Spiral Cats. How and why. Here is the simple answer.
The famed cosplay group burst onto the scene a few years ago, and with their picture perfect costumes, professional quality photos, and that subtle charm called allure, people began to take notice online, which coincided with Spiral Cats' initial goal of raising awareness of the skill of Korean cosplayers. Later, they were invited to represent South Korean cosplay at the international level. By then, their reputation as the cream of the crop was sealed. Now, game companies offer them promotional jobs during gaming events, meaning Spiral Cats has turned its cosplay into its business.
Just who are these people?
In short, I agree with the rest of their fans that they are a group of extraordinary young women, on a mission to reap the heart-crystals of human beings to power their magic ritual to awaken The Ultimate Cosplay. A little bit of internet browsing will illuminate that truth when someone posts new pictures by Spiral Cats, eyes glow and they are revered like the messengers of the gods of ancient Egypt, a distant stranger to us all. As I said, it's a simple answer.
There is also a more complex one. Let us for the moment assume it's possible that the members of Spiral Cats are not super-dimensional beings whose sorcery have enabled them to sail to success, but are in fact people. Therefore, the foundation of Spiral Cats' ability to connect with the hearts of their fans must be found in ordinary things, like work schedules, hobbies, and their personal dreams.
In writing about connecting with people, it seems appropriate to start with the subject of names first. "To Spiral Cats," I translated, "my name is Chi Lee, and I'm from Kotaku, an American game and culture site." Was Spiral Cats interested in doing an interview? A few days passed, and then I received an email from someone named Oh Go-eun. She introduced herself as the team leader of Spiral Cats. "Send me the questions," and at the bottom of the email, a custom signature linking to Tasha's blog. I sensed courteous reluctance. I sent Tasha my questions anyway.
You, dear reader, may know that Kotaku has a readership of millions of people. As far as internet publications go in the English speaking world, Kotaku is a not insignificant name. What does any of that matter to Koreans? Not a jot. For all that Tasha knew, I might as well have been asking her for help accessing the money I inherited from my cousin, the Nigerian prince. I was hoping the quality of my questions would be persuasive enough to substitute credentials. You know, I had questions like "What do you enjoy cooking?" and "If you were a cat, what breed would you be?" It's a valid question, that. I was born in the Year of the Tiger, so I imagined I had a strong affinity with cats [Panthera tigris is a solitary animal].
A week went by, then two weeks. No response. I reasoned that I had to prove to Tasha that I wasn't the cousin of a Nigerian prince. In order to do that, I sent another email. I wrote that I wasn't interested in conducting a simple question/answer interview, since I was better than that. I declared my supreme confidence in my ability to write an engaging article about Spiral Cats. Finally, I linked her to two of my writing samples from Kotaku.
Haven't you ever noticed the change in the degree of pride in a person who is talking about his own field of expertise, no matter how modest the person is? And you feel as if you've seen that person's true nature? I flattered myself that it was my arrogance and narcissism that convinced Tasha that I was a real writer, because when I checked my inbox on a Tuesday morning, March 13, there it was. This level of reasoning is possible for Chi Lee. What do you think, everyone? That ordinary morning suddenly became very colorful as I read through the email.
Tasha's writing style is direct, and she answers questions in a clear, practiced manner. Tasha must have answered these same questions countless times. I started with "Can you introduce yourself?" and the ilk. The four regular members of Spiral Cats are Tasha (Oh Go-eun), Miyuko (Kang Yun-jin), Ren (Lee Da-yeong), and Tomia (Kim Jung-hoon). The team photographer is Sinme (Kim Tae-sik). When asked how they all knew each other, Tasha replied "Ren, Sinme, and I have known each other for 10 years. Tomia and Miyuko joined our team later." I asked about the group name, and she said "Some of us used to be in game development, and one of our projects was called Spiral Cats." The name stuck. While Ren continues to work as a game developer, Tasha and Sinme quit game development to focus on their cosplay work. Tomia and Miyuko are still students. Before 2010, the Spiral Cats members did cosplay for fun, but now, all of them model for game companies as a professional cosplay group.
That done, I finally got to the more specific questions, and the first few were about the individual team members. I didn't know if they were doing this interview by themselves or as a group, but I was fishing for variety. My first question in this category was the cat question, which was my sly attempt to Sailor Moon-ify them. I asked "Do any of you own cats? Do any of you have allergies to cats? What kind of cat are you? Which one of you is the fluffy kitten and which one is the tiger? How does this individual personality come across in your cosplay and your photos?" As you can see, I was going to write part of the article around the cat motif, cleverly weaving in their history, positive cultural significance, negative social connotations.
