Free! Cosplay/Crossplay Photoset and The Healing Powers of Sports Anime

November 5, 2015 | Posted by: rissvandal

Hey friends, it’s been far too long since I updated. I’m still alive and I’m happy to say I’m back in South Korea ^_^ Actually, I’vee been here for two months now. You can expect some Seoul-centric posting to drop in the coming weeks (and I’m also planning and plotting to finally make some vlogs). But in the meantime, I wanted to share the last cosplay photo set I put together in US, featuring a male and female version of Rei Ryugazaki from Free Iwatobi Swim Club.

4There are countless reasons people choose a certain character to cosplay–maybe it’s their favorite from a series, the one the identify with most, or the one they almost perfectly resemble. I usually choose characters that I in some way (or in the case of Nana Osaki, entirely) relate to. This recent cosplay, however, was a character I couldn’t have less in common with. Painfully logical and more studious than I could ever be, Rei is basically the anti-Riss.  That said, he’s a character that became incredibly dear to me. Silly as it sounds, spending a chunk of my summer watching this character’s development in an anime about competitive swimming helped me through a rough time.
1My summer started on a high note–a grand home coming followed by a trip to Disney–but there was a sort of downhill domino effect after a devastating breakup followed by all of my concrete life plans quickly flying out the window. Without an apartment, I ended up stationed in my family’s home in the Pennsylvania country, far from the life I’d known for the last 10 years. With no steady job and no car or form of transportation in a town where there’s virtually nothing within less than a 20 minute drive, I was stuck with a permanent deer-in-headlights expression from how helpless I felt. (more…)

Gothic Lolita Teatime

September 21, 2015 | Posted by: rissvandal

 She had me at tea party.

If anyone ever mentions a tea party, I’m in. It doesn’t really matter what it’s celebrating or where it is, I all about anything related to dress up or pretty foods. In this case, however, my cousin asked me to help her plan and host a Lolita tea party for her sister’s birthday. Of course I accepted the offer, then proceeded to procrastinate so that I ended up having to make about 5 different dishes two hours before the party. All in all, things turned out pretty good, though. Take a look at the spread below.

photo 252You’d be surprised how versatile cream cheese is and how many different times you can cram it into one dinner menu without anyone really noticing, so long as you use a little food coloring and creativity. I made tea sandwiches, vegetable canapes, scones, and stuffed tomatoes, while my cousin supplied all the desserts (no damn way could I have made those petit fours). Note the wide-eyed and mega kawaii food pics contributing to the tablescape, courtesy of my brother. (more…)

Night At the Roxbury Motel Pt. 1

August 4, 2015 | Posted by: rissvandal

Sometimes a hotel is just a hotel, but in the case of The Digs at the Roxbury, it’s more like an adventure-laden playground full of mystery. The Roxbury is a boutique motel located in New York’s Catskills, offering over a dozen themed rooms and suites, each with their own detailed and distinct theme (i.e. a genie’s bottle, outer space, meringue pie). I recently explored their most extreme lodging option, The Digs–a three bedroom archaeology-themed cottage full of secret passages, unique amenities, and surprises.

7My look for the trip includes an offbrand felt hat and stockings I picked up from a street vendor in Seoul and a pleated pastel chiffon skort I received from 10 Dollar Mall. For such an affordable price (everything in the shop is $10 or less), I was incredibly impressed by the quality of the piece. It fits true to size and is a wonderful accent for summer’s crop tops or for a pastel goth ensemble.

Here I am right before entering the cottage. It was a real drum roll anticipation type moment, as the simple exterior of the motel serves as no indication for what’s actually inside.

10 (more…)

4 Methods for Redirection, Renewal, and Reinvention

May 12, 2015 | Posted by: rissvandal

A few times a year, usually as a new season approaches, I feel an overwhelming desire for change. I start to explore new looks, new hobbies, and new methods of self-expression. One defining thing about me though, is that if I plan to make a change I want it to be big. Most times, however, in order to see big changes you need to make big commitments. A dramatic new haircut or closet spring cleaning is a suggestion I often see in regards to a change you can immediately make. Both of those seem like decent enough ideas, but what if the haircut sucks and you’re left mourning your lost tresses? Or maybe a month later you’ll begin to regret that heavy-handed closet purge. Here I have 4 methods to either reinvent your look or push your life in a new direction that I practice myself. Each one is painless, fairly immediate, and requires little commitment.


