• Masquerade

    The Masquerade is a cosplay and performance competition, with one of the largest cash prizes in the country.

People from across the US compete in our grand showcase of cosplay and performance.


The Anime Expo Masquerade has been a longstanding tradition, running for over 25 years. The Masquerade is a cosplay and performance competition, with one of the largest cash prizes in the country.

Due to popular demand, the Masquerade is a ticketed event and requires a ticket to attend in addition to a badge. For more information, please check out the Ticketing FAQ.

Get Tickets

How To Enter

  • Read through the rules below for all important information about judging, contest, and performance guidelines and requirements.
  • Complete the Masquerade Contestant Application

    Application Closed

  • Upon notification of acceptance from Masquerade Department, prepare and send the following by May 21, 2019.
    • Audio: Any sound necessary to express your performance (i.e. music, pre-recorded dialogue, sound effects).
    • Background Image/Video: This image/video must be high-resolution and contain original, non-copyrighted material (See performance guidelines for more information).
    • Photos: At least 2 photos per costume from any angle, of any size, and at any stage of construction. This is simply to show that the costume exists or that work on it has begun
  • Maintain communication with AX Masquerade Volunteers via email.

    Contestants are expected to respond to emails in a timely manner (within one week). Any further instructions or confirmations will be conducted via email. Lack of communication could result in disqualification. If you are planning to go on vacation or be unavailable for a certain period of time, please be sure to send a notice to masquerade@anime-expo.org.

  • Finalize Masquerade Eligibility

    Secure a slot in the Masquerade after at least one representative of your group attends the mandatory at-con meeting at 10:00am on Date TBA.

    Questions or comments? Contact us at: masquerade@anime-expo.org

  1. Each participant must have valid an Anime Expo badge.
  2. Each entry must submit the following prior to the deadline:
    • Audio  (Microphones will not be available onstage for contestants to use. More details can be found in Performance Rules & Guidelines)
    • Photos
      • We require at least 2 photos per costume from any angle of any size and at any stage of construction. This does not count as your construction portfolio during your construction judging. These photos are simply to prove that the cosplay exists or that work on it has begun.
    • Background Image/Video: Contestants must submit an image or video that will be shown on the screen behind them during their performance. This image/video must be high-resolution and contain original, non-copyrighted material (See performance guidelines for more information).
  3. Masquerade Department has three different entry lists:
    • Primary Roster: Anyone who has shown interest and has provided information.
    • Master Roster: Contestants who have turned in all of their necessary information and agreed to a costume judging time.
    • ULTRA SUPER MASTER ROSTER! (USMR): Completed at-con by the Masquerade manager on the morning of Day 3 (July 3rd). After the mandatory meeting, contestants on the USMR roster are then guaranteed a slot in the Masquerade.
  4. At least one representative from each group must attend a mandatory at-con meeting at c the morning of Day 3 (July 3rd). Roll-call will be conducted at the beginning and end of the meeting. If there is not a representative from the group present, the group will not be eligible to compete. If there is a reason you cannot attend or will be late to the meeting, please contact the Masquerade Department as soon as possible.
  5. Each entry may only appear on stage one time. Each person may only participate in one entry.
  6. On stage rehearsals are not guaranteed. Please be prepared to adapt and perform without previous rehearsal time. If rehearsal time is granted please be on time or else you will forfeit your rehearsal time.
  7. Each entry is limited to a maximum of 10 cosplayers per group. Aids, escorts, and stage ninjas do not count towards the group maximum but should not outnumber the group entry. For special circumstances, please contact the Masquerade Office or email us at masquerade@anime-expo.org.
  8. All group leaders of each entry must check-in at the Cosplay Office in person on Day 1 (July 1) to schedule judging appointments. Contestants who have pre-registered will have preassigned judging appointments for costuming on Day 1. Upon check-in, contestants will receive additional updates, or, updated submissions of late paperwork and media files.. You may only check-in on the first day of the convention. Spots are reserved on a first-come, first-serve basis. We reserve the right to terminate entrees that check-in late. If you must check in on Day 2, please notify the masquerade department ahead of time.
  9. Limited At-Con/Late registration will be available at the Masquerade Office if space permits on Day 1. We reserve the right to refuse additional entrees.
  10. A total of 35 entries will be allowed to compete. In case of dropouts, the waiting list will be limited to 10 entries.
  11. Current AX Volunteers, employees of the SPJA, and anyone who was an AX Volunteer within the past year are NOT eligible to compete in the masquerade. This does not include Attendee Volunteers.
  12. While the Anime Expo Masquerade and World Cosplay Summit USA Preliminary are held during the same time, they are separate events with separate rules, regulations, and requirements. Due to the popularity of both events, Contestants cannot enter to compete in both under any circumstance. Anyone found to have entered both events may have an opportunity to choose one if there are available slots or may be disqualified.

