Afterthoughts: Cosplay and Film

Well, this is a blog and I might as well post in it about stuff cosplay related while I have it up here, right?  I was thinking last night if I missed anything in this project and it occurred to me that this blog was for a film and media studies class project, so what do cosplay and film have to do with each other?  Up until recently, and as I have represented cosplay on this blog so far, cosplay is mostly about still photographs.  But there is this whole new wave of cosplay “photographers” that I didn’t even think about until just now: cosplay videography.

This is a video from AFA Singapore 2012.  The second I started watching it I just fell in love with it.  I love the movement of the cosplayers and how the groups of characters in this series K (TV 2012) are represented.  The staged fight between Yatagarasu and Fishimi was also really well portrayed.  I can kind of just imagine the scene where Fushimi (Miyano Mamoru) was taunting Yata (Fukuyama Jun), calling him by his first name “Misaki~ Misaki~ Misaki~”  Brings a smile to my face just thinking about it.

The way that these cosplayers are in character during this video is something that a lot of American cosplayers do not do at all and it sort of saddens me.  Of course, during photoshoots, American cosplayers definitely take on their characters in still images, and there are good examples of American made cosplay video showcases.


(Video Footage put together from Anime Expo 2012 in the LA Convention Center)

I think that these videos are really amazing representations of cosplay because it really does add another layer to the meaning of showcasing a costume.  It shows how the cosplayer and the costume moves in very fluid motions.  I’ve sewn enough outfits to know that getting an outfit to move or fall the way you want it to is not easy.  And having you look your best on video and showing off how your costume moves while in character really brings the cosplay alive.

Another thing that I’ve noticed lately in the global cosplay community is the creation of cosplay MVs or Music Videos.  I think my favorite examples are Cvy’s Rolling Girl MV and Lalaax’s Prisoner PV.

A still image from Chinese cosplayer Lalaax's Prisoner PV shoot.  Here she is cosplaying as the PV's version of Fuwa Shou from Skip Beat.

A still image from Chinese cosplayer Lalaax’s Prisoner PV shoot. Here she is cosplaying as the PV’s version of Fuwa Shou from Skip Beat.

After seeing this image on her deviantart, I was excited to see the MV.  I love looking at cosplay photography but the video just made the characters represented from the series stand out even more.


Here is the MV that she shot.


Here is the original MV that uses footage from the anime itself.  The song is sung by singer and actor Miyano Mamoru.

I am always impressed by what cosplayers in Asia can put together.  It actually makes me jealous sometimes how resourceful they are.  I am not sure if us American cosplayers are just bland or lazy or whatever, but I know that I would love to direct something like Lalaax’s MV.

Another cosplay MV I want to show is Singaporean cosplayer Cvy’s Rolling Girl MV.


(Here is the original PV to compare it to)

Okay, for those of you who don’t know this song.  Rolling Girl is a song about a girl in an abusive relationship.  It is  by no means a happy song.  I’ve seen still image cosplay photos based around this song but I don’t think they compare to this MV at all.  The cosplay MV brings out the emotions of the song much more than even the drawn MV because it adds a sense of realism to it.  Cvy is very well known internationally by cosplayers as a brilliant cosplayer who brings characters to life and as someone who is incredibly creative.  She builds beautiful pieces or armor and props just as well as she directs and writes filmed cosplay pieces.

This is something I regret not thinking about earlier when I was putting this together.  I find it kind of amusing that it came to me as an afterthought.  I’ve contemplating making cosplay videos in the past but nothing had every come of it.  But every time I see something like the Prisoner MV or the Vocaloid Cosplay MVs it really does spark a desire to take out a digital film camera rather than my DSLR.

One last thing, personally, I’d hate to be filmed in cosplay for a variety of reasons.  They say the camera adds 10 pounds, but I feel that holds more true for still images.  Film cameras add about 20 pounds and there is no photoshop to get rid of any imperfections you may want to cover up after a shoot such as a crack in makeup or a button that fell off without you realizing.  Every little thing I’d do would be captured on film and I’d feel really uncomfortable having that raw footage of myself.  So I will personally stick to still photoshoots for myself though I would really like to direct and edit some cosplay MVs.  I think that would be fun!

