October 1, 2016

Area 88 Shin Kazama fighter pilot helmet

Good afternoon everyone!

Just to be clear: this is a post about a future cosplay that I will make and to which I have started gathering materials. I haven't set a deadline or anything because this costume will most likely take a few years to complete, depending on how lucky I am with sourcing some of the military items needed. Yes, I know that I have several other costumes started/unfinished (I'm bad at this :'c) but they will all eventually get done – some are set to be long-time projects anyway.

Oh and yeah, feel free to scroll past the introduction at the beginning if you only want to see photos of the helmet and don't care about knowing why this cosplay (and game!) is really important to me.

U.N. Squadron/Area 88 (Super Nintendo game) complete OST.

Have you ever had a series or a game etc that you grew up with? One that, although it might not have shaped you into who you are today, you remember very fondly and smile at just the thought of it? One that is tied to a lot of good and precious memories?
I have.

For me it is a SNES game called U.N. Squadron, or Area 88 in Japan. For many the game is probably unheard of but, for me, it has a big and irreplaceable place in my heart. When I was really young (probably 6 years or younger) I used to play on my big sister's Super Nintendo upstairs during any opportunity that I got – after school/daycare, during weekends, vacations and so on. Playing video games was one of my favorite pastimes. Some of my favorite games included well-known classics like Super Mario World, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Super Mario Allstars, Mario Paint... and then there was U.N. Squadron. The hidden gem. For those not in the know U.N. Squadron is a 1989 side-scrolling shooting game released by Capcom for the CPS arcade hardware and, later on, for the Super Nintendo.
Oh and yeah, it's worth mentioning that Super Nintendo was the first gaming console I ever touched and thus it created –and sealed– my big gaming interest. Officially sealed by Nintendo, lol.

Many years went by and I had almost completely forgotten about this amazing game and, honestly, once the Super Nintendo was put away, in favor of newer game consoles, I even forgot the name of it! I only had some vague memories of a really good "airplane shooter game" with awesome musics and it took me many years until I, by a coincidence, rediscovered the game – you can only imagine the wave of nostalgy and extreme happiness I felt when I found this pearl again!
So yeah, some time after that I learned that my much beloved fighter jet game is actually based on a manga/anime series that's called Area 88. Guess how thrilled I was with the discovery and I, of course, immediately had to check it out!
I found the OVA and the TV-series, marathoned them both and fell in love all over again. I quickly decided that I need to cosplay someone from this game/series because it holds such a special and tender place in my heart, from times before my life went upside down and hell broke loose. When I was young I didn't think too much about the game (except that I enjoyed it a lot, the music was badass and that it was really hard) but afterwards I realized that it resonated with me on many more levels and now I cherish it maybe even more than all those Super Mario games that I used to spend more time with. U.N. Squadron (referred from now on to as Area 88, for convenience) reminds me of my blissful and troublefree childhood that I wish so dearly that I could relive at times... and it also reminds me greatly about my incredibly strong, brave and inspiring big sister, who loved collecting model aircrafts as a kid. 
So yeah, Area 88 makes me remember my first home and the good old times before my parents divorced and I had to move to a new town where I got severely school-bullied. It's incredibly important and bears great value to me and, while unknown to most, this game to me is something different. It's like a reminder of that worryless life that I had as a child and that was taken away from me too early.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Okay so, after watching the OVA and the animated series I decided on cosplaying Shin, even though, funnily enough, I used to play with Mickey the most in the game. I thought for the longest time that Shin was a girl because of his hair on the game image. xD Shin just appealed to me more and I loved his character and how human he was. I knew before starting that I wanted this cosplay to be as close to perfect as possible, because I wanted to pay homage to this very important game/series to me. I was sure that I'd rather wait for perfection than be quick and end up with something half-assed. I knew it could, and probably would, be a long-time project that would end up being very expensive.

I decided on doing Shin Kazama as he appears in the OVA.
I started looking around for a suitable helmet soon enough (because I decided it could be a good point to start at) and realized that my best chance was to check out military surplus shops and pray for good luck... ridiculously good luck. I managed to find a few other Shin cosplayers online whose costume descriptions helped me out in figuring out what helmet models would be suitable etc; I also learned that just sourcing a good-enough base helmet alone could take years. I had a hum on what I was looking for but, of course, I couldn't be 100% sure because I'm not an aviation collector, enthusiast or anything – but I do have a rising interest in the matter. I guess I've always had it inside me but didn't realize it; I've always been fascinated about flying and aircrafts.
By some miraculous luck I managed to find a HGU-33 US Army pilot helmet (that's what it was listed as, don't quote me on that) that looked decently similar to what Shin is wearing. Best part was that I didn't even have to look outside Sweden or Finland, booyah! :D I actually wanted to avoid buying from outside Europe because of high shipping costs and customs/taxes.

