Some teenage experiences can change lives completely. Just add costumes to the equation.
When twin brothers Asyraf and Iqbal Azizi first went to Comic Fiesta – a local animation, comics and games convention – in KL in 2007, they had no idea how their visit would turn out to be a career calling.
The two KL-born and bred boys, aged 17 at the time, were huge fans of anime, but they didn’t know many people who were into it.
“It was the first time we saw these (anime) characters coming to life. It was like a huge ‘wow!’ moment to see so many people in cosplay mode, dressed to impress and walking about. We knew that we had to go back and dress up too!” recalls older twin Asyraf, who goes by the cool name Ash.
“It was the first time we had found our community, our tribe. It was like home, somewhere to belong and to express ourselves,” adds Iqbal.
Incidentally, the brothers did slap on their costumes – well, whatever they could find in the closet at home – and went back to that Comic Fiesta the next day.
“We couldn’t sleep that night. So we opened our closet, and just took out everything we could find, and mix-and-matched clothes. It was hilarious. I went as Cyborg 17 from Dragon Ball, and my brother’s costume was from GetBackers!” recalls Ash with a laugh.
That was over a decade ago.
Today, both Ash and Iqbal, now 28, are regular fixtures at comic, manga, anime and cosplay events.
They have made a name for themselves as cosplay emcees, having hosted events such as Cosplay Festival 2 and AniManGaki in KL.
On Dec 29 and 30, Ash and Iqbal, or the GG Twins as they call themselves, will host the Star Supa Comic event at the Mid Valley Exhibition Centre in KL.
The twins are identical. However, when you see them in person, you would never be able to tell.
For this interview, Ash and Iqbal decided to take on two different Final Fantasy characters.
“We normally try our best to find costumes that both relate to each other. But at the same time, we don’t like to limit ourselves,” explains Ash.
“You shouldn’t cosplay as something just because someone tells you to be it. If you like something, go for it,” says Iqbal.
The twins have lost count of how many costumes they have had over the years, but figure it must be at least 30.
In person, Ash comes across as more chatty, while Iqbal is a little reserved. However, once Iqbal is on a topic he feels strongly about, he is just as animated and articulate as his brother.
According to the GG Twins, they first started emceeing in 2014, during a cosplay meet in Kuching, Sarawak.
This gig, recalls Iqbal, came about by accident. The event did not have an emcee and it could not find someone at the last minute.
It was up to the GG Twins, in superhero speak, to rescue the day!
Ash had previously been an emcee for Japanese cultural events, and Iqbal had been an animal presenter at Sunway Lagoon Wildlife Park. In short, they jumped right in for the job, and since then, have been in demand for many ACG (anime, comics and games) events.
When they sit and discuss emcee work, the brothers say they make a good action-packed pair. Usually, Iqbal handles the informative parts (trivia, background) of an event, and Ash does the fun, off-the-wall stuff.
Emceeing, they both agree, can sometimes be a tough job.
Both reveal they have had more than their fair share of embarassing experiences.
Ash, without any blushes, recalls a time his pants tore during a emcee session, while Iqbal cringes as he remembers a time he got the name of a band completely wrong while introducing it to a huge crowd.
So what’s the quick-thinking thing to do when faced with such situations?
“Just own up to your mistakes,” says Ash.
“If you make a mistake, admit it, don’t brush it under the carpet. Apologise on the mike, and be sincere about it. And just make sure the audience has fun at the end of the day,” he elaborates.
Iqbal has a checklist in his notebook that goes “be professional, be humble, be honest”.
The best part of emceeing, then?
The mission, according to the GG Twins, is to help everyone in the crowd feel welcome, particualrly newcomers to cosplay.
“That’s very important to us. What we want is to make people feel the way we did when we first discovered this community in 2007, with the joy of seeing your favourite characters come alive,” says Ash.
As brothers who perform regularly together, do the two ever face any rivalry with each other?
“There is rivalry, at times. It’s normal. But you got to admit each other’s strengths and weaknesses. And you help back each other up. It’s sad if you have a brother, or siblings, who can’t get along. For us, we have to say, as brothers, we always keep our relationship strong,” maintains Ash.
Iqbal smiles and smacks his partner-in-crime a “high-five” as this interview ends.