Cosplay – From Japan to Your Living Room!
One of the most compelling fashion exports of Japan has been Cosplay – a word formed by joining the words “costume” and “play.” In this fashion genre – which may also be considered a performance art – wearers seek to emulate Japanese comic book characters. Such comics are widely read in Japan, by both children and adults, and find their expression in the manga and anime book and film genres. Japanophiles the World over have taken up this fashion genre and performing art as a means of self-expression and creativity, where quality and detail are highly valued.
Cosplay originated in the early 1990s in Japan, spreading gradually to the West, where it has found new enthusiasts as well as characters to emulate outside of the Japanese context. We shall delve more into this aspect later in this article.
Unlike Halloween or Carnival, the Cosplay performer attempts to recreate a single character with the highest sartorial details, including makeup and accessories. As Cosplay has progressed into a mainstream audience, costumes became available off-the-shelf in some jurisdictions. Some enthusiasts also choose to invest a larger amount of money by having the costumes created by ateliers.
The aesthetic quality of Cosplay is striking, with the varied use of metals, plastics, and layered garments to achieve various eye-baffling effects. Many cosplay enthusiasts become experts in their own right, as they study various art forms like plastic molding, painting, and makeup design in order to achieve their desired level of perfection.
Cosplay’s aesthetic qualities extend even beyond the garment itself. Many enthusiasts even change their bodies by wearing colored contact lenses, hair dyes, and temporary tattoos in order to blur the lines between reality and fantasy even further.
Throughout Japan and the World, enthusiasts come together in huge festival halls in order to show off their costumes and creations. For many observers, Cosplay is instantly recognizable as more than just a fashion statement; it is a performance art, requiring all the skill and dedication that any other high art form might require. Some of the largest conventions are held today outside of Japan. In San Diego and New York, huge crowds of observers and participants converge to admire and show off their latest creations. In Europe, London is the center of Cosplay culture and through its Super Comic and MCMs Expos, it becomes a convergence point for enthusiasts from Europe and beyond.
The advantages that Cosplay offers to marketing of comics and games has been recognized for some time. Indeed, many enthusiasts are paid for their presence during exhibitions or street campaigns to spread awareness about the particular product they are representing. In Japan, this is very common, with video game producers and book publishers regularly hiring cosplayers to demonstrate their product or simply to greet any potential buyers.
As mentioned, as cosplay spread throughout the World, new visions and ideas for cosplay were created and put into practice. For example, in China, Cosplay characters are keen to read not into the future, but rather into the past, to find inspiration. Cosplay in the form of traditional folk heroes or as a famous or even scandalous character during the Ming dynasty are particularly popular. As the “Japan craze” hit the United States again during the 2000s, Cosplay rode the wave. While many Westerners continue to be inspired by Japanese cultural elements, others have drawn from their own histories, as characters from the Renaissance or as mythical greek heroes. As long as a wearer is attempting to reproduce a particular character, this can be considered Cosplay in any cultural context.
Cosplay is a fashion genre and performing art that lends itself to all kinds of creative spirits. Children and adults alike enjoy this art form, with many whole families joining conventions wearing cosplay. The creation of these amazing designs also allows families to come together and create Cosplay together. In this sense, it becomes a family past-time, as well as an individual creative experience.