Cosplay: The Art of Living a Fantasy

With the global lockdown, many had come up with different challenges, including the very famous Princess Challenge, which consist of dressing as a princess with whatever you find on your wardrobe. Many people have chosen a princess that looks like them, but this has been the moment to shine for many cosplayers out there.

Cosplay is the art of dressing as a character you like and acting like them. This involves makeup, wearing wigs, wearing uncomfortable high-heels to increase your height, and even using contact lenses. What is the difference in wearing a simple Halloween costume? It takes time and research. The cosplayer has to manipulate the gestures, postures, and sometimes even the language in order to demonstrate who he is trying to portray. Most of the characters that cosplayers choose come from comics, manga, tv shows, movies, and video games. Cosplay is a whole language.

The cosplayer is expected to bring the fictional character to life, they should feel the same emotions, and even think alike. It’s a kind of performance. As soon as a cosplayer gets into costume, they get into another world full of fantasy, where their real life is not involved.

Himeko as Alfheim Asuna from Sword Art Online

Cosplay originated in Japan in the late 80s and its popularity spread quickly thanks to anime and manga conventions. Every form of art has a place to shine, and cosplay is not the exception. All the hard work a cosplayer puts into a cosplay is to attend a fan convention in order to be recognized. The conventions are the final goal. The audience is going to read the cosplayer and evaluate how accurate to the original character is the portrayal. In these conventions, fan culture reunites to see friends that come from far away, to meet artists, to buy art, or to get merchandise from their favorite fandom. Fan conventions are the stage of cosplayers, people from around the world attend to see their favorite characters come to life. Cosplayer are the soul of these conventions, without cosplayers these events would be just a group of people talking about their likes and walking around. It is a place where everyone understands each other because of their share of preferences.

How does a cosplayer picks a character? Mostly, they will pick a character that resembles them, not necessarily in physical aspects, more like in personality aspects. A big part of this is to feel connection with the character in order to portray it better, something that they can integrate into their life somehow. I see it as something that will add meaning to your life. The person has to feel some sort of infatuation towards the character, so they want to have the entire experience of living as the character for a few hours.

Most cosplayers will pick a character that suits their own appearance because this will make simpler the process of becoming the character. For example, a curvy cosplayer mostly will pick a chubby character to exemplify it better. This does not mean that they could not cosplay a skinny character, in the world of cosplay everything is allowed. They may select a character because of their similarities in personality, this will also make easier the personification. Some may choose a character whose personality is different from theirs, maybe because they want to experience other personalities that aren’t their own.

Himeko as Mei from Overwatch
Photographer: Kuro’s Kingdom

There’s many types of cosplays and characters: those easily recognizable, those that are new and only few know about them, there are original characters cosplays (when people create a character and cosplay as them).

Many cosplayers try to imitate as close as possible the character in order to be accurate. This is where makeup comes into play. People use contour to re-shape their features, they delete their eyebrows, they even paint themselves just to look exactly as the character and it is fascinating! Girls dress up as boys, boys dress up as girls, it is wonderful!

Ruby Moon as Starfire from Teen Titans.
IG: ruby.moon11

Some people make a different version of the character, using a few original elements so it is easier to recognize it, maybe to adjust to what they already have or because it is out of budget, and that’s completely okay! They may use the distinctive colors or the hair-do.

Ibis as female Loki
IG: monsirens_cosplay

Cosplay has created its own community, it could almost be called its own world, where they established their own rules, values, and context. They help each other with ideas, problems, with supplies or tools, and even with knowledge. Cosplayers have their own social community and most of them know each other from the Internet. The act of cosplaying depends a lot from socializing, it will not be a satisfactory experience if it is done alone. Cosplayers tend to reunite and make groups to cosplay different characters from the same series, videogames, tv shows, etc. The main point of cosplaying is to have a spotlight, the importance is to be recognized by the audience and have a moment of fame. Cosplayers depend a lot from social media, where they will upload pictures and videos of themselves in character. Also, it is a common thing to make video tutorials to help other people with the process of making the cosplay. Others will take pictures of the process and when they finish, they upload them to social media. Usually, when cosplayers organize a group, it tends to stand out more. When the audience gets to see the whole crew of a certain source text, they get excited, this also makes the cosplayers feel appreciated thanks to their hard work. By making groups, it is smoother to work because everyone helps each other.

The cosplay community is composed by diverse types of artists. There are the costume makers, who are the ones that sew the costumes. The prop makers are the one in charge of giving the cosplayer the weapons and armor. The make-up artists are the ones who work magic and—like a fairy godmother—will transform a normal person in a character from the fantasy world. The photographers are the ones who will help the cosplayers to be recognized, taking pictures of them and uploading them to social media. Film makers are also a part of the community, they record the footage of the events. With them, the cosplayer has an opportunity to demonstrate the knowledge they have of the character, it is the best moment to portray who they are cosplaying since the film maker will catch every detail, poses, and voices. Sometimes, big projects will develop, and film makers will collaborate with cosplayers to make a short film, because cosplayers can work like actors and actresses. Like in any community, sometimes the cosplayers may have arguments for minor matters like two cosplayers cosplaying as the same character, but usually they would resolve the conflict and be friends again. It is a big community that anyone can join as long as they have fun an enjoy the moment.

Cosplay is totally for fun, even though there are people that use it as a job. It is a great opportunity to demonstrate your skills. Some do it from scratch, others prefer to buy it and both are okay. Cosplay is for EVERYONE: doesn’t matter your skin color, your height, your type of body, or your gender. You can cosplay whoever you want, any way you like, all is acceptable as long as you’re having fun and you let others have fun too. What’s not acceptable is to make fun of others or to make them feel bad, because at the end, we are all a bunch of nerds dressing up as people that we aren’t!

Himeko as Summer Beekeeper Mei
Photographer: WR Photography