Cosplay: More than just dress up

by Zana Pommier
pommierza@mnstate.edu

Many of us spend a lifetime becoming comfortable in our own skin, but taking on the persona of someone we admire can be as simple as creating a costume.
While some people cringe at the idea of adults dressing up as comic book, manga or anime characters, others take pride in the hobby.
“Cosplaying has given me an incredible sense of self-confidence and fulfillment,” said Yannis Tomko, a sophomore and occasional cosplayer at MSUM.  “Working hours and hours into a project that you’re attached to makes you feel happy when others recognize your character.”
From the outside, cosplay may seem like playing dress-up. But for those who participate, it goes far beyond that. In a study done by the Journal of Cult Media, the top three of four reasons people chose to cosplay included identification with their character. These included psychological characteristics, some aspects of the characters history and the character’s physical appearance.
The study points out that people may feel similarities between themselves and a character, and then decide to take on the entire appearance and persona of a character.
“A lot of anime has characters that have traits or skills we find admirable,” Tomko said. “Cosplaying them is sort of like a tribute to the character, we’re showing how awesome they are to others that might not know about them.”
People wear outfits that range from completely store-bought to completely handcrafted masterpieces. Many cosplayers enjoy the work they put into creating a costume, and find that as a hobby in itself. Others don’t enjoy getting crafty, but think a great costume is worth putting the work into.
“Most outfits start with a base of a shirt and pants, which I buy.  After that most things are made out of cosplay materials. I wouldn’t say that making the outfit is fun.  It can take hours to make a single gauntlet, but the end result is always satisfying,” Tomko said.
The study notes that the most common reason people cosplay is “fun.” However, shows like “Heroes of Cosplay” display competitive cosplayers who spend endless hours creating costumes and competing at conventions for large sums of prize money. Although some people do try to turn the hobby into a part-time job, it’s important to note that the media blows people’s fun into out-of-proportion catty drama shows.
As opposed to what the media portrays, most people don’t turn against each other, and instead view cosplaying as a fun social activity and thrive by meeting new people at conventions.
“The best part of gratitude for me is going to conventions and having other cosplayers or fans recognize the character,” Tomko said. “Meeting people who like the animes and characters we like is a great feeling.”
Despite cosplay being a therapeutic hobby, it has adversaries. The opposers’ reasons range from disconnections from reality to promoting oversexualization.
“I wish there were more female characters [in anime] to define by their character than by their breast size,” said junior Jessica Lindstrom. “It’s not an issue with the cosplayers themselves, it’s with the design of the characters.”
Cosplayers are aware that some people don’t appreciate their hobby, but like anything else, cosplay will always receive criticism.
“For those of us who enjoy anime, its difficult for us to explain just how passionate we are and how much we enjoy it” Tomko said.  “Like a football fan who lives for Sundays and cheers on their favorite team, many of us choose to show our love of anime by cosplaying our favorite characters.”

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