Oni Market #26: So, What’s Cosplay Then?
No, I have not had an accident which deprived me of my memory, nor is it an early onset of Alzheimer’s, or even one of my usual failing-cosplay-quality-in-Greece rants. No, actually this whole cosplay business (and rather charged discussion) got me wondering: what’s cosplay like elsewhere? Furthermore, what is cosplay to the people of different countries and even more importantly, to those whose country birthed it? (Well, actually birthed it retroactively, since the term was coined by Nobu – often written as “Nov” – Takahashi in 1984, after seeing trekkies dressed up as the crew of the Enterprise in Los Angeles Science Fiction World Convention). At any rate, the cosplay culture (you could even say “movement”, since Visual Kei and by extension, all the “Kei”, are essentially costume plays targeted at varied but not necessarily different audiences) was born in Japan and integrated into the everyday life of its youngsters (up to the age of 25, mostly), whether as a past-time (the Harajuku Sunday Outings), a commercial tool (advertising of manga, anime, games and along the way, anything from ramen to love hotels) and even a full-time job (whether it’s sewing, modeling or photography, or a measure of all of the above put together).
Now, if you google “cosplay”, “cosplay photos” etc. you will get something in the area of 40000000 results, so this is not really a good way to go about looking for cosplay around the world. However, I stumbled on a thing called 2leep, which is an online application for associating blog content (and ultimately augmenting site views) an following a trail of “associated clicks” (and annoying pop-ups) I found a few interesting things. It’s mainly photographic material but it illustrates in an excellent manner some of the things that Tomodachi (affectionately or derisively known as the “Mother of Greek Cosplay”) has been running her mouth dry about: creative care, posture and (glaringly) physique.
On the other hand, I found some articles and interviews (a good number featured in the newly established COSPLAY GEN Magazine) which illustrate the views of the people involved. One was a particularly interesting (though short) interview with a Chinese cosplayer, explaining why she chose the 1925 version of Hatsune Miku, one of the Vocaloid characters (the Vocaloid phenomenon being interesting and frightening in many different ways but that is a discussion for another time). It is also interesting that, although Chinese, in this case being a cosplayer transcends the rivers of spilt and bad blood between the two countries. Another, featured here (unfortunately in French), explains how Harajukers are gradually breaking with the Sunday Outing tradition, because they have had enough of tourists taking pictures, finding new locales unknown to non-natives. Now, in my mind, bizarre though these people may be, they treat this dressing up as part of their lives and not some excuse to indulge in camera whoring.
The things I have mentioned above are just the tip of the iceberg: there are tons of sites, articles and photographs out there which, though serving different purposes, all underline one fundamental truth about cosplay: it’s an art celebrating one’s favorite characters, into which goes a great deal of work and should be treated as such. On the other hand, cheap antics and poorly thought or executed dress-ups often become the subject of Failblog and Demotivational Posters. What follows is a small compilation of sites, posts and pages, which I believe one can find useful in truly understanding what cosplay is about and how people go about it on a global scale.
Tokyo Game Show 2010: cosplay in its natural environment.
51 Sexy Cosplays: because sexy doesn’t mean slutty or trashy. Good examples of attention to physique.
New Fashion Exploration – Cosplay: cosplay overview in a design blog. Note the variations, both of the cosplays, as well as of the character canon.
COSPLAY GEN: the magazine’s official site with tons of interviews, tutorials and other interesting material.
Doodles: a Singapore communication artist’s site which includes cosplay photography and her inspirations.
Dhalsim Cosplay: perhaps the best ever example of attention to physique.
Cloud Strife 8-bit Cosplay: the perfect example of cosplay not looking uber-cool, yet being celebrated as an authentic trip down memory lane (and I don’t even like FF7).
Living Cosplay 1: I think the photo and text will be self-expletive.
Living Cosplay 2 and above: this is a bit marginal, since Star Wars and Star Trek dress-up existed long before cosplay itself, but you get the idea.
So, what’s the conclusion? Well, there isn’t one apart from everything I have already said. All that remains is for aspiring cosplayers to browse through the info and get creative, or just drop the matter if they think it’s too much fuss. For the record, since I often hear the excuse “Japan is their home ground” or “you can’t compare stuff from conventions”, only one link is from a convention and of the photos posted here, none are Japanese (even though Hatsune’s cosplayer is Chinese).
Somewhere out there,