What is she wearing?!? All over Japan, hard-core fans of animation, video games, and manga comics are hitting the streets in their latest cosplay (short for costume play) outfits-- especially women! Devotees spend countless hours and hard-earned yen transforming themselves into their favorite characters and strutting their stuff at conventions, parks, and clubs. Inside, you'll find street-fighting tough chicks, emerald-haired princesses, spunky school girls, and faux-fur kittens. Cosplay Girls is a peek into Japan's wacky wanna-be subculture with all its glitter, glue, posing, and preening.
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Essai Ushijima is a 30 year veteran of the cosplay scene. He manages cosplay events and lectures and writes about cosplay. His essay and personal photo collection appear in the chapter "Essai's Scrapbook: Cosplay Then and Now."Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
From the Introduction "The Cult of Kawaii" by Jennifer Cahill Kawaii
Depending on the context, the word "kawaii" could mean cute, pretty, cool, nicely designed, sweet, sexy, funny, or a hundred other things.
The word is invoked when talking about food, fashion, people, personalities, everything pleasing from Kitty to Gucci. Kawaii is as hard to pin down and as important as "cool," especially to young women.
Throughout the wildly different images in this book is the presence of and the quest for kawaii. While many of the costumes have elements of sexuality, cosplay (Japanese-English for "costume play") is not about sexual role-playing or fetishes. What it is about is the subject of some debate. Basically, cosplay is dressing up as a character, usually from animation, manga comics, or video games. It is a social hobby, with events and conventions where cosplayers and photographers meet and mingle. But what exactly would drive an otherwise normal person to spend countless hours and hundreds of dollars to go out in public looking like a cartoon cat in a frilly apron?
For one thing, it's fun to go out in a costume. And certainly there is an element of escapism at work here. Japan's famously rigid society, with its strict roles and rules stressing community over individuality, is in the midst of major changes. With the bursting of the so-called "economic bubble" of the 1980's and the slowly disappearing lifetime employment system, many feel that cosplay is an escape from uncertain times and a rejection of the status quo. Daily concerns about where the country, the world, and you are going can be temporarily put aside in favor of making, wearing, and doing things kawaii. And there's nothing like a lime green wig and a tiger bikini to make a girl stand out in a crowd of office workers and housewives. Just standing out can be an act of rebellion in a culture that prizes harmony. In the world of cosplay, there are always options and possibilities, and the boundaries that stifle in the real world fall away. One's identity and future are not set in stone - the girl in the Bo-Peep dress can zip into a changing room and emerge as a camouflaged action heroine. Girls become boys and vice versa. Cosplayers even take on cos-names that either represent a favorite character or just something fun, like "Mushroom." But while dressing up may be a move away from the mainstream, it's not a leap into anarchy, for cosplay has an established community with its own rules and aesthetics.
Japan has long had a copy-cat reputation in the West. Western fashions and labels are scooped up and conspicuously consumed with gusto, from designer handbags to jeans and Hip-hop clothes. One could argue that transforming oneself into a video game or animation character is another act of imitation. Just like purchasing an image by covering oneself in designer logos, maybe these women are buying pre-packaged identities.
In the end, how creative is dressing up like someone else, fictional or otherwise? But whatever influence the West has over them, the games, manga comics, and animation upon which the cosplayers draw is mostly made in, by, and for Japan. Some others are Japanese school or work uniforms, and others are completely original designs that are just kawaii fantasies. Also, the vast majority of these costumes are made from scratch at home with sewing machines, fake fur, spandex, plastic bottles, duct tape, glue guns, and imagination. It does require quite a bit of ingenuity to turn a bank teller into a cyborg. The desire to be someone or something else is a familiar enough urge for all of us. All over the world, there are scores of men and women wishing they were the latest pop star or movie hero. But in the strange realm of otaku, or fanatics, it's possible to put together a costume and go from wanna-be to star, if only for a little while. It's even possible to get a taste of fame posing for the paparazzi at a convention or other cosplay event...
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Book Description Cocoro Books, 2003. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P110972312420