Despite the many times I’ve changed my look throughout life, the majority of my look have all been rooted in the same sources. Since my teen years, Siouxsie Sioux, Nana Osaki, and the deadly stylish characters of Tim Burton movies have reigned as my main inspirations. As I age, I’ve begun to crave duality. I’ll never totally abandon black, but in recent years I’ve been admiring sweet lolitahime lolita, and fairy kei looks from afar, though unwilling to actually give these looks a try myself.

blog10That is, until I stumbled across Saaya Hayashida’s Instagram account. Saaya is the creative force behind the sugary sweet Japanese brand, Swankiss. Her look that’s part adorable, part angelic, and part ethereal princess is one of the most striking ones I’ve seen in some time. And after style stalking her long enough on Instagram, it lead me to ponder if I could pull off pinks, pastels, and delicate hues.


Photos via

I’m not abandoning my trademark style, but I’m opening up to the idea of letting more color in. Judging from the responses I received after pulling off this look (i.e. “I think Korea changed you“), colors can clearly be more shocking and subversive than I realized. My initial three style icons now need to make way for a fourth. And I challenge anyone to start exploring styles way out of your comfort zone–it could have some wonderfully dramatic and eye-opening results.

blog-3Flower crown: Claire’s / Hair extensions: Hair Plus Base / Bodysuit: thrift


Cosplaying in Seoul and the Challenge of Being an Otaku in Korea

April 22, 2015 | Posted by: rissvandal

Let me be honest about something–I never quite got the hang of Seoul Comic World. So far I’ve attended five events, so don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the cons a whole hell of a lot. What were my issues? Well, obvious challenges arose, such as cultural differences and language barriers. What I hadn’t expected, however, was an abundance of rules that cosplayers were asked to adhere to. And while it was navigating all those rules that ended up making me feel a little bit off to the sidelines, it also ended up teaching me a lot about the state of the anime fan in Korea.

Nana Osaki CosplayI occasionally have grouchy “back in my day” moments where I lament how mainstream cosplay has become, but overall I’m quite happy about how accepted it’s become. I love that conventions are nerdy free-for-alls and how, when a convention rolls to town, most cosplayers will cruise through streets and parking lots without much of a care. With nothing but US con experiences under my belt, I went to Korea expecting that same sort of atmosphere, only to find out, not so much…

Gothic Lolita, Lola CapuletteTo further explain, first it’s important to note that Seoul Comic World is an event that ends in the early evening. Its a day trip thing, not a save-and-plan-all-year-and-book-a-hotel-room thing. Therefore the question arises–how exactly do I cosplay? (more…)

Seoul Kidult Fair–Toys, Crafts, and Hobbies Galore

March 23, 2015 | Posted by: rissvandal

Perhaps I’m a little bit spoiled in that I expect virtually every nerd event to involve toys. So while Seoul’s monthly anime cons were like a cosplay miracle, the fact that none of these cons had toy or figure vendors sort of put me in a panic. Where are my toys? How can you deprive a nerd of their toys? Thankfully the Seoul Kidult Fair helped to assuage my fears that I would leave Korea without an opportunity to fangasm over some sweet figures.

Seoul Kidult Fair

The Kidult Fair is an annual toy and hobby expo, hosted in a convention hall within the Coex megamall. It’s a combo of toy vendors, industry innovators promoting their products (i.e. 3d printers), contests, and toy and art exhibits, along with a massive gaming space. For someone like me, it was an endless heart-attack risk. I ran amok with the hyperness of a child,  scouring through bins of discounted anime figures and marveling at the display of BJD dolls.

Seoul Kidult Fair Seoul Kidult Fair

One of the more notable sights was the exhibit of felt sculptures and papercrafts. At the end of the exhibit there was an area to buy your own papercrafts, along with a workspace where you could assemble your purchases–with the aid of staff members if need be. Well aware that I lack goth the patience and precision for that, I was happy just admiring the pieces and identifying my favorite video game and anime characters.


The World of Studio Ghibli Arrives in Seoul

January 1, 2015 | Posted by: rissvandal

Studio Ghibli. Miyazaki.

