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February 18, 2004

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They aren't overweight nerds in Klingon headgear. They aren't desperate geeks trying to secure the attention of anyone who will look. They aren't "recreationists" lost in the past or some imagined future. Most of the kids featured at defy every tradition of sci-fi fantasy costuming, while doing it better than anyone ever has before. They are the future of fashion, the future of fetish and they are smart as hell. Costume play, or cosplay for short, is a tradition that started with obsessive fans of anime overseas, constantly one-upping each other with increasingly elaborate reproductions of their favorite character's look and style, often gathering at appreciation conventions to show off. Once the trend hit stateside and things got organized, American fans were meeting and beating the efforts of their Eastern counterparts. serves as a forum for all fans of the genre, and features monthly galleries and interviews with some of the best the field has to offer. Lush, gorgeous and outrageous characters come to life. The featured cosplayers adopt fantastic new names invoking their sources of inspiration, and are as likely to create their own original concepts as they are to mimic one of the established favorites. The results are devastating, and the site posts thousands of pictures- from the elegantly posed feature pieces to convention highlights, there's a treasure-trove of material here to pore over. The featured cosplayers for January are a duo of bewitching minxes named Lillyxandra and Haruka. They give you a taste of traditional cosplay in their photo gallery with the first two pieces, reproductions of two popular female characters from the video game Soul Calibur II. Things take a turn for the fantastic with the fairy-inspired look of the next two costumes. Every photo reveals an astonshing level of attention to detail, and commitment to the craft. They then darken the mood with some gothic posturing, pulling some very aristocratic European flavor into the mix. Next are two lavishly overwrought outfits in the "gothic-Lolita" style made popular in Japan's Shibuya district, and modeled after characters on the popular anime series Chobits. They wrap up with another anime classic, a pair of characters from CardCaptor Sakura, stunningly brought to life as though in the wet-dream of a Sakura-obsessed otaku. The site offers many resources, including an invaluable number of links to suppliers of raw materials and a massive forum page to promote discussion and give members a chance to gossip. Membership is free, and you'll soon find yourself drawn into the "Sex in costume: good idea or bad idea?" thread, or checking out the latest con gossip. One of the most refreshing things about the culture is it's utter acceptance of anyone who's down- lithe asian cross-dressers share space with meaty-thighed round-eye women, and everyone gets along fine. Many cosplayers have realized the marketable side of their obsession. For example, G-Chan, a celebrity in the cosplay world who's homepage is accessible from, has posted erotic photography of herself and charges a membership fee to peruse these shots. While none of the photography on offers anything that lascivious, there is plenty to drool over. When I tell you that this is the future of fetish, I'm not cracking a joke. A generation weaned on anime, comics and fantasy/sci-fi is coming of age, and the concept of what is popularly attractive is expanding to include their diverse tastes. Don't be surprised to see cosplay influencing everything from runway fashion to mass marketing in the near future. It's going to be a beautiful tomorrow.

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Cosplay isn't about fashion or fetishs. It's about portraying ones' love of the Japanese culture and animation by recreating it. This article misses the true intent and reasoning behind cosplaying.
As a cosplayer myself, I don't support money making off "erotic" pictures or the idea that we gather at conventions to "show off".
Cosplaying is a dynamic hobby consisting of hard working, devoted fans of the Japanese Culture.

Posted by: Lain at August 8, 2004 6:01 AM

Sometimes I wonder if people ever actually bother to read the whole article, or just stop at the point they are first offended and fire off some blog missle.
I'm not telling you that cosplay is fashion and fetish- I'm telling you that fashion and fetish are stealing cosplay.

And anybody who tries to tell me it's not about showing off is just full of shit. If you just wanted to revere J-culture you'd buy the DVDs and the manga and the merchandise and probably never go to the trouble of making a costume. Once you put on that costume, you are asking someone to look at you, otherwise what is the point?

Posted by: Adam at August 9, 2004 3:19 PM

Actually, some of us are recreationists as well as cosplayers... It takes all kinds, after all. ^^

Posted by: E at February 24, 2005 4:12 AM

I would also like to add, cosplay didn't "originate" in Japan, its actually an American thing. A japanese reporter came to the US to look at some scifi cons and was amazed when he saw so many people dressed as spock, kirk, storm troopers, etc.

He decided to get it started in Japan, and that's what we have here.

Also, I'd like to add that cosplay is not "solely" about japanese culture as stated above. Go to a Japanese convention and you'd find a plethora of characters cosplayed, from superheroes to characters from American movies. Cosplay is simply is simply "costume-play" and any costume is fair game, japanese or not.

Posted by: Pliskin at August 15, 2005 4:13 PM

Thanks for illuminating that Pliskin.

With this article, I was hoping to draw attention to the particular angle pursued by, which is bent heavily towards Japanese and Asian-influenced characters. I wasn't trying to encapsulate the entire history of the movement, just to highlight some relevant points.

And you're right to point out the US origins of costuming, though I would argue that this practice truly began to blossom once it mixed with Japan's fan-obsessive culture, and that the current cosplay movement has elevated the practice to an art form. It really is a global community, as ideas and culture are shared internationally, and I think that has fueled some of the more involved and fantastic levels of costuming we're now witness to.

Posted by: Adam at August 15, 2005 5:40 PM
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