2023 Masquerade Competition Rules

All contestants must adhere to the rules as detailed below.

Masquerade Desk Hours

Check in at the Convention Masquerade Desk to get your official “Backstage Pass” and turn in any music that you need to provide. If you fail to check in, you will be dropped from the Masquerade.

Room 231B in San Jose Convention Center (SJCC)

  • Day 1 (Fri) 1:00 pm to 6:00 pm
  • Day 2 (Sat) 10:00 am to 6:00 pm
  • Day 3 (Sun) 10:00 am to 12:00 pm

Required Forms


There are two categories of awards that are judged separately: Craftsmanship and Performance. You or your group can win awards from both categories, but you must be judged during one of our Craftsmanship judging time slots to be considered for a Craftsmanship award.

Best Overall:

  • Best in Show, Performance
  • Best in Show, Craftsmanship

Performance (Skits):

  • Best Group, Performance
  • Best Individual, Performance
  • Judge’s Award, Performance
  • Judge’s Award, Performance
  • Honorable Mention, Performance
  • Honorable Mention, Performance


  • Best Master Group, Craftsmanship
  • Best Master Individual, Craftsmanship
  • Best Intermediate Group, Craftsmanship
  • Best Intermediate Individual, Craftsmanship
  • Best Novice Group, Craftsmanship
  • Best Novice Individual, Craftsmanship


We will have 2-4 judges total, specializing in craftsmanship and/or performances. Our panel of judges is empowered to make independent decisions on the awarding of prizes and recognition, and they are selected from the cosplay community to judge cosplayers. Each judge has their own unique skills and background, and they work collectively to determine awards.

Competition Rules

Performance Awards will be judged solely on your performance. We will not inquire about the origins of your costume and/or props.

Individual members of a Performance group (or the entire group) can also optionally be judged for Craftsmanship.

Craftsmanship Awards ONLY: any costume purchased or rented from an online store, costume shop, designer direct, or any other costuming resource is prohibited from entering the Craftsmanship competition. Any costume made for you by a designer or seamstress is also prohibited from entering the Craftsmanship competition. We do make exceptions for props, though additional credit will be given to handmade props. Just tell us the truth about your costume: that is what we appreciate most of all. If you are just learning and have only modified your costume you may still qualify for a Craftsmanship Award. Please just let us know. Our judges love new cosplayers. They are happy to give you advice and appreciate initiative and ingenuity.


  • Maximum performance entry time is two minutes and 30 seconds. You must get permission from the Masquerade Director if you need more time.
  • Maximum display entry (walk-ons) time is 90 seconds.
  • Nothing is allowed that would be banned in a PG-13-rated film. Actions, dress, and/or mannerisms that would not be allowed on a public street or thoroughfare must be avoided. Specifically, the following must be avoided: explicit sexual gestures, nudity, and explicit swearing. Violating these rules will disqualify you and possibly result in your being escorted off the stage.
  • No stage interaction with the MC, judges, or audience members is allowed. The MC will read the name of the entry, the names of the contestants, and a short introduction. Any narration to be read by the MC will be limited to 35 words or less.

Number of Contestants:

  • Up to 12 contestants are allowed to appear on stage at a time. You must get permission from the Masquerade Director if you need to have more people.


  • A rehearsal will be held on Sunday 10:00 am to 2:00 pm, in the San Jose Civic.
  • There will be sign-up times available at a first come, first served basis for the optional rehearsal. Each performance will be given up to five minutes to speak with the stage manager and rehearse on stage.
  • This is a courtesy rehearsal to practice entering, lighting, and music. To plan ahead, please check the Masquerade Stage page for more information.
  • Your music and/or video must be provided in advance via a Google Drive folder which will be sent to you via e-mail after online application or during in-person check in at the convention. If you do not provide us with audio or video, a theme song from your series/genre will be played.
  • Please select an entrance, lighting, and exit choice when you apply online or at the convention. If you do not make a selection, a standard entrance, lighting, and exit will be chosen. Example of running order: (Music start, 0:05 Lights fade up, 1:15 lights fade to black, fade music.)

Costume Rules

Please do not enter a costume at the 2023 FanimeCon Masquerade which was used for competition in a previous FanimeCon Masquerade (unless it is so heavily modified as to be almost a new costume). We do not mind if you enter a costume which was used to compete at conventions other than FanimeCon.

All cosplay entries must be in the following categories:

  • Asian film, such as characters from 13 Assassins (Japan) or The Flying Swords Of Dragon Gate (China) or 47 Ronin
  • Asian animation, such as Japanese animation (Spy x Family), Korean animation (Tower of God), Chinese Animation (A Herbivorous Dragon of 5,000 Years Gets Unfairly Villainized), or Asian-inspired anime like Big Hero 6 or Avatar: the Last Airbender
  • Asian comics, such as One Piece, Death is the Only Ending for the Villainess, or Doulou Dalu
  • Asian-origin video games, such as Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, or Street Fighter
  • Asian music stars, such as BTS
  • Asian-inspired sources such as Gothic Lolita
  • The rule of thumb is: if the series and/or character or inspiration falls outside of the above, it doesn’t qualify. We do make limited exceptions if the characters are presented in a related context (example: Kingdom Hearts). If you aren’t sure, ask masquerade@fanime.com

Craftsmanship Awards Only:

Please note that if you are only participating as a Performance entry and do not want to participate in Craftsmanship Awards, the following section does not apply to you.

