Invasion of the Cosplayers

Last week, I wrote about the Summer Night Market, where I ate interesting things, bought interesting things, and saw interesting people. In particular, I saw people in interesting clothes, with hair color not usually seen on humans.

In fact, I saw a lot of them.

For those who don’t recognize the style, these people are cosplayers. According to Wikipedia, cosplay (short for “costume play”) is a type of performance art where the participants wear costumes representing characters from media such as comic books, movies, and computer games.

Being a bit of a geek, I’ve been at plenty of non-Halloween events where people dress up in costume. Science fiction conventions, for example. And Renaissance festivals. I’ve never worn a costume, though. (Except the time I dressed as a belly dancer. But that was only because I lost a bet. Long story.) I’m not a costume kind of person. I’m much too…what’s the right word? Dignified? Reserved? Conservative?

Chicken?

Yeah, that’s the word. Chicken. And possibly lazy.

Anyway, I may not be a costume wearer but I have observed. At the SF conventions I attended a few years back, costume wearing was almost exclusively restricted to the masquerade on Saturday night. True, an occasional revealing bodice or incarnation of the Doctor might have shown up during the day. And there was that one person who started out the morning as a guy and slowly morphed into a girl as the day went along. But the full-blown costumes showed up only when it was time to parade across the stage and possibly win a prize. (I desperately want to work the phrase “prosthetic forehead” into this paragraph, but I just can’t make it fit gracefully.)

Renaissance festivals are more costume-centric than SF conventions. The attendees are supposed to immerse themselves in imagined times gone by. They actually blend in better if they wear a costume and talk funny. Most people dress as archetypes, like wenches, pirates, and fairies, rather than trying to perfectly mimic a character out of history or fiction.

Despite the costumes, I have not heard the word “cosplay” applied to what goes on at SF conventions or Renaissance festivals. The word seems to be reserved for those who dress as manga or anime characters of Japanese or Korean origins.

Cosplay goes beyond the simple wearing of costumes. The more avid cosplayers adopt their character’s mannerisms and say the things the character might say. They strive to perfect their costume down to the last detail, in essence becoming their chosen character (albeit without the superpowers and other specialized abilities).

Their motivations are varied. Some are fans of their characters and want to walk in their character’s shoes for a day. Others may enjoy the attention. At the Night Market, I saw people getting their pictures taken with Sailor Moon, Senkaku Mei, and other characters.

“You get addicted to it,” one cosplayer told me.  “Once you perfect a costume, you want to build another. And then another. They can get pretty elaborate.”

For her, cosplay is an art form. Even one missed detail and the costume is a fail.

No matter their reasons for dressing up, cosplayers don’t seem to fear standing out in the mundane 21st century world of Chevrolets and mini-donuts.

The photos were taken by an anonymous cosplayer. The cosplayers in the photos are participating in a cosplay fashion show for Anime Revolution.

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About Marie Loughin

I love reading, writing, and editing speculative fiction of all sorts. My current focus is on writing contemporary fantasy, where I get to play god with characters from myth and legend. My Norse-based urban fantasy, Valknut: The Binding, is available at Kindle Books and other e-book retailers. You can find me at my blog (marieloughin.com) and on Twitter (@mmloughin).
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15 Responses to Invasion of the Cosplayers

  1. juliabarrett says:

    I’ve always admired people who are comfortable enough to wear costumes. I am not. I’ve never worn a costume. Even for Halloween. Weird, I know.

  2. I’m okay once I’m in one. Especially if it makes me unrecognizable.

  3. So Maybe we need to do this in Kansas City…with a prosthetic forehead!

  4. I’ve heard ‘cosplay’ applied to people who go to video game conventions dressed up as game characters. If you ever get a chance, watch Season 5 of The Guild. There is some cosplay, but also some decent commentary on what it means to be famous.

    I love the phrase “21st century world of Chevrolets and mini-donuts.”

    I have a sudden need for a lilac wig!!

    -aniko

    • Yeah, it turns out I’m a little behind the times with terminology, as I discovered when I read an article on a Comic-Con a couple days ago. I am subscribed to The Guild but haven’t watched it a single time. Such things tend to fall off my radar.

      • I have watched every episode of The Guild. All of it is enjoyable, but I felt there were some deeper issues flirted with in Season Five than in the earlier ones. The entire season is less than two hours long, but I think you’ll find some parallels to indie publishing and the consequences of “making it big,” if you get a chance to watch.

  5. Ken Preston says:

    I’m the same as you, Marie, when it comes to dressing up, reserved, dignified, oh yeah, like you said, CHICKEN! But I have dressed up sometimes, my favourite being the homemade superhero outfit I cobbled together from a wet suit, running tights, gym gloves, beach shoes, and a mask made from cardboard. Maybe I’ll post a photo somewhere, someday… 🙂

    • Sounds awesome. What was your superhero name?

      Last time I wore a costume, I looked like this: http://wp.me/p1aVqZ-7X

      • Ken Preston says:

        Very disgusting. Which is a compliment, by the way. Bet you’ve never had a compliment like that, before!
        Here’s a photo of me. I forgot about the cape, which was the coolest part.

        Whilst wearing that costume I had a strange urge to go and fight crime Me, my wife and our two boys, all wearing super hero costumes, walked round to our friends’ party. We had one or two funny comments from people we passed, which was great. Far worse were the people who passed us and didn’t bat an eyelid, as though they saw this kind of thing everyday.
        I never did come up with a superhero name. My mate called me Ospreyman, for obvious reasons, but I never liked it. Just didn’t seem as if it would inspire fear in my enemies’ hearts…

      • How about “Captain Osprey, eater of large fish”?

  6. Char says:

    Great pictures! I hadn’t heard the term cosplay though I’ve been to many cons where costumers reign. Count me among the chickens. I’ve always wanted to dress up as a Jedi (a la Ewan McG) but haven’t had the patience because I’d want the costume perfect. And I am one lousy seamstress! I’ve seen too many fabulous ones at Star Wars conventions. I’d never make the mark.

  7. Paul D. Dail says:

    Fun post, Marie. And lots of great lines. We have a rule at our school (which has a dress code) regarding hair: If it doesn’t naturally occur, it can’t be a color you can have. We still get lots of bleached and black dyed hair, but none of the blues or purples.

    I’m a huge Halloween costume fan, but that’s about it. And for me, because it’s Halloween, it always has to be something scary. Unless you’re a child, I don’t cotton to funny costumes on Halloween. At least for myself.

    The cosplay world is fascinating to me. I was actually hoping to see more costumed folks at the World Horror Convention, but nope. I’m sure there will be more at KillerCon in Las Vegas in September, but it’s not looking like I’ll be able to make that one.

    And to be perfectly honest, if it weren’t for this one line (“For her, cosplay is an art form. Even one missed detail and the costume is a fail.”), I would’ve made a much more critical comment about these people and their overabundance of free time. But that makes sense. It’s an art for them. Or at least some of them. For others it’s just a reality that’s better than their own.

    Paul D. Dail
    http://www.pauldail.com- A horror writer’s not necessarily horrific blog

    • Exactly. We all have our creative outlets, maybe fiction writing, visual arts, theater, or cosplaying, or maybe knitting, fantasy baseball, or poker.

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