Masquerade entrants are to apply to one of the following divisions: Intermediate, Masters, or Professional. These divisions are based on experience and skill; they apply only to the costume maker(s), not the wearer, as they are for construction, not performance. Based on the number of entrant applications that we receive, entrants to certain divisions may be limited.

Note that any contestant can be reclassified by the judges if they feel you are under-qualified or over-qualified for your declared skill level. You may appeal to be reclassified into another skill level. Appeals can be presented to the Cosplay managerial team but only one appeal is allowed.

Each category is further defined below:

  • Entrants with some experience making costumes and/or participating in a masquerade experience.
  • May have won a few awards at any costume competition. (Winning a previous award is not required to qualify for this division.)
  • May not have won “Best Intermediate” or honors of that caliber or above at any major costume competition.
  • Entrants with a high level of skill and/or highly-experienced.
  • May have won many awards or at least one high-ranking award at any costume competition.
  • Entrants who meet one or more of the following criteria:
    • Cosplayers who derive the majority of their income from cosplay creation (including commissions, convention appearances, photo sales, etc.)
    • Those with professions in costume creation (such as seamstresses, tailors, costume/fashion designers, or anyone working in costuming for film/TV/theater)
    • Cosplayers who have competed in and won Best in Show/Best Construction in multiple competitions within the last year.
  • Entrants in the Professional Division will not be eligible to win Best in Show.

Anime Expo usually does not count any Hall Awards, Judge’s Awards, or Honorable Mentions when considering an individual’s skill as a cosplayer depending on the circumstance.

If you need assistance, the AX Cosplay Volunteers can help place you in the appropriate skill level. Email: masquerade@anime-expo.org

  1. Costumes must and can be from any anime, manga, comic, graphic novel, or video game. (Cross-overs and mixed genres are also permissible)
  2. Costumes based on fan-art, custom creations, or a design that deviates greatly from the original source should reach out to masquerade@anime-expo.org to be considered for eligibility for the competition. These will be handled on a case by case basis. The Masquerade department reserves the right to deny eligibility.
  3. All costumes and props must be made by at least one member of the group to qualify for craftsmanship judging. Commercially acquired costume sets are still eligible for performance awards, but are not eligible for craftsmanship awards. Found, salvaged, or altered costumes and props are still be eligible for craftsmanship judging.
  4. All props must conform to  Anime Expo®’s Weapons Policy & Code of Conduct. Limited exceptions can be provided in extreme cases such as large mechas, multi-person costumes, or excessively large props.
  5. Costumes should be self-contained and self-sufficient. Connections to electrical sockets will not be available. Please secure your own escort if you have a bulky costumes that might require an aid to move or see. We will do our best to make sure every contestant appears on stage. If the costume is bulky, please be aware that we may not be able to get the contestant on the stage, but we may still let them perform. Please be prepared to walk up 4-6 stairs in the event that a lift or ramp is not available.
  6. Costumes that have previously won awards from a major convention (50,000 attendees or more) or costume contest are encouraged to compete in the Professional Division. Please contact the masquerade Department at masquerade@anime-expo.org for inquiries.

Masquerade participants can choose to do a group performance (dance, skit, color guard, etc...) or do a solo performance (monologue, color guard, dance, skit, etc...). Both solo and group performances are expected to be entertaining, while displaying the costume(s) and embodying the character(s). Please be aware that tech rehearsals will not be guaranteed. As such, please be sure to check through our technical requirements and guidelines to make sure that your audio and video files will play properly.