  • If you would like to win a Craftsmanship Award, you need to be judged prior to the show on Friday or Saturday (Room 231B, SJCC), or Sunday (San Jose Civic). Please do not leave your judging to the last minute.
  • Awards can be retracted if competitors are found to be knowingly violating the competition rules by making false claims or deliberately not attributing the maker.
  • You can be judged for Craftsmanship as an individual, a group, or both. You can decide up to the last minute, even while being judged.
  • The Craftsmanship Judges recommend (but do not require) that each Craftsmanship competitor bring the following:
      • At least one color picture, preferably two, of each character and costume that the entry represents.
      • The judges also appreciate craftsmanship documentation diaries or online albums.

Craftsmanship Judging Times:

Select two potential time slots when you register for Masquerade. Please e-mail masquerade@fanime.com if you need to change your time slot. You will be assigned one of your two choices of judging dates and times based on the number of people applying for a time slot. We will do our best to give you your first choice. We will e-mail you a confirmation with your chosen time and date.

Safety Guidelines

Make sure you read and understand FanimeCon’s Weapons & Props Policy.

Masquerade Weapons & Props:

  • Any props must be described in detail on your application form. Please send your completed forms to masquerade@fanime.com.
  • Your prop must be easy to assemble and disassemble. You will have only a few hours before the show to have your prop stored by the stage. To plan ahead, see the Masquerade Stage page for more information on the stage.
  • Your prop must be easily movable. You will have 30 seconds (each) to get the props on and off the stage.
  • Props must be brought to rehearsal and stored onsite for the competition. FanimeCon will not be responsible for any damage or loss to a prop brought onsite. If you are concerned about being able to follow these rules, please contact masquerade@fanime.com to make special arrangements.
  • All cosplay/props must be disassembled and ready for transport directly following the end of the Masquerade.
  • Your prop must accompany the costume that you are wearing in order to be peace-bonded.
  • No firearms, airsoft weapons, or replicas of guns. No functional bows and arrows. Any prop guns must look like a prop from 50 feet away. This is for your safety and for the safety of our other attendees.
  • No live steel. Live steel is defined as swords, knives, or other objects made of metal, which can take an edge. Dull metal weapons are considered live steel, and therefore are not permitted.
  • No metal or wood bats, metal pipes, or long metal chains.
  • Any item that is designed or manufactured with the intent to cause bodily injury or death; any item that is illegal in the state of California; or any other item that appears dangerous or may pose a risk of harm will not be allowed on the premises. This will be up to the sole discretion of qualified FanimeCon staff.
  • Operating a prop to shoot an object of any material is not allowed at FanimeCon and will result in your peace-bond being removed.

General Safety:

  • Do not wear or use any substances that might ruin the costume of another contestant. If you are wearing body paint or makeup, make sure it will not come off in casual contact with others.
  • Do not leave anything on the stage that cannot be picked up by the stage ninjas in a few seconds.
  • Costumes must be self-contained. Connections to electrical sockets will not be available.
  • No fire, flash powder, high powered lasers, explosives, or open flames of any kind will be allowed.
  • Electronic flashes will be permitted, provided that you notify the Masquerade Director in advance. This must be announced in your MC introduction to protect those who might be affected by the flashing lights.
  • You cannot enter or exit the stage from any area that has not been approved by the Masquerade director or the backstage director. Jumping off the stage is not permitted.

We have a set staff of ninjas to help contestants; their primary function is the safety and smooth performance of the show. If you need to use ninjas as part of your performance to hold props or be part of the act, you are required to inform the Masquerade Director in advance at masquerade@fanime.com or bring your own. We highly encourage you to bring your own ninjas in these cases.

Audio & Video:

All entries must provide an audio or movie clip of a maximum of 2 minutes and 30 seconds for skits or a maximum of 90 second for display entries, with embedded music and/or dialog. If you do not have a clip, we will provide one for you. There will be a sound technician on call to assist you. We can accept a USB drive for onsite deliveries.

If you choose to show a video during your skit, it will serve as a replacement for your music track. Your video must play for the entire skit, fade to black, or to a logo for the rest of your skit. You must attend the Masquerade Rehearsal if you choose to use video for your skit. If you do not show up for the rehearsal, we will not play your video and will default to the audio-only version.

Video Format:

  • The screens in the San Jose Civic are 16:9 HD format.
  • We prefer a USB drive to download the file to our system but we will allow online entries, such as Google Drive or Dropbox.

Videos featuring real people are only allowed if they are participating members of your performance or they have signed the 2023 Release and Waiver of Liability. Please send your completed forms to masquerade@fanime.com.

Nothing is allowed that would be banned in a PG-13-rated film and we will review the video before we play it.