Become your Favorite Character
The word "cosplay" is a Japanese portmanteau word associating "costume" and "playing".
A typically Japanese entertainment?
The practice originated in the United States but was mainly developed in Japan. It consists in dressing up in a famous fictional character (usually from video games, manga or anime) and impersonate it at related events or conventions.
In Japan, specific areas are reserved for cosplay exhibition in events such as Tokyo Game Show and Comiket. Cosplayers come either in groups or alone, and are photographed by amateurs. Both cosplayers and photographs are all practicing high-level hobbies and frequently exchange business cards.
An international cosplay competition takes place each year at the World Cosplay Summit in Nagoya.
Beside conventions, cosplayers can be encountered in the streets of Tokyo, especially in Harajuku or Akihabara.
The popularization of cosplay
Cosplay emerged in the West in the late 1990s, when conventions such as Japan Expo were organized for the first time and became increasingly popular. Unlike Japan, cosplay here is the occasion to enter contests of the best costume, of the best impersonation, etc.
Although it can be sometimes negatively considered by society, practicing cosplay requires many skills, including:
- Acting ability,
- Manual dexterity, with sewing or crafting abilities,
- Artistic expression for make-up, photography and the use of photo-editing software.
However, anything is possible in cosplay, even the ugliest. In Japan, costume design is carefully made and shops where to buy accessories and ready to wear costumes are plenty. In the West, the manually skilled will make use of their neighborhood’s haberdashery or DIY store, the others will look for – usually online – shops selling costumes and cosplay items.
The ongoing professionalization of cosplay
Whether the costume is made from scratch or purchased already made, cosplay is an expensive hobby. Some cosplayers have thus considered to make their hobby a career, and they can take commissions to create costumes or accessories for other amateur cosplayers, or offer their costumed image for marketing campaigns.
The development of social networks allowed a permanent visibility to cosplayers, and some of them are so popular that they even can make a living from their activity.
Cosplay finds inspiration in all genres: anime, manga, video games, but also comics, movies, TV shows or music (especially in the Visual Kei). Some costumes are really perfectly crafted and it is no wonder this hobby’s popularity and fan base are growing, a trend confirmed by the advent of a specialist press in the middle of the 2010s.