When people think of cosplay in Japan, they usually think of school uniforms, idols, Final Fantasy, and other anime and Japanese video game cosplays. And they’re not wrong; for years, these cosplays have dominated the Japanese scene. Cosplays from non-Japanese sources were nearly unseen and didn’t get much attention. You were more likely to see someone cosplaying from a Japanese commercial than a Western comic book or movie.
And then things started to change. Suddenly, new cosplays came into the Japanese scene - and not just by foreigners, but by Japanese fans, too! The world of Japanese cosplay has started to change, and anime and Japanese games are no longer the only sources for cosplayers. When did this change start to happen? Why did it take so long for Western characters to break into the Japanese cosplay world? We are here to give a quick look into these emerging Western cosplays, and where we think they have been coming from suddenly!
From the Big Screen to Cosplay
Perhaps the biggest reason why Western characters have made their way into Japanese cosplay in recent years is the success of movies at the box office in Japan. A few years ago, Star Wars was old news, Marvel was just starting to gain momentum, and DC was nearly unheard of. Harry Potter even had a delay in popularity in Japan, until it got its own section at Universal Studios Japan. These movies came out very delayed, often released months later in Japan than the rest of the world.
And then everything changed. The new Star Wars trilogy released in Japan to massive success and popularity. Marvel films started to come out multiple times a year. Merchandise for Western media worked its way into the Japanese market slowly but surely. The movies eventually started to come out on the same day or shortly after they were released in other countries. The number of fans began to grow, as did the accessibility of Western media as it became more mainstream.
Along with movies, Western video games started to release in Japan along with the rest of the world. Around the same time, more Western cosplays slowly started to break into the Japanese cosplay scene. Suddenly it wasn’t so weird to see Spider-Man or Captain America at a cosplay event, or even Assassin’s Creed, Mad Max, Horizon Zero Dawn, and more! As it became more normal and easy to be a fan of comic books, movies, and games, the number of fans grew - and so did their desire to cosplay these characters. The number only goes up each year at cosplay events across Japan!
The Rise of Tokyo Comic Con
While Comic-Con has been around the Western world in many cities for years, it has only recently come to Tokyo. 2019 will be the fourth year for Tokyo Comic-Con, but it has been growing exponentially. Still hosting big-name guests, including the late Stan Lee himself in the past, and offering a chance to see movie props and buy merchandise, Tokyo Comic Con has brought Western media right into Japan. And with it, a great opportunity for Western cosplay!
In 2018, Tokyo Comic Con was full of cosplays from Star Wars, Marvel, DC, Harry Potter, Disney, Star Trek, and more. While these cosplays have started to show up at cosplay events across Japan, at Comic-Con they dominated. Comic-Con finally gave Japanese fans a place to wear their Western cosplays with pride and recognition, and also the motivation to be the characters they might not otherwise have been. Plus it hosts plenty of cosplay meet-ups and stages to make friends and show off your outfit!
Since Comic Con made its way to Japan, even more, Western cosplays are showing up at all cosplay events. After all, fans have them for Comic-Con so why not wear them the rest of the year, too? And with Comic-Con making it easier to buy merchandise and make connections with other cosplayers interested in the same series, it has opened up a lot of doors for Japanese fans to cosplay characters from Western sources - and make friends while doing it.
While anime and Japanese games still remain the most popular sources for cosplayers in Japan, Western sources are indeed becoming more and more popular. Will they ever be as popular as Japanese sources? Maybe not, since so many anime and games come out every year offering an abundant number of outfits for fans to wear. But will Western cosplays continue to grow in popularity? We think yes! As long as Harry Potter remains at Universal Studios Japan and Star Wars and Marvel remain big at the cinema, Western characters are here to stay in the Japanese cosplay scene.
Have you noticed this increase in Western characters in Japanese cosplays? What do you think it’s future is? What are your thoughts in this change? Do you have any other questions about the Japanese cosplay scene? Please leave us a comment below!