Posted: September 24th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Japan | Comments Off on Cosplay

Last Friday, I was talking with one of my Japanese colleagues over lunch. We were having a rather in-depth conversation about the cos-play community. Cosplay (コスプレ), or costume roleplay, is a type of performance art in Japan, and abroad, where fans dress in costumes and accessories to represent a specific character or idea found in manga and/or anime.


I started by telling him that I thought it was very fascinating sub-culture in Japan, especially when comparing it to cosplayers in the States. And in that American context, at times, a little troubling.

He told me that in Japan it was a good chance for people to express themselves in ways that wouldn’t normally be available to them. (see: within the bounds of Japanese culture) He said that he couldn’t see how any negatives in cosplay could manifest in other parts of the world.

He said that every once and a while his family goes to Harajuku, an area in Tokyo known for its cos-players. There are times, he said, that he sees a woman, and admires how attractive she is, only to find out that it is actually a man.

This doesn’t upset him. He seemed honestly impressed that these people could pull of the illusion so well. I’d juxtapose his attitude against some pretty classic American stereotypes, that would be furious if they were fooled by a transvestite or drag queen. As though seeing them, and maybe inadvertently appreciating the illusion, somehow detracts from their own masculinity and calls their sexuality into question.

I told him that I could appreciate the freedom of expression that this gives Japanese people, and that I admire their commitment to the anime and manga that their costumes represent.

But to help him understand the differences between Japanese and American cosplay, and really the heart of my reservations to American cosplay, I asked him to imagine a 400 pound American man dressed as Sailor Moon.

He paused and said, “…Oh my….I see your point”

Big Guy Dressed as Sailor Moon

I rest my case.

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