Quality versus Price Point for Kigurumi Masks

  • Let's face it, when it comes to Kigging - it can and will get pricey. This art form is not without its share of financial investment. What hobby or club do you know of that is "free" or has little monetary investment? Many sports incur some sort of cost like golf - shoes, clothing, golf clubs, lessons and green fees. Video gaming has a price tag - the electricity, the game system and controllers, the internet charges, the games themselves and the hundreds of hours spent in front of a screen.

    Between the different Kig cosplay outfits, the undergarments and its contraptions, the videos and photos to learn to mimic your desired Kigurumi character, the cost of attending various global conventions (travel, hotel stay, food, convention prices), and not to mention the coveted mask - Kigging can become an expensive adventure. Since this is my first exposure to the world of Kigurumi, I'd be lying if I told you that I knew how each of the masks are constructed and which is better. However, the one thing I do know, is when one decides to make this substantial financial investment - one better do his/her due diligence and homework. For as far as I know, the mask is the most expensive part of your entire Kig ensemble.

    Buying a mask on-line, sight unseen can be really hard to do. You can rely on referrals, reviews and ratings as this helps build one's confidence in the mask maker's reputation and that they aren't going to run away with your hard earner dollars. However, this will only lead you to making a purchase so far. The rest is based on a gut feeling unless you have been able to place several masks side by side from various Kig mask makers - touch and closely exam each piece. I'm particularly weary of people who push other people's product - it makes me feel like a used car salesman is trying to sell me something that isn't in my best interest. I would also become concerned, if they are going to get a kick back, finder's fee and/or commission for referring me. I want to know that someone who refers me to the appropriate mask maker; refers me based on the mutual understanding that the mask maker would fulfill my visions and my hopes for my character and NOT just for their own personal financial gain.

    So what did I initially look for? Aesthetics in the masks are extremely important to me. The proportions of the face, the tonal colouration of the face especially the eyes, and the quality of the wig pieces. These were the initial elements that really drew me in. Again, this was somewhat hard to determine because photos are only 2 dimensional. When I was able to see them in video form, this made things much easier for me to distinguish what I thought would be priorities in my decision making. Mask makers can generally provide you with information about their masks and walk you through the process of selecting and designing the best one for you.

    The one thing that is true in real life, and true to Kig masks - that eyes have it all. How welcoming they are has a lot to do with how others will perceive you and want to interact with you. Therefore, I'm not into strange coloured eyes and shapes. I want people to feel comfortable approaching me because I want to interact with them. If all I am doing is driving them away, then I feel like I've missed the mark of Kigurumi cosplay.

    The other component that I realize is really important is the Kig mask hair; especially for a female Anime character. I really love my Kig's hair!! But after seeing what a tangled mess some masks' hair can get into after the Anime North convention, I realized that not all wig hair is created equal. Likewise the placement of the wig hair on the mask head itself; in each creator's hands is not equal. I combed and brushed many many Kig wigs that Anime North weekend. Some were easy to detangle. Others, not matter what I did, I just couldn't cover spots of the mask underneath the hair. I might write something about Kig hair maintenance when I have some time - because this can be a subject matter all on its own. In summary, I feel that wig hair is an essential component to consider when making a purchase.

    Since my Ahri character has 9 tails at the back, I wanted to ensure that I could be photographed from all angles and look fabulous. I didn't want to have to worry about a bald spot on my head, or swinging my braid around and it falling out. I needed to ensure that Ahri looked gorgeous, top down and all around. For others of you, this might not be as important. However, if your Kig ensemble has special details on the sides or in the back, then you really should consider getting a mask that can be photographed from all angles and still look great; and NOT just from the front.

    It was great being at Anime North and seeing so many masks from different makers, because it was at that event that I could start noting the differences between other masks to my own. I realized that not all mask surface finishes are equal. Mine seems to have what I refer to as a porcelain finish and flawless. Others seem to have horizontal striations around the mouth and nose areas. I also became acutely aware that some side profiles of the mask heads didn't look balanced; especially in the eyes and upper cheek areas where it seemed to be "hollowed" out or flattened (this may be an artistic style). However, it just looked disproportional to the features of the character to me.

    I really appreciated that my padding in my mask were adjustable. This ensured the best fit for comfort on my head. Wearing a Kig head is not like getting fitted for a motorcycle helmet. There is a lot more attention to detail that is required. My mask completed enclosed my own head. However, there are others on the market that just strap on to cover your face, and not your entire head. Again, what one chooses depends on preference, price point and what your mask maker will do.

