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).

Night Elf Cosplay by helloloveducks of deviantArt. Simple materials, elegant result.

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.

Isaac Ferdinand von Kaempfer of Trinity Blood by Cytanin of deviantArt.

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.

Hatsune Miku 1925 Version from COSPLAY GEN.

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.

Pein Sexy no Jutsu by Cytanin of deviantArt. Not canon, yet exceptional (and I don't even like Naruto).

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,



7 Responses to “Oni Market #26: So, What’s Cosplay Then?”

  1. Nice post dear! Cosplaying can be a true form of art for some people and indeed the results can be breath taking.
    Though I think that the idea of either do it right or drop it is a bit edgy. I love seeing well done cosplays and I do dissaprove half-assed ones but yea I wouldn’t suggest to anyone to stop cosplaying just because they fail at it. As long as one is having fun xD
    Also the thing you say about Kei in general, that it is an “essentially costume plays targeted at varied but not necessarily different audiences” are you sure about that? I thought that some of them, namely mori kei, natural kei, dolly kei, were fashions like lolita.

  2. speedxgrapher Says:

    Thank you Wabbie-chan! Now, on to your observations.

    Well, the point was really “if you find it’s too much fuss, drop it”, which I think falls into the half-assed category. Failing is part of learning, while (in this case) not trying is part of attempting to fit in with an assumed “cool crowd” with minimal effort.

    As for Kei, as far as I know, the whole “anything” Kei business started with Visual Kei back in the 80s with X-Japan and though lolita-style fashion existed in Japan since the 70s, it was categorized among the “Kei” in the early 90s. Complex enough? @___@

    • Well I dont know if lolita falls into the kei category at all, I mean we dont really say loli-kei or anything buut I am sure that like lolita, both mori kei and dolly kei are considered fashion trends and are worn daily by some people, so I dont think they are meant to be cosplay. Also I think that even though lolita has its roots in some fashions like otome from the 70’s, it really began during the 90’s as this fashion with the name lolita

  3. speedxgrapher Says:

    Once more sorry for the late reply… Most likely, you know better than me on this subject, but what I wrote on the previous comment was what a fair amount of googling yielded. The only certain thing is that in Japan they say Lolita-Kei in Harajuku slang. Other than that… I will take your word for it. That’s what the comment section is for. ^___^

  4. Makeup techniques are usually used to give as original look as possible. In this aspect but i must say Asians are better cosplayer, as they easily copy different anime characters in their looks.

  5. Velvet V. Says:

    Polu kalo post!!!

    (i really dont want to say anything other than that because it is a delicate matter to me, cosplay being part of my life once and not just an indulgence or a hobby…….)

  6. Some truly fantastic info , Gladiolus I observed this. “Nothing is so bitter that a calm mind cannot find comfort in it.” by Lucius Annaeus Seneca.

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