Building a Better Alphonse

There’s no one right way to cosplay. Want to design your own costume and make it from scratch? Awesome! Want to purchase your cosplay from a retailer? That’s legit, too. Not interested in going all out, but still want to join in on the fun by wearing a few accessories? Madarame would tell you that’s okay as well!

But then there are those who take cosplay to a whole other level.

Crafty Fox and her father attended A-Kon 29 and, as they do every year, pulled out a cosplay that attendees of all ages love: a life-size, home-constructed Alphonse Elric suit. I sat down the father and daughter to find out how they designed the outfit and how it works.

Starting from Scratch

The inside of one of the legs still shows bits of the original Styrofoam

The idea for an Alphonse cosplay was hatched years ago when Crafty Fox attended her first A-Kon with her dad, Fuzzy Rocket. Supportive of his children’s interest in anime (and growing up on series like Speed Racer) and impressed by how respectful the con attendees were, Crafty Fox’s father soon put his skills to use (he has a degree in Physics and a hobby of building large, fast, high-powered rockets) in developing the costume for Alphonse. His experience working with composites like fiberglass, carbon fiber, and Kevlar came in handy in building the cosplay.

But as with any start-from-stratch process, it took time to develop. Fuzzy Rocket wanted to get the design just right, basing it on the character himself and not around a human body, which would give very different dimensions. He modeled it off of an 8-inch PVC figure, scaling the suit up to 7’4″. Once he moved to the construction phase, Fuzzy Rocket started out by building the entirety out of Styrofoam, sanding the insulation away to the shape he wanted, then covering it with fiberglass and ripping out the remaining Styrofoam. It was trial by error as there were missteps along the way. For example Alphonse’s chest was made three times before it was satisfactory.

And there’s more to the suit, too, than just what attendees see on the outside. As with a car, the frame is only one part of the outfit; there are mechanics inside as well, like fans that keep the temperature down. “We knew heat was going to be an issue,” Fuzzy Rocket explained, “So we got some USB-powered fans powered off a small battery pack that runs off of 12 volts.” Space in the armpits also provides air circulation, and the pair are cautious in hot weather. The 12V also works well because that voltage powers backup cameras, which are used by Crafty Fox to see out the cosplay.

Being Alphonse

When Crafty Fox wears the suit, it’s a bit like Martel hiding inside of Alphonse—she’s much smaller than the frame. The cosplayer’s arms don’t slide into the arms of the costume, which lie to the side; they fit instead into the chest area, creating a claustrophic feel that the wearer needs to overcome. And that’s not the only challenge. “It’s hard,” Crafty Fox admitted, especially in learning to walk on platform boots. “You’re standing on three to four inches of foam,” she explained while demonstrating the art of walking in the boots.

The entire suit weighs about 35 to 40 pounds. Crafty Fox wears a three-point harness, which puts that weight on her shoulders. “She can do it for 45 minutes to an hour at a stretch” before needing to rest, her father commented. Meanwhile, Fuzzy Rocket accompanies his daughter as a spotter “not so much to make sure she doesn’t run into someone, but to make sure that people don’t run into her.”

Being able to see is another challenge the duo had to figure out, since the top of Crafty Fox’s head reaches up only to about the shoulders of the suit. Although “it makes for good pictures with the helmet off,” Fuzzy Rocket had to figure out a workaround and decided on cameras, which Crafty Fox demonstrated: “I have a switch that allows me to look through the top camera or the bottom camera—I look through the bottom camera so I can watch my feet when I walk and through the top I can see people’s faces.”

More Than Fiberglass

It’s no surprise that con-goers become very excited when seeing this come-to-life version of Alphonse. Meanwhile, Crafty Fox is also becoming known for her other cosplays, including Celty and Papi, as she’s learned from her father how to work with fiberglass and carbon fiber (“I love it,” she expressed) and continued to develop her craft and create unforgettable costumes.

But the whole experience goes back to this: it’s not about the attention—it’s about family. Together they envisioned Alphonse, built him (originally for Crafty Fox’s brother, who still cosplays as other characters), and operate him, but he’s ultimately not the primary focus. The family anticipates A-Kon all year, traveling together to the convention to spend time together doing what they love. Fuzzy Rocket put it this way: “This is our family vacation.”

That’s the kind of support that makes this endeavor successful, the kind that leads to such care and commitment and an outstanding result. The Alphonse is a marvel, but maybe more so is the family that built it, with Crafty Fox’s final words in our interview hammering that sentiment home: “I can’t get over the fact that my family is so supportive and shares the interest that I have. I can’t believe that they agree to go to an anime convention with me. I can’t believe that they come every year and do this stuff with me and support me in this kind of hobby. I love it.”

You can follow Crafty Fox as she cosplays and bakes (!) on her Instagram account and Fuzzy Rocket as he shares his expertise on Reddit. Also, check out this short video showing something else in the suit besides a cosplayer.

3 thoughts on “Building a Better Alphonse

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