"Our team members love cats. 'Cats are better than dogs' is what we think in general." That's a super ultra great delicious wonderful A+ ego-killing counter maneuver. I fancied a little anime cat smile behind that reply. :3
With my tail between my legs, I read on. I was pleased to find that I had remembered to ask some easy, normal questions, such as favorite games, anime, and hobbies. Tasha wrote "All of our team members are deeply engrossed in League of Legends. We all love One Piece!. Who doesn't? Individually speaking, I like The Five Star Stories, Miyuko likes Natsume's Book of Friends, Ren likes the Macross series, and Tomia is a fan of Ito Junji [horror manga artist]. Not counting cosplay, our individual hobbies include jogging and exercise [Tasha], knitting [Miyuko], drive [Ren], and gaming [Tomia]."
I see. Tasha and Ren gave similar answers about anime/manga, but so did Miyuko and Tomia. Natsume's Book of Friends and Ito Junji's work both go straight to the heart. One warms the heart; the other brings a chill. Also, I would say Ren is too young to start on the stereotype of Asians golfing for business, so I'm going to assume she means driving cars when she says "drive." All that was written was the Koreanized "deu-ra-yi-beu." In parentheses at the end of that section, Tasha wrote "Tomia is an Aion maniac." No problem there, we're all gaming maniacs at Kotaku.
They humored me with the cooking question. "We have confidence cooking these foods: Tasha – curry rice; Miyuko – miyeok guk; Ren – spaghetti; Tomia – kimchi fried rice." If you'll excuse this Hideo Kojima-style aside, miyeok guk is a traditional seaweed soup that people make for birthdays. It is not only nutritious and delicious, but it is also pleasantly alliterative and nearly homophonic with "Miyuko." Incidentally, Spiral Cats is having a birthday celebration event for Miyuko in April over at Facebook with a design competition.
"What is the secret to your success?"
"We've been doing this for six to twelve years. I think it was all that experience that paid off. I believe that we can project our love for the character that we cosplay through our pictures. However, just because we love our characters and work doesn't necessarily result in pictures that everyone can appreciate. You must analyze and understand the character to be able to justify your own interpretation." I learned that the Spiral Cats members spend more time in meetings planning out their cosplay than the time it takes to make their costumes.
The members of Spiral Cats work hard to show that cosplay culture can be wonderfully bright. 'This is for kids, this is for losers, this is for otaku.' They're aware of the negative social prejudices attached to cosplay. "What about your family? What do your parents think about cosplay?"
"At first, they resisted strongly, but they support us," Tasha emphasized, "All of our parents support what we do."
"Is Spiral Cats a family? Tell me about how you work as a team."
"Our bonds are as strong as any family. When we pick a character, we ask who will be that character, who will do support; fabric, patterns, props, and wig colors, we decide on everything together. I believe that the best results come from listening to each others' opinions and through discussions." Tasha wrote that Spiral Cats did interviews as a team.
What did their futures look like?
Tasha: Since I'm working in the field of cosplay, I want to be the best there is. I want to see that Spiral Cats rises to the top.
Miyuko: I'm saving up to start a maid cafe business, but right now, I'm focusing on cosplay because Spiral Cats has gained popular recognition.
Ren: I want to succeed at both game development and cosplay : ) Cosplay gives me the boost I need whenever work tires me out.
Tomia: Currently, I'm enrolled in college for costume design. I want to be a fashion designer, and my experience with Spiral Cats gives me lots of ideas.
Their future is bright; cat worship is in vogue. It looks like Tasha and Tomia are especially focused on The Ultimate Cosplay, but everyone in the team seems to have the drive to succeed.
Spiral Cats had been accommodating on this little fishing trip. They kindly took this time to answer my questions, and they showed a bit of their true natures without arrogance or conceit. From where I'm sitting, that's a good magic trick to learn. Specific images correlating to these four people come to mind, do they not? You may start to feel you've met these these girls before somewhere, as family, or friends, or strangers on the street. Yui Makino expressed it beautifully when she sang "this is the miracle of our encounters" in Aria the Natural.
Okay, dear readers. I hope you enjoyed that, but the ship is about to row out into the vast ocean. Come now, wave your hands...
Wait, I squint. What's this post script?
"Hello. I apologize for the lateness of the reply." My eyes widened. "We've been so busy with promotional stuff ㅠ_ㅠ that I was only able to collect these answers and send them today. If you need me to clarify anything, let me know." There was a custom signature linking to Tasha's blog.
Spiral Cats proves that narcissism fails. ORZ