What is cosplay?

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Cosplay is a phenomenon that has grown in popularity in recent years and combines the elements of dressing up, live performance, and popular culture. The term was coined in Japan as far back as 1984 but didn’t pick up until the 1990s. It has now enjoyed massive growth since then and looks likely to increase in popularity further over the coming years. All kinds of people from different walks of life enjoy taking part in cosplay, and you will no doubt have encountered cosplayers if you’ve ever been to film, movie and game conventions or Comic Con.

Given the popularity of cosplay, perhaps it’s time we knew a little more about it. There are thousands of people all across the world who actively participate in cosplay. This is a growing trend, and there is even a cosplay subculture prevalent in the Eastern and Western worlds these days. We’re going to look a little closer at the phenomenon of cosplay, and why it appeals so much to people.

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Origins

The word cosplay is a smart blend of the words costume and play. The origins of cosplay can be traced back to masquerade balls, where people would dress up and pretend to be someone else for an evening. Fan costuming, the natural progression from this has had a huge bearing on the future and development of cosplay. Fans have been dressing up as their favorite characters for some time. But cosplaying only really took off in Japan in the mid-1990s when TV and comic books made it much more mainstream.

How it works

Many people consider cosplay to be nothing more than fancy dress, but, in many ways, it’s about more than that. The essence of cosplay is about inhabiting the character you are dressed as, and almost becoming them. In a sense, it’s a form of acting, and many cosplayers actually do performances as well; it’s considered a part of the process.

Many people have basic costumes, while others have very intricate and detailed ones. And, the process of making costumes yourself has become a hugely popular part of the cosplaying community. Creating a costume as accurate as possible is a huge achievement in the cosplay world. There is also a focus on presentation and performance, where people might showcase a particular talent related to their character. These performances take place in front of other cosplayers and are often hand in hand with the process.

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Subculture

Cosplay is hugely popular both in Asia, and in Western countries, however, the kinds of outfits tend to differ. Western culture has embraced cosplay as a form of entertainment and socializing. The origins here are primarily based on science fiction and fantasy. There also tend to be blending subcultures too, as things like Renaissance role-players, and LARP players also tend to be fans of cosplay. Since the turn of the century, cosplay has become pretty big in the UK and the United States.

So popular has cosplay become that there are even competitions that take place on a global scale. Many conventions already feature cosplay elements, not to mention cosplay contests, in which players will perform a short skit that is judged. But, in recent years, this has increased further, and there is now a World Cosplay Summit, where players from 20 different nations head to Japan to compete.

Cosplay has definitely become a growing trend, and one that we hope continues! After all, there’s nothing quite as fascinating as seeing your favorite TV, movie or video game character brought to life by the imagination of another fan.

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