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What Is Cosplay? Top 5 Queries Completely Answered
Who doesn’t love Halloween? Well, a holiday like Halloween is pretty much the most fun thing you can do all year and that makes it hard to beat. Dressing up like the character who we love, eating a lot of candy, having the time of our lives when any prank is forgiven, who are we kidding? Who wouldn’t love this kind of celebration?
It is the time of the year when you can put on a cape, grab a hammer and unleash the Thor in you, or maybe get yourself a magic stick and go around chanting Expelliarmus, the freedom is all yours. You can get as creative as you want with these things and isn’t it just so much fun?
You must be wondering why am I talking about Halloween in an article titled What is cosplay. So, have you ever wondered what is cosplay? Well, to begin with, cosplay is no different than Halloween it is just that it is on a larger and slightly different scale.
We are going to discuss cosplay today as it has been out there since the ’80s and people are still not aware of what it really is or it stands for. Most of the audience who are into movies and TV shows are surely aware of the word cosplay but there are many who don’t know what is cosplay.
In this article, I will try to compile everything that there is to know about cosplay. So, let’s get started with the very basic question of What is cosplay?
What Is Cosplay?
The answer to the question of what is cosplay is really simple, as I mentioned earlier it is nothing but an advanced or enhanced version of our very own Halloween. To start with, the word ‘cosplay’ is a portmanteau of the words ‘costume’ and ‘play’.
Cosplay can be described as performance art, where people dress up as their favourite characters with all the costumes and character-specific accessories. The people who dress up like that or you may call them the participants of cosplay are the cosplayers.
If you have ever had an encounter with a science fiction convention or a comic con in person or even on screen, you might have seen a lot of people dressed as different characters. Ringing any bells? Yes! Those people are the cosplayers.
Well, cosplay isn’t just about science fiction or comics, it includes everything from manga, television, cartoon, theatre, book, video games, or even anime. Anyone who is indulged in performing as a dramatic representation of any characters from any of these genres, they are said to be into cosplay.
So, I guess this pretty much sums up the very basic and fundamental question of what is cosplay. Now, let’s dig a little deeper into more insights of cosplay, its origin, history, and everything you should know. Let’s get started.
The History: How Did It Start? | What Is Cosplay?
It doesn’t have to be weird but cosplay existed or started literally decades before it was called cosplay. The term cosplay is a Japanese word and was introduced in the ’80s, 1984 to be precise. However, the first-ever cosplay took place way back in the ’30s when it was called something else.
It was back when the first-ever science fiction convention took place in New York City in 1939. So, it all began with Morojo’s ‘furturisticostumes’ that was created for this convention. That is when it all began and a few decades later there was a term for it.
We all are aware that Japan has always been ahead of everyone else when it comes to such things. Ever since the term cosplay was coined, it kept gaining popularity and there was a rapid growth in the number of people who showed interest in the same. Rather, it may have been a hobby at that time.
It was since the ’90s that the hobby of cosplay kept expanding and became a significant aspect of Japan’s pop culture. Soon it started gaining popularity in the East Asian countries and also the West as well. And now we are in a time when we can witness cosplay on the streets of LA on any random day.
More Details On Establishment Of Cosplay
Maybe that little briefing does not do justice to what is cosplay and how it has evolved. So, let’s go into further detail. As mentioned earlier, the term cosplay was introduced in 1984. The man who came up with this word was Nobuyuki Takahashi who first called it kosupure which translates to ‘costume play’, kosu being costume and pure being play.
Kosupure is the Japanese word from which cosplay is derived. Takahashi came up with this when he attended the 42nd Worldcon in LA. Well, Takahashi is the founder of Studio Hard (a media art studio) in case you are wondering.
Dressing up in costumes has been a thing in Japan since the 70s. Without a surprise, it started gaining popularity after Takahashi’s term coining. Being a new concept, it did not catch attention immediately but after the exposure to TV and magazines in the 90s, it started becoming common.
It was in the late 90s when the very first cosplay cafes were instated in Akihabara, Tokyo. Soon after that, in 2003 on the 12th of October, the first World Cosplay Summit took place in Nagoya, Japan. In this World Cosplay Summit, cosplays were invited from Italy, France, and Germany.
It was not until 2005 when there was the beginning of the World Cosplay Championship. It was the very concept of cosplay that uplifted the fallen Worldcon masquerade and I guess we should be thankful to Mr Takahashi for the very same.
Did Cosplay Exist Before The 19th Century?
If you think about it, cosplay has been a part of our lives even before this time. Think about the costume parties, masquerade balls or fancy dress parties that were held during the old days. These were cosplays as well.
Let me make it more clear, the masquerade balls were a thing in the 15th century, and followed by that in the 16th century were the costumed public events in Italy. All these events including the costume and fancy dress parties in America and England in the 18th century involved dressing up as someone else.
Talking about the 18th century, the very first motion pictures were seen later in that century so there was not much to get dressed as. However, at that time people would dress up as historical figures, any random things like autumn, and dressing up as characters of Shakespeare is closest to what cosplay is today.
So, technically the answer is yes, there was cosplay even before the 19th century, it’s just that it had different names based on time and location.
What Is Cosplay Today Like?
Let’s now look at what is cosplay in today’s age. Cosplay is something that is gender-neutral and probably the best of freedom to represent who one wants to be or who one adores or maybe just dressing up for fun irrespective of any differences. Not just gender-neutral but cosplay is even age-neutral.
However, in the early days, people got so innovative that they started showing up naked at some science fiction conventions. For this very reason, the ‘no costume is no costume’ rule was instituted to avoid any such situations.