For fans of anime and animated films in general, those words should bring some very distinctive images to mind. Scenes of magic, warmth, and unparalleled beauty and depth. Studio Ghibli–the studio behind memorable films such as Spirited Away, Kiki’s Delivery Service, and My Neighbor Totoro–makes the kind of films that captivate and leave viewers in awe. These are the kind of films you wish you could step inside and experience again and again. Luckily, those in Seoul get to do just that.

Ghibli Exhibit, Spirited Away

During my recent trip to Japan, I took a trip to the official Studio Ghibli museum in Mitaka. And while the experience was a lovely and emotional one, it was not nearly as immersive and squeal-inducing as this temporary exhibit.

15 Tucked away in the mega shopping plaza, i’Park Mall, the exhibit is a magical and detailed Studio Ghibli fan’s dream. (more…)

Otaku-ing In Tokyo: 6 Notable Places to Indulge Your Inner Fanboy/girl

August 12, 2014 | Posted by: rissvandal

When I was 12 years old I made a dramatic, seemingly life or death pinky swear promise with my friend to visit Japan before I hit 30 years old. A somewhat arbitrary number in the scheme of things, but I take a personal sense of pride knowing that I made the cutoff and little Riss would be incredibly pleased. I enjoyed so much about my first trip to Tokyo–the food, the sights, and of course the fashion. We’ll get to the fashion later, but ultimately this trip was about indulging my otaku side, and that’s what I want to talk about right from the start. Here’s a sampling of some of the noteworthy otaku spots you can find in Tokyo. Oh man, the feels. The anime feels…


Akihabara is an ultimate otaku zone, electronics and gaming zone, and a place that all around just slaps you in the face with fandom. Anime billboards decorate this district, and you can’t take more than ten steps without running into yet another UFO catcher arcade or cluster of gashapon machines.

Akihabara, Tokyo Club Sega, Tokyo


Exploring Seoul’s Hello Kitty Cafe and Comic World

June 23, 2014 | Posted by: rissvandal

fdThere are so many wonderful and breathtaking things to explore in Aeoul, but I’ve realized that while traveling in general, one should never set their expectations too high. As someone who’ll soon be able to say that she’s visited all of the countries she’s dreamt of seeing since she was a child (Korea being one, Japan the other) I’m working on perfecting this whole “reasonable expectations” thing. I bring this up because I have accounts to share about my two recent adventures–to the Hello Kitty Cafe and to Seoul Comic World. Some aspects of my adventures were surprisingly amazing, while others, not so much. Let me elaborate ^^


Seoul Hello Kitty Cafe

The Hello Kitty  Cafe is a cotton candy-hued building nestled away in a hilly side street in Hongdae. I’ve been there twice–on a Saturday and Sunday–and as one might expect, the experience varied drastically depending on the day. It’s a sought after destination for tourists and kawaii girls no matter what day, but if you show up on a Saturday, anticipate that it could be a madhouse.

Seoul Hello Kitty Cafe (more…)

GOTHPUNK Shop, Searching for Goths in Seoul, and Experiencing Gwiyomi

May 19, 2014 | Posted by: rissvandal

When it comes to underground subcultures, there are a couple of things you may not have known about South Korea. Earnest, unironic ska music is alive and well (no really, it is), they have a unified hardcore scene, a small but incredibly alive and welcoming punk scene, but their goth scene is uh…kind of in the dark.




That being said, I was incredibly excited to recently find the dark clothing and accessory shop, GothPunk, located in Hongdae, Seoul. It’s a small but well-stocked shop full of goth import items from popular brands such as Kreepsville 666, Alchemy Gothic, Vivienne Westwood, Anna Sui, 6% doki doki, and h. Naoto, just to name a few. A goth clothing store is an incredibly unique find in South Korea. You’d be hard-pressed to find more than a handful of Korean people who have even heard the term “goth” before, and when I asked about local goth parties or meetups, D’arc, the owner of GothPunk laughed before he uttered the devastating words, “I think goth in Korea is done.”

DSC_0935As D’arc and I talked further, I started to get the impression that goth wasn’t so much “done” in Korea, as much as it’s lying dormant, due to a recession. GothPunk used to share the streets of Hongdae with another goth shop, Beetlejuice, but that storefront has recently closed its doors. Tak explained that he felt like traditional goth was over, but that’s not to say a new incarnation of the subculture may not reemerge. (more…)

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