  • Adhere to the 2 minute time limit.
    • MC introductions will not count towards the performance time.
  • Audio: Any sound necessary to express your performance (i.e. music, pre-recorded dialogue, sound effects).
    • Must be comparable to a PG rating-- no profanity or offensive language. Bleeps or other forms of censoring are acceptable.
    • Should not exceed 2 minutes.
    • Must be MP3 format.
    • Must have minimum 192 bitrate.
    • Try to avoid audio quality defects (audible distortion, overdriven levels, low sample-rate/bitrate).
  • Background Image / Video
    • Must be one of following accepted file formats.
      • Video: MP4, MKV, AVI, MOV, MPG, or M2TS. (MP4 is suggested.
      • Image: PNG
    • Must have a resolution of at least 720p.
    • Can contain live-action footage, slides, or still images.
    • Must be original. CANNOT contain any copyrighted material. If you use a photo, you must have explicit permission to use the photo.


  1. All Masquerade contestants must follow the guidance and instruction of all AX volunteers.
  2. All Masquerade contestants must comply with the Anime Expo Code of Conduct, LA City ordinances, and comply with a PG rating.
  3. Any presentations with stunts, extreme or shocking performances must be approved by the department manager and assistant manager before the event. Failure to do so may result in disqualification and /or expulsion.
  4. The use of flash powder, fireworks, lasers, electrical flashes or smoke machines are STRICTLY prohibited unless cleared by the department manager and assistant manager.
  5. Any debris left on stage must be quickly cleaned by stage hands in less than 10 seconds. Interaction with the MC, judges, or the audience is prohibited while on stage.
  • Each contestant will be placed into one of the following classes: Novice, Intermediate, or World.
  • Contestants will have the opportunity to be judged for both construction and performance.
  • There is a total of 100 points possible: 50 points from costume judging and 50 points from performance.
  • Each contestant will be judged on a scale from 1-10 in ten different categories, five categories from construction and five categories from performance. Follow the links for and example of each judging form.
  • If a contestant opts out of costume judging, they will have lost 50 of the 100 total possible points and will only be eligible for up to 50 points for their performance.
  • The points calculation are as follows:

1. Tally each judges vote from construction (this is based on a perfect score, and a total of 4 judges):

a) 50+50+50+50= 200, performance 50+50+50+50=200

b) Add the scores together 200+200=400

c) Divide by number of judges 400/4= 100

d) Total score 100 points

To avoid bias voting, if a contestant and one or more of the judges have a personal relationship (friend, relative, boyfriend/girlfriend, or significant other) that judge will not be allowed to vote for that contestant.

2. Tally each judges vote from construction (Based on a perfect score and one judge being removed):

a) 50+50+50= 150, and performance 50+50+50=150

b) Add the scores together 150+150=300

c) Divide by number of judges 300/3= 100

d) Total score 100 points

Note to the Intermediate class: If a costume is bought, it is not eligible for costume judging. However, it will not count towards or against a group score. (Example if there are five people in a group and four costumes are made and one is bought) we will only judge the costumes made by group members. Please note: If your parents or grandparent help you make your costume we consider them part of your group, but they do not count towards the group total.

Note to the Masters class: If you want to enter a costume of your own creation on a model that is acceptable. Please note: Both you and your model should be present at the costume judging. This would be considered a solo performance.

Contestants are only judged on the skill level of their class (Intermediate or Master). Costume judging is not required, but it is recommended. Judges are looking for the principles, skills, technique, development, and style in the construction of the costume.

