Masumi & Doll: Dress-Up Game Epic Level

Masumi, as Eight from Final Fantasy Type-0.

Masumi, as Eight from Final Fantasy Type-0.

With enough girls dressed as Japanese cartoon characters, Michishige Masumi could overthrow the Old Republic and bring peace and security to her new Empire.

The cosplay adept and nerd circuit personality met with Florida Geek Scene on the windy day before Thanksgiving to talk about her geek activities. In her late twenties, 5’5”, slender, wearing a stylish women’s trench coat, a soft hat, and barrettes with kitten ears, she speaks with a girlish voice and is more feminine than a stack of Cosmo magazines with a Cosmo standing on it. She also has the tenacious and unbending will of a good crowbar, which is necessary for the maintenance of the gorgeous extravaganza that is her public life.

Masumi-chan drove me from Orlando to Lakeland. We waited a few minutes in a cupcake store, and then autumn blew one of the High Goth Court through the door. Twenty years old, 5’6”, with heavy long black hair, black boots, and a fitted black jacket with blacker ruffles emerging at the cuffs, her poise and style made her stand out from the mundane crowd in a Lakeland shopping plaza. Of this specter, Masumi said, “This is my minion, Doll.”

“Everything I learned is from this beautiful woman right here,” Doll grinned.

“Hmm,” Masumi considered. “Not everything. But the newest.”

Masumi likes to dress like a Japanese girl on a visit to London in 1885. Doll likes to dress like the princess of the graveyard. They work together beautifully.

Masumi as Harley Quinn, left, Doll as Poison Ivy.

Masumi as Harley Quinn, left, Doll as Poison Ivy.

As Neverland Mermaids.

As Neverland Mermaids.

If you go to cons, you have almost certainly stared at one or another of Masumi & Doll’s avatars. They’ve paraded through MegaCon, Spooky May-Hem, and Spooky Empire in Orlando, MetroCon in Tampa, Mizucon in Miami, and other events around the country. “I just went to BlizzCon earlier this year,” Masumi said. “Hello Kitty Con I went to the week before that.” Both shows were in Los Angeles. But she added, “Dragon’s the ultimate convention for us.” All nerd roads lead to Atlanta.

They model a wide variety of cosplay creations. “Pretty much anything that has to do with anime, scifi, video games, you name it, we wear it,” Masumi says. Along with Lolita wear, “a modern, Victorian, Rococco type of wear” that defines a fashion subculture from Japan that Masumi admires very much.

Lolita Fashion. Masumi, left, in a Blue Pooh Bear Hime jumperskirt that she designed. Doll in a jumpskirt by Baby The Stars Shine Bright.

Lolita Fashion. Masumi, left, in a Blue Pooh Bear Hime jumperskirt that she designed. Doll in a jumpskirt by Baby The Stars Shine Bright.

Masumi herself is not Japanese, and Doll was not made in a toy factory. They use stage names. “Only because we have lots of creepers.” Masumi said.

I said, “I understand. It’s an uncertain world.”

Masumi’s answer was flat and serious. “No, what’s certain is creepers.”

Masumi & Doll aren’t just the models – they’re also the makers and the artisans. They buy the cloth, then cut and sew it themselves. They even sometimes make the patterns. When you look at this pair, you are looking at a theatrical presentation they built from the ground up. Masumi says, “We make a lot of our own stuff. A few times we do buy things, but it’s mostly when we do it just for the fun of it. Because making stuff takes a lot of time.”

“And money…” Doll added softly.

“And money!” Masumi laughed. “It all takes so much money!”

Kodona and Lolita. Masumi is on the left.

Kodona and Lolita. Masumi is on the left.

Where does the money come from?

“We pretty much eat ramen!” Masumi laughs out loud. “Not a joke! It’s true!…People think that we have extravagant fun lifestyles, but we don’t. Because we don’t go out. We’re hermits, because we’re working on our sewing stuff, or the cosplay stuff. What money we do spend, it pretty much all goes into the conventions.”

That dedication makes Masumi & Doll rising media personalities on the nerd circuit. They ran the cosplay programming at Mizucon in Miami in 2014, and they’ll be doing the same thing for Anime Weekend Atlanta in ’15.

They even have sponsors: Anime Remix, Exotic Lenses, and Surreal Makeup. Doll happened to meet the Surreal Makeup people at ShadoCon a couple of years ago, and got their sponsorship. That quickly spiraled into a job making YouTube demo videos for the company under the name PastelPunk. She is an animal lover who is proud that Surreal Makeup is a vegan product.

But YouTube personality is just one of Doll’s sidelines. “Me and my father, we work on cars,” she says. By which she means that they restore hulks long crushed by time to showroom life. They recently finished restoring a 1932 Ford, a machine that was first built more than four of her lifetimes ago. Restoring cars is a lot like cosplay – a long-term team effort that can break your heart with its demands and its beauty. Doll says about both endeavors, “If it’s not for both of us pulling our weight, together, it wouldn’t get done. So, it’s all about teamwork.”

Masumi agrees that teamwork is the key. Otherwise, “Nothing would get done, because we’d be busy watching anime and binging on popcorn and bad stuff.”

