Cosplay, short for “costume play” ou “costume roleplay”, is a 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, but recent trends have included American cartoons and science fiction. Favorite sources include manga, anime, tokusatsu, comic books, graphic novels, video games, hentai and fantasy movies. Any entity from the real or virtual world that lends itself to dramatic interpretation may be taken up as a subject.
Originally known as masquerade, the cosplay was NOT created in Japan. The first known cosplay was created by Forrest J. Ackerman in 1939 during the first Worldcon in the company of Myrtle R. Douglas. He created the garment called “futurecostume” as she created a dress version of the 1936 film “Things to Come.” Since then, it has become an annual practice at Worldcon, with contests and attractions of their own, and later extending to fans of fantasy and comics.
The phenomenon of cosplay arrived in Japan in the 80s to the middle of Nobuyuki Takahashi, who was surprised by the custom when visiting a Worldcon, which began to encourage the practice in Japan by the science fiction magazines.
1. Photography: some cosplayers choose to have a photographer take high quality images of the cosplayer in their garment posing as the character.
2. Conventions: the most popular form of presenting a cosplay is by wearing it to a convention. Conventions dedicated to anime, manga, comics, tv shows, video games, science fiction and fantasy may be found all around the world. The USA alone features nearly a hundred conventions across the country each year.
3. Competitions: as the popularity of cosplay has grown, many conventions have come to feature a contest surrounding cosplay that may be the main feature of the convention. Contestants present their cosplay, and often to be judged for an award, the cosplay must be self-made.
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.
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