Front. With visor partly down.
Back.
As far as I've gathered this model is not in use anymore and thus fairly rare to source. I sadly don't know too much about it just yet (I'm waiting to ask at a military forum for more information) but I'll hopefully mention any new knowledge that I gather in the next helmet post! This post will just be to show you guys a bunch of detail photos of the pilot helmet, before I do any modifications. I thought why not share some photos of it, in case someone out there, one day, is doing this same cosplay (although rare/unlikely) and stumbles upon this post. :) Aviation fans might also be interested, hehe.

The thing is that I'm not even sure if Shin's helmet is taken directly from the real world or if there's some artistic liberties taken on its design. I do know though that the series is surprisingly realistic (portrays existing fighter jets etc) and based on the 1970's and 1980's – it's definitely worth a watch if you're into war/aviation series, especially the OVA. It's one of my personal favorites and yes, I'm biased because of my childhood but sssshh. Seriously, check it out if war drama and realistic portrayals about how war affects the human mind is in your interest.

Side view.
The other side.
Seen from above.
Visor knob closeup.
Inside.
Closer look on the inside.
Ear cup closeup.
What appears to be a Gentex sticker on the inside.
Shin strap.
Shin strap, other side.
Closeup on the shin strap's adjuster.
What I assume is the holders for the oxygen mask.
Label on the backside.
Fun fact is that this helmet was waaaay out of my price range on what I'd ever be willing to pay for a single costume prop that's not even necessary for character recognizability. Honestly, it cost me 278 € on a sale (don't know if overpriced or not) and normally I'd never shell out that kind of money for a costume item – except for this one. Normally I don't even have that kind of money anyway, lol. That should tell you just how precious this cosplay is to me and how far I'm willing to go to make it look good and at least decently authentic; I just love Area 88 so much and I want to do it justice. ;u;

This is already my most expensive cosplay to date... and I only have the helmet at the moment, oops. This is one of those cosplays that I only have to briefly think about to get really happy, giddy and excited – do you know that feeling?
I can finally do a character from a game that played a big part in my childhood and it makes me so much more satisfied than any other cosplay from a come-and-go fandom. Area 88 stayed with me back then and will always stay with me – its place has been secured already in my heart a long time ago... and now it's time to show it to the world.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

That's about all I had to say for this time. I'm probably forgetting to mention a thousand things but oh well, that's why I can (and will) do another blog post. ;) Thanks for reading!

September 28, 2016

Lens review: I.Fairy Eclipse Blue

Yoo!

Today I have a circle lens review for you guys. ^-^ I will be reviewing the I.Fairy Eclipse Blue a really big dark blue lens. The print of the lens is like a mysterious night sky!

Let's get straight to reviewing, yo ~


Base curve: 8.6 mm
Diameter: 16.2 mm
Water content: 55%
Life span: 1 year (I recommend 6 months)


Already by looking at the lenses in their vials you can tell that these will be dark when worn, mainly because there's quite a lot of black in the design! I'm not sure if the print is supposed to look like something particular but for me it just looks like a dark blue sky. It's plain yet pretty at the same time.

As with any I.Fairy lenses these are really big and thus often need to be worn with makeup to not look weird. The amount of black in the lens further makes them appear big and dolly. But despite having a lot of black in them the Eclipse Blue doesn't fall into the "too dark for the actual color to show up" trap, which is a good thing because the color blends are balanced enough to appear dark blue in most light conditions. It's a pretty and rich deep dark blue.

One lens in.
Regarding comfort these were super easy to insert and were incredibly comfortable from the start. I don't feel them despite their size, except that sometimes I can experience a minor haze-like effect in my vision field – as if I was in a beginning mist, like a small blurring. It's nothing that has any detrimental value to the comfort scale since it's really minor.
I can quite easily wear these for several hours without anything really happening. I felt some slight bouts of dryness around the 2 hour mark, but that could also be because I've been staring at my computer screen non-stop. After 4 hours the lenses suddenly felt dry and that's when I took them off.

