Cosplay ( kosupure), short for "costume play",is type of performance art in which participants don costumes and accessories to represent a specific character or idea. Characters are often drawn from popular fiction in Japan. Favorite sources include manga, anime, tokusatsu, comic books, graphic novels, video games, hentai and fantasy movies. Role play includes portrayals of J-pop and J-rock stars, Taiwanese puppet characters, science fiction characters, characters from musical stories, classic novels, and entertainment software. Any entity from the real or virtual world that lends itself to dramatic interpretation may be taken up as a subject. Inanimate objects are given an anthropomorphic forms and it is not unusual to see genders switched, with women playing male roles and vice versa.
Cosplayers often interact to create a subculture centered around role play. A broader use of the term cosplay applies it to any costumed role play in venues apart from the stage, regardless of the cultural context.
Practice of Cosplay
Cosplayers typically come from the ranks of otaku--that is, fans of Japanese comic books, known as manga. They gather at public events such as comic-book and video game trade shows, as well as at dedicated cosplay parties at nightclubs or amusement parks. In Japan teenagers 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 costumes are particularly popular. In areas outside of Japan, cosplay is primarily done at manga and anime conventions.
The single largest event featuring cosplay is the semiannual doujinshi market, Comiket. This event, held in Japan during summer and winter, attracts hundreds of thousands of manga fans. Thousands of cosplayers congregate on the roof of the exhibition center, often in unbearably hot or cold conditions. The largest event for cosplayers outside Asia is the annual San Diego Comic-Con held in the California city in the USA.
Cosplayers in Japan refer to themselves as reiyâ ; pronounced "layer". Those who photograph players are called cameko, short for "Camera Kozo" or "Camera Boy". Originally the cameko give prints of their photos to players as gifts. Increased interest in cosplay events both on the part of photographers and cosplayers willing to model for them have led to formalisation of procedures at events such as Comiket. Photography takes place within a designated area removed from the exhibit hall.
Cosplay at fan events likely originated in Japan in 1978.Cosplay nevertheless gets a mixed reception in Japan even today. Events in districts such as Akihabara draw many cosplayers, yet there is no shortage of people in Japan who regard cosplay as a frivolous endeavor.
Cosplay differs from Halloween and Mardi Gras costume wear not only in existing independent of any particular holiday, but in its goal. The object of cosplay is interpretation: one attempts to become one's character much as a stage actor inhabits a role. Costumes are expected to adhere meticulously to the attire known to be worn by the character represented. Even more generic costumes get an elaborately artistic treatment. Cosplayers may purchase or create costumes through fan labor. Cosplayers often educate themselves in crafting specialities such as sculpture, face paint, fiberglasswork, fashion design and the like in the effort to render the look and texture of a costume accurately.
Once in costume, cosplayers adopt the affect, mannerisms and body language of the characters they portray. Cosplayers often gather to view the costumes of others, show off their own creations, take pictures, share tips, and participate in contests. This activity is maintained between major events through participation in online forums.
Cosplay restaurants (Kosupure-kei inshokuten), are theme restaurants and pubs that originated in Akihabara, Tokyo, Japan around the year 1999. They include maid cafés ( Meido kafe) and butler cafés (shitsuji kissa), where the service staff dress as elegant maids, or as butlers. Such restaurants and cafés have quickly become a staple of Japanese otaku culture. Compared with service at normal cafés, the service at cosplay cafés involves the creation of a rather different atmosphere. The staff treat the customers as masters and mistresses in a private home rather than merely as café customers.
The popularity of the Cosplay restaurants and maid cafes has spread to other regions in Japan, such as Osaka's Den Den Town as well as other countries, such as Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Mexico, and Canada.