Cosplay & Anime Enthusiasts
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Anime – short for animation – cartoons find their roots in Japan. It used to be hand-drawn, but in recent times has become computer animated. Anime and cosplay co-exist. Cosplay is an aggregate of the words costume and play. It is an event held for the entertainment of anime enthusiasts who dress up like their favorite anime character.

Japanese love for anime and manga has led cosplay to become a tradition and there are over five thousand cosplay events that are held throughout the country. Comiket – comic market – is the biggest cosplay event. It is held in Tokyo two times a year and it hosts over a million anime lovers from across the world. Cosplay and anime being so popular in Japan make it the number one destination for all fans of this genre of entertainment, all over the world.

A brief history

The term Cosplay was coined by Nobuyuki Takahashi in 1984 when he wrote it several times in a magazine. It is a form of art where actors, models and enthusiasts are invited to dress up as characters from books, comics, movies or television series. Starting out as masquerade balls in the early 15th century and continuing as costume parties in the renaissance and British eras, cosplay can be found throughout history. The first actual cosplay was in 1908 in Cincinnati. Cosplay is a whole culture, and participants put in all their creativity and hard work in making their costumes stand out.

Japan’s cosplay merchandise

Japan is home to perhaps the widest collection of anime and cosplay-related products in the world. Starting out in the early 2000’s, only a few select stores like adult video stores and general stores housed costumes. However, the Japanese soon realized they had tremendous market for anime merchandise which had a largely girls-based fandom initially.

Since then, Japan’s anime market started expanding with designers investing in costumes. Local industries sprung up to cater to the ever growing fan base. Japan is also a known importer of anime costumes. The country attracts thousands of tourists each year who come to see the vast collection of costumes and accessories that the Japanese anime market has to offer.

cosplay merchandise
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Exchange of Meishi

Meishi is Japanese for business cards and is the most important accessory for every cosplayer. There are online anime fan bases which include people from all over the world. Members might end up being friends and decide to meet at a cosplay event. Since Japan is home to these events, most anime enthusiasts look forward to meeting their friends there. At the cosplay event, players exchange these cards to signify that the meet happened.

Meishi cards can be designed on Photoshop and sent to an online printer. However, online printers take bulk orders and charge a significant sum. Due to the sheer popularity of these cards, printers stop taking orders weeks before a major cosplay event to prevent backlogs.

Exchange of Meishi
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Cosplay as a profession

With the increasing popularity of cosplay, there are also increasing business opportunities. Since majority of the designers and accessorizing companies are situated in Japan, cosplay events act as PR events too. A lot of anime enthusiasts, who are also fond of fashion, pride themselves in wearing the best and most creative outfits.

They attend the cosplay events in the hope of meeting merchandising company heads personally and being recognized as the new face of their costume lines. Bagging a contract like being the face of a new line or a job as a designer could mean success and recognition overnight. This also gives them a chance of exposure to media outlets and a shot at the entering the entertainment industry as well.

Cosplay as a profession
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Meeting your better half

It may sound absurd to someone uninterested in anime and cosplay. However, many enthusiasts romanticize and often meet their significant other through online fandom chatrooms and at cosplay events. They could meet accidentally or plan a meeting. Nothing could be more cliché than meeting at the hub of all anime activity – Japan – much like coming a full circle. Likewise, they may also meet friends from different countries they have known online for some time.

Kerrie Fulker – whose cosplay name is AstroKerrie – met her significant other at an anime cosplay event in Perth in 2007. They were friends before they decided to meet at the Perth convention and after that they got married. Just imagine how many people you could potentially meet in Japan which houses the largest world’s largest convention.

Meeting your better half
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Anime food comes to life

One of the biggest components of anime comics and cartoons is food. Some are:

  • Katsudon 
    • Inspired by the cartoon Yuri on Ice, it is a combination of deep-fried pork cutlet, eggs and rice.
  •  Ramen
    • It is made of noodles in chicken or vegetable stock with a selection of toppings. Ramen signifies loyalty and love for friends. Anime enthusiasts were introduced to it through the longest-running cartoon, Naruto.
  • Yaki Dango
    • These bite-sized munchies made from rice flour are seen in the show Samurai Champloo.
  • Onigiri
    • Introduced by Pokémon, this ball of rice wrapped in seaweed paper is a fan favorite. It is often included in a traditional serving of Japanese-style sushi as well.
  • Pocky
    • A Japanese, chocolate-coated version, first introduced in Ga-rei Zero signifies the importance of sharing. Its most popular flavors are matcha green tea and strawberry.

While these foods may be familiar to people in Japan, many anime enthusiasts have never tasted them and yearn for these simple Japanese foods. The food industry of Japan makes billions of yens worth of revenue with each cosplay event that takes place.

Anime food
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Chance to meet your favorite cosplay personalities

Like with any other fan base, the anime and cosplay fan base too idolizes certain bigger, more well-known cosplayers. These cosplayers show up at the biggest cosplay conventions especially in Japan where some of the more famous ones take place. Anime influencers have social media following in millions and they have formed steady communities over years of interaction. Their fans are inspired by them.

These cosplay influencers show up at pre-booked events for which tickets are always sold out. Enthusiasts yearn to visit Japan so they can click a picture and exchange a few words with their favorites whom they have spent years idolizing and supporting.

Ani Mia and Mon are two such personalities and they have over six million followers on social media.

cosplay personalities
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Learning cosplayer traits

To be a good cosplayer, it is important to have skills that make you stand out from other fans. These qualities include:

  • Self confidence
    • Carrying yourself with confidence adds brilliance to your costume. You could be wearing a $1000 costume but a slouchy posture and shying eyes could distract people from its extravagance.
  • Networking
    • Cosplay conventions are supposed to be enjoyed. However, if you are confident and good at building rapport, you could make new connections especially in the media and written and performed art industries.
  • Good manners
    • Coming off as rude will not get you far in the cosplay world especially if you are looking to pursue it as a career. This is because anime itself is built around friendship and strong morals, and no one wants to be associated with an entitled individual.
Learning cosplayer traits
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  • Quick thinking and crisis management
    • As with any event, things can go wrong at cosplay conventions too. Costumes may tear or stain, your shoes might get stepped on, you or someone else might get a cut – anything is possible. Participating in big cosplay events, such as those held in Japan, teaches people how to avert problems. This is even more important since most of the cosplayers are foreigners and do not speak the language well either.
speak the language
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Cosplay is a convention for fun loving, free spirited individuals who value friendships and are loyal to their fan bases. It is most popular because it is all inclusive – all fan bases and all genders are welcome – with zero discrimination. Attending a cosplay convention in Japan is a chance for all fandoms to gather, discuss characters, recommend new shows, and delve in this tradition that has its own culture.

Observing other cosplayers and picking on their behaviors to refine your own, coming across new career aspects, eating food only seen in books and movies for the longest time – all these aspects and more make Japan the ultimate destination for anime and cosplay lovers across the globe.