Lens photos ahead!
All photos taken by me during a September afternoon with a semi-clear sky. All close-up photos are free from color filters and such and that's so that the colors would be as true to real life as possible.


Apartment room light. Only natural light.
Bathroom light.
Flash photo.
White-ish corridor light.
Yellow corridor light.
Facing an orange light in the staircase, with my
back turned against a window.
Indoors storage room. Natural light from the side.
Outdoors, back against the sun. (aka facing wall)
Outdoors, facing the sun while being in the shadow.
Outdoors, facing sun.
The coverage is good and even for being a really dark-colored lens these, somehow, manage to blend nicely into my eyes to avoid the ugly "color clash" effect, especially on light-eyed people like me. I mean, sure that you can see where the lens begins but the fade effect at the pupil hole is surprisingly well-made. I was kinda expecting these to not blend in as seamlessly as they do and, even though a small amount of my real eye color is visible at the center, it's far from detracting in any way.

Distance photo!


Short summary:

Color: 7/10 

Captivating deep dark blue shade with black effects. Quite effectful.
Design: 7/10
The print is reminiscent of a beautiful and mysterious midnight sky.
Opacity: 9/10
The darkness makes these really opaque on my light blue-gray eyes.
Enlargement: 9/10
Biiiiiiiiiig eyes. Gives a distinct dolly eye effect.
Comfort: 7/10
Pretty good. Really comfy, except that they sometimes slightly blur my vision for a few seconds. Could wear them for 4 hours before they started to feel dry on my sensitive eyes.
Naturalness: 3/10
Too big and dark to really look natural on my eyes at least...

 Thanks for checking out this review!

September 21, 2016

Lens review: Princess Pinky Twilight Blue

Hello pipol ~ 

Today I will review an ice blue circle lens, namely the Princess Pinky Twilight Blue! I bought these lenses several years ago (one of my first pairs, to be honest) and I've been saving them for a specific cosplay but yeah, they expire really soon so I can't wait much longer without opening them. ^^" I originally bought these lenses to use for an Original Character of mine, but I also planned later on that these could work for Gin Ichimaru from Bleach etc. But hey, let's get to the review!



Base curve: 8.6 mm
Diameter: 14.5 mm
Water content: 38%
Life span: 1 year (I recommend 6 months)


Back in the days, when I started cosplaying, these were the lenses that everyone seemed to recommend to you online if you needed really ice blue or light blue cosplay lenses. The Princess Pinky Twilight Blue were one of the few, if only, actually good super light blue lenses in the market that weren't crazy animation lenses. Needless to say these lenses used to be rather popular from what I've gathered but yeah, now that they've got competition I'm not sure if they've lost their rave position in, at least, the cosplay community. They used to be the go-to ice blue colored contact lens for cosplayers, despite being infamous for their poor comfort – I'll tell you more about that soon!

But yeah, the design is surprisingly natural-looking, except for the obviously light color. It seems to try to mimic a real iris and the effect is really flattering and pleasant. Closest to the pupil hole there's some yellow and I think that's great because it makes the lenses blend more seamlessly into my real eye color, which is a light blue-gray. I think that it would have "clashed" more if the lenses didn't have the yellow inner part, if you know what I mean. They are quite realistic in terms of design – the color, not so.

One lens in.
The thing that these lenses have going for them is their color and their small size, which makes them ideal for cosplaying male characters and whatever other characters that simply doesn't work with big dolly eyes. So even though there are now other vibrant light blue lenses out there, like the I.Fairy Moonlite Blue, the Twilight Blues still appear to be the only choice for those who really don't want big lenses, for whatever reason. At least I haven't found any ice blue lens that is just as small as these.
I should also note that despite having a stated diameter of 14.5 mm these certainly don't look that big and that's because, upon closer inspection, you'll notice that the design is actually printed quite far away from the edges – which makes the lenses appear notably smaller. The "true diameter" would be more like a 14.2 mm or something like that; note though that I didn't measure them or anything, this is just me spontaneously comparing them in my mind to other small lenses I've had.

Lens photos ahead ~
All photos taken by me during an September afternoon with a semi-clear sky.
There's no color filters or such on the close-up photos and that's so that the colors would be as true to real life as possible.

