Musings about Japan and life as a human, a cosplayer, a minority, a music lover, an English teacher.

My Honest Thoughts on Cosplay

Last weekend I went to Katsucon, my first convention since I returned to the U.S. and since Otakon 2008. I cosplayed as Silmeria from Valkyrie Profile 2, and entered my first Hall Costume Contest. For that I got an Honorable Mention, which isn’t bad for a first entry.

I’m definitely no professional costume maker, but I do have a good sense of aesthetics. A lot of people talk about cosplay, whether it’s actually doing it or looking at other cosplayers and judging what’s good and what’s bad. I think another topic that people tend to avoid is skin color. Some non-Asian and non-White people might feel discouraged to cosplay because they think they won’t look as good in a costume.

I’ll tell you, a couple of years ago I saw a black Sephiroth and he looked MUCH better than any of the white ones I’ve seen. And of course I have dark skin as well, but that didn’t stop me from cosplaying as a snow-white Chinese warrior or a blondetwice.

So skin color doesn’t really matter. What matters is how well the costume is made. A black Morrigan whose costume is well-done is more pleasing to the eye than a white or Asian with a crappy costume.

Now, if someone is doing a casting for a Dark Stalkers movie and they want the most accurate, they will look for a light-skinned person. Of course, we all know that. No one suggested a black person to play Goku in Dragonball, or Speed in Speed Racer, or Tony Stark in Iron Man.

But that’s not what cosplay is about. At least, not here.

I’m not sure what Japanese cosplayers would say. I’m inclined to say that they’ll secretly think that only Asians or white people should cosplay light-skinned characters, but the opposite is just as likely. Everyone has something to say.

Overall appearance is different. If you weigh 300 pounds, don’t cosplay as Zero Suit Samus. If you’re cosplaying as Lady Oscar from Rose of Versailles, don’t waddle or walk like an ape. If you don’t know how to walk in heels and your character walks in heels, LEARN TO WALK IN HEELS. I was so disappointed to see a Sailor Jupiter at the con who wobbled in her boots like a four-year old playing dress-up.

Personally, I get annoyed when some fat hairy dude decides that he wants to dress up as Faye Valentine or Tifa. I don’t think it’s funny at all; it’s just stupid and gross. But I can’t say he doesn’t have a right to do it. Not everyone takes cosplay seriously.

But if you are looking to take cosplay seriously, if you are looking to bring a character to life, you have to learn what characters are suitable for you. I probably wouldn’t make a very convincing Sailor Uranus, not because I’m short but because I don’t feel that I can mimic her personality and image.

Which brings me to another part of cosplay. The best cosplayers–the ones that a lot of the people are impressed by and want to remember–are the ones who don’t just look the part, but act the part as well. I met a woman a few years ago who was crossplaying as Zhang He, and she did well to act as flamboyant and narcissistic as he was in the game. At Katsucon I saw a Neku from The World Ends With You who had a nonchalant attitude and an almost “angry-at-the-world” look on his face–which is EXACTLY the kind of person Neku is. Cosplayers acting out of character can be funny sometimes, but a lot of people would probably get that nostalgic feeling from seeing that character truly come to life as he or she is supposed to.

Perhaps I’m being a little too serious, but this is something I was thinking about long before I even knew how Japanese cosplayers treated their art.


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