There are few geeks who do not know about the glorified fancy dress event that happens at every Comic convention. It’s described as a performance art – you pick a character or idea that catches your fancy and wear costumes and try to represent that character or idea.
Cosplaying is great fun. It is also serious business to some people. Viewers of The Big Bang Theory would know that the protagonists pay great attention to their Star Trek costumes when they go to the Bakersfield Comic Con – Leonard even has his own, enormous make-up kit, far superior in quality to his girlfriend’s! It’s never been enough for staunch fans to admire a franchise from afar, they want to belong to it, and by stepping into the shoes (and clothes) of their favourite characters, cosplayers can emulate them.
It has quite an interesting history, cosplay. Most of us know that the word PokÃ©mon came from Pocket Monster, or pokketo monsuta, as the Japanese say it. Much the same way, ‘Cosplay’ was coined from ‘Costume Play’ (kosu pure), by director Nobuyuki Takahashi when he saw people wearing costumes to resemble fictional characters in WorldCon, a science fiction convention, in Los Angeles 1984. Though the term came into existence then, the trend of cosplaying had started much earlier, in another sci-fi convention in New York in 1939.
Takahashi went back to Japan and wrote about what he’d witnessed. By this time, manga (Japanese comics) was already huge in Japan, and Osamu Tezuka, creator of Astro Boy and ‘god of manga’ was quite a big-shot. Takahashi had brought back from the west, the allure of feeling like a fictional character by wearing his/her clothes. The Japanese, bless them, picked it up and adopted it with great enthusiasm, and a craze was born. Today, the biggest cosplay convention is Comiket, held in Tokyo twice a year. ‘Comiket’, incidentally, is again a portmanteau of Komikku Maketto (Comic Market). Seriously, what’s with the Japanese and their portmanteaus? If you watch anime, you will know they call restaurants ‘famires’ (from family restaurant), sexual harassment ‘sekkuhara’ and loose socks ‘ruususokkusu’. I’m not kidding.
Back to cosplay, yes. There are many famous cosplayers in the world now, I can remember Jessica Nigri and Yaya Han off the top of my head. They are like actors in the way that you start to think of them as the characters they portray. Just like Hermione will forever be Emma Watson in my head, Jessica Rabbit will only bring Yaya Han to mind.
When you really get into it, cosplaying becomes an overwhelming urge. You will spend hours thinking about which character you could be, what kind of material their clothes are made out of, what shoes, wigs and other accessories you need to resemble who you’re cosplaying. If you don’t know about things like sewing, woodwork, face paint and fiberglass, you will learn about them. If you don’t have the money, you might even start saving! Cosplay contests require you to create your own costumes, which makes it a very personal experience.
Fictional character cosplay garners the most effort from cosplayers all over the world. There is a character, usually seen in one set of clothes, and cosplayers go to great lengths to replicate the costume, create the look and adopt the mannerisms of the character. You would be surprised to know the amount of diligence that goes into minute details of a costume! Cosplaying an idea, on the other hand, leaves more room for imagination. Conventions that host this kind of cosplay generally focus on themes, like mythical creatures (DragonCon) and steampunk (Steampunk Expo).
Bangalore has had the pleasure of hosting two Comic Conventions until now, and the participation in this year’s cosplay was massive! From a tiny tot dressed as Noddy, to Thomson and Thompson from Tintin, several Batmen, an ethereal Erza Scarlet and a phenomenal Ironman, the display quite exceeded expectations.
Most of us have, at some point in our lives, idolised fictional heroes. Little girls and boys want to dress up as their favourite superheroes or mythical characters, and in a lot of us, that desire to be larger than life sticks even as we grow. Cosplay is a neat outlet, and we can see from its popularity that there is a child in everyone.
Moupi Mukherjee (Mechanical)
Illustration by Ankita Kemkar (Architecture)