Facing the window in my apartment, sun side (cloudy).
Apartment room light, only natural light from the window.
Bathroom light.
Flash photo.
White-ish corridor light.
Yellow corridor light.
Yellow light in the staircase.
Standing in the staircase, with my back against a window.
Indoors storage room, with natural light coming from the side.
Outdoors, back against the sun. (aka facing the wall)
Outdoors, facing the sun while standing in the shadow.
Outdoors, facing sun directly.
Indoors, sideway view. (standing close to the window, cloudy)
I really want to like these lenses but the comfort is absolutely horrible. ;__; They are hard to insert because they are super thin, floppy and flimsy and yeah, these lenses basically "sink" into your finger (because of their thinness) when you try to prepare to put them into your eye; this also makes it incredibly difficult to figure out which side is the right/wrong side because I honestly can't tell the difference the print also looks the same on both sides. When I try to clean these lenses they fold all over the place and yeah, really flimsy and hard to handle. :/ But despite them being extremely thin they still feel appalling to wear – I had problems with getting them into my eyes and, once I did, they were really uncomfortable from the first second... and it didn't get much better afterwards, either. One of the lenses even folded the upper part of it while inside my eye and yeah, it took a while for them to "set". Really troublesome.
The right lens was incredibly uncomfortable and scratchy and I just wanted to take it out as soon as I put it in; the discomfort didn't go away even after I cleaned and reinserted the lens several times. The left lens wasn't much better but at least my eye sorta got used to it
– the right lens kept feeling like shit though. It basically felt like the lenses glued to my eyes (a "pulling" feeling) and were overall just stingy, irritating and I could contantly feel them.
I honestly took them off as soon as I was done taking the photos, which means after approximately 30 minutes. I'd never be able to wear these for a convention day, maybe a short photoshoot at most; my rough estimate for wearing these lenses would be a maximum duration of 1 or 1,5 hours
– and that's if you're really stubborn and determined. They really aren't that far from unwearable and, I'm sorry to say, but I think there's some truth to why so many people have found the Princess Pinky Twilight series uncomfortable. :( I know some people have been lucky with the comfort of these but a majority hasn't. I guess I was kinda hoping to be an exception (wishful thinking?) but turns out these lenses are just as bad in comfort as everyone else is saying – it's really a bummer because they'd otherwise be great for cosplay. I'm so disappointed because I could have had a lot of use for these peepers... :|

Distance photo!


What can I say? I held up my hopes for these lenses, despite from what I've heard, but they really are as bad in the comfort department as people say – I can't wear these without really pushing myself to not take them off; already 30 minutes of wear was hard enough to withstand. So yeah, I really can't recommend these, unless you really need an ice blue lens that has a minimal enlargement effect and, even then, I'd say that these lenses fall into the "photoshoot only" category. They are not fit to wear for extended time and don't even think about wearing these to a full convention day... unless you're a hardcore masochist willing to take risks.
Sadly, the Princess Pinky Twilight Blue is the only really small light blue circle lenses that I know of so yeah, there might not be anything out there to replace them if the size is a critical factor for your costume...

Want to see these lenses in other colors? Check out these reviews: Brown

Short summary:

Color: 8/10 
Vivid yet realistic ice blue color that shows up well, without being overwhelming.
Design: 7/10 
Seems to resemble a real iris design, except a bit flashier. Flattering.
Opacity: 8/10
The colored areas are surprisingly opaque.
Enlargement: 3/10
Really small with only a slight size increase.
Comfort: 2/10 
Plain bad. I feel them clearly in my eyes at all times. Really scratchy and irritating to wear I took them off after 30 minutes because I couldn't stand them.
Naturalness: 7/10 
Despite the color these manage to balance on the fine line between unnatural and natural. The rather realistic print does factor in.

 Thanks for viewing and I hope you found this review helpful ~

September 15, 2016

Lens review: TheDollyEye BarbieDoll 400 Green

Meep meep!

I have a lens review for today's post! ^_^ I actually bought this specific pair many years ago (back when I started getting into circle lenses) because I was really drawn to the swirl design. The pair I'm talking about is the TheDollyEye BarbieDoll 400 Green! I've been kinda saving them for years, waiting to get some cosplay use of them, until I realized that the expiry date was creeping closer and closer. Oops! So yeah, I can't hold on to these babies forever and so I decided to play it safe and open them before 2017 kicks in ~

The thing with these lenses though is that they are kinda... confusing. I mean that in the sense that they go under surprisingly many different names; some names I've seen these lenses under include Dueba Windy Green, Dueba Candy Roller Green and a shortened form of their usual name BD400 Green. The original manufacturer is Dueba but my pair was rebranded under the TheDollyEye label, which also means that the "real" name would be Dueba BarbieDoll 400 Green, haha. So many names...

