On Cosplay

Over at The Anime Blog, Rachel asks, “What’s keeping you from cosplaying?

Seriously, what’s keeping more people from donning a costume and going nuts at a con? Fans of anime can be pretty die-hard; wearing t-shirts, cat ears, and carrying around merchandise like badges of honor. Why don’t they take the extra step and immerse themselves in a character?

While I’ve been to Comic-Con twice (once the year Naoko Takeuchi was there, back in the ’90s, and again in 2007), I’ve never been to an “anime” convention. Still, there are plenty of people dressed as anime (and of course American comic) characters at Comic-Con.

I’m not the type of person to “dress up” for things, but if I were to try out the whole “cosplay” thing, I know who’d I’d try out. But I wouldn’t even attempt it unless I could go all the way with it. More on this further below.

When I look at photos of Japanese and American cosplayers, there’s a huge difference. The Japanese cosplayers I see photos of generally put a good deal of effort into their costumes. There are still Japanese cosplayers where you see them and think, “Why even bother if that’s how you look in the outfit?” (referring to a lack of effort in the costume), but that sentiment seems to come up a whole lot more often with American cosplayers (whereas here it tends to be a matter of cosplayer shape not matching the character as well as lack of effort in the costume, and I pick on Americans only I’m in North American myself). Really, what is comes down to is the amount of time and effort one puts into their cosplay look.

You can tell when someone has put time and effort into creating just the right look. I don’t know the character this gal is cosplaying (I would imagine a recent Final Fantasy character by the design of the outfit), but she makes for a very cute cosplayer, don’t you think? And this look probably doesn’t even take much preparation, once you have the outfit ready.

Back to Rachel’s post, she writes about looks.

The number one reason I don’t cosplay, however is: I look nothing like my favorite characters.

I believe a person needs to look somewhat like a character to cosplay the character well. You can wear contact lenses to change your eye color, and you can dye your hair. You could probably even find a way to tone your skin just right if you wanted to go that far. A Japanese cosplayer can cosplay as a Caucasian character convincingly, and in theory it can work the other way around. If one goes along with theory, you can even find a Caucasian cosplaying as Nadia from Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water well. Still, looking at least a little like the character helps.

It’s more than looks, though. You have to—to an extent—be the character. You can’t be Goku from Dragon Ball Z is you’re going to be sulking, of if you’ll be angering easily when a crowd of people overwhelms you while you’re trying to snatch up that last Vegeta gashapon you see at a nearby booth. A Goku cursing and pushing people out of his way is out of character.

This cosplayer as Sailorjupiter from Pretty Guardian Sailormoon not only was kind enough to let me take a photo of her, but she also posed similair to Sailorjupiter’s electric attack pose. She knows that being in character is an important part of the cosplay experience, both for herself and for fans of the character she’s in costume as.

Still, one might find that they just can’t pull off a character’s look, simply because they don’t look enough like the character. They might be too short. Or their face might be too long. Or they might be too far around the waist.

Rachel covers this as well:

I like good cosplay, don’t get me wrong, but one of the reasons some cosplays just don’t work out is because the person wearing it doesn’t go the extra mile. If you’re not ripped and you’re playing a ripped character, maybe choose a costume the character wears which hides your unripped-ness.

And further in a comment:

… I don’t mind if fuller people cosplay tiny characters as long as the costume is customized to accommodate their needs. The short, short skirts are a no-no, for sure, but if the skirts were longer, I could see it happening. In fact, I saw two robust Sailor Moon characters at ACen last year who did a fantastic job with their costumes. They weren’t showing off any excess and the costumes seemed pretty exact.

So, maybe you can’t play as Spike Spiegel from Cowboy Bebop. Maybe you can’t quite make it as Sakura from Cardcaptor Sakura. There’s another option, which should cover up for the lack of matching looks. Try to find a group of characters without specific looks to cosplay as.

Consider this guy. He’s a Klingon, from the Star Trek series. I don’t know if he’s cosplaying as a specific character, or just as a general Klingon, but when you cosplay as a unique “you” character from a recognizable race or species, you suddenly are no longer restricted to such tight requirements in the looks department.

This guy could have bought a $5.00 forehead mask, which would undoubtedly clash with the tone of his skin, and then he could have said, “Look at me, I’m a Klingon!” Or, he could do exactly what it looks like he did: invest the time and money into putting himself in a full costume, completely detailed to make the exact look a Klingon should have. Of course, you don’t have to go that far to look “decent”.

Cosplay, photo by Chris Fritz.

Let’s ignore my friend on the right here, and focus on the two gals on the left. On the right of the two is someone dressed as Nurse Joy from Pokémon. No need for pink hair, as long as her hair is in Joy’s looped ponytails style.

And on the left, the gal here goes with a generic Team Rocket (also Pokémon) costume. Rather than trying to match a specific Rocket member, such as Jessie or Cassidy, she’s able to be a convincing Rocket member as herself.

Rachel finishes by asking for reader responses.

If you don’t cosplay, what’s keeping you? Do you think it’s stupid and a waste of time and energy? Do you just like to gawk at the lovely and scantily clad ladies? Are you wanting to cosplay but can’t sew? Is shyness your issue? C’mon, dish: What’s keeping you from cosplaying?

My shyness is always an issue with everything. I wouldn’t say cosplay is a waste of time and energy as long as the person cosplaying is having a good time, but if you don’t put the time and energy into it, it’ll show. As for gawking, I’m not a gawker (nor even care to) unless it’s computer hardware, so… And about the costume, I’d have to trick pay someone to handle that part.

I said above that if I were going to cosplay, I’d go all out. So, who would I choose to cosplay as? It’s an individual character, and it’s a character from a live action series, and a Japanese series at that. Obviously I wouldn’t be able to match the character’s looks very well, but his manga and anime counterparts look Caucasian (light brown hair, blue eyes).

Collage of images of Motoki.

So, who would my character to cosplay be? Motoki Furuhata from the live action Pretty Guardian Sailormoon series. The goal wouldn’t be to look like actor Masaya Kikawada, but rather look like his character as Motoki.

With Motoki, there are only two things to get right on costume looks: his hair and his apron. Were I to cosplay as him, it would be the shortest length of haircut I’ve ever had, although I don’t know if I’d die it black. I wouldn’t mind keeping my own brown hair color, as if taking in elements of Motoki from the manga and anime. Besides the apron, I’d probably wear a striped shirt similair to one he’s worn in the live action series. Accessories would include a live-looking turtle, as Motoki’s pet turtle, Kamekichi, and a green scarf in the style of the one Makoto gives Motoki.

Collage of images of Motoki.

What really makes the character is Kikawada’s mannerisms as Motoki. He moves his arms along with the sound of his voice as he speaks. He exaggerates his expression, but doesn’t go over the top with it. He’s goofy, but kind. He can seem to be not-all-there, but he can be very thoughtful. He might not seem reliable, but he can be helpful when needed. He doesn’t hide how he feels, but doesn’t convey it clearly. I know I can match most if not all of these, and it would be interesting to be “in character” for a whole day at an event.

And when do I see myself cosplaying? Well, never. I’m not the type of person to “dress up” for things. But if I were going to cosplay, I’d be Motoki Furuhata, and I’d have to go all out with the mannerisms, because there has to be more to cosplaying well than a haircut and an apron. Still, watching non-stop Pretty Guardian Sailormoon for the majority of a single day to “research” Motoki’s mannerisms in preparation would be a great incentive to try it out!

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