One suspects that Doll never sleeps. She is a cosplay adept with sidelines as a college student, a YouTube personality, a gearhead, and, incidentally, also plays the violin. But she got started on the cosplay very early. Her family has a picture of her as an infant in a onesie vampire costume, with fangs on the pacifier.

“For my first Halloween costume, my dad dressed me up as a little skunk,” Doll says. “That was my first Halloween costume! I actually thought it was a kitty kat, when I was little, with a stripe going down its back.”

As a little girl, she says “I would even wear my Disney princess dresses over my overalls to school. It pissed off my teachers so much.”

A shy middle school girl’s retreat into anime from the fraught world of adolescence led to Doll’s first adult cosplays, as characters from her favorite animations. And from there her involvement took off.

Masumi’s sideline from cosplay is more cosplay, and feminist politics. In contrast to Doll, her family did not encourage the game of dress-up. “When I was a kid,” she says, “my mom would refuse to let me celebrate Halloween.” She objected to it as a devout Christian. In time, that rule was loosened. “The first couple of Halloweens she did let me celebrate, I had to pick a character from the Bible.”

Masumi went to her first con in high school, in the early 2000s. Stunned by the cosplay she saw all around her, she begged a friend who went with her never to let her dress up like that. If I do, she instructed, backhand me.

Masumi felt the wind of the wings of her cosplay madness even then. Why else would she appeal to her friend for help? But all the most interesting people have a magnificent obsession; and when it finds you, there is no fighting it. Two years later, Masumi was back with her friends in a group cosplay based on the “very scandalous” manga, The Sorcerer Hunters. “Very scandalous” meaning sexy. Her mother stepped in again, demanding changes to make the costume less revealing, and consequently less recognizable as the character.

But then Masumi-chan wandered out of the costuming department for a while. After high school she joined the military. She moved to New York for a time. She sold her costumes and started a small business selling Lolita fashions.

At the same fateful ShadoCon where Doll forged her relationship with Surreal Makeup, Masumi was just getting back into Florida cosplay after her long hiatus in the service and then in Gotham. Doll was there dressed as Lili from TEKKEN, the video game. And she could not take her eyes off Masumi.

“I was in love with this Lolita that she made,” Doll says. “She made this beautiful little witch Lolita. And at first I was really shy to go up to her, because I was like, ‘She’s going to think that I’m a creeper’, I’m just staring at her and thinking, ‘Oh, God, she looks so cute, let me touch your hair.’” Both women laugh.

What? Doll? A creeper?

“Oh, Doll’s a creeper,” Masumi says. “In her own special way.”

It would be totally awesome if she would creep on me this Christmas! Doll in her Barbie-inspired, Masumi-concieved, holiday Lolita dress.

It would be totally awesome if she would creep on me this Christmas! Doll in her Barbie-inspired, Masumi-concieved, holiday Lolita dress.

But Doll worked up the courage to approach the Neo-Victorian witch. Soon, Doll was commissioning Masumi to build her a genderbend Pumpkin King – a Jacqueline Skellington. “And come to find out during the sewing process,” Masumi says, “she didn’t have anyone to be her Sally. And the original artwork that it’s based off of, from NoFlutter, has a Sally in the photo.” Masumi was stunned. “And I was just like, ‘How can you be Jack without Sally?’ And after a few months I caved, and I became her Sally, and we’ve been cosplaying together ever since.”

The costumes that started a partnership. Masumi on the left, as Sally, Doll as J. Skellington.

The costumes that started a partnership. Masumi on the left, as Sally, Doll as J. Skellington.

So we can see that Masumi’s mom’s pious plan to keep her daughter out of Halloween costumes has backfired catastrophically.

About that J. Skellington commission. If you would like to dazzle on the cosplay floor, you can contact Masumi to create a costume for you. Email her at masumigroupstudios@gmail.com. She can do anything from tailored patterns to Worbla armor and Smooth-On arrangements, and she can do it beautifully, as you will see in these photos of Masumi & Doll.

Masumi, body-painted as Poison Ivy by Mythica, Who later became a contestant on the television show Skin Wars.

Masumi, body-painted as Poison Ivy by Mythica, Who later became a contestant on the television show Skin Wars.

Doll, as Painted Doll from the film Devil's Carnival.

Doll, as Painted Doll from the film Devil’s Carnival.

You can also find Masumi at the following links:
www.facebook.com/masumisenpai
http://michishigemasumi.deviantart.com/
http://masumigroupstudios.storenvy.com/

And Doll at https://www.facebook.com/DollLolitaRose

Look for Masumi on Instagram and Twitter as Masumi Senpai.

 

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Brian Downes
Author: Brian Downes View all posts by

Brian Downes is a writer who lives in Orlando, Florida. His novel, The Berlin Fraternity, about a man who hunts vampires for the Third Reich, is available on the Kindle and through Amazon.com. He enjoys pen and paper roleplaying games and geek culture. He clearly remembers waiting for The Empire Strikes Back to hit theaters, and vindicate his opinion that of course Vader was not Luke’s father. You can’t trust Vader’s word!

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