Published on February 22, 2013 | by Tsubasa Kawata

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Cosplay: A new form of expression

A female cosplayer named 'Kururu'.

Cosplay is becoming recognised as a new art form. [image: Yuma Mutara]

Cosplay may be an unfamiliar term for some but it is increasingly well-known to  those who are interested in fashion and sub-culture.

Described as a form of art in which people dress up in costumes and become their favourite character, cosplay is already hugely popular in Asia. However, it is currently growing in popularity in the United Kingdom and Europe.

Originally a Japanese-English word created by Nobuyuki Takahashi, ‘cosplay’ combines the two words ‘costume’ and ‘play’, and is now listed in the Oxford English Dictionary.

Cosplayers can present themselves as anything they want to be – characters from animation, comics, manga, cinema, video games, drama, TV shows or simply as people they admire.

It can be anything – from dressing as Nintendo’s Mario, to acting as Johnny Depp or even dressing up as a Buckingham Palace guardsman.

The attraction to it is mainly divided by two terms: becoming your favorite characters and being unique in your style of fashion.

Creating art

Most cosplayers agree that the best point of cosplay is the abilty to become a well-liked character and being able to embody the mindset of the character you wish to portray.

Bell, a male cosplayer explained: “The best thing about of cosplay is becoming my favourite loved characters and people from the bottom of my heart.”

Considered as a new way of creating artistic work in the field of fashion, cosplay not only makes people feel artistic just by watching, but allows people to involve themselves creatively into the art they wish to present.

“I can turn into another person, someonething different from myself through cosplay.” Cosplayer Asuna

Asuna, a female cosplayer passionately describes her actions: “I can turn into another person, someonething different from myself through cosplay.”

Gender is not taken into account in cosplay; men can cosplay female fashion and vice-versa. It is a new form of expressing and representing the thoughts and minds of different people.

The other attractive aspect of this art form is that the costumes of cosplay are tremendously individual. They are normally based on characters from animation, video games, movie, drama and the any other medias – characters which are known for their elegance and style.

People who often play video games and watch animation will know that the detail that goes into character development as well as the game design is often complicated. Examples include very long dresses with fluffy frills, masses of decoration and accessories and rugged combat uniforms.

Originality

Whilst some costumes may seem quite weird others are extremely beautiful and creative. Looking at media franchise Final Fantasy (with focus on Final Fantasy X), it is plain to see that the costumes are impressively attractive and original.

Surprisingly to some, most cosplayers make their detailed costumes from scratch, choosing their own fabric and dye, sewing by hand or on a machine – in some cases attaching accessories.

It takes a lot of time and effort to create a high quality costume, similar to the process a fashion designer endures when making a new garment for their collection.

However, you can take the easy option and get many costumes at specialist stores, which can even be found in central London. TokyoToys, a shop located inside the Trocadero Shopping Centre in Shaftesbury Avenue, sells a number of cosplay costumes as well as animation products.

Nicole Larking, a member of staff at TokyoToys, explains: “I only work on weekends and usually sell at least ten [costumes] in a weekend … and we do orders, so probably a hundred a week [are sold]. It means that you do start cosplay without an advanced skill of sewing, because you just buy and wear it.”

Cosplay does not always require elaborately designed costumes; heart and passion are the most integral thing to successfully turning into one’s character.

Detail

Another way to carry out cosplay without splashing out money or requiring sewing skills is by using everyday clothes from your wardrobe. Normal clothing is enough to help you turn into your chosen characters.

“It’s very easy to get pieces from your closet and just work a mental cosplay very easily. You don’t necessarily have to buy or make costumes, you can just wear normal clothes and it will be okay,” Larking said.

The costumes are not the only thing cosplayers concentrate on. They also focus on making props including glasses, hats, wigs, swords, shields and guns, which belong to the model of that original character. Additionally, they also do prosthetic and eccentric makeup.

“It’s very easy to get pieces from your closet and just work a mental cosplay very easily.” TokyoToys employee, Nicole Larking

Such enthusiasm mirrors the development of the fashion industry. There is no disparity between cosplayers and fashion designers in terms of making good quality clothes and working from scratch by themselves. The value of cosplay in terms of art and fashion is highly recognisable.

The popularity of cosplay stems from social media, which has contributed greatly to spreading publicity. YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and other social networking sites have been used by cosplayers to make contact with the other comrades across the globe, as they use social media to upload and share photos.

Cosplay.com has been set up so people can share and see a number of cosplay photos. The users are multinational, with cosplayers from the UK, US, France, Germany, Finland, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Ukraine and Japan.

You will be surprised at the quality of the costumes and the high degree of perfection you see on the website – they truly become characters from a fictional world.

As a result of the support by social media, it is easier and more familiar for ‘normal’ people to have an opportunity to experience cosplay. It enables cosplayers to easily connect with others beyond the boundary of nations, culture and language.

Kururu Kurasaka, an avid cosplayer said, “Even though the language we speak is different, cosplay enables us to enjoy animation and games together beyond the barrier of language and culture. This is the best point of cosplay.”

 

 

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