What is Cosplay?
The term "cosplay," which has become so popular around the world that almost everyone has heard of it, is an abbreviation of the term "costume play."
"Costume play" is a Wasei-Eigo (和製英語, "Japanese-made English") term that was originally used in theatre to describe historical plays.
However, this was back in the days when cosplay was not as common as it is today.
Since the word "play" also means to act, the term "cosplay" was used to refer to historical plays in which actors dressed up in costumes reminiscent of the time period they were portraying and acted out their roles.
However, around the 1970s, animation became more prominent in the film industry, and from the 1990s, Comiket, a coterie magazine exhibition known as Comic Market, and photo shoot events where fans dressed in their favorite anime and game costumes, began popping up all over the place.
The people who dressed in said costumes became known as cosplayers, and what used to be mainly home-made costumes is now a booming market with even apparel makers specializing in cosplay costumes.
In the 21st century, anime, manga, Godzilla, and superheroes became popular overseas, and now, the Japanese government is actively working to expand the market overseas as part of its national policy, and Comiket and cosplay events have become an important part of Japan's tourism industry.
Enjoying Cosplay as a Beginner
Many people are interested in cosplay, but it can be hard to approach for beginners.
Cosplayers on social media wear elaborate costumes and have gained a large number of followers on Youtube and Instagram with their makeup and costumes that make them look just like the character they're portraying.
Popular major cosplayers in Japan include "Enako," "Amatsu Sama," "Moe Iori," "Omotechan," and "Saku."
Even as a beginner you can easily enjoy cosplaying thanks to online shopping services such as Amazon.
In Japan, you can even purchase fancy costumes at Don Quijote, a popular discount store.
There's tons of information about cosplay in Japan, one of the most advanced cosplay countries in the world, to be found on the internet.
Popular Cosplay Characters
When most people hear the word "cosplay," they probably think of characters from anime and video games.
However, the world of cosplay is vast.
For example, you can dress up as a visual kei band that has sung the theme song for an anime or video game, as Star Wars or Star Trek characters, as an alien or other sci-fi monster, or as a character from horror movies, such as Jason, a zombie, or as Sadako from "The Ring."
Cute maid outfits and idol cosplays are especially popular.
In addition, cosplays based on popular video game series' are becoming more and more popular.
For example, in the "Touken Ranbu" series, famous swords are transformed into handsome characters with special powers and controlled by a Saniwa (審神者, Sage) (you), and appear in familiar historical battles found in history books to defeat monsters that are trying to alter history.
Fate (Fate/Zero, Fate/Stay night, Fate/Grand Order, etc.) is a series in which sorcerers summon the heroes of the past as heroic spirits to fight in the Holy Grail War over the legendary Holy Grail, which is said to have the power to conquer the world, by forming a contract with them.
Touken Ranbu has a lineup of handsome men with different personalities depending on the type of weapon they are, including Japanese swords, spears, wakizashi, and short swords. The costumes are elaborate and some of the characters are gender neutral, and it's a very popular work because not only is it easy to cosplay for men, but also for women as well.
Some works that have been adapted from anime to games are also popular in the cosplay world.
Puella Magi Madoka Magica, which was incredibly popular at one point, is a popular work among female cosplayers because of the many magical girls that appear in the game world of Magia Record, not to mention the cute costumes of the magical girls.
Madoka Magica and Magia Record are two of the most popular games among magical girl titles.
Love Live!, with die hard fans called "Love Livers," has been made into a movie and a rhythm game, and there are a lot of group cosplayers dressed as their favorite characters from this work.
Another work that can't be overlooked in the world of cosplay is the "JUMP" category.
"JUMP" refers to works that have been published in Weekly Shonen Jump by Shueisha, or are archived works from the past.
There's the "Gintama" series which has unfortunately come to an end, "My Hero Academia," which depicts the activities of high school students training to become heroes, the "Jojo's Bizarre Adventure" series, which follows Jonathon Joestar facing off against the entity "Stand," "Demon Slayer," which was massively popular between 2019 and 2020, "ONE PIECE," which was the number one selling manga series for more than 10 years until it was surpassed by "Demon Slayer," the "Dragon Ball" series which boasts overwhelming popularity, especially in foreign countries, as well as popular sports anime/manga, such as "Slam Dunk," "The Prince of Tennis," and "Haikyu!!" There are also many works currently serialized in JUMP NEXT, such as Kuroko's Basketball, that are very popular with cosplayers.
There Are Also Voice Actor Cosplayers as Well!
At big events where cosplayers gather from all over the world, such as Comiket, Anifest, and Nico Nico Chokaigi, there are also talk shows and live performances of anime songs by voice actors.
Nowadays, it's not uncommon for anime songs to be at the top of song downloads and karaoke rankings, but anime songs, in which the voice actors form a unit and sing about the world of the work are especially popular with hardcore fans.
For exaple, Walküre, a unit that appears in the popular robot anime "Macross Delta," and "The Prince of Tennis," an album of original songs written by the voice actors of popular characters that topped the sales charts, are some of examples of voice actors being active not only in dubbing sessions, but also in live performances.
One of the most popular voice actor units is Hypnosis Mic. This unit is a music CD project produced by King Records, the same company that released the famous songs that brought the Gundam series to life in the past.
Twelve male voice actors dressed up as characters for the promotion of the songs, and an unprecedented style of rap battles unfolded, leading to the album being hugely popular.
This CD project has become so popular that there are more than 850,000 registered users on the official fan club site on YouTube, and a rhythm game was released in March 2020 and the anime is set to start in October.
Rather than cosplaying voice actors, it's the cosplay of the Hypnosis Mic poster boys that have ignited the souls of enthusiasts, giving rise to Hypnosis Mic cosplayers, and its influence is spreading to international fans as well.
There are some visitors who come to Japan for the sole purpose of cosplaying.
In Japan, in addition to major events such as Comiket and Anifest, there are also many cosplay enthusiasts who get together for photo shoots and other events where people actively interact with each other through cosplay.
Japanese anime, manga, and video games are having a huge influence on foreign cultures as well.
This cosplay fever is sure to continue to spread throughout the world!