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“I don’t even know what I’m gonna do up there,” said Ahnaf Sami, ill with heat exhaustion, to me as we conversed at stage-side in the Ninth Circle of Hell aka AnimeCon Sakura 2023 preceding his performance. What he did was steal the show, winning the whole damn contest by seizing first place! “Things are definitely much different now than they were when I started,” he remarks, having had the time to compose himself following the grueling experience. “The quality of conventions are beginning to deteriorate.”

Ahnaf Sami echoes a common concern among most in the scene, including myself personally (catch my review of AnimeCon Sakura for more on that!), voicing anxieties about the future with thinning crowds and fatal stagnancy. “Change is life,” he quotes Shaun Hastings from Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood. “When things become static, it means they’re dead.”

“Have video games been a huge influence on you?” I am tempted to ask for a reference. “Oh, yes!” Ahnaf excitedly answers. “Growing up, I used to watch a lot of anime, but it wasn’t until 2013 when I finally got a PC I got into pop culture full throttle. Gaming became a huge part of my life and I would spend hours looking at cosplayers from abroad as popular video game characters like Skyrim’s Dragonborn and Halo’s Master Chief – the latter especially fascinated me and got me interested in the art of cosplay, but I had no idea about the scene in Bangladesh.”

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Ahnaf Sami Cosplays

Ahnaf Sami Comes To Claim The Brass Ring!

At this point of the chat, the topic inevitably turns into a reminiscence of the golden years of the pop culture community in Bangladesh. “Dhaka Pop Expo 2015,” Ahnaf Sami walks me through memory lane, “that was my first. My cousin told me about it, piquing my curiosity and arousing excitement. Yet, with all the high expectations I had, the event still managed to blow my mind away!”

“I was so blinded by the thrill of being there, I did not even notice the cosplayers upon entering. Everything was a blur. Then, I made out a Naruto Sage Mode cosplayer and a Sakura cosplayer among the sea of humanity, opening my eyes to a whole new world! A thriving cosplay scene in my home country of Bangladesh,” Ahnaf Sami enthuses, “it was quite the sight to behold.”

“Like an addict, I needed more of that – seeing my favorite characters come to life. Soon, that was no longer enough. The addiction escalating, I needed to be them. December 2015, Dhaka Comicon,” he relates, “I show up in costume as Shino Abarame.”

“What was the reaction?” I inquire. “Oh, I still remember the moment like it was yesterday!” Ahnaf Sami beams. “Immediate recognition with people flocking to take pictures. I was elated, taking pictures of my own with other cosplayers whom I had been admiring from a distance.”

“The second day of the event was extremely pivotal for me as that was when I overcame my severe stage fright and performed with all of the Naruto cosplayers present. Surprisingly, I did not feel any fear at all! Being a massive fan of the title at the time, I followed up the appearance with four different versions of Kakashi Hatake alongside a few other characters from the franchise throughout the period between 2015 and 2017.”

Ahnaf Sami Cosplays

The Legend Grows…

“Early on, I would put the bare minimum into designing the costumes, but as the years passed, my addiction evolved. The feeling of crafting something with my bare hands, working on it and holding the finished product, the process hits me in a way I cannot describe in any manner. Although there was not much necessity for me to take commissions, I did so nonetheless from my friends to practice and that is when the fixation developed,” Ahnaf Sami explains. “To build something from a movie, anime or video game, bringing it from screen to reality is just a whole new ball game.”

Despite his active involvement in the scene for three years until then, even winning the award for Best Group of the Year at 2016’s Dhaka Comicon, Ahnaf Sami would not compete at any event as a singles participant before Comicon Dhaka 2018, doing so in the Dawn Guard armor from Skyrim to capture second place. Several more such accolades would decorate the cosplay art virtuoso but riding the wave of fortune would come a calamity.

“I cannot divulge any details, but it was around the inception of 2019 that I would lose someone very important to me and find myself in a pretty dark place. I was miserable!” he retells, his tone somber. “Chittagong Comicon would be happening soon then, sometime in February, so my mentor Shuvo Bhaiya encouraged me to take part there and get my mind off the incident. I took his advice and gave my all into the costume for the event, bagging the championship as Lawbringer from For Honor. I’ve had a newfound respect for the art of cosplay ever since, specifically its crafting discipline.”

“Now, I primarily consider myself more of a craftsman and less of an on-stage performer. I think I set myself apart from most others in the trade by making my own templates free hand from scratch instead of using Pepakura templates. It’s not easy, I am compelled to admit, however, there is a vast sense of pride felt when fashioning such intricate items rather than just copy-pasting them.”

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Ahnaf Sami Cosplays

Promise Of Future

Regarding the days to come and future endeavors, Ahnaf Sami states, “Never say ‘‘never.’’ If there is one thing I learned from the COVID years, it would be that. With no live events to perform at, I was certainly going through a lull and thought maybe my time in wigs and hard foam was over.”

“Even after the lockdowns were lifted, I attempted a project, but could not see it through till the end, demoralizing me further. I stuck to commissions for the most part. Then, seeing my friends compete in events post-pandemic and witnessing newer faces rise up to take the stage lit a fire under me, fueling me to make a triumphant return at 2022’s MegaCon as Shugoki from For Honor.”

“I would continue the streak of victories at the year’s Spooky Halloween Night and Deshi Geek Con as well as this year’s AnimeCon. I understood I had a point to prove to myself: I’ve always possessed the skillset to pull off all the techniques of my craft with precision, but I haven’t gotten the chance to do so in a way I can be proud of yet.

“Thus far, my favorite cosplays are my own portrayal of the Dragonborn from Skyrim and Yoshimitsu from Soul Calibur 5 which won me the championship at AnimeCon Sakura, but I believe my potential is greater. I’m not sure how long I’ll keep competing but I know I won’t ever stop cosplaying altogether. My only hope now is to achieve my goals while I am still in the game for which to happen, the community will need to elevate the playing field.”



Just another cluster of stardust tracing footprints upon the sand in the hourglass, a vain reach to grasp eternity. “We’re all stories in the end… Stories are where memories go when they’re forgotten.” — Doctor Who

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