  • Costume judging is only worth 50 points out of a 100 point total.
  • Contestant must arrive 10 minutes before their judging time, and have with them all the elements of the costume.
  • If a contestant is late, without contacting the Masquerade department, a make up judging session cannot be guaranteed.
  • It is encouraged for the cosplayer to be in full costume for the judging session, but it is not required. Hair, make up, or props that do not appear for the the costume judging cannot be judged.
  • If there is special make up worn with the costume, we recommend you bring a picture of the makeup on the cosplayer so we can see the full effect.
  • Costume Portfolio: Entrants that intend to be judged should prepare a costume portfolio detailing the progress of the costume constructions. The costume portfolio should include the following:
    • Binder (no larger than 1.5 Inches)
    • Reference picture of the character
    • Progression pictures (minimum 2 per costume)
    • Captions (optional)
    • Fabric swatches (optional)
    • Brief background information of character (optional)
      • Title of anime, manga, or video game of origin
      • Why you picked the character
      • Any success or difficulties
  • Applying for the preliminary costume judging takes place after you physically enter the Cosplay Office on Day 1. Upon confirming your arrival, appointments can then be scheduled with our Masquerade staff for best available time between the judges and the group.
  • The entrants will be judged in the costumes they intend to compete in during Masquerade.
  • Any entrants who wish to compete for Craftsmanship Awards must submit to a preliminary costume judging. Any entrant who does not take part in preliminary costume judging cannot qualify for any Craftsmanship Awards or Best in Show.
  • Entries of any skill level may take part in for preliminary costume judging. The maker’s skill level will be taken into consideration when the costume is examined.

Click here to see a Sample Judging Sheet for Construction

Judging Scale - Construction

1-2 Poor: The cosplay is unimpressive and generally shows a lack of involvement or effort

3-4 Fair: The cosplay shows the discovery of skills and principles. Development is inconsistent causing variations in the look of the cosplay. Essential efforts are not yet understood and in some cases, are not even displayed yet. Adherence to style is not yet understood. The training process is still in a developing stage. Cosplay is incomplete and may limit the cosplayer’s opportunity to demonstrate skills and achievements.

5-6 Good: The cosplay shows the application of skills and principles. There are still inconsistencies with continuity and/or adaptability; however, the cosplay shows an effort to overcome that. It may be a work in progress, but the cosplayer has an adequate opportunity to demonstrate their abilities.

7-8 Excellent: The cosplayer’s show an understanding of principles and efforts and achieve a consistent degree of uniformity. The skill and execution are apparent and deliver an excellent cosplay over all. Techniques used show an ability to overcome the challenges of the cosplay in a way suitable to character and style.

9-10 Superior:  The cosplay shows a flawless execution of form and function. The cosplayer presents a clear understanding of principal and skill as well as the ability to properly adapt it to the cosplay. Overall, it’s an amazing demonstration of excellence in all fields. This group is ready to compete in the next class.

Performance judging is only worth a total of 50 points out 100 in your total score. Click here to see a Sample Judging Sheet for Performance.


Judging Scale - Performance

1-2 Poor: The audience is not engaged. Emotion and story are not communicated by the performers.

3-4 Fair: the audience is not engaged. the performers seem lost and do not clearly understand their character. There is little to no story, and the characters do not support or move the story along. Props, sets, or audio could be a distraction in the overall performance.

5-6 Good: The audience is moderately engaged. Performers are beginning to develop stage presents. Performers understand their role in the story. Communication is consistent throughout the performance. There is a moderate level of excellence throughout the performance.

7-8 Excellent: Performers exhibit high quality for their class. They have a clear understanding of their characters and storyline. They display great stage presence and communicate well with the audience. Performers have excellent interaction with props, sets, and audio.

9-10 Superior: Performers go above and beyond for their class. The audience is completely engaged for the entirety of the performance. Performers display superior stage presents, understand their role, and clearly communicate their roll with the audience. The story is clearly defined, has good pacing, and evokes powerful emotion. Based on this performance the performers are ready to advance to the next level.

  • Best in Show: $3000 cash prize, 4-day badge(s) to AX 2020 and a prize package
  • Best Construction: $1250 cash prize, 4-day badge(s) to AX 2020 and a prize package
  • Best Performance: $1250 cash prize, 4-day badge(s) to AX 2020 and a prize package
  • Division Winners:
    • Professional: $3500 cash prize and 4-day badge(s) to AX 2020.
    • Masters: $1000 cash prize, 4-day badge(s) to AX 2020 and a prize package.
    • Intermediate: $1000 cash prize, 4-day badge(s) to AX 2020, plus a prize package

Sign Up for Our Newsletter