Ending Words

Cosplay is a form of visual art, craftsmanship, media, marketing and social media.  It’s misunderstood by people in western cultures as being a hobby for girls who like to dress in overly sexualized outfits for attention or for overweight men who have nothing better to do with their lives.  In a select few cases, this may be true.  But for the vast majority people who cosplay, that is not the case.  Even the anime industry in Japan and America turns to cosplay trends for what they should adapt to anime or license overseas.


(ACParadise’s live “drama” to promote Ao no Exorcist in the United States for Aniplex USA.  Video staring Mario Bueno, M.ichi, Yeu, and Shiro.  Written by Henry and Wayne and filmed by Kira)

Cosplay affects other industries too.  Due to the unexpected amount of attention from fans and cosplayers, Nickelodeon decided to extend their run of the Avatar the Last Airbender: Legend of Korra series on their television station.

Thai cosplayer Sonteen cosplaying as Mako from ATLA: Legend of Korra

Thai cosplayer Sonteen cosplaying as Mako from ATLA: Legend of Korra

American cosplayer Tania (Wisecraxx) cosplaying as Korra from ATLA: Legend of Korra

American cosplayer Tania (Wisecraxx) cosplaying as Korra from ATLA: Legend of Korra

 

Web comic artists, such Andrew Hussie who created Homestuck which has a cult following world wide, owes much of his popularity to cosplayers.  Cosplay can be a profession as well as a hobby, but most of all it is something to enjoy and just have fun with.

Featured Cosplayers from Around the World

I am an admin of an online, international cosplay community called Kore Wa Cosplay.  I asked members on both our private and public facebook pages the simple question “Why Do You Cosplay?”

I got a lot of responses from people in Europe and America—I am sad that I can’t represent any non-western countries in this post.  However, there were a lot of responses and I couldn’t feature everyone.

Loki (Portugal)
I cosplay because sometimes it’s easier to pretend being someone else than face your own problems.

European cosplayer Loki cosplaying as Bernardo Ortolani  from the Boy's Love game Lucky Dog 1

European cosplayer Loki cosplaying as Bernardo Ortolani from the Boy’s Love game Lucky Dog 1

William (United States)
I guess I cosplay because it’s fun to try to personify some of my favorite characters.  Also it’s a great way to meet people with similar interests and tastes in shows.

William cosplaying from The Lorax

William cosplaying from The Lorax

Monica Luong (United States)
I cosplay because it makes me feel alive, instead of worrying about stuff like homework you can just be your idol or favorite character. Also because its fun meeting new people

Monica's Cosplay.  I am sad to say I don't know what she is cosplaying from.

Monica’s Cosplay. I am sad to say I don’t know what she is cosplaying from.

Jasmine Duong (United States)
I cosplay because I love being able to portray my favorite anime characters and seeing the happy faces of the ones who just saw one of their favorite characters.

Jasmine cosplaying as Black Rock Shooter Miku from Vocaloid

Jasmine cosplaying as Black Rock Shooter Miku from Vocaloid

Meaghan D (Canada)
I cosplay because I love making props and costumes. I love representing my favorite characters by making their outfits, and of course the friendships that I’m able to build with other people based on my love of these things are always something I treasure.

Meaghan cosplaying from Assassins Creed

Meaghan cosplaying from Assassins Creed

Amber Hill (America)
I cosplay for so many reasons. Cosplay is like halloween every day: I can be anyone I want, it’s refreshing. It as well brings me closer to the people that I do it with and I make new friends along the way. Also, I love the faces of people who like what I do. It pleases them and me!

Amber cosplaying as Madame Red from Kuroshitsuji

Amber cosplaying as Madame Red from Kuroshitsuji

Báh Raccoon (Portugal)
I cosplay because I just love it!  I love the thought of being someone else, be it characters from anime, manga, movies, video games and more and I love making my own costumes and props. You can leave the routine and do something different. And cosplay is perfect for hanging out with friends and meet new people.

