looks like a cape, but i just wanna ask from the pro :P

  23. Hey (:
    I have a question..
    where do you get that pelt? it looks still awesome!
    or do you have any idea where i can get one like these?
    sorry for my english i hope you understand me (:

  24. I love the costumes you’ve made and your tutorials are wonderful. Thank you!! ^.^
    I was wondering what kind of paint you used on the mask and if there is any more advice we could get on how you carved the clay to make it look like wood.

  25. Hello Joyce! I used spray paint on the base of the mask, and acrylic paint on the eyes! As for carving the clay, I simply used an xacto knife to carve natural looking lines into the clay. It’s pretty easy – if you are concerned about it, try on a spare piece of baked clay first! :)

  26. Hello Saskia! I actually got the pelt on Amazon, of all places. I don’t remember the seller sadly. I apologize for not being able to assist further!

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