The Phenomenon: Cosplay
Some might be familiar with my work I do for AniWay (if not check out their magazine and YT-channel, they’ve got some neat stuff for all japan-enthousiasts). When I was thirteen (or twelve) I got engrossed with anime and manga. It was like an addiction and all it took was one episode of Ah my Goddess! The moment this pop-culture phenomenon captivates you, it is almost impossible not to notice what is happening ‘back stage’. There is a huge sub-culture centred around manga, anime and games…and when you dive into this you will inevitably encounter the phenomenon: cosplay.
A Short History Lesson:
Cosplay is a contraction of costume and (role)play. A short historic overview is given by Theresa Winge in her book: Costuming the Imagination: Origins of Anime and Manga Cosplay. It turns out it is highly debtated when and where cosplay started, but apparently most people agree that it started, in a sense, in North America in a different form. People would, and still do, dress up for sci-fi conventions (this was not yet called cosplay), this phenomenon impressed Takahashi Nobuyuki (founder of the anime producing studio: studio Hard) to such a degree, that he encouraged his Japanese audience to express their love for his product in a similar way (Winge, 2006).
Due to translation issues, however, Takahashi wasn’t able to use the word masquerade, the term that they used in America, and thus the term costume play was coined. One thing led to another and eventually the term evolved into ‘cosplay’ (Winge, 2006). This all started around 1960. Cosplay and anime in genera became more popular and around the 80’s anime was booming in North America. Fans started to attend the sci-fi conventions, dressing up as their favorite anime character (Winge, 2006). If there is demand, the market should provide and that is exactly what the sci-fi conventions started to do. They altered their event so that their new guests Otaku could participate in some fan related activities as well, and cosplay conventions as we now know them, were born (Winge, 2006).
I think this is a very broad question that many outside this fan culture might try to answer. It might be hard to understand why a grown man would dress up as a young girl with blue pigtails. Generic answers tend to come up (e.g. people want to escape from reality). Which, I personally think lacks a bit of open mindedness, we wouldn’t be asking these questions if the man in question was collecting trains or watching sports. At the end of the day I think it’s a hobby that gives people, joy, a sense of community, relaxation or gives them a creative outlet. The reason why someone cosplays could be vastly different. Who knows why we do what we do (seriously, how many times do you just do something incredibly random and you’re just standing there asking your self: whyyyyyy).
I have thought about cosplaying numerous times. You might not think it if you look at me (sick self burn) but I do have a passion for fashion (10 points for anyone old enough to remember that slogan). Whenever I visit a con I look around and see these amazing outfits and think of all the hours of labour that has gone into them. It is truly a sight to see. Unfortunately, I don’t think I will ever be talented enough to make a cosplay. I once attempted Kiki from Kiki’s Delivery Service (watch it, it’s great) and that dress was as crooked as can be and making it felt like trying to built a rocketship. However, if anyone ever asked me to showcase their beautiful, crazy, cool, or weird creation.. small chance I will say no. If it is a sailor Jupiter cosplay, however, I will NEVER EVER SAY NO!
For the full articles referenced in this post, see the works cited down below!
Anyways, take it easy and talk to you soon!
- Featured cosplayer: Alexisashnew (lady bug)
- Winge, T. (2006). Costuming the imagination: Origins of anime and manga cosplay. Mechademia, 1(1), 65-76.