Báh's cosplay as Default Kagamine Len from Vocaloid

Báh’s cosplay as Default Kagamine Len from Vocaloid

Lavi Thiel (Germany)
For me, cosplaying is a way to be my hero for once in a while. It does not only have to be a hero, just somebody else that you like and would like to be. Also, I love to act and sew! Cosplaying combines all my hobbies!!

Lavi cosplaying as Chibiterasu from Okamiden: Chiisaki Taiyou

Lavi cosplaying as Chibiterasu from Okamiden: Chiisaki Taiyou

Cindy Hsu (America)
I cosplay because, other than just loving to make things, it has led me to meet so many of the friends that I hold the most dear. Most, if not all my friends, I have made through cosplay and I continue to do it to meet more people like them.

Cindy's cosplay as Homura Akemi from Madoka Magica

Cindy’s cosplay as Homura Akemi from Madoka Magica

Catarina Brás (Portugal)
I cosplay because I want to thank the authors for making such amazing characters that I can relate to!

Catarina's cosplay.  I am sorry to say I don't know what it's from but she looks beautiful.

Catarina’s cosplay. I am sorry to say I don’t know what it’s from but she looks beautiful.

Reno Benasfre (California)
I cosplay because I enjoy seeing peoples reactions to my cosplays, and I love meeting other cosplayers, and trading cosplay tips with them as well.

Reno's cosplay.  I am sorry to say I don't know what it's from but it looks cool.

Reno’s cosplay. I am sorry to say I don’t know what it’s from but it looks cool.

Miele (Italy)
I cosplay because I love dressing up as the character I relate the most. As a matter of fact, I just cosplay those I feel familiar with, those characters that have something in common with me like their personality. Furthermore cosplaying is so much fun and thanks to this hobby I’ve met lots of new people and the love of my life!

Miele cosplaying as a female version of Vincent Valentine from Final Fantasy VII

Miele cosplaying as a female version of Vincent Valentine from Final Fantasy VII

Kathy Lor (United States)
I cosplay because I love portraying my favorite characters and being around friends that enjoy the hobby with me

Kathy cosplaying as the Matryoshka version of Len from Vocaloid with her friend as Rin.

Kathy cosplaying as the Matryoshka version of Len from Vocaloid with her friend as Rin.

Caitlin Rose (United States)
I cosplay because i like to be creative, different, and overall just plain weird. It is a good way to make friends, and to be whoever you want to be. It doesn’t matter if i have dark skin to cosplay as a white character, ill still do it, and that is what i love!

Caitlin as Stocking from Panty & Stocking With Garterbelt

Caitlin as Stocking from Panty & Stocking With Garterbelt

Ninja-Dee  (United States/Singapore)
I cosplay because it give me the opportunity to not only express myself in a creative and unique way, but it never ceases to amaze me how far hard work and dedication can take you. Plus, I love pretending to be different people.

Ninja-Dee with their One Piece cosplay group

Ninja-Dee with their One Piece cosplay group

Anshie (Germany)
I cosplay because life is too short to be every personality you’d want to be.

Anshie cosplaying as Aeris (with Lisa as Zack Fair) from Final Fantasy VII

Anshie cosplaying as Aeris (with Lisa as Zack Fair) from Final Fantasy VII

Iris Chan (United States)
The reason for cosplaying for me is because of just knowing and having opportunity to interact with other people out there in the world that want to don their favorite characters’ clothing to show how much they love the series and character. The social aspect is such an important and great thing to encourage the geeks that were in hiding, to be proud they are part of this community. I cosplay because of all these talented people that breathes life into gorgeous costumes and amazing 2D creations is not only inspirational but such a positive creative outlet for this generation and future ones

American (East Coast) cosplayers Iris and Torii cosplaying from Madoka Magica

Iris and Torii cosplaying from Madoka Magica

Everyone’s reasons for cosplay are very personal and special and I want to thank everyone who shared their thoughts with me.  I am sorry if you didn’t end up in the feature but I have a limited amount of space and can feature so-many.

