COSPLAY Introduction

Cosplay (コスプレ kosupure - pronounced coz-play) is Japanese term short for "costume play."

This is a Japanese sub-culture to act of dressing up in costume as favourite anime/manga characters. Those fans often make their costumes themselves. Cosplay is very popular and it is practised especially at anime conventions.

In Japan, cosplay as a hobby is usually an end unto itself. Like-minded people gather to see others' costumes, show off their own elaborate handmade creations, take lots of pictures, and possibly participate in best costume contests.

Cosplay competitions held at conventions (con) allow fans (known as 'cosplayers') dress up as their favourite characters, pose for pictures and win prizes. Hardcore fans can treat cosplay very seriously, sometimes spending months making their costumes. In Japan Cosplay Cafés - where the staff (and occasionally the visitors) dress up as anime and manga characters - are quite popular too, and many merchandise companies have twigged that making replica costumes and accessories for cosplayers is a useful source of extra income.

Cosplay can be seen at public events such as video game shows, as well as at dedicated cosplay parties at nightclubs or amusement parks. It is not unusual for Japanese teenagers to gather with like-minded friends in places like Tokyo's Harajuku district to engage in cosplay. Since 1998, Tokyo's Akihabara district has contained a large number of cosplay cafés, catering to devoted anime and cosplay fans. The waitresses at such cafés dress as game or anime characters; maid (or meido) costumes are particularly popular.

Possibly the single largest and most famous event attended by cosplayers is the semiannual doujinshi market, Comiket. This event, held in summer and winter, attracts hundreds of thousands of manga otaku and many thousands of cosplayers who congregate on the roof of the exhibition center, often in unbearably hot or cold conditions.

Cosplayers in Japan refer to themselves as reyazu; pronounced layers (by writing the word cosplayers in katakana, it is possible to shorten it in this way). Those who photograph players are called cameko, short for "Camera Kozo" or "Camera Boy". The cameko give prints of their photos to the players as gifts. Tensions between players and cameko have increased due to perceived stalker-like behaviour among some obsessive males who push female cosplayers to exchange personal email addresses or do private photo sessions. One result of this has been a tightening of restrictions on photography at events such as Comiket.

While Cosplay arguably originated in Japan, one should not be confused with the idea that Cosplay is considered typical behavior in Japan. While some do attend Cosplay functions that are held in districts such as Akihabara, most Japanese people find Cosplay to be rather silly. In addition, because Cosplay in Japan has adapted such a negative sexual connotation, many Japanese have come to feel that Cosplay is reprehensible. In addition, North Americans who Cosplay typically refer to themselves as "otaku", which is essentially the Japanese word for "geek", but wrongfully use this word in an attempt to embody themselves in a sociological group that they can be proud of. To contrast, in Japan actual otaku refuse to admit that they are otaku because the idea of otaku it is not looked at as a group of people who are engaging in activity that may seem "just a little different". In fact, being an otaku in Japan entails standing on one of the bottom rungs of the Japanese social ladder.

See Also: Cosplay Trends | International Cosplay | Cosplay Restaurents (Meido Cafe/Maid Cafe)
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