Cosplay: the amalgamation of the words “costume” and “play”, and the act of dressing up as a character from comics, manga, movies, anime… Pretty much anything from popular culture or a subculture that people like. For Japanese cosplayers, the culture of cosplay can be a world of fun, photos and sometimes bitter and petty rivalry.
That said, how do Japanese cosplayers feel about foreign cosplayers entering their field? As it turns out, most are quite welcome to the idea.
In Japan, among cosplayers, there is an unspoken rivalry. Firstly, there is a divide between those who make their own costumes and those who buy them. Some people adhere to the school of thought that there’s no love in buying a store-made costume and that anyone who buys a costume doesn’t “love the character” as much as someone who makes a costume. Secondly, there is the divide between the people who do cosplay to “become the character” and people who do cosplay because they enjoy wearing the costumes.
In both of these cases, the divide is mostly one-sided, with people who make their costumes looking down on people who buy them, and people who want to embody the spirit of the character looking down on those they think are just wearing costumes. The divide is one-sided, but it is still there and causes rifts, and in some cases, outright bullying.
There is also an unspoken rule that newcomers cannot out-shine established cosplayers. For a relatively new cosplayer to dress as the same character better than a veteran can be considered the gravest of insults. The more famous the veteran, the worse the consequences can be.
However, when it comes to foreign cosplayers, most Japanese cosplayers actually look up to them. One of the biggest reasons is because of the physical barrier that most Japanese cosplayers cannot breach. No matter how good the costume is, no matter how good the makeup is, when it comes to physical bone structure, physical height, physical proportions, foreign cosplayers come equipped with a better toolset. “Foreign cosplayers are better at it, and most of us are aware of this,” a 14-year veteran Japanese cosplayer who wished to remain unnamed said to Kotaku. “When I see a foreigner dressed as a character I love, I feel like telling them, ‘thank you for dressing up as this character!’ I believe everyone feels this way.”
The cosplayer stated that while Japanese cosplayers can tend to get full of themselves among other Japanese, everyone holds foreigners in high regard. “We’re grateful for it. I wish more foreign cosplayers would come to Japan.”
Hear that? That’s an invitation. Just be sure to keep it classy.