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by Janelle Jimenez

Ah, cosplaying. What better way to show how devoted you are to a particular anime or manga than becoming a character for a day? The staple of every anime convention is seeing all the live-action portrayals of anime/manga characters, and then watching a select few of them sing, dance, act, or tell jokes in front of an audience of hundreds. For this author, one of the most entertaining aspects of conventions is cosplaying -- both cosplaying herself and seeing others cosplay.

But what is cosplay?

In essence it's taking fandom to a whole new level. Let's say that you've shown your devotion to a certain anime or manga by having a nickname to reflect it, by owning a webpage dedicated to it, by buying every poster you can find of a particular character -- so what's next? Cosplay of course. Cosplaying is merely taking fandom to the next level by becoming the character. In essence, dressing up as Card Captor Sakura for an anime convention is no different than dressing up as Batman for Halloween. But then again, when you dress up for Halloween you usually aren't swarmed with requests for pictures nor do you perform on a stage for the hope of convincing the panel of judges that you are the best living incarnation of Sailormoon. Of course, cosplay is not for everyone. It requires an incredible amount of time and planning, as well as a bit of self-confidence. It also doesn't hurt to absolutely love having your picture taken and being hit on by fanboys and fangirls (and sometimes both.)

At the very heart of cosplaying is the costume. Some may argue that the love for the anime/manga character is the heart of cosplay, but it doesn't matter how much passion you have for a character if you don't have the costume. Most new cosplayers tend to dress up as more well known characters, many new cosplayers fear hearing, "and who are you dressed up as?" But as one becomes more involved in the cosplay scene, one finds that it can be rather competitive to be the best so-and-so and many veteran cosplayers try for more obscure costumes or more obscure characters to stand out against the swarms of Sailor Senshi. To some cosplayers, part of the attraction of coming in costume is all the wonderful attention you get. Most of us will never get our picture taken so many times in one day than at an anime convention, it really makes you feel like something of a celebrity. Naturally, if you want to be the most photographed and most talked about cosplayer, then you'll come in an extremely elaborate and detailed costume... or something completely original like the Darth Pikachu that wandered around the halls of Anime Expo 99. But don't think that cosplay is restricted to just anime or manga characters, there are also many who cosplay as video game characters. Every year there's a swarm of Street Fighter and Final Fantasy cosplayers. Heck, who you cosplay as doesn't even have to be created, per se. One of the most talked about cosplayers at Anime Central 2000 was a cosplayer who came as Mana from the Japanese visual-rock band Malice Mizer, even more interesting was that the particular costume she wore was from when Mana was pretending to be a doll. To get even more into her role, the cosplayer refused to speak and had friends answer questions for her.

So where does one acquire a Sailor Senshi uniform, a priestly garb, or the dress of a French doll? Most cosplayers acquire their costumes by creating them on their own. This requires an incredible amount of skill since you can't exactly find a pattern for what Aoi Karin wore in DNA^2 -- but you can find something close. That's where creativity and innovation come in...and a whole lot of paper mache. Nothing is more wonderful than seeing people cosplay things that would otherwise seem to be impossible to do. Kekko Ramen of Anime Expo 99 comes to mind when I think of creative and innovative, the cosplayer said that the ramen noodles on her costume were made out of mop heads. Who knew mop heads were so versatile?

There are others who acquire their costumes by having tailors or other professionals create it for them. For those with the money, buying a costume is a very viable option. The elaborate blue Victorian dress that the Mana cosplayer mentioned above wore is actually an authentic copy of the actual costume that the real Mana wore -- not only does that make a great costume, but a great piece of memorabilia as well. Some cosplayers ask relatives or friends to sew it for them, and still others buy their costumes. However, purchased costumes can be something of a controversial thing -- especially when it comes to the convention Masquerade. Nonetheless, anime/manga costumes are so popular that one can find many sites online to buy professionally created costumes...a search on eBay at almost any given time will bring up results of new and used costumes.

However you acquire a costume, the most important thing is that you're having fun. Truly one of the most exciting aspects of an anime convention is seeing the attendees who showed up in costume...and not only that, but taking pictures with them. Where else am I going to be able to take a picture with Shinomori Aoshi of Rurouni Kenshin or Folken from Escaflowne? You can't very well draw yourself into an anime or manga that you enjoy, so why not take a picture with a person who appears to be the living embodiment of Belldandy, Ayanami Rei, or Sailorvenus? Cosplay isn't for the shy, so get your camera pose ready and say 'cheese!'.





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