The Writer’s View of Cosplay

This is one of two posts that are tailored specifically for this blog project.  In my original paper, I decided to completely detach myself and not touch on my personal views of cosplay.  However, now that I am using a more visual medium which I believe is a perfect outlet to express my own opinions in a slightly less formal manner—because a graded paper is rather formal.

For starters, there are two things that got me in to cosplay:
1)  My crazy obsession with anime, manga, and videogames
2)  My access to the internet

I am not going to lie: I read/watch/play an unnatural amount of manga, anime and videogames and I am not ashamed to call myself “obsessed” with the subject matter.  Once I gained access to the internet I started seeing images of cosplay on the internet and thought it was the coolest thing ever.

My cosplay as Aladdin from Magi.  Photo taken by Kurozone

My cosplay as Aladdin from Magi. Photo taken by Kurozone

To me, cosplay is something to have fun with!  It’s meant to be fun and enjoy yourself with your friends.  Yes, I work in cosplay sometimes.  But I don’t think it should be something that is competitive and people should be like “oh, your cosplay sucks.”  For me, I try to go all out with my cosplay (wig, costume, extreme makeup, props) because it’s a sense of accomplishment and you feel proud about yourself.  To be honest, I hate how I am outside of cosplaying.  But cosplay gives me confidence to be who I want to be.  Ah, though I will admit it’s a great feeling seeing your cosplay appear in cosmode. This has happened to me twice.  Both my Kamui (Gintama) and Kai (Cardfight Vanguard) cosplay have been featured in cosmode.

My cosplay as Kai Toshiki from Cardfight Vanguard.  Photo taken by Kristina

My cosplay as Kai Toshiki from Cardfight Vanguard. Photo taken by Kristina

My cosplay as Kamui from Gintama.  Photo taken by Keith.

My cosplay as Kamui from Gintama. Photo taken by Keith.

It was 6 or 7 years ago when I started cosplay.  My first cosplay was Shuichi from Gravitation–a Boy’s Love anime.  However, it wasn’t until my senior year of High School that I started cosplaying more often and my freshman year of College that I started to cosplay more seriously.

To be honest, both.  I like making cosplay (like my Aladdin cosplay, Gareki cosplay, Kamui cosplay, chihiro cosplay) but if there are things I know I can’t do, I don’t mind taobaoing cosplay from China.  It’s cheap and I know that it’s better than I will make it.  For example, my Ivan cosplay is from Taobao and half of my Law cosplay is from Taobao.  Some of my cosplay comes from Japan actually…like I bought my Inazuma Eleven cosplay in Osaka last summer and my Fudou wig was made by a friend.

My Fudou Akio cosplay from Inazuma Eleven.  Photo taken by Kristina.

My Fudou Akio cosplay from Inazuma Eleven. Photo taken by Kristina.

I have no confident in my ability to cosplay female characters–so I choose to cosplay a lot of male characters.  However, it really bothers me when people cosplay as characters for attention or popularity.  I think that people should cosplay what they like and for their own enjoyment.  Cosplay is an incredibly expensive hobby.  It saddens me when people spend tons of money putting together a costume for the sake of impressing others.  I am really short (5 feet tall) and I cosplay a lot of tall male characters who don’t always fit my build.  But I cosplay them because I like them, and I think that is what is most important.

My Makise Kurisu cosplay from Steins;Gate.  Photo by Keith.

My Makise Kurisu cosplay from Steins;Gate. Photo by Keith.

My Trafalgar Law cosplay from my Urban Pirate One Piece shoot.  Photo by Nikita/Cozpho

My Trafalgar Law cosplay from my Urban Pirate One Piece shoot. Photo by Nikita/Cozpho

Here is my advice for people considering starting cosplay:
Just have fun with it.  Seriously guys, I have seen people lose friends and get into fights over the dumbest things.  Don’t go in to cosplay being like “I WANT TO BE THE VERY BEST LIKE NO ONE EVER WAS” or “I WANT TO BE SUPER FAMOUS!”  People will seriously hate you for it.  And it’s unrealistic and it’s a waste of your time.  The point of cosplay is costume PLAY.  YOU ARE PLAYING!!!!  IT’S FUN!!  Also, challenge yourself.  Go beyond the costume.  Try styling wigs and using make up techniques.  You don’t need fancy makeup to achieve the looks I do.  And if you aren’t asian like me, don’t be like “Oh, I am not a naturally pretty asian so I can’t achieve that look.”  That’s bullcrap.  ’cause I look like crap outside of cosplay but with makeup everything looks better.  And guys should wear makeup too >.>  Um…..Yeah.  I don’t know what else to say.  I love cosplay and it’s one of my favorite things to do so please, don’t lose yourself and have fun with it!

