Script error Cosplay (コスプレ kosupure?), short for "costume roleplay",[1] is a type of performance art in which participants don costumes and accessories to represent a specific character or idea. Characters are often[citation needed] drawn from popular fiction in Japan. Favorite sources include manga, anime, tokusatsu, comic books, graphic novels, video games, hentai and fantasy movies. Role play includes portrayals of J-pop and J-rock stars, Taiwanese puppet characters, science fiction characters, characters from musical stories, classic novels, and entertainment software. Any entity from the real or virtual world that lends itself to dramatic interpretation may be taken up as a subject. Inanimate objects are given anthropomorphic forms and it is not unusual to see genders switched, with women playing male roles and vice versa.

Cosplayers often interact to create a subculture centered around role play. A broader use of the term cosplay applies it to any costumed role play in venues apart from the stage, regardless of the cultural context.



The term cosplay represents a contraction of the English words costume roleplay. The term was coined by Nobuyuki Takahashi of the Japanese studio Studio Hard while attending the 1984 Los Angeles Science Fiction Worldcon.[2] He was impressed by the hall and the costumed fans and reported on both in Japanese science fiction magazines. The coinage reflects a common Japanese method of abbreviation in which the first two moras of a pair of words are used to form an independent compound. Costume becomes kosu (コス), and roleplay becomes pure (プレ).

Practice of cosplay


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Cosplayers typically come from the ranks of otaku--that is, fans of Japanese comic books, known as manga. They gather at public events such as comic-book and video game trade shows, as well as at dedicated cosplay parties at nightclubs or amusement parks. In Japan teenagers gather with like-minded friends in places like Tokyo's Harajuku district to engage in cosplay. Since 1998 Tokyo's Akihabara district has contained a large number of cosplay cafés, catering to devoted anime and cosplay fans. The waitresses at such cafés dress as game or anime characters; maid costumes are particularly popular. In areas outside of Japan, cosplay is primarily done at manga and anime conventions.

The single largest event featuring cosplay is the semiannual doujinshi market, Comiket. This event, held in Japan during summer and winter, attracts hundreds of thousands of manga fans. Thousands of cosplayers congregate on the roof of the exhibition center. The largest event for cosplayers outside Asia is the annual San Diego Comic-Con held in the California city in the USA.

Cosplayers in Japan refer to themselves as reiyā (レイヤー?); pronounced "layer". Those who photograph players are called cameko, short for "Camera Kozō" or "Camera Boy". Originally the cameko give prints of their photos to players as gifts. Increased interest in cosplay events both on the part of photographers and cosplayers willing to model for them have led to formalisation of procedures at events such as Comiket. Photography takes place within a designated area removed from the exhibit hall.

Cosplay at fan events likely originated in Japan in 1978.[3] Cosplay nevertheless gets a mixed reception in Japan even today. Events in districts such as Akihabara draw many cosplayers, yet there is no shortage of people in Japan who regard cosplay as a frivolous endeavor.[4]


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Cosplay differs from Halloween and Mardi Gras costume wear not only in existing independent of any particular holiday, but in its goal. The object of cosplay is interpretation: one attempts to become one's character much as a stage actor inhabits a role. Costumes are expected to adhere meticulously to the attire known to be worn by the character represented. Even more generic costumes get an elaborately artistic treatment. Cosplayers may purchase or create costumes through fan labor. Cosplayers often educate themselves in crafting specialities such as sculpture, face paint, fiberglasswork, fashion design and the like in the effort to render the look and texture of a costume accurately.[5]

Once in costume, cosplayers adopt the affect, mannerisms and body language of the characters they portray. Cosplayers often gather to view the costumes of others, show off their own creations, take pictures, share tips, and participate in contests. This activity is maintained between major events through participation in online forums.

Gender roles


Portraying a character of the opposite sex is "crossplay" while portraying a character who dresses as the opposite sex (from the cosplayer) is called "crossdress". Examples may serve to clarify the distinction. A female cosplayer representing a male character who wears standard masculine attire is both crossdressing and crossplaying. A female cosplayer who dresses as a male character who wears unisex clothing or feminine attire is crossplaying but not crossdressing. A man portraying that same character would be crossdressing but not crossplaying.

The practicality of crossplay and crossdress stems in part from the abundance in manga of male characters with delicate and somewhat androgynous features. Such characters, known as bishounen (beautiful youths), are an Asian version of the elfin boy archetype represented in Western tradition by figures such as Peter Pan and Ariel.[6]

The animegao, or "dollers", represent a niche group in the realm of cosplay. Their approach makes them a subgroup of what is called in Japan kigurumi--that is, "mascot"-style role players. Dollers are often male cosplayers representing female characters. Female dollers are also found who represent male characters, especially male characters that lend themselves to the treatment, such as robots, space aliens and animals. Dollers wear bodysuits and masks that completely hide their real features so that the original appearance of their characters may be reproduced as literally as possible. Their costumes display all the abstractions and stylizations characteristic of the cartoon art, such as the oversized eyes and tiny mouths so often encountered in manga.

