Conventioneering

Conventioneering
Super Happiness Tokusatsu Cosplay Force

Spanner | 27 Nov 2007 13:46
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Often enough, this sincere dedication means a small matter like gender doesn't stop the seasoned cosplayer from donning a costume intended for the opposite sex. Indeed, the additional attention required to convincingly pull off a sex change transformation can award a skilled cosplayer extra credibility among the uniformed community. Professional cosplaying allows for this transgender transformation, and the costume scene has even broken the categorization down again into distinct variations on the cross-dressing theme.

A "crossplayer" is someone who dresses as an anime, videogame or manga character of the opposite sex, while a "cross-dresser" portrays a character that dresses in clothes of the opposite gender (of which there are many). For regulars on the anime circuit, the profound knowledge of the characters tends to remove the inherent ambiguity of this particular style, though an outsider can have difficulty determining whether a cosplayer is crossplaying or cross-dressing (or both). If a female cosplayer is dressed as a male character, she's both crossplaying and cross-dressing. If she cosplays as a male character that wears women's clothes, she's only crossplaying, since she's wearing women's cloths albeit portraying a male character. Clear?

Probably not. But what probably is becoming clear is the mark cosplay has made on Japanese culture and the depths to which cosplayers have gone to realize their art. The intensity and prevalence of this fashion-based trend has quite naturally begun to spread in the opposite direction: influencing the entertainment media that originally gave birth to the cosplaying craze.

Doujin cosplayers French Bread created a sublime parody of the popular Korean MMOG Ragnarok Online - turning it into an overpopulated, super-deformed battle royale called Raknarok Battle Offline. By adopting typical cosplaying traits, such as "acting out" the presumed personalities of the original character, coupled with the intrinsic nature of the game's mimicry, RBO quickly became a cult phenomenon among cosplayers, otaku and videogamers alike. Such was the popularity of what was essentially a spoof game, the developers of the original MMOG, Gravity Corporation, gave the game a proper release outside of Japan.

Even in the high-end commercial game market, we're seeing wonderful characters like Virtua Fighter's latest quirky addition, Eileen. Although her monkey style kung fu is a traditional Chinese martial art, her outfit is a delicious homage to Sun Wu Kong - better known as Monkey from one of China's most celebrated works of classical literature, the 16th century novel Xi You Ji (Journey to the West). Eileen is simply the latest in a long and glorious representation of Monkey's irrepressible influence.

Also of particular note is the monumental 2-D tournament fighter, Super Cosplay War Ultra, which features an enormous cast of cosplaying combatants whose every move transforms their outfit (though not their physical appearance) into a different anime, manga or videogame character.

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Wacky, delightfully esoteric and governed by an encyclopedic number of unwritten laws, cosplay is altogether a Japanese phenomenon. From Harajuku Station to the Tokyo Game Show, cosplay has earned its place in gamer culture as the real-world manifestation of the dedication and passion we all hold in our hearts.

Spanner has written articles for several publications, including Retro Gamer. He is a self-proclaimed horror junkie, with a deep appreciation for all things Romero.

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