Cosplay, refers to Costume Play, a culture where avid fans create authentic costumes and props to role play as their favourite fantasy characters.
Originally Cosplay was an Asian culture, predominantly in Japan, where fans would recreate their favourite characters from Japanese culture, including: anime, video games, manga, graphic novels, comic books, hentai and characters from J-Rock and J-Pop music culture.
Popular Japanese Cosplay themes include characters from the Final Fantasy video games, the band Malice Mizer and characters from the manga series Naturo.
In the past decade, the popularity of Cosplay has expanded to the western world and now includes fans of non Asian cultures, popular western Cosplay includes: Star Wars, Star Trek, Doctor Who, The Lord of the Rings and Disney characters.
When Cosplay takes place, fans spend an astounding amount of time creating the most authentic costumes, making close attention to every little detail. When in costume the Cosplayers take on the characteristics and mannerisms of the character they are portraying.
Cosplay most commonly takes place at conventions, such as Comic-Con in San Diego, America and Comiket in Japan. Due to the great visual appeal of Cosplay, it has now become a trend to photograph these costumes to a high standard, often recreating scenes or poses from the original source.
Cosplay can be seen as just a hobby for fans of comic books and video games, but in many parts of the world it has produced its own subculture.
How to Make a Cosplay Costume
It is common for fans to make their own costumes, the subculture shares tips and ideas, often learning new skills particularly for the participation in Cosplay. There are suppliers who specialise in Cosplay costumes, for those who are not as gifted with craftsmanship.
Ebay often delivers a large number of results when searching for costumes, many of which are one offs and handmade. Many wig makers are willing to custom make Cosplay wigs on request, and some companies have stock of the most popular Cosplay characters, for example Final Fantasy and Naturo wigs.
Cosplaymagic.com has a wide selection of men’s, women’s and children’s Cosplay costumes and wigs, including characters from Chobits, Kill Bill, Fruits Basket, Final Fantasy and Sailor Moon.
Many Cosplay fans join online forums, such as Cosplay.com and the UK version. These forums are a hive of information for budding Cosplayers and more experienced Cosplayers. Many links can be found on these sites for suppliers, conventions and photographers.
Photographers often enjoy working with Cosplayers to help record their hard work; the website Deviantart.com features a wide amount of Cosplay photography, among other art. The photography of Cosplay is also a great way to share ideas and gain inspiration for other projects.
Elements of Cosplay also lend themselves to other aspects of Japanese culture, such as areas of their street fashion, such as Visual Kei, Lolita and Ganguro; as well as Cosplay in its original form becoming a fashion in itself.
Many Japanese bands also play on the theatricality that is seen in Cosplay, such as Dir En Grey, Malice Mizer and the synchronised dance craze Para-Para.