Cosplay – Playing with fiction

Who doesn't know it? Dressing up can be quite appealing. You can put your own ego on the shelf for a while and instead take on the qualities of the chosen character. And the occasions for briefly transforming into someone else are as numerous as they are varied. For a lot of people, wearing costumes is an integral part of their daily work: many a theater stage has brought the characters of Shakespeare & Co. to life. And, depending on the tradition, slipping into another character can manifest itself quite differently in the individual countries. But they all have one thing in common: They are social events.

For example, we all know pictures of the colorful carnival hustle and bustle in Brazil, Germany and many other places around the world. Often, the practice of dressing up looks back on a long history and is based on very different rites. In this article, however, we want to shine a spotlight on a tradition that has perhaps been rather unknown up to now: Cosplay (from Japanese: "Kosupure", from English: "Costume Play").

A multi-faceted movement

A specialty of this type of costume play is that the so-called Cosplayers do not dress up as any old pirate, but slip into the role of a very specific character. There are no limits to the choice of characters: persons, such as musicians or artists, animals or often fantasy creatures - they can all be represented as Cosplay. Even objects that have achieved a certain cult status or represent their own character in series can be the subject of a Cosplay. So far, so abstract? Then let us look further back into the past of the still young movement.


Comic-strip heroes - The initial spark

There is disagreement about the specific origins of Cosplay: presumably, however, it goes back to the 1980s, when visitors to U.S. science fiction conventions appeared in the costume of their favorite characters. The term, however, was undoubtedly defined and coined in Japan. It was the media interest of the Japanese, as well as their influences from the manga and anime scene, that created a subculture of its own. Nowhere in the world does the hype around comic books, cartoons and video game characters seem to be as great as in Japan, where fictional characters can achieve unprecedented cult status. And it was precisely this phenomenon that contributed significantly to the development of Cosplay as we know it today.


A lot of love for detail

At first glance, the impression is quickly created that Cosplay is purely of playful nature. But the performers/Cosplayers take their art very seriously and make an extreme effort to represent the chosen character to perfection: The costumes are characterized by a special attention to detail and in most cases they are also made by the Cosplayers themselves. The realization is not about adding an own individual touch. The goal is to adopt the character right down to the last detail and as realistically (if you can say that in this case) as possible. But this is still not where it ends, because Cosplayers slip into the role of their (mostly virtual) model not only with the help of a costume, but rather through a perfectly coordinated interplay of clothing, make-up and behavior. They personify the chosen character and - at least for the duration of the game - bring it virtually to life. Of course, it is all the more exciting when different followers of this movement meet. Any themed events are then the scene of a colorful gathering of characters who, in interaction, write their very own story.

From Japan around the world

Started in Japan, the movement boomed in the 1990s and has since enjoyed a steadily growing, mind you international, fan base. Also in Germany the Cosplay movement can be observed at the latest since "Sailor Moon" became known (on German television from 1996). As enthusiasm grew, so did anime/manga conventions, which have been held regularly since 1999. These events were and are important for the development of the movement, as they not only provide a public stage for like-minded people, but also give the necessary seriousness to the subculture they belong to. In Germany, the Frankfurt Book Fair, which has been held since 2007, plays a particularly important role, as it provides the stage where the finals of the German Cosplay Championship take place. At the Connichi convention in Kassel, a Cosplay couple qualifies in the same rhythm to participate in the World Cosplay Summit in Japan - the unofficial Cosplay World Championship.

A party game of a different kind

So when it comes to Cosplay, it's worth taking a look behind the scenes. After all, it is a part of Japanese pop culture with numerous followers who find their stage worldwide. In the end, this game - as is so often the case - is only really fun when it is played in a community!

Photo credits: from left to right

Picture 2: ultrafx /
Picture 3: Denis Starostin /
Picture 7: Konteawwat /
Picture 8: Andre Luiz Moreira /
Picture 9: wrongsidesunset /