Class 1: To Be an Otaku and Cosplay, Part 2

The second part of Class 1 is dedicated to cosplay, and reveals some cosplay efforts made by our very own Jeanne (co-president of the SOAS Anime Society which gets spammed every episode). This entry also contains some of the cut sections and bloopers from the very first recording session of SOAS, where we managed to put our foots in our mouths a few times :) But before we talk about cosplay, first let’s acknowledge the fine art of cosplaying and where it all began.

 

Definitions and Origins:

In lexical terms, cosplay is a blend of two words: costume + play. The term was coined by Nobuyuki Takahashi of the Japanese studio Studio Hard while he was attending the 1983 World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon) in Los Angeles. It refers to a performance art hobby where participants wear costumes, accessories, props and role play in unique characters from gaming, anime, manga, comics, movies and fanculture. Anything that lends itself to dramatic interpretation, whether animate, inanimate or anthropomorphic can be taken up as a subject for cosplaying. Initially limited to the stage at conventions and events, cosplay has now spread out into a wider cultural context. The rapid growth of cosplaying since the 1990s has made it a powerful force in popular culture. In fact, the popularity of cosplay was enough to influence the street fashion in Japan. This has since spread more globally.

Jeanne as Hibiki Kuze from Devil Survivor 2

Jeanne as Hibiki Kuze from Devil Survivor 2

 

As we discussed during our show, cosplay differs greatly from simply dressing up for Halloween and Mardi Gras. Although in recent years, we have seen the influx of cosplay during those holidays, cosplaying is done with the intention of replicating unique characters and the personalities of those characters rather than merely representing ideas or symbolism. In fact, when you wear the costume, you are in essence the character you are replicating, complete with affectations, mannerisms and body language.

Due to the popularity of cosplay is Japan and Asia, it is a common misconception that it is something of Asian heritage. However, the original art of putting on a costume and representing popular culture characters comes from USA and was known as “costuming”. The first costuming was done by sci-fi fan Forrest J Ackerman in 1939! The hobby was then picked up by the Japanese who morphed it into its phenomenal cult status before it was re-appropriated by the American market.

 

Cosplay Heroes Unmasked

 

In 2009, at the Anime Festival Asia (AFA), Animax did a three-part video series titled Cosplay Heroes Unmasked. It was created to reveal the art of cosplaying and to introduce the World Cosplay Championship to the viewers. The series was narrated by Kaname Shiroboshi (better known as just Kaname), a world-renowned Japanese cosplayer and AFA ambassador who has become an iconic name in cosplay culture. In fact, he’s so so well-loved for his cosplay that he created two original characters for himself: Ryūzaki and Meguru! My personal favourite cosplay done by Kaname is his Cloud cosplay, which remains his most famous one till date. It was also the one he walked us through in the Cosplay Heroes Unmasked:

Kaname as Cloud Strife from Final Fantasy VII (specifically from Advent Children)

Kaname as Cloud Strife from Final Fantasy VII (specifically from Advent Children)

Find Kaname’s cosplay profile at ->> http://worldcosplay.net/member/knm0q0/

His official Facebook page at ->> https://www.facebook.com/knm0q0.official/

Twitter ->> https://twitter.com/knm0q0

A highly interesting and insightful interview with Kaname and the art of cosplaying can be found at ->> http://www.cosplaygen.com/kaname-jp/

 

One of our more fun references during the show was about cross-play, where genders are switched during cosplay. The practicality of this stems from the abundance of bishōnen (lit. pretty boy) and androgynous, delicate-looking flower boy characters found in anime and manga. This ofcourse makes it easier for girls to dress up as guys. But although, girls doing cross-play have been relatively common in this fanculture, the opposite has been more of a niche group. A further category is that of the animegao (dollers), who fall in the subgroup of kigurumi, or mascot-style players. Most animegao are male players depicting female characters, although there are female animegao as well. Animegao, like mascots, wear bodysuits and masks that completely hide their features so that character duplication can be made perfectly!

As we talked about in our show, Jeanne is also a cosplayer and so we thought it would be interesting to include a few of his efforts. Yosuke Hanamura is one of Jeanne’s favourite cosplay characters and his first attempt at cosplay:

First time cosplay attempt going strong! Jeanne as Yosuke Hanamura from Persona 4...

First time cosplay attempt going strong! Jeanne as Yosuke Hanamura from Persona 4…

 

And while Jeanne talked about the merits of cosplaying as a protagonist and as a sidekick, he also revealed that SOAS has three cosplayers including him. Our reactions to this are hidden in this cut BTS from the show!

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