What is Cosplay ?
The cosplay (neologism of Costume and Play) is a japanese subculture consisting to embody the role of a fictional character, like the heroes of video games, manga, movies … taking their physical appearance with accessories (wigs, makeup, prosthetics ...) and clothing usually designed by the cosplayer itself.
This practice has spread initially in the United States, where it was born, and then to the rest of the world, mainly in Europe. But it's, of course, Japan which holds the « World Cosplay Summit », the largest international competition for Cosplay.
The cosplayers usually try to stay as faithful as possible to their character. But we may be able to see several variations of the same character, different cloths, age, or even from adaptations of original illustrations. Along the same idea, it is not surprising to see cosplayers of characters embody the opposite gender, a practice called the crossplay.
Finally, we can see that some cosplayers can embody original creations, wich the character costumes are not known, most often created by the cosplayer itself. The interest of this practice is usually based on originality and quality of costume.
In most countries, the cosplayer take a point of honor to design his own costume, and most of the competition required that the cosplayer has done everything by himself. Sewing, leather working, metal working, make-up, and sport training ... It’s sometimes necessary to have several skills to be a good cosplayer. Therefore we can describe the cosplayers as artists, because of the quality and creativity of their work. Thus we speak more of costume, than disguise: the first by reference to a more professional performance approaching to the theater, the second is closer to the fun. The difference may seem subtle to the uninitiated, as you may be able to see in conventions many people are dressed in costumes or disguises. But you will notice no rivalry in both practices, as it’s often the first step before becoming a cosplayer is to dress up for fun.
The photography is a large part in the cosplay as it is with the video, the medium most convenient to keep track of costumes and performance. The cosplayers look for professional photographers to give to their work more value. The same goes for the photographer looking for beautiful models to make nice pictures. A kind of complicity has take place between photographers and cosplayers, who are often on Conventions and are accustomed to working together on a beautiful photo shoot. The quality of the background is very important for the photo shoot, and photography will be a long process of editing and adding special effects to consolidate the main objective to match perfect resemblance to the original character.
However, there is differences between countries of origin of cosplayers:
In Japan, cosplayers do not participate in contests, and costume design is less important. Most often it’s more about showing a suit made by someone else or bought. The notion of respect for the image of the characters is very important in Japan, cosplayers are often far more serious than elsewhere. Moreover it is not allowed to photograph a cosplayer circulating in a convention. This requires waiting for him to join the space that was granted for the show. It is also very important to ask permission before photographing. Some cosplayers are sometimes accompanied by their "manager", which manages the photographers for them. The conventions are therefore usually less friendly and less festive.
In the U.S., the costumes are more oriented to popular movies and comics, and seek more originality in creation.
In Europe, mainly France and Italy, the quality of costumes becomes more important, especially in designing the costume from A to Z. In addition, there are more competitions and shows made up of songs or staged scenes mixing serious and fun. But the main mood emerging from the conventions will be friendly, and reflect the passion of the participants. Thus, increasingly, big brands such as Fnac or Virgin Megastore, as well as cinemas, are looking for the presence of cosplayers, true artists who bring the warm and professional mood at trade events such as the release of new blockbuster movies (Blu-ray Star Wars, Harry Potter ...) or video games.