WHAT IS COSPLAY?
Cosplay, using the combination of the words “costume” and “play”, is the performance art in which people (or cosplayers) wear costumes and fashion items modeled after a specific character from movies, anime, manga, TV series, books, comics, Western animation, and etc.
The term “cosplay” was coined by movie producer Nobuyuki Takahashi after he attended the 1984 World Science Fiction Convention (or Worldcon) in Los Angeles.
The following is an excerpt from Brian Ashcraft’s and Luke’s Plunekett book’s Cosplay World on how Takashi came up with the word “cosplay”:
“In the 1970s, Japanese college students began dressing up as manga and anime characters. These young people had grown up on a steady diet of comics and cartoons, and when they attended manga and anime conventions (as well as school and university festivals), going in character was, as in the West, a way to express fandom.
Sci-fi conventions had existed in Japan since the 1960s, but in 1975 Comic Market (aka Comiket) launched, creating a venue for self-published comics. It was a fan convention and, in this environment, what would become cosplay in Japan started to flourish. There was already a Japanese term to express the concept of dressing up: kasou (仮想).
However, the word carried a nuance of disguise and didn’t quite capture the spirit of what cosplay had become. In the West the word ‘masquerade’ could be used to refer to costuming, but when Takahashi and some university friends tried to translate ‘masquerade’ into Japanese for a magazine article they were writing, it sounded ‘too noble and old fashioned’. According to Takahashi, ‘We needed to find another way to express the concept.’
Various terms were floating around. ‘We had heard the English word “costume” and seen events with names like “Costume Show”, “Kasou Show”, “Hero Play” and whanot,’ says Takahashi. In Japanese, English and other foreign words are often combined and/or shortened, for brevity’s sake. For example, the Japanese for ‘remote control’ – rimooto kontorooru – is shortened to rimokon. ‘So we started to think of different combinations,’ Takahashi says. ‘Finally, we came up with “cosplay”.’ The term was a portmanteau of ‘costume’ and ‘play’. It was perfect.”
WORD ORIGIN OF COSTUME:
Early 18th century: From French and Italian costume ‘custom, fashion, habit”. From Latin consuetudo, which means custom or useage
WORLD ORIGIN OF PLAY:
Old English pleg(i)an ‘to exercise’, plega ‘brisk movement’, related to Middle Dutch pleien ‘leap for joy, dance’.
HOW DID I DISCOVER COSPLAY?
G4 Tech TV’s G-Phoria 2003 award show:
One day in 2004, I came home from summer high school to discover that my dad brought new channels on the cable box – G4 being one of them. The first show on G4 was G-Phoria 2003 award show (in preparation for the 2004 live show). Never seen an award show for video games, so I sat down and watched. After a few gaming presentations, there was for Kingdom Hearts – featuring cosplayers doing a skit based on a scene from the game (One of them in black face. Dunno how they let that one slide on TV).
After that, they brought out around 15-20 cosplayers on the stage, each posing and showcasing their costumes and props. I never seen this kinda shit before. I never knew people made costumes based off fictional characters for fun. Went online and saw that people cosplay at conventions and how there were anime cons all over America were people do the shits. I was blow away to say the least. It made me wanted to go to conventions.
…and then I played a romhack of Final Fantasy 6 (FF3 in the USA) called “Awful Fantasy 3” where the romhackers made fun of cosplayers, the art of cosplay, and how cosplayers are highly immature and love causing drama at conventions.
Thanks Something Awful for that reality check. I never went to a convention since.
People of all races, backgrounds, nationality, and ages cosplays. From Teenagers wearing their first store-brought cosplay online to 20 and 30 something professional cosplayers who craft their own cosplays from hands and brought shame and embarrassment to their family, to even old ladies in wheelchairs rockin’ schoolgirl uniforms, everyone cosplays. No matter how old or young, people cosplay. And they cosplay whoever they want to.
Now, you do have those in the cosplay community who think certain people shouldn’t cosplay (i.e.; racist white elitists cosplayers who think dark skin and Black people shouldn’t cosplay as Asian people even though these white boys and girls are cosplaying as Asian characters), but that’s a topic for another day where I make low-self-esteem having racist cosplayers by attacking their insecurities rooted from childhood until they commit suicide by blowing their brains out in their Sailor Moon or Goku cosplays.
WHERE CAN YOU COSPLAY?