My Aladdin cosplay from Magi, with my friend Laura as Alibaba and Cathleen as Morgiana.  Photo by Kurozone.

My Aladdin cosplay from Magi, with my friend Laura as Alibaba and Cathleen as Morgiana. Photo by Kurozone.

The Business of Cosplay

In countries like Japan and China, cosplay is a showroom and modeling job.  However, there are people outside of Japan who have utilized global media outlets to make a name for themselves in the entertainment industry.  Some have even made a business out of their hobby.

Blazblue cosplay from Tokyo Game Show

Blazblue cosplay from Tokyo Game Show.  Photo taken by Henry of ACParadise

A cosplayer by the alias PikminLink (Li Kovacs) started out as a normal cosplayer and is a huge fan of Nintendo.  As her popularity grew, Nintendo started endorsing her as a model and cosplayer.  She travels to many events to promote new releases in America for games such as Legend of Zelda and Kid Icarus.

Pikmin Link cosplaying as Pit from Kid Icarus

PikminLink cosplaying as Pit from Kid Icarus

PikminLink cosplaying as Link from Legend of Zelda

PikminLink cosplaying as Link from Legend of Zelda

Yaya Han is a Chinese-American cosplayer, model, makeup artist and business owner.  She travels all over the world to talk about cosplay, promote games and comics for major companies, compete in international events, and sell her own cosplay-based products such as clothing and accessories.


(Yaya Han interview from Otakon 2012)

American model and cosplayer, Ginny McQueen travels all over the world as a guest at many events.  She promotes series, talks about cosplay, hosts events, has been featured in all forms of media, and works for the biggest, online, international website for cosplayers, CosCom.

Examples of Ginny McQueen's cosplay

Examples of Ginny McQueen’s cosplay

In Singapore, Kaika is an award winning cosplayer and blogger.  Kaika is endorsed by many cosmetic and cosplay companies and talks about and uses their products.

Kaika cosplaying as the Prisoner PV version of Kyoko from Skip Beat

Kaika cosplaying as the Prisoner PV version of Kyoko from Skip Beat

.  Mario Bueno is an American cosplayer, professional actor vocalist, and entertainer.  Mario explains how cosplay has affected his career as an entertainer:

“To me, cosplay is not only an expression of affection for a particular character/series, but also an art form of sort… it’s given me a chance to add performances to my resume as an actor, even as far as being able to lend my voice to dubs of certain projects…a feat which was only made possible because I was well positioned thanks to years of cosplay volunteer work and amateur cosplay performances on industry’s behalf” (Bueno, Mario).

Mario Bueno performing at an event

Mario Bueno performing at an event

Mario Bueno cosplaying as Goku from Dragon Ball Z

Mario Bueno cosplaying as Goku from Dragon Ball Z

Cosplay and promotional work introduced him to the industry, helping him get his foot in the door to boost his career.  It was also a social outlet that helped him network with not only industry professionals, but also make life long friends.  Mario’s experience is something that a lot of cosplayers, including myself, can relate to.

 

Cosplay on the Internet

Websites such as CosCom, ACParadiseCureWorldCosplay, and DeviantART are used by cosplayers to promote and share their art.   Cure, which is run out of Japan, is a great outlet for western cosplayers.  It helps them spread their name in Japan by giving them multiple chances every year to be featured in the most-read cosplay magazine in Japan, Cosmode.

