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Cosplay: When Fictional Characters Come Alive

by Anna Yuu

Do you like anime and everything Japanese? Then there’s a high possibility you would know Cosplay. Cosplay is a combination of two words – costume and play. It is the practice of portraying a fictional character – involving acting as well, completely identifying as that character while in costume – to add to the authenticity of the experience.

To some, cosplay is not merely costuming, but a very unique form of performance art. It is most widely associated with comic books, animations, video games, and even books and celebrities. Originating from Japan, it has now become such a massive subculture within the entertainment and pop culture world at this point of time. In Malaysia, the spread of cosplay culture actively started when the first well-known anime event Comic Fiesta was organised in 2002.

Yuan as Alucard (left) and Sky as Simon Belmont from Dracula: Lords of Shadow 2

Yuan as Alucard (left) and Sky as Simon Belmont from Dracula: Lords of Shadow 2

Sky and Yuan, an animator and a concept artist respectively, are passionate cosplayers who have represented Malaysia twice in the World Cosplay Summit in Japan. In 2011, they got through to the finals bringing Count D and Dragon Maiden from Petshop of Horrors to life, and in late July to early August this year, they went with Alucard and Simon Belmont from Castlevania: Mirror of Fate. The highlight of the occasion was when they decided to proceed ahead with the competition, although Sky suffered a twisted foot from an incident during their WCS practice. Their dedication was applauded by competitors from other countries and organisers, and set a higher standard for the local cosplay community.

“Cosplay is a hobby that takes a lot of time, energy, and money. I won’t be so dedicated if I don’t love it 101%!” – Sky

Sky started cosplaying in 2003 out of interest in new things, while Yuan started in 2006. They started cosplaying together as Battler Ushiromiya and Beatrice from the anime series Umineko in 2007 – which remained their favourite characters of all time – and have been cosplay and life partners since then.

“It’s really hard to find a cosplay partner that clicks with you. If you found one, hold on to them,” said Yuan.

Yuan as Hades, one of the well-known Disney villains.

Yuan as Hades, one of the well-known Disney villains. (Fritz Fusion)

While deciding on the character you’d like to cosplay is the hardest part, preparing takes time and is crucial to produce good quality costumes and props. To Sky, it’s important for a cosplayer to have a clear plan on what they wish to do, and to be confident and believe in themselves in order to make it happen. Of course, all through sheer determination and hard work, or as Yuan blatantly put it – a copious amount of coffee. Due to props requiring some DIY works to be done, they also advise cosplayers to always keep close friends and family updated on what they are doing next.

“Just so they can make sure we won’t die in the process,” Sky jokingly exclaimed.

Sky as Simon Belmont from

Sky as Simon Belmont from Castlevania (Xeverous)

Having been cosplayers for over 10 years now, Yuan and Sky seem to think the local scene is heading towards a promising direction. Compared to back when it first started, there are now more international cosplay competitions opening their doors to Malaysia, like WCS and Clara Cow Cosplay Competition. more cosplay idols (similar to J-idols, they have their own set of fans), more events to cosplay in, and with easier access to Taobao, – a Chinese online shopping website that is very famous amongst cosplayers – there are more options to own beautiful costumes. Now everybody can cosplay, regardless of age, gender, skills, and skin colour.”

The positive attention to the scene also brings good news to cosplayers who use their hobby as a side income; it means more requests for appearances and better payment. However, Sky and Yuan wish more would tread the healthy path in cosplaying, and not treat it as a leverage to gain instant fame by sexualising themselves and selling it as cosplay. Other than that, they encourage others who are interested in cosplaying to gather their confidence and brave that first step.

Cosplay of Fullmetal Alchemist (Micho Teh)

Cosplay of Fullmetal Alchemist (Micho Teh)

“Never let the rules stop you. They give you a wall? Climb it. They throw a sea in front? Swim across. Can’t swim? Build a boat and sail the sea like a boss,” said Yuan. “In the end, the experience & friends you’ve gained along the way make everything worth fighting for.”

They encourage the beginners who have any concerns in mind to ask many veteran cosplayers who are always very friendly and helpful for help. They also advise them to not worry or feel jealous about others doing it better than them because cosplay is just like any other hobby; always bear in mind that it’s a stress-reliever where you have fun and enjoy yourself. However, cosplaying requires money, and sometimes a lot of it. “Never get into a debt and cause disputes because of cosplay,” Sky warned. “Save up for it, or do cosplays that are within your budget instead.”

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