ConventioneeringSuper Happiness Tokusatsu Cosplay Force
Another aspect that prohibits the West from embracing cosplay as fully as our Japanese counterparts is one of purpose. A specialized event or themed party will bring out the round-eyed cosplayers without too much difficulty, even if it's simply to stand in line to buy graffitied photos from a sci-fi convention, but cosplaying in the land of the rising sun is an event unto itself. All manner of extravagantly themed and brightly colored obscurities wander the streets and congregate in seemingly random herds of anime-brought-to-life, simply for the objective of showing off their cosplay capabilities and marveling at the outrageous attire of fellow otaku.
The neo-fashion subculture surrounding Tokyo's Harajuku Station on the Yamanote rail line boasts a style of ultra high-octane diversity that suffers no comparison. Japanese teenagers go to any length not to stand out from the crowd, but to be an integral part of the hyper-neon fluorescence. Naturally, this kind of radical, open and rampant group statement has attracted cosplayers by their thousands; mingling in with the Goths, Visual kei, Lolitas, gyaru, kogal, ganguro, otaku, takenoko zoku, punks and rockabillys - all gathered simply to create a living sonata of vivid influence.
These outlandish visitors have themselves become a major part of the Harajuku tourist attraction, as a local industry sprung up to cater for the burgeoning cosplayers frequenting the thriving Omotesando and Takeshita-dori shopping avenues around Yoyogi Park. But there's a limit to what a good cosplayer will buy from a store when feeding his idolatrous habits. Making your own costume is, quite naturally, a significant aspect of the practice's charm. It's one thing to wear a professionally made Bubblegum Crisis or Sailor Moon outfit (and wear it well), but quite another to fashion your own and put it on public display for lavishly turned-out peers to umpire.
Cosplay competitions are common among these public and organized gatherings, and rivalry can be fierce. Rules are strict, yet varied - many demanding cosplayers provide the most accurate likeness of their chosen character by any means possible. The quality of entrants in such contests has reached heights so competitive that players routinely act out the character, as well as dress like it. But since much of cosplay's inspiration comes from manga and videogames, extrapolating the onscreen (or on-page) personalities of these characters requires a great deal of personal interpretation and theatrical prowess.
Presumably stemming from the generally acrobatic, superheroic nature of most manga and videogame characters, a rather peculiar trend has also permeated Japanese cosplay competition: cartwheeling. The ability to perform a cartwheel in full costume - regardless as to whether doing so fits with the psychological profile of the character being mimicked - is a sure way of scoring a few extra otaku-points. Whether this anomaly has evolved to demonstrate the durability and couture quality of the costume, or whether it's a cheap trick to upskirt a hot babe wearing a school uniform, it's difficult to say. I kinda hope it's the latter.
Regardless of schoolyard gymnastics, the opposite extreme of these "perfect match" competitions are those that demand the cosplayer make his own uniform. In recent years, it's become increasingly difficult to tell whether the contest's rules insist on homemade garments or not; such is the quality and extent of the garden-variety cosplayer's dedication to his art. Many home-industry cosplayers even dabble in the kigurumi (animal pajama outfits) and animegao (anime face) scene, which involves masks, hoods, helmets and other forms of face/headgear designed to replicate all features of the character in question.