Oh how you’ve grown!

I’m sure many of you know what cosplay is (merging of the words ‘costume-play’), but how many of you know where it comes from and how far it has actually come?  The past week I have been looking into the history of cosplay culture and let me just say, I was surprised to find out that the first ‘sighting’ of a cosplay costume was wayyy back in 1939..and in America?!

Forest J Ackerman is thought to be ‘the first’ – dressing in a futuristic costume based on the pulp magazine artwork by Frank R Paul at a world science fiction convention ‘back in the day’. It wasn’t until 1984 however, when President of Japanese ‘studio hard’, Nobuyuki Takahashi attended Los Angeles Science Fiction Worldcon and coined the phrases ‘cosplay’ after seeing convention go-ers dressed up.

Since then, it is clear how much this sub-culture has expanded, both in the world of gaming/anime/comic onventions and in everyday life.

Harujuku: a famous district in japan known for its cosplaying community.

http://www.tntmagazine.com Girls dressed up in Harajaku

The hobbyist aspect of cosplay is largely recognised through conventions in both America and Australia – however, in Japan cosplay goes further than just an element of conventions. Cosplay has become a significant part of Japanese culture. With Akihabara (a city in Tokyo) considered an otaku cultural city. Otaku is a japanese term for people with obsessive interests and it has predominantly shaped the business and buildings of the area as Japanese Architects have designed the stores of Akihabara to reflect the general desire of many otaku to live in an animated world.

Maids line up in Japan for  Uchimizu - For a further look at the Akihabara city head over to http://site.saikit.com/akihabara-anime-heaven/

Maids line up in Japan for Uchimizu – For a further look at the Akihabara city head over to http://site.saikit.com/akihabara-anime-heaven/

Fast forward from the conventions of 1938 to today, a technology centered global community. We have social networks and websites based on cosplay activities, along with Internet forums that allow cosplayers to share stories, photographs, news, etc. The rapid growth in the number of people cosplaying as a hobby has made the phenomenon a significant aspect of popular culture.

One of the biggest cosplaying magazines in japan Cosmode has a digitally adapted website version in English to allow different countries are able to come together to share experiences. Cosplay influenced Japanese ‘maid cafés’ are another example of how this sub-culture has expanded globally to countries such as China, South Korea, Taiwan, Australia, Hungary, the Czech Republic, France, Mexico, Canada and the United States.

By making myself a primary participant in my research of cosplay I feel as though my autoethnographic approach will be significantly enhanced. Making  a video documenting my own engagement of cosplay costume creation and relating it to additional research will reveal both my personal experiences and observations about the subject and an even further critical reflection of my findings.

Looking first at the Cosmode online website– it was apparent that it had not been updated since 2009, although all of the content uploaded prior to that seemed fairly consistent. I then decided to look into the Cosmode Thailand website – even though I can’t understand much of it at all.

To be honest, it is what I expected. Much like any other magazines online website it shows you the top articles, front page spreads, directs you to social media pages and has a fair bit of Asian advertisements. What I loved was the visual aspects; cover models dressed in costumes I have no idea about but can’t help but adore! Advice on how to do ‘cosplay make up’ really caught my attention and the bright colours made it impossible to look away! From there I was directed to their ‘webboard’ which was actually their Facebook page. Immediately I was impressed by the most recent post – an upcoming Japan fiesta in Bangkok! A ‘music festival’ with j-rock and cosplay! With a ‘cosplay-break the record’ element (check the video!) which I can only imagine is trying to break some kind of record seeing as I can’t exactly understand what is going on but i did recognise the ‘Tag #JFestacosplay’ which I thought was pretty interesting so of course, I headed to instagram to check it out!

With 135 posts so far the hashtag seems to be going fairly well with some amazing costumes although I did make one fairly stereotypical observation; the majority of them are female, and selfies (although I will be exploring that more later).

A screenshot of the #Jfestacosplay hashtag on Instagram

A screenshot of the #Jfestacosplay hashtag on Instagram

For now, I feel as though this is a prime example that reveals how much the Japanese sub culture of cosplay has grown and influenced elements of other Asian countries as well as westernised countries through conventions and online extensions.

Excited to share with you my further research into this extremely broad and wonderful world!

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2 comments

  1. How fascinating that the roots of a subculture that is internationally regarded as being quintessentially Japanese appears to have begun in America! I would be interested to hear whether the coining of the term ‘cosplay’ by Noboyuki Takahashi sparked the growth of cosplay in Japan, or whether there was a pre-existing scene that was helped grow and given recognition by the name. Either way, this is yet another great example of the way these two distinctly different cultures seem to take inspiration from each other in a constant loop of cultural evolution.

    On the topic of Cosmode’s sudden cessation of content, I would wager that it was produced as a venture in to niche media production that proved to either not be profitable or was performing poorly at the time. As someone who has worked in media production and run digital media outlets, my experience has been that production companies will often assign resources for the trial creation of media that appeals to a niche community that is not being catered for, giving it a time period in which it has to become worth the effort to avoid the axe. If Cosmode had been established for a considerable period, it would be worthwhile researching if its cessation coincided with a slump in the cosplay scene or some other economic trend.

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  2. It’s amazing how well these enthusiasts are able to embody the characters and also create their own characters. I’ll be sure to check out the Cosmode website. Do you think you’ll be modelling your own digital artifact at a convention one day?

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