What is Cosplay

Literally speaking Cosplay, is the contraption of the words “costume” and “play.” People who take part in cosplay are known as “cosplayers” or in Japan simply reyazu for “players.”

So, what is cosplay exactly? It is the act of dressing up as a character from animes, comics, videogames, manga, movies, books, and even Visual-Kei rock bands in Japan. Don't confuse what is cosplay for a Halloween costume however, because they're not the same.

The term “cosplay” was coined by Nov Takahashi in 1984, while attending a sci-fi convention in Los Angeles. He was so impressed by the costume masquerade that he wrote about it in Japanese sci-fi magazines. Word spread quickly through Japan of this new performance art. And the rest is history. Many people believe cosplay originated in Japan, but that’s not necessarily true. Forrest J. Ackerman inspired fan-costuming worldwide when he wore the first futuristic costume, made by Myrtle R. Douglas, to the 1st World Science Fiction Convention in 1939 in Caravan Hall in New York.

Since then cosplay has spread to countries across the globe, like the Philippines, China, Italy, France, Mexico, Brazil, Russia, Canada and the list continues. Despite the many impressive creations that come out of all these places, Japan is the largest exporter of quality cosplay. Why? Because the Japanese have taken cosplay to a new level. They’ve managed to turn it into an art form, inspiring fellow cosplayers worldwide. (Not to mention making something as geeky as dressing up like cartoon characters look pretty cool.) It’s no wonder most cosplayers, who have acquired celebrity status for their creations, hail from Japan.

Cosplay Today

Nowadays, Japanese cosplayers like to meet outdoors on weekends to pose for pictures, and check out each others elaborate creations. During large scale gatherings at cosplay venues they participate in masquerades, skits and contests just like their North American counterparts. Smaller gatherings are held in meidokissa (maid-coffeehouses), where the waitresses will dress in anime outfits. The Harajuku district in Tokyo, Japan is especially famous for its cosplay scene.

As more people begin to take notice of cosplay magazines like Japan’s Cosmode and Dengeki Layers, USA’s Anicoz and Mexico’s Cosplaymix, it seems the once underground culture of costume play is finally making its way into the mainstream, with no signs of slowing down or stopping. Ah, the future looks bright!

Well, that’s the history of cosplay in a nutshell. If you’re new to cosplay then I hope this short article answered the question of "what is cosplay?" for you. Even if you’re a pioneer in this fandom, we hope you were able to get something out of it too.



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