This month's writeup is sponsored by Rose of Battle.

$1+ March Writeup: Manaka Iwai (AI: The Somnium Files)

Very excited to talk about having completed and worn Manaka! While this was a bought-and-modified costume, there are enough modifications and details I’d like to share that it’s worth its own writeup.

Please note: There are like, just, SO many spoilers ahead. If you haven’t finished AI: The Somnium Files yet, please do before moving forward!

FM-Anime This wig was an easy choice because it’s what a few friends have used for their A-Set and I wanted to match. However! This wig doesn’t even come out of the bag ready to use as A-Set. For one, the bangs weren’t cut. For another, the pigtails were fairly wavy. I found another surprise in the shorter layers of the wig that taper off around the curve of the head. It didn’t end up presenting a problem, but I was a bit surprised since most wigs I work with typically only have shorter wefts for volume underneath the longer wefts on top. While I did use the straightener and a wide tooth comb to help straighten this wig, I also used a steamer to speed up the process.

Aqua dress
Tan underdress
I chose a nightgown for the aqua dress since Manaka’s only scenes take place at night, in addition to the fact that the style simply resembles what I’d think of as “nightgown.” The tan underdress had to be something tighter, so I went with a bodycon style. As you’ll see below, that ended up working out well for something I added to the costume!

Each dress needed some modification. The aqua dress needed slits on the side. As expected, the garment was serged together, so when I undid the stitches, I needed to redo the serged edges before folding them under and topstitching lines on top. I was shocked by how quickly this process went. Honestly, the thing that took the longest was probably seam ripping. For the tan dress, my tiny shoulders strike again. I folded the strap over to reduce the amount of work. Being that it was an underdress, I wasn’t concerned about the bulk.

You know ‘em, you (should) love ‘em, Naturalizer Women's Flexy Ballet Flat.

Friendship bracelets
A friendship bracelet is both part of Manaka’s overall look in her (one) sprite and something that appears in Hitomi’s somnium as an important item.

I made these bracelets waaaay back in 2021, just about a year ago, in anticipation of cosplaying both Manaka and Hitomi (or for the next time Ali wore Hitomi). You can even see my nail in one of the photos showing my Manaka Iwai nail set!

I used to make friendship bracelets on road trips when I was younger, so I came into it with muscle memory. However, I used to make stripes, not chevrons like these ones. I ended up having to redo a good number of knots on the right side because they had to be tied opposite from the way I had been used to doing it!

For Manaka’s, I alternated three rows of yellow and green with six strands per color. The in-progress photo I have here is a draft because I forgot to take photos of the final. For Hitomi’s, the order was green, green, blue, blue, purple, purple, and white, mirrored for a total of 14 strands. And I only made one of these, how bold of me.

In making the friendship bracelets, I developed a headcanon. Obviously, Hitomi and Manaka are close friends in the narrative. Because the bracelet that Hitomi finds shows a more complex pattern, I think Manaka is the one who’s skilled in making friendship bracelets. Meanwhile, Hitomi opted to stay simple with her pattern, perhaps less sure of being able to keep track of colors or knots, or having less time for focusing on her studies. That tracks with my other ballroom dancer headcanons, where Manaka might be drawn to slightly flashier things. I love learning these things about characters while making the details of a cosplay!

“Pregnant” belly
By the time I realized I wanted to have a pregnant belly for Manaka, it was maybe three days before the con. Manaka is technically postpartum in the game, but we don’t have to acknowledge what happened next in the canon, eh?

I researched tutorials (this one being the one I modeled most closely) and searched for a beach ball. Well, it couldn’t be just ANY beach ball–I wanted to find one that resembled an eyeball. I wasn’t super hopeful I’d find one that was the right size for the right price that would arrive on time since it’s not October, but I did find something that would do! As suggested by the tutorial, I blew up the ball to be just a little full of air. The shape was what would be tricky. Because the ball I found was 16” instead of 12”, I found that there was a lot of wrinkling in the back. It was a little tricky to tuck it in just such a way that the wrinkles didn’t show. Instead of pleating fabric and sewing, I decided to use a tank top and safety pins to “lock” the ball in place. The stretch of the tank top combined with the compression of the bodycon underdress and the hold of my tights underneath made for a fairly convincing bump! Or at least it felt that way. I had some fun navigating my coat, the seatbelt, and bending over to pick up any object!

Overall, I really enjoyed making this costume and it was so comfortable that I look forward to wearing her again and getting some more photos soon.

Stay tuned for next month’s writeup, which will be a small tutorial for the wig I made for Sonia Nevermind from Danganronpa 2!

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