Later on, some conventions and comic cons even established rules which stated that any participants with inappropriate and not very family-friendly could be asked to change or even leave the convention.
The fan conventions or the comic cons are the events where you will witness the best representation of cosplay. Especially the conventions that are dedicated to a particular part of television, books, comics, anime, or movies.
The Comic Market in Japan that takes place in the summer and winters is said to be the world’s single largest event that features cosplay. There are thousands of participants or you may say fans of manga and anime gather under one roof representing their favorite characters.
The New York and San Diego comic cons are the highest attended cosplay events that take place in Northern America. Not just Japan and the USA but locations like Australia, Paris, and the UK also have huge cosplay events like Supernova Pop Culture Expo, Japan Expo, and London Supercomic Convention respectively.
The cosplay events that are dedicated to a particular franchise also witness the largest audience and cosplayers. The Star Trek convention and the marvel comic con are a few examples of such events that witness the participation of fans from all over the world.
What Is Cosplay Competition?
Since cosplay is so popular, events like conventions conduct competitions. Here the participants are often judged and awarded for their cosplay. It is exciting as the cosplayers often give a small performance. The performance may be a small enactment or even a small dance performance.
The cosplayers are judged on various different factors like the accuracy of the costume, presentation, and the response from the audience. Self-made or designed costumed are the most appreciated along with accurate and entertaining presentation and performance.
The cosplayers are permitted to participate in the competition as a team or even individually. They can click pictures in their character’s iconic poses and even the audience can click pictures of the cosplayers. Well, if they’re too lucky and the actors are present at such an event, they can even click pictures with them and what else could anyone ask for?
Finally, the best cosplay, may it be an individual or a group is awarded exciting prizes. One of such big competitions is the World Cosplay Summit which I even mentioned earlier. So, this sums up the question of what is cosplay competition.
How To Cosplay?
Moving forward, I am sure by now you no longer have the question of what is cosplay. While we are at it and as I committed at the beginning of the article, after knowing what is cosplay, let’s get to how to cosplay.
Getting into cosplay is always exciting. Now that you know what is cosplay, you may want to participate, so here are some steps that you can incorporate to start with cosplay.
Pick A Character
The very step is to pick a character. Picking a character can be very simple and tough at the same time. If you have one clear character in your that’s great, but if there are more characters that you like then you may get baffled in which one to pick.
One thing that you should keep in mind that you have the total freedom to pick any character that you want. There is no need to be concerned about things like gender, skin tone, weight, or structure. It is all about how you manifest the character that you love and nothing else matters.
Every individual has a different perspective and interpretation of one’s appearance. This very thing is the beauty of cosplay and it is what it stands for. Everyone is unique in their own way and so you must pick anyone you want without any hesitation.
Study The Character
Well, this point would be for those who may pick a character they are not much aware of yet love them. The reason I am saying this is that if you already have a favorite character then me suggesting to study the character could be offensive as it is evident that one would surely not need to study his or her favorite character.
Now, when I say study the character, I am referring to going through different photos of the character for accuracy in costumes and props. Just like Captain America would need a shield, Joker would need the makeup and smile, Harley Quinn would need the iconic look, and so on.
Gather What You Need
Once you know what you are going to be and what look you want to portray, it is time that you made a list. Sit down and make a list of all the things you would need to get into character. Right from shoes to accessories, get ready with everything as even the small details are appreciated in cosplay.
Put A Costume Together
Well, putting a costume together is pretty much the most important part of getting into cosplay. For your outfit, you have to decide whether you are going to make it yourself or get it from somewhere.
You have two options, you can either take effort and put together your costume yourself or you can buy it ready-made. If you are good at making your own clothes or have experience of the same then making your own costume is the best idea for you.
Apart from that, one of the advantages of making your costume by yourself is that you can customize it the way you want it. You can add every detail or use your creative ideas with it. However, even if you don’t have any past experience in making your own clothes but would like to try, you can find a lot of help on YouTube.
Talking about another way, buying a cosplay costume is pretty simple. You won’t have to invest a lot of time and you can get it easily. All you have to do is surf through various sites until you get the right match for your outfit.
However, you have to look out for your budget and also you may not be able to customize your costume as you want unless your seller offers you to do so. Other than that if you are not willing to invest your time in making a costume yourself or have no past experience, buying a cosplay costume is the best way.
Use Wigs And Props
If you have understood what is cosplay, you are pretty much aware of how important presentation is. Moreover, you can say that cosplay is all about how you manifest yourself as the character you choose. And in order to do so, you are going to need props.
Wigs are sort of an important part of cosplay. It really depends on the character you choose to be and most of the time we don’t have the same hair unless you are lucky enough. You can feasibly find a suitable wig for your costume online. Again, all it is going to take is a little surfing on the internet or if you know a costume shop then that’s well and good.
Coming to the props, just like the costume, props are the next important thing for your cosplay. Especially if your character carries a weapon like Aquaman or anything of that sort, it is vital that you have the appropriate prop to enhance your look and presentation.
Although there is one thing that you have to pay attention to with props. Different conventions have their own protocols regarding the props. If your prop is any kind of a weapon, you need to ensure that it does not breach any convention protocol. Otherwise, you are good to go.
Closure | What Is Cosplay?
Well, that was a complete compilation of many questions related to what is cosplay. It is beautiful performance art and deserves praise. So, just pick your favourite character and go for it. It is surely an activity worth experiencing.
I hope that I have answered all the questions related to what is cosplay. However, if you have any queries and suggestions, do mention them in the comments section.