Cosplay is a Japanese fan term for Costume Play; it's equivalent to the Western fan term Masquerade. In Japan cosplay covers pretty much the spread that convention masquerades in the West cover, from SF to fantasy, from medieval to military uniforms. It's basically a time for fans to dress up in their favourite garb or as their favourite character and have a bit of fun. There is a condition though; most fans insist that you not only play the character in dress, you also play the character's nature. In other words, whilst you're in costume, you must be the character, in thoughts, words and action.
Western cosplay has a slightly different meaning. In the US and in Europe cosplay is solely restricted to the costuming of Japanese characters, from anime, manga and gaming. The term is used by anime fans to distinguish it from other types of masquerade, much in the way that the word otaku is used by anime fans to describe themselves, whilst in Japan it covers all kind of obsessive fandom.
In addition, Western cosplayers aren't required to act their characters, at least not to the degree their Japanese cousins do. It's enough to dress up, or to go on stage and do a humourous skit. In this way cosplay masquerades are much like other Western masquerades. There is a movement though, coming from the US East Coast cons, that promotes the idea that convention masquerades should closely match the codes of conduct fostered by Japanese cosplay masquerades. Whether this thought prevails will be due to the conventions and the costumers- it will be interesting to see what happens over the next few years.Back to the cosplay page.
Cosplaying in Western terms is as old as Western anime fandom. In the two or so decades that anime fandom has existed in the US fans have been dressing up as their favourite anime characters at SF conventions. It was appropriate, as anime fandom grew out of SF fandom that costuming was a part of that heritage. This heritage blossomed with the emergeance of anime conventions in the mid to late 80's. In 1990 Project A-kon, in Dallas, Texas, the first continuous anime convention featured a masquerade. The next year, AnimeCon 1991, due to fan pressure, conducted a masquerade that included inadvertently the Japanese Guests of Honour in the skit. It was so popular that it has become a staple of anime cons following ever since. Nowdays, it's inconceivable that a convention not run a masquerade.
In addition, costuming is becoming very sophisticated. From the early conventions, which featured human characters only, masquerades have featured very intricate costuming. One genre that is unique to anime costuming, not found in Western SF fandom, is the mecha costume. Many hours of hard work have brought to life, at least for a short time, such mecha as Gundams, Valkyries, Ingrams and Junchoons. Some of the cutest furry characters, such as Totoro and Ryo-oh-ki, have been imaginatively created and costumed. Even the wildest hairstyles have been captured by costumers. It would not be out of place to say that anime costumers are the equal or better of their SF colleagues.Back to the cosplay page.
There is a huge number of anime and manga fan pages- literally hundreds. There are sites devoted to our favourite programs, characters and games, sites for conventions, sites for collectors, sites to buy and sell anime goods. Yet there are a precious few sites, at least in the US and Europe, devoted to anime costuming. This is rather confusing, considering how popular it's becoming. What sites there are concentrate on the masquerade at a particular convention. There are very few sites that a costumer has set up to display his or her designs.
In Japan the converse is true. You can do a web search on cosplaying or anime costuming, concentrating on Japan, and find myriads of sites devoted to cosplaying. There are sites that cover costuming at many conventions; there are other sites that advertise costume dance parties, and how to get to them. Some costumers have created portfolio web pages, which display the many costumes they have created and/or worn. Some anime or games have costume sites devoted only to costumes from those programs. Finally there are sites for cosplay groups, which show the talents of the differnet members.
The biggest problem for the Western fan, especially those who don't understand Japanese, is where to start exploring the world of Japanese cosplay. A fairly canny web surfer can navigate the various sites with little trouble, but for others it could become frustrating.
When I started looking for costuming sites, all I found were Japanese sites. When I investigated I marvelled at the beautiful and intricate designs I saw. It was like opening a treasure chest. Where were the Western sites though?
I managed to gather some sites that featured anime costuming. Last year I created a web page which included costuming from Anime Expo 1996.
It wasn't until after Anime Expo 1997, when I started creating the masquerade web page for this con, that I started seriously thinking about creating a web page that would gather all the differing links I had found. Through more web searching, testing and inquiry I finally got together a representative list of links, both Japanese and Western sites, that I thought best encompassed the world of cosplay. The Japanese sites I chose for the ease of navigation and the number of pictures, which I felt would attract cursory browsers. I took as many Western sites that I could get my hands on! I even created a small little page that showed the very small number of Australian cosplayers.
Finally, on November 1, 1997, this web links site went public.
This page is not finished, not by a long shot! While anime fandom and costuming exists, I hope to be adding more links to this, especially more Western sites. If you, reading this, know of a site that isn't included, and you think it should be, please e-mail me, with the URL, and optionally a contact address for the site maintainer.Back to the cosplay page.
Many thanks to the site owners who have permitted me to link their sites to this page. Also, gratitude goes to the people who tested my site, gave criticism and made suggestions. I hope I've been able to include all your ideas.Back to the cosplay page.