Well, you can cosplay anywhere, but keep in mind that cosplaying outside of convention events will mark you as a weird ass socially awkward idiot unaware of social cues. With that said, the world is your backdrop for your cosplays. Go dress as Marisa Kirisame from Touhou high off shrooms in the woods. On casual Fridays at the gig do homage to Urien’s pin stripped suit from Street Fighter V by matching his grey pin stripped suit, purple oxford shirt, cognac colored belt and shoes. Dress as Junko Kanno from ZombieLand Saga while completely coked out like any other 80s pop music star at your college’s music hall.
Cosplay anywhere you want.
For the rest us who have common sense and understand the rules/norms of society, save the cosplay for conventions or do them subtly in public or in the workforce. If you live in a society where public cosplay in frown upon or even forbidden outside of events (i.e. Japan), don’t wear your cosplay to the event. Pack it in a small carry-on bag and don’t put it on until you get to the event.
Sources on the Japan’s negative views on public cosplay:
How Do You Cosplay in Japan by the Cosplay.com Community?
What To Expect When Cosplaiyng in Japan by R. Lowen”
The Lowdown on Japan’s Cosplay Industry
WHERE AND HOW CAN YOU BUY AND GET COSPLAYS CREATED
There are options.
If you’re cosplaying as a character who wear everyday clothing (examples includes Shirou Emiya from the fate series with his grey and white baseball v-neck shirt and blue jeans or Reigen from Mob Pyscho 100 with his suit and tie) then it’s just as simple as going your local clothing store (such as Goodwill, JC Penny, Nordstorm, Jos. A Bank, Tom Ford, etc.) and buying the clothes there. You may have to do some alternations, but they’re minor.
For cosplaying characters with unique clothing that you can’t find in stores (certain school outfits, armor, body suits such as Solid Snake’s sneaking suit), then you going to get them custom made. Amazon and eBay have stores where vendors sell pre-made cosplays or you can go online for website that specialize in creating cosplays. Please keep in mind that online cosplay shops tend to be a little on the cheap and mass produced side of the game, so the quality may not be of that of a professional made cosplay.
If you do not want to go on the cheap side of the cosplay game and you want high quality, then you will have to pay a decent amount of cash to get your cosplay created. Don’t know anyone who creates cosplays? Then check your local convention city scene for cosplay creators (such as anime con Facebook groups).
And if you really want to do it yourself, you can learn how to.
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF COSPLAYS
With so many people of different backgrounds, races, ethnic groups, and creativity it’s nearly impossible to list all the different type of cosplay within the realm of cosplay. With that said, here are the most common type of cosplays you will find at conventions.
- The classic anime schoolgirl. Easily ID’d by her (or his) sera-fuku, pleated skirt, penny loafers, white blouse and ribbon. On the the preppy side of the school uniform game , the schoolgirl cosplayer wears a blazer, button-down shirt, v-neck sweater, tie, etc. Commonly seen at anime cons.
- Armored cosplay. A cosplay that revolves around armored characters (fantasy characters, giant robots, mech suits, etcs.) Can be found at sci-fi, comic, and anime cons
- Superhero cosplays. Leaping out the colorful pages of American comics into the real world, these cosplayers focus on the larger-than-life heroes from Marvel Comics, Darkhorse, DC, and more. Can be recognized by their long capes, one piece zentai suits, and hero emblem. Often seen at comic book conventions but have been making their way into anime cons.
- Closet Cosplay. Cosplays that uses everyday clothing (as mentioned earlier) that can be found at stores or in your own closet. Very simple and easy to pull off – but, in order to stand out from other closet cosplayers – you need to put in the effort (mixing high and low cost items, using a high quality wig, etc.)
- Genderswap cosplay. As the name states, it’s cosplays in which the cosplayer switches the canon gender of the character. Example: a grown ass man with a full beard gender swapping Shouko Komi (form Komi-San Can’t Commicate). Instead of wearing her red skirt, he swaps them out for red chino slacks. For the vice versa: a woman cosplaying as Goku (Dragon Ball series).
- It’s crossdressing, but in cosplay.
Because you have no personality whatsoever and nobody loves you unless you put on an outfit based off a fictional character.
Plus, ever dressed up as Oishi from Higurashi no Naku Koro ni doing Hennessy shots with a dude cosplaying as Keiichi while his homegirl cosplaying as Rena Ryuguu gotten into a drunken fist fight with an Ai Enma cosplayer over some internet weeaboo con drama while a Terra Brandford is grinding her ass on a Celes Chere cosplayer at a hotel party on an average day?
Didn’t think so.
Until next time!
-Yuki The Snowman