But now, begin the review!



Base curve: 8.6 mm
Diameter: 14.5 mm

Water content: 38%
Life span: 1 year (I recommend 6 months)



These were one of the first circle lenses that attracted me I'm a fan of swirly designs and these lenses really make me think about whirlwinds! Needless to say I'm really fond of the design because yeah, when worn it looks like one has cute mini tornadoes in the eyes. c: I also like how the black limbal ring becomes a part of the design of the lens and spins towards the center it's really pretty and mesmerizing somehow.

One lens in. Notice enlargement.
The color is a lovely soft light green that, surprisingly, despite its shade, doesn't disappear into my blue-gray eyes. I was honestly expecting these to just blend in too much and vanish but, luckily, that's not the case! The color is not super bold, vibrant or anything but it's definitely there and it sorta gives a kind and warm look to my eyes makes me look like a cinnamon roll, hihi. I also really like how the black lines make the lenses appear dreamy when viewed from a distance. ♥ There is still a slight risk though that in some poorer lights the lenses disappear into my light eyes and turn into a muddy greenish gray...

Comfort is not the best, at least not for me. :/ These lenses are easy to insert but for me this particular pair started to feel dry and itchy after about 40 minutes and yeah, as soon as 1 hour had passed I kept thinking about taking them off because I could feel that they dried out and irritated my eyes, not in a painful way but in a "I can't pretend I'm not bothered by it" kind of way, lol. I also found myself blinking slowly, in hopes of getting those sudden stingy feelings to go away. Sometimes my vision would blur slightly too but it's not bad at all. After 2 hours had passed I took them off because they felt dry; actually, already during 1,5 hours I really wanted to take them out, but I persisted until 2 hours. Please note though that I seem to have sensitive and dry eyes so yeah, take my experiences with a grain of salt since everyone's eyes are different.
Then again, my lenses would have expired on March 2017 had I not opened them so yeah, that might play a part with the rocky comfort.

Regarding enlargement these circle lenses are not tiny but they definitely won't eat up your eyes either. I'd say that they're rather average in size and, much to my enjoyment, these lenses work really well even without any makeup on! Most circle lenses I've had requires at least some basic eyeliner to not look off but these could rock the whole everyday lens route, haha. I think they're really versatile!

Lens photos ahead ~
All photos taken by me during a September afternoon with a semi-clear sky.
There's no color filters or such on the close-up photos and that's so that the colors would be as true to real life as possible.

Apartment room light, lamps on.
Apartment room light, only natural light.
Flash photo.
White light in the corridor.
Really shitty yellow light in the corridor.
Yellow light in the staircase.
Facing a weak orange-ish light in the staircase, back against
a window (natural light).
Indoors storage room, with natural light coming from the side.
Outdoors, facing the sun while being under the roof's shadow.
Outdoors, facing sun while it's partly covered by clouds.
Outdoors, facing sun directly.
Outdoors, standing in the shadow of the building.
Okay so, I totally think these cute lenses work for many different purposes; you could use them for cosplay, j-fashion and even as a daily or casual lens! The BarbieDoll 400 is a fun lens with a fresh color that you can just put on and go! These lenses forgive you on those days you want to wear circle lenses but can't be bothered to slather your face in products, hehe.
The design is attractive, magical and eye-catching but without being too obvious or cartoony the softness actually makes me think about nymphs, forest fairies or some other supernatural forest dwellers. I'd recommend these for anyone who likes whirly cute lenses that are versatile ~

Distance photo, yeah!


Want to see these lenses but in other colors? Check out my other review: Blue

Short summary:

Color: 8/10 
A soft light green. Really pretty and surprisingly visible. Reminds me of fairytale forest creatures.
Design: 9/10 
Gorgeous swirl design, it's like magical whirlwinds in your eyes!
Opacity: 7/10
Surprisingly covering. I was expecting the green color to disappear into my light eyes but it shows up, and nicely so.
Enlargement: 6/10
Average. Small enough to not look freaky without makeup on.
Comfort: 4/10 
Maybe it's just this pair but they felt dry already after approximately 40 minutes. Sometimes blurs my vision and might feel stingy. Really dry after 2 hours, had to take them off.
Naturalness: 6/10 
Despite the design and soft green color these don't come off as too unnatural. Actually works really well as a casual lens!

 Thanks for viewing and I hope you enjoyed this review! ^.^