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They can be seen at every anime or comic convention around the world, those strange people who put countless hours and loads of money into becoming their favorite character. Whether it be for fun or for competition, cosplay has quickly become mainstream and has even spawned its own community with its own celebrities. Cosplayers travel from all over the world to conventions to be able to show off their elaborate outfits.
The term “cosplay” was coined in 1984 when Studio Hard’s Nobuyuki Takahashi witnessed some of the first cosplayers ever at the World Science Fiction Convention in Los Angeles. In typical Japanese fashion, he took two words from the English language, “costume” and “play”, and merged them together into something easy to pronounce.
Since then, cosplay has come to refer to those who choose to represent a fictional character whether it be from comics, manga, anime, or other various forms of media off of a professional stage. Many cosplayers are hobbyists and are only interested in the experience of role play and connecting with the community, but there are some who take the art to a much higher level.
Celebrities such as Jessica Nigiri and Yaya Han have recently skyrocketed cosplay’s popularity with their stunning replicas of complicated armor and fabric costumes. Only the elite are able to form a career around the medium and most gain their wings through various competitions held at conventions. While most prizes involve cash, the fame from winning contests at bigger cons pays off marketing-wise for those looking to make a career out of their hobby.
The sky is the limit when cosplay is involved. Creativity is the foundation of this flourishing art. Everything from paper craft to foam to thermoplastics has been used to create armor, props, and various other accessories. Sewing is also a require skill and cosplay has influenced many to pick up this handy skill, but for those who wish to stay on the cheap side of things the closet is the best place to look first. Altering outdated clothes can really bring a new purpose to that T-shirt that hasn’t been worn for 2 years and save money in the long run.
No two cosplays are exactly alike and even those who choose to portray the same character have their own interpretation of what material or stitches the outfit was sewn with making each person’s cosplay unique and a way to show self-expression through the character.
Problems Within the Community:
There have been several prominent arguments amongst cosplayers revolving around etiquette, construction, and source material. One of the more severe problems involves sexual harassment by other con attendees who take more revealing cosplays as an invitation to touch. The Cosplay is Not Consent movement has taken the lead in educating normal con attendees on how to not to behave around cosplayers. The movement strives to reduce the harassment many cosplayers face when attending conventions.
In relation to sexual harassment, many cosplayers are also unhappy with the portrayal of women within fictional worlds as many of them are often exposed. Those who choose to cosplay more revealing characters are often the subject of criticism and accused of seeking attention. This is simply not true. While indeed the pool of badass women within media needs to be more inclusive to all women, choosing to cosplay a character who is portrayed with a more open outfit does not equate to low morals.
Moving away from the treatment of women within the community, the biggest debate amongst cosplayers revolves around those who choose to buy their cosplay versus those who take their time to craft their own. Most often those who buy their cosplays are often looked down upon as inferior to those who decided to create their own. Neither is superior to the other as both of these options are viable.
Cosplay is open to everyone as it should be. No creature is too great or too small to create and despite the ongoing debates involving those in the community, cosplay is a brotherhood. Cosplay brings fans together and creates friends for life. Those who are on the fence about cosplay really should at least try it out once. There is nothing quite like it and hearing someone call for your character’s name can’t help but bring a smile to anyone’s face.