Cosplay in Western culture

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The popularity of cosplay in Japan encourages the misconception that cosplay is specifically Japanese or Asian hobby. The term "cosplay", though Japanese in origin, described a phenomenon which was witnessed in the United States. For almost fifty years, costuming has had a widespread following and continues to experience growing popularity in North America and Europe, and has more recently spread throughout South America and Australia.

Western cosplay's origins are based primarily on science fiction and historical fantasy as opposed to animation. It is more common for Western cosplayers to recreate characters from live-action series such as Star Trek, Star Wars, Doctor Who, The Lord of the Rings, and Harry Potter than it is for Japanese cosplayers. Similarly, animated series may be the origin for many recreations. Western costumers also include subcultures of hobbyists who participate in Renaissance faires or the Society for Creative Anachronism, and historical re-enactments such as Civil War battles.

The increasing popularity of Japanese animation outside of Asia during the late 1990s led to an increase in American and other Western cosplayers who portray Japanese characters. Anime conventions have become more numerous in the West in the last decade. They now compete with science fiction, comic, and historical conferences in attendance. At these gatherings, cosplayers, like their Japanese counterparts, meet to show off their work, take photos, and compete in costume contests.

Differences in taste still exist across cultures. Some costumes that are worn without hesitation by Japanese cosplayers tend to be avoided by Western cosplayers, such as outfits that evoke Nazi-era uniforms.


The appearance of cosplayers at manga events makes such events a popular draw for photographers. As this became apparent in the late 1980s a new variant of cosplay developed in which cosplayers attended events mainly for the purpose of modeling their characters for still photography rather than engaging in continuous role play. Rules of etiquette were developed to minimize awkward situations involving boundaries. Cosplayers pose for photographers in designated areas removed from the exhibit hall. Photographers do not press them for personal contact information or private sessions, follow them out of the area or take photos of exhibits in the hall itself without permission. The rules allow the symbiotic relationship between photographers and cosplayers to continue with the least inconvenience to each.[3]

Recent cosplay events in Asia show an increase in the popularity of non-Asian fantasy and science fiction characters. This reflects the international success of films such as The Dark Knight, The Matrix, Star Wars and Lord of the Rings and their associated books. The Harry Potter characters created by J. K. Rowling are popular with female cosplayers in Japan.[citation needed]

Cosplay in Chinese culture

As anime is becoming more popular in China, Chinese have started to become involved in cosplay, as the Japanese and the Western countries.


  • Beginning–1990
Taiwan's first cosplays with the form similar to present day was started in 1990, but only temporarily and without specialization. Not many details were recorded due to the small number of participants.
  • 1991–1997
Most cosplayers started to make their costumes themselves, though professionals still lacked in this field.
During 1992–1993, the time was harsh, but it allowed them to make costumes by themselves, including accessories.
In 1994 to 1997, the environment of cosplay began to grow. There were almost several hundred cosplayers in Taiwan.
In 1997, the biennial doujin event started, and cosplay grew in popularity.
  • 1998–2005
Cosplay becomes more popular and well-known. Cosplayers' community rises sharply. Most of them start to go private to photo takings, other than public events. The Yam blog and Wretch blog for assembling people with the same interest rise abruptly. At the same time there is the launch of the discussion on the differences between several splendid attire culture such as cosplay dressing and various styles of lolita fashion.
  • 2006–present
A magazine only introducing cosplay COSmania was first published in 2006 February. Cosplay becomes much more popular. Most of the Taiwanese become familiar with the word cosplay, but the animadversion on cosplay's concept still exists.

Hong Kong

The cosplay sphere in Hong Kong are separated as two sides, with one mainly including Chinese citizens (sometimes Japanese also included) and one mainly including non-Chinese citizens (such as Europeans and Americans). The ambiance between two sides are different at all, since the status of Chinese-citizen-mainly side has been turning.

