Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Essence of Cosplay

I remember during the early 2000s, when Cosplay is not as organized and as grandious as it is right now. People dresses up as their favorite characters and hangout in coffeeshops, stroll inside the malls and just gather and talk about their favorite anime/manga characters inside the campus. I am a manga/anime lover and have "dressed up" as "characters" as early as the year 2000.
I have been reading some articles regarding the Cosplay community in the Philippines and have come across the dilemma of some veteran Cosplayers and Cosplay enthusiasts. Indeed the community grew and have evolved into something that is way out of line in both the positive and the negative aspect, and I am going to mention some of them here (top 3).
1. One of the positive things that happened to Cosplay here in the country is, it opened doors for people to express themselves. With the advent of the Cosplay popularity, it created a place for enthusiasts to gather often. As an expression of artistry and passion, Cosplay becomes an avenue for people like us (uber late teens) to experience our childhood once more. Of course some of the youngsters wont be able to know some of the anime characters that we used to know (like Dai and the characters from X/1999 or M.A.S.K.) but it gives us the opportunity to relive the feeling.
2. Meet fellow anime/manga lovers. This I think is one of the most important reason to attend Cosplay conventions. You get to know people you can talk to regarding an anime character, a manga chapter. You could definitely talk about an anime episode for hours and discuss the "philosophy" behind the decision of Anastasia to betray the Brave 10 [for example =)]. It is nice to know that someone is knowledgeable about the names of characters from Magic Knight Rayearth being derived from automobiles.
3. With a lot of parents curious about what Cosplay is, they are encouraged to motivate their kids to Cosplay at an early age, thus promoting artistry and self confidence. I have friends and workmates with kids who would ask me if it is fun to Cosplay (which I always answer "HELL YEAH!!!) and would like their kids to try it out. Hanging out with Cosplayers (especially those NICE ones) would really motivate kids to be artistic. Thus Cosplayers should be "model citizens" since parents and kids start to look up to them. We do not want parents to say that we are bad examples, right?
1. With unplanned and "shady" conventions sprouting everywhere (especially in the Metro), Cosplay now becomes very ordinary. It is starting to lose the magic that makes it unique and individual. This is also starting to erode the artistry of Cosplayers since they would often rush into Cosplaying just about anything. Planning and studying the character that you are trying to portray is very important to the essence of Cosplaying. What I love about Davao Cosplay Community (or Mindanao as a whole) is that conventions and events are really carefully planned and thought about (Hail AMBOX!). This does not happen overnight and this gives Cosplayers something to prepare and look forward to.
2. The essence of Business. Cosplay has become an avenue of business and profit, and I am not saying that this is bad, afterall, you need to pay people to make costumes, get wigs and other stuff you cannot make on your own (try to make Contact Lenses or Wigs). What I mean here is whats happening in some conventions when some shady groups would just organize Cosplays to collect registration fees.
3. The last and the most important- the idea of "Cosplaying for Fun" is slowly disappearing. In relation to number 2, sometimes this is true with some Cosplayers. Some Cosplayers attend conventions, not to have fun but to collect bounties. Again, I am not saying that it is bad to aim for the prizes (afterall, we spend money for our costumes), but this is becoming a trend to new Cosplayers. Being competitive is healthy, however, showing bitterness when you lose is alarming. During early 2000s, Cosplayers would dress up and gather just for the heck of it- watch Anime, talk about Manga, swap toys and VHS (yes, we used to watch anime-I call it cartoons before in big/bulky VHS Tapes). This was during the time when internet is alien to us and cellphones are just for the rich and the upperclass. We used to rush home after class just to watch Rayearth and Eugene of Ghost Fighter on IBC 12 or watch and laugh as this beautiful girl Coleen transforms into Super Boink after shouting "Ba-Bee-Boo-Bee, BOINK! Luckily right now, we have access to the internet and manga are sold in bookstores.
Another thing about #3 is, I noticed that a lot of Cosplayers are now attention seekers and media thirsty. Way back in the years when "gatherings" are done at school and some small bars with a large parking space, Cosplay right now are a full blown media event. Some Cosplayers now even Cosplay just to be noticed by the horde of paparazis, wearing very revealing outfits to grab the attention of people that might bring them to stardom. It is normal for humans to seek attention, however, if this is done in a "shady" way, will this not result to some negative opinion from people that can cast a bad shadow for the entire Cosplay community?
I am not an expert Cosplayer, hell, I am even lame but these are things that I observed not just here in Davao, but in some cities that I have been and have observed Cosplays. I started Cosplaying again because of passion and the pull of idea of expressing myself, it gives me an avenue to continue a dream I have in highschool. I am now Cosplaying for fun and it will stay that way. I will probably join competitions, again, just for the heck of it and just to express myself on stage. It will be beneficial for me in the long run since it will help me de-stress, boost my "average" self confidence, rekindle my artistic juices and be a child again. I will do this as long as I am able and I wouldn't care less with what other people would say. I'm enjoying and I think they are not. =p
The Adventures of Dai:
Super Boink:
Photos from the Internet