|Andrew Vestal moogle album
My Day as a Moogle
Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Suit
The picture that wouldn't die.
The story so far: Halloween of 1996, GIA-founder-to-be Andrew Vestal (myself) chose an infamous costume that would quickly enter the annals of Internet lore: the moogle suit. Big, furry, and white, with accesorizing cat ears, bat wings, and yellow pom-pom, the moogle suit absolutely shouted, "I'm a huge Final Fantasy fan!" It also shouted "and a tremendous dork," but what can you do? Great geniuses of Halloween costume design are often misunderstood. A single photograph of the costume posted online was quickly passed around and ridiculed, but I bore it out, keeping a stiff upper lip, and knowing that time heals all wounds.
Unfortunately, it can also reopen them. When the GIA was driven to solicit donations from its readership to stay afloat, each and every staffer looked within his or herself, asking, like Michael Jackson, "What more can I give?" Abject humiliation and personal sacrifice were the order of the day. We expected to raise two, maybe three thousand dollars total. Wouldn't it be funny, I suggested, if I put on the moogle suit after we hit an impossible target--say, $10,000! Everyone laughed, and, like a Pepsi Point-purchased Harrier jet, it was added to the bottom of the list.
As is now well known--and well-lamented by myself--we raised the $10,000 in just over 48 hours. The donations were an amazing windfall, and have absolutely kept the GIA afloat. We love all our readers and appreciate every cent. That said, I couldn't help but feel a bit upset when I had heard we hit the mark. Couldn't we have hit, say, $9,983 or so, then petered out? Still, I'm a man of my word, and if I had to wear the moogle suit, then I was going to give our readers every penny's worth of their $10,000 in donations. The costume was sent to Japan (where I now work as a member of JET Program), and I waited for the right day to unleash the costume on an unsuspecting island nation.
Saturday, October 27th, was that day. There was an all-night Halloween party in the neighboring city of Takasaki. This would be the perfect chance to wear the costume, in public! Some people may say that wearing it to a costume party defeats the point, to which I say: the moogle costume was originally designed and photographed as a Halloween costume, and going to a party in another town meant that I got to wear it in public and have lots of crazy adventures. Adventures that I will recount now!
The first thing I did, suit in tow, was go to the local department store. Actually, the first thing I did was look up how to say "I am going to a Halloween costume party," in Japanese. I figured this would go a long way towards defusing embarassing stares. The next thing I did was go to the local department store in search of "Loose Sock" glue--the skin-safe adhesive Japanese girls use to hold up their baggy, white socks. I may have been dressed like a moogle, but I still had my vanity, and I wanted my sideburns to be in tip-top shape. When the cashier asked me what my costume was, I told her, "Shirokuma" ("Polar Bear"). This would be a popular answer throughout the night, as the Japanese for "an imaginary character from a popular RPG series that's supposed to be a cross between a mole and a bat but really looks like a bear with cat ears" eluded me. Plus, most people just don't care. (Note: the wings, tragically, were left behind this evening--since I would be spending the evening on a crowded dance floor, I decided that sharp, pointy metal objects on my back would not be the best accessory. Still, a quick look at moogles in Final Fantasy IX and Kingdom Hearts shows that their wings are rapidly becoming vestigial, anyway.)
Glue bought, sideburns afixed, I decided to grab some dinner. My train to Takasaki was coming in twenty minutes, so I bopped into the McDonald's near the station and grabbed a sandwich. Like all members of the Japanese service industry, they were consummate professionals and said nothing about my costume, I think the woman who brought me my Big Mac may have smirked, but maybe I was just paranoid at this point.
Glue bought, food ate, it was time for the hour-long train ride to Takasaki. You might think that wearing a moogle costume on a train--or in public at all, for that matter--would cause people to stare at you, aghast and agape. In reality, however, people seem to go out of their way to avoid eye contact or looking at you for too long. When you're wearing a moogle suit, it's like you're surrounded by a Somebody Else's Problem field. No one wants to try to understand why a six-foot foreigner is traipsing around Japan in a gigantic moogle suit, so their brain tells them to ignore it before they have a chance to think about it too clearly.
I arrived in Takasaki around 10:00 P.M. and met up with my partners in costumed crime: Shingo Mama from the Bronx and Parappa the Tall, British Rapper. We then walked to the party and proceeded to dance the night away. After some initial awkward moments in the suit, the evening was really looking up! Being a moogle wasn't all bad! Japanese girls would run up to me, shouting, "kawaiiiii!" ("Cuuuute!") and start petting the fur. Everyone was in a crazy costume and having a great time. For once in my white and furry existence ... I felt as if I really belonged. This was my home! *sniff*
My biggest concern throughout the night, in fact, was not embarassment, but dehydration. The moogle suit was not designed for extended boogying in a cramped, crowded nightclub. Non-alcoholic drinks were 500 yen (over $4 U.S.), and I was sweating something fierce. By the time morning rolled around, I could barely stand. (The last train out of Takasaki left at 11:00 P.M., so waiting until the next morning was a matter of necessity for everyone there.) Still, it had been a great night. I had worn the moogle suit for the first time in five years, had taken lots of incriminating photographs for our readership, met the world's most adorable kappa, and had a stupendous time. All that was left was to go ride the train home, bike back to my house, and crash for the rest of the day.
Sunday, October 28th, was my neighborhood's "street cleanup day." This means that everyone on the entire street was up at 6:15 A.M., outside, and sweeping the streets clean. As I trudged back uphill to home, I had to fend off at least three dozen of my Japanese neighbors, each and everyone greeting me with a hearty "Ohayoo gozaimasu!" ("Good morning!") I was, of course, still wearing the moogle suit. I even ran into one of my coworkers. I was already tired and groggy--I had been awake for nearly 24 hours, and wanted nothing more than to get home. After this gauntlet of morning greetings, I wasn't sure I ever wanted to leave my house again.
So, there you have it: I promised you guys I'd wear the suit, and I did. Did I ever. I hope that this story and these photographs have brought you amusement. If you donated to the GIA, I hope you feel you got your money's worth. Heaven knows I feel like I've suffered through at least ten grand of embarassment. Feel free to send encouraging words of encouragement or discouraging words of laughter to firstname.lastname@example.org. And thanks for reading the GIA!