In the early 90’s Anime and Manage rose to a high popularity in America. While America was no stranger to these things via Astro Boy, Voltron and Fist of the North Star, this was still relegated to a fairly small community of fans. Shows like Dragonball Z, Sailormoon, Naruto and Gundam helped bring awareness of Anime, Manga and Japanese culture to a much broader and younger audience.
Every child fantasizes about becoming their favorite character and Cosplay (Costumed Play) allows individuals to live out that fantasy. This isn’t specifically limited to children, but has been embraced by people of all ages and from any form of media. It has become a more common form of overall “fandom”.
Most Cosplayers tend to create their own outfits, referencing images of their chosen characters. In the creation of the outfits, much time is given to detail and qualities, and the skill of a cosplayer may be rated by how difficult the details of the outfit are and how well and faithfully they have been reproduced.
When this first began Cosplayers didn’t have a lot of resources, but in a few short years there are now literally hundreds of shops and online stores for wigs, costumes and accessories specifically for cosplay. Some individual Cosplayers such as Yaya Han have been able to build a a business around cosplay.
Cosplay has also been a way for custom designers, crafters and prop makers to showcase their work to a large audience and generate new orders for their work or cross over into working professional within the film and television industries. Many within the entertainment industry use larger conventions as an opportunity to scout new talent.
The growth of Cosplay is not just about more than just Anime and Manga, it actually goes much deeper than that. Cosplay is part of what one might call “Escapist Culture”, which involves people trying to bring more of their ideal or fantasy world into their everyday life. As a result of the growth of the Sci-fi, Fantasy, Horror and Thriller genre’s across television, film, books and gaming, more and more individuals are open to the idea of escapism and embracing the fantasy world.
It is not uncommon to go to a convention like Megacon or Katsucon and see just as many people Cosplaying Doctor Who, Game of Thrones or Harry Potter as X-Men or Bleach. Cosplay speaks to the desire to abandon mundane reality in favor of something more imaginative.
Ultimately as we become a culture that consumes more and more media, our desire for escapism will continue to grow, and with it the community of Cosplayers.