    Since I'd never tried a Kig mask on before, I didn't have a reference point for fit, comfort, weight, padding, ease of wear ability, and breathability. I was glad to see that my Kig mask was designed to fit my body's frame. I'm not 6' tall. I'm not 180 pounds. Therefore, a Kig mask that looks natural on me was another desired goal. The talented creator also took into consideration my head proportions when it came to eye placement in the mask. This was extremely helpful because the mask maker tried to increase my visual fields by maximizing the vision ports when I had the mask on.

    Generally I don't have anything negative to say about my Kig mask. I've been told that I did really well for my first time out in full gear. I would tell people to expect that the head does have some weight to it. My Ahri Kig mask has a lot more hair than I do so this was part of the additional weight experience. Hearing is also reduced because of the padding and the full head enclosure; Again, not an issue because I'm not trying to have a full fledge conversation while cosplaying. I think that these elements I will just get use to the more time I spend in character.

    In summary, I would highly encourage first time buyers to do their homework and research. The saying "you get what you pay for" holds true. Therefore, buy the very best that you can because in the long run - this will keep you happiest for the years to come cosplaying your character. There is a reason why Ferraris and Lamborghinis never go on sale. They've been around for a long time. They've put the time and effort into product development. This hold particularly true of experienced and gifted mask makers as well.

    P.S. Another term that is really important to understand is the meaning of custom, customizable and semi-custom. Each Kigurumi mask maker may use these words differently; but some will use them interchangeably. For me, something that is "custom" should mean that it is truly a ONE of A Kind - an absolutely original and that no one else will ever have the exact same thing. Something that is labelled customizable or semi-custom means that there are elements of the mask that can be changed or modified - but the basic shell is a repeated design.

    If I pay top dollar, then I would expect and anticipate that I have something that is 100% original and unique to my specifications. It's like buying an original work of art. However, calling something that is modified off a base where you can swap out the eyes and hair ISN'T what I would refer to as "custom". This should be correctly labelled as customizable and semi-custom. I suppose that if one wanted to stretch the truth, yes, they could call something customizable as "custom" because the eyes and hair was changed to the buyer's request. However, I as the consumer would find this not only confusing but misleading. Therefore, always confirm and clarify what you are going to be purchasing with your mask maker to avoid disappointment.

    Please comment below and let me know if I'm helping anybody out there...I'm still new to this world and welcome ALL feedback. I'll be posting pictures again really soon to this blog entry so check back later in the week.

    <3 as always from Ahri Lee's Diary

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Comments 7

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    Mimic -

    I chose my mask maker years back after doing lots of research on mask makers and their products. But now that the purchase is really close and I have to worry more about specification I also realize what risk is involved. While I know my choice of mask maker will give me a good looking product (as all of the masks produced look wonderfull imo), I don't know if it will fit. Since I had a conversation with someone involved in the early stages of its production cycle, I found out the mask had some vision problems early on. This had me worried although not worried enough to still follow up with my purchase. Although unlike most people I have worn a kigurumi mask from a different mask maker before and that one fit perfectly despide the owner saying that the padding still needed adjustment. And despite knowing this I am still willing to take the risk and order my mask from a maskmaker I prefer and hope my mask will turn out wearable.

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      Ahri -

      Have you received your mask yet? How does it fit and feel on?

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    Ahri -

    @renko - as it is an expensive hobby, I sometimes debate if one should just save up and get the very best from the get go, or do it in stages. If one does it in stages, then in reality you will end up with 2 masks and in the end spent more money.

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    Renko -

    This is a really nice writeup, i agree with pretty much all the points you make. I myself got a customized mask, because i couldn't (or didn't want to) buy a straight up TOP tier mask blindly, i wanted to know how its like to Kig. And that customized mask gives me exactly that but has a few things i need to work out, so if i get a new one, i will commision one really well made :)

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    Ahri -

    @asuka anderson - and this is why i've tried to write something as comprehensive as I could. You can't send a mask back once it has been ordered and some will certainly fit better than others. My fit is actually pretty awesome.

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    Asuka Anderson -

    Thank you ! This was very informative. I've been fascinated by Kigs for a long time. When I decided starting to kig, I soon was fascinated by Hikarinakas masks. I found them very special, so Nora became my first order. We never discussed the size at all. When the mask came, it didn't fit good. I had to work her over. Now she fits much better, but not perfect. Also the proportions are difficult, even though the mask is really beautiful. So the next mask will be better planned .. ..

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    victoria -

    My intial problem was there was no feasible way to pay the mask. So at firts I made mask myself. But then Hikarinaka came in. Her mask looked very different to my eye, and also she showed them in youtube. Since Russia is next door neighbor also helped but truly liked her style. so when it came to buy first mak i choosed her her