A beginner's guide to cosplay

Costumes and Conventions

Modern cosplay in Japan still revolves around conventions. While one can find cosplayers on any given day, the masked masses come out in droves for conventions. Small groups of cosplayers, called “circles,” will usually attend these events together with similarly themed outfits. At the same time, camera-kozo, hobbyist photographers who specialize in cosplay, flock to conventions to capture their obsession on film.

Above: Fans who collect pictures of cosplayers are called camera-kozo

The king of these conventions is Comiket, a semi-annual doujinshi (amateur comics) convention that hosts 550,000 thousand people. The event is dominated by women, due to the second day being dedicated to yaoi (also known as “boys love”) manga, a genre that features male characters in romantic settings.

Every year, Tokyo Game Show also hosts a cosplay area during the show’s public days. Of course, most of  these cosplayers go as videogame characters. However, there are always a few outliers.

Above: A circle of Resident Evil cosplayers at the Tokyo Game Show

The anime/manga convention, Jump Festa, is held in the same venue as the Tokyo Game Show, but hosts twice the cosplay space. The show is dominated by manga and anime companies, so there are always a handful of game characters mixed in with the anime cosplayers.

Above: Anime and manga-themed costumes dominate the cosplay area at Jump Festa


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  • epicdominican91 - January 23, 2010 4:31 a.m.

    as i read this i cant help but use a engrish accent...
  • marioman50 - January 22, 2010 8:53 p.m.

    Check out the Peter Bjorn and John music video, "Nothing to Worry About". It shows a day in the life of one of the greasers. Kinda strange... yet funny.
  • crumbdunky - January 22, 2010 6:51 p.m.

    IDK about Cospa stores and stuff that you haven't made yourself at all-to me that takes all the creativity out of it and, also, the store made ones look crap compared to the better fan made cosplayers outfits and costumes I've seen both in the UK/EU AND Japan. Also, and I realise this happens literally anywhere and everywhere that gets any kind of name for itself but the last time I went through Harajuku it was FULL to bursting with US and EU tourists(and a lot of them were lonely, grubby looking middle aged men who always look shifty without a wife in tow! I wonder why on earth they might be trawling somewhere with rep for having young chikitas in dress up mode? Hmm?)and didn't feel the same place as five years or so before. Anyway, I've never gotten into it myself but always like seeing the best(and laughing at the worst)ones you come across at games conventions etc. I do think, though, that buying your costume might be a Japanese thing as the few people I know here in England that do a bit all think buying theirs would ruin the fun as most of the fun to be had is in impressing people with how accurately you can turn yourself(or whoever you make the costume for) into the character you aimed for. Is the dressing up more important to the Japanese than where the costume comes from and how accurate it is, I wonder? Whatever, it also seems to play into the hands of pretty people who just want a go at it o get in a few pictures for their modelling career or something and, again to me, it takles a lot of the gloss off the whole idea of cosplay itself. That said, I have never seen Japanese cosplayers look as bad as the worst of the western ones who think a twig and a binliner and some tin foil can turn them into Sephiroth(tin foil hair-seriously at Leipzig 2007 a short, fat German fella was cosplaying as Sephiroth using a binbag as his long leather jacket, tin foil shredded for his "hair" and a bloody branch off a nearby tree instead of a sword! Jesus, did that fella smell bad too. I'm certain someone else must have seen him and if you had you just could NOT forget the guy!)or Zelda! Maybe that's the thing:Japanese people do it for fun or to look good but more westerners either do it for a laugh(making their own crappy outfits)or are the real genius ones who make totally accurate Gundam outfits or replicate Big Daddies precisely down t the last bloody rivet!Not totally, as i've seen AMAZINGLY good Japanese nes as well but the western cosplayer, to me, seems to be at either end of the spectrum and away from store bought ease and mediocrity of costume! Whatever, I'm done trying to figure out if there's real cultural dfferences in the cosplay scene of today and definitely think I'll have another crack at getting the missus turned into Ada Wong(went badly last time!).
  • Cernunnos - January 22, 2010 3:17 p.m.

    i want the luffy costume so badly. cosplay envokes mixed feelings in me, i despise the homemade and outrageously laughable attempts at it, especially with coloured wigs etc. but more subtle cosplaying is always cool, but very expensive.
  • sepirothpk - January 22, 2010 11:07 a.m.

    BTW, the anime/manga cosplayers on page 2 are cosplaying Gintama. Funny series, a good watch
  • phoenix_wings - January 22, 2010 7:53 a.m.

    @ MGF--keep your lips off of whatever you're biting. It looks weird, but you'll have to touch-up less at the end. And no, I won't ask. Not that into cosplay, but probably because no one else around where I live is into it enough to be worth it. For Halloween I intended to get myself a set of blue coveralls and iron-on transfers. 101, baby. And NO ONE will know what it means :P Recaptcha: action trousers. ....niiice!
  • CH3BURASHKA - January 22, 2010 5:32 a.m.

    Big! Comstumes! Big! Money! Big! Prizes!
  • MetalGearFlaccid - January 22, 2010 3:41 a.m.

    The worst is if you're a guy dressed as a male character who wears makeup. I was Alan Gabriel from The Big O at Ohayocon last year, and I tell ya: Alan gives Kefka (from FFVI) a run for his money in gaudiness. The best thing is when you're riding on the bus next to a guy dressed as Big Boss, and you just go about your business, chatting casually while lookers-on pretend to not stare while still staring. Lots of fun. A little side-note: Ladies, how the hell do you manage eating pizza whilst wearing lipstick? (Don't ask. PLEASE don't ask.)
  • diddly - January 22, 2010 3:39 a.m.

    That very last pick is exactly how all the greasers in the USA looked back in the day
  • speno93 - January 22, 2010 3:08 a.m.

    weird ,but also kind of cool nonetheless. It would be funny to drag my folks into a cospa store, just to see their reactions at the clothes, Ha ha ha!
  • TheHalfanese - January 21, 2010 11:48 p.m.

    I've minorly cosplayed(if there is such a thing), and contrary to what you might think about it, it is actually quite a bit of fun. I totally agree, Samael.
  • nik41507 - January 21, 2010 11:47 p.m.

    I never knew this
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  • Samael - January 21, 2010 9:43 p.m.

    I've only cosplayed three times, each at Anime Boston, but it's definitely something I will continue to do. It's both incredibly fun and great/hilarious to see the reactions of "normal" passers-by.

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