Contest banner for COSMODE submissions

Contest banner for COSMODE submissions

American Cosplay Paradise uses a select few of their cosplayers to promote and market anime as official faces for companies such as Aniplex, Bandai, and FUNimation.

ACP Mascots designed to celebrate the official facebook page reaching "over 9000" likes.

ACP Mascots designed to celebrate the official facebook page reaching “over 9000” likes.

Co-manager of ACP, Wayne Kaa, describes cosplay’s role in marketing, He says, “it helps with brand promotion, particularly in video, print and live style promotion.”  Their site started as a database for cosplayers and eventually grew to making connections with the anime industry.  They help fans get connected to the industry as “ the industry gets a knowledgeable fan that has obtained their own costume (that fits them properly) and the fan gets the opportunity to work representing their favorite anime in an official fashion.” (Kaa, Wayne).

Wayne Kaa cosplaying as Trunks from Dragon Ball Z

Wayne Kaa cosplaying as Trunks from Dragon Ball Z

This eliminates the need to hire booth babes who don’t know their product and work with someone who legitimately knows their product. Photographers also facilitate the art medium for they are the ones who really spread a cosplayer’s image across the world.  American cosplay photographer Michael Fong describes his role as a photograph as, “the intermediaries in presenting cosplayers to the majority of the world” (Fong, Michael).

An example of Michael's photography.  Picture of a cosplayer cosplaying as Megurine Luka at Katsucon 2012

An example of Michael’s photography. Picture of a cosplayer cosplaying as Megurine Luka at Katsucon 2012

Malaysian cosplay photographer, Joseph Low, describes his experience in shooting cosplay photography over seas.  It opened his eyes to whole new cosplay community and it pushed his hobby further.  He says, “I guess what really fascinates me in cosplay photography was the freedom of creativity in photography and also editing to pull off the series. Most importantly, the ability of telling a story by using a picture” (Low, Joseph).

Joseph Low's photograph of Emi Lo cosplaying as Alto from Macross Frontier.

Joseph Low’s photograph of Emi Lo cosplaying as Alto from Macross Frontier.

Without people like Michael and Joseph, there would be no one to capture the moments, memories, and artwork made by cosplayers and spread them across the world.

 

Cosplay in the West

Cosplay and anime in America really hit off in the early 2000’s as the internet, and the foreign media available through the use of it, made it much more accessible to people outside of Japan.  The costumes people either make or buy are worn at media-based conventions or events, which are widely advertised on anime news, production and dubbing company websites and social media pages.


(Cosplayer Interviews from Otakon 2004.  Otakon is the biggest east coast USA anime convention)


(Cosplayers at Otakon 2012 promoting the anime Steins;Gate for FUNimation)

Cosplayers also cosplay for photo shoots.  In Japan, Malaysia, and Singapore, there are magazines that feature cosplayers from all over the world such as Cosmode, Cosnaps, and CosGen. These magazines are also sold in select Japanese bookstores in the United States such as Kinokuniya.

Cover of Cosmode issue 48, featuring Magi

Cover of Cosmode issue 48, featuring Magi

COSmode: The Nation cover.  The special issue of Cosmode that focussed on cosplayers from all over the world.

COSmode: The Nation cover. The special issue of Cosmode that focussed on cosplayers from all over the world.

Blogging and Video Blogging have also taken off in the cosplay community.  Singapore is home to many award winning cosplay blogs such as The Cosplay Chronicles  An American makeup artist and YouTube star Michelle Phan also talks a lot about cosplay in her video tutorials and was endorsed by Toyota to do a video for Hatsune Miku.


(Michelle Phan’s tutorial for Hatsune Miku makeup)

There are also international and domestic competitions for cosplay.  The biggest, World Cosplay Summit, is an international, highly competitive competition that judges cosplayers from all over the world based on their sewing and craftsmanship skills as well their performance art.


(2012 Team USA Interview at World Cosplay Summit)


(2012 Team USA Preliminary-winning Performance.  Cosplay from Princess Tutu)

One two-man team from each country participating is flown to Japan every year to compete against each other.  It’s a highly competitive competition and even getting through the pre-preliminaries in America is an amazing accomplishment.