  • 1990s
For local Chinese citizens, cosplay first showed up in a form similar to that of the present in Hong Kong in 1993, when a group of people rented a kiosk and one of them wore a costume on some animations to attract people passing by. Since 1997, more and more local events are held, such as Comic World HK.
  • 2000–present
After the 1990s, the multimedia started to keep an eye on cosplays. Most of the universities in Hong Kong also launched their own cosplay events, and the most popular one is the Cosplay Party by Hong Kong University. Nowadays there are almost 20 events held with cosplay sessions every year in Hong Kong.
With an aid of easy accessibility of multimedia and the Internet, cosplay has been being far more popular and familiar. The number of people taking part in cosplay has also increased sharply.
However, some of the conservative cosplayers think that, the standard and behavior of the new-coming cosplayers with less experiences or morals are unacceptable, and consider those are interfering the conservatives' public image. Some of those immoral conservatives began to do attack in speech, even creating violent rebellions or triad-society-like behaviors to approach their external political purposes. Moreover, someone created several biased words to describe for those who cosplay with the discrepancy between the appearance of the cosplayer and the character, and for those who cosplay without able to understand the character that he/she is impersonating, even unilaterally fabricating themselves-centred inflexible so-called definitions of cosplay to force all the people to obey it without condition.
This makes the conflict among some cosplayers, and threatens the harmonious and rational environment of Chinese-citizen-mainly side cosplay sphere in Hong Kong. Such the conditions have been criticized by other cosplayers, netizens and some citizens. Some of the Hong-Kong-resided cosplayers even change to participate the cosplay events in other cities, such as in Macau and Guangzhou.
Events in Hong Kong
  • Private events
    • It is not really an event, but someone inviting other cosplayers (mostly impersonating the characters from the same issue) privately, and go together a place to cosplay. The purpose for this kind of gathering is mainly for photography. The relatively popular places for such the functions in Hong Kong could be such as Tai Po Waterfront Park or Kowloon Park.

Mainland China

The topic of cosplay in mainland China is mainly from Chinese classical issues and modern Japanese anime issues. Sometimes other exotic issues are also included.

In 2002, the YACAanimation organization was founded, and began a stage for cosplay. Afteron, there is some public cosplay events held every year in Guangzhou.

In 2009 at the 2nd China International Copyright Expo a China Cosplay Competition: Beijing was held. There were initial internet video trials, then the finals were held at the expo.

Related phenomena


The Internet has enabled many cosplayers to create "social networks" and web sites centered around cosplay activities. Forums allow them to share stories, photographs, news and tips.

The exponential growth in the number of people picking up cosplay as a hobby since 1990 has made the phenomenon influential in popular culture. This is particularly the case in Asia where cosplay influences Japanese street fashion and popular culture. Businesses increasingly seek to cater to cosplayers' interest in apparel, accessories, and collectibles.[citation needed]


Japan is home to two especially popular cosplay magazines, Cosmode (コスモード) and Dengeki Layers (電撃Layers). Cosmode has the largest share in the market. An English digital version of Cosmode has been created.[7]

Film and television

MTV has produced an episode of the documentary series True Life, focusing on fandom and cosplay.[8]

According to, a new feature length documentary film will be released in late 2010 and will focus on the personal lives of a small band of cosplayers. As of Jan 2010, the film is casting in the Chicago area. The filmed is tentatively titled: Cosplay, Cosplay! [9]


Manufacturers produce and sell packaged outfits for use in cosplay. Relatively cheap costumes may be had for around eighty US dollars while expensive outfits can sell for over 600 dollars. Experienced cosplayers, who prefer to design their own costumes, still provide a market for individual elements and accessories, such as wigs, costume jewelry, prop weapons, liquid latex body paint, and face paint.

In addition to making items specifically for use by cosplayers, the fashion industry has taken inspiration from the world of cosplay in popularizing looks such as the Gothic Lolita, based on clothing worn by popular period characters.


Cosplay has influenced the Japanese advertising industry more than it has the commodity market.

Print media increasingly retain cosplayers as models. Good cosplayers are increasingly viewed as fictional characters in the flesh, in much the same way that film actors come to identified in the public mind with specific roles. Cosplayers have model for print magazines like Cosmode, cosplay photography studios,

ADV Films has retained cosplayers for event work previously assigned to agency models. The ability of cosplayers to re-create their chosen characters with accuracy and vitality plays a part in this trend, as does the ability of cosplayers to appeal to an already existing market. E3 was occupied by a mix of both agency girls and cosplayers.[10]

Japan's burgeoning anime industry has been home to the professional cosplayers since the rise of Comiket, Tokyo Game Show, and other such powerhouse conventions.

A cosplay model, also known as a Cosplay Idol, is a promotional model who models cosplay costumes for anime, manga, or video game companies. A successful cosplay model can become the brand ambassador for companies like Cospa. The phenomenon is most apparent in Japan but exists to some degree in other countries as well.

Sexual roleplay

In Japanese slang the term cosplay is also used as a euphemism for sexual play involving costumes. It describes aspects of sexual role play and fetishism. Wearing a schoolgirl uniform before or during sex, for example, is known as seifuku cosplay (制服コスプレ?).

Many Japanese love hotels now offer costume rental services. Japanese clubs that specialize in sexual cosplay are known as image clubs. In addition to longstanding role-play clichés (schoolgirl, nurse, policewoman, dominatrix, etc.) such clubs may feature staff portraying popular characters from anime and manga.

Notable cosplayers

See also


External links


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