Fans of Japanese culture today must dive into the life within their digital screens to find the newest trends and creative genius. Lovers of anime and all things digital are now migrating their digital life over into the “real” world.
Costume play, commonly known as cosplay, is a hobby where participants dress up using costumes and accessories to represent fictional characters or well-known people. The truly addicted have made it into a lifestyle. It originated in Japan and has become a pop culture fad both in the country and beyond its borders. And … cosplay has arrived in Indonesia!
Four venues over the last two months have relied on cosplay to liven up the event and pull in the crowds. Cosplay Freak Contest at Pasaraya: Pride of Indonesia (formerly known as Pasaraya Grande) took place March 14. Animax Cosplay Contest rolled out at Grand Indonesia on March 28.
Cosplay Freak Contest at Pasaraya was a small event organized by the Pasaraya management as a store-wide sale promotion. It attracted a decent number of cosplayers, with more than twenty entrants for the contest and more people cosplaying around for fun. Participants ranged from children to adults, all wearing costumes depicting characters from various anime and game titles, from classic oldies to contemporary one.
“We were happy about the turnout,” said Rully, an assistant manager at Pasaraya. “We chose cosplay because we believe it is becoming a trend among the younger generation.”
The contest offered more than Rp 10 million in prizes, divided into categories and as door prizes.
The bow to Japanese culture was topped off with a live performance by Galaxy Band, a Japanese jazz band. With the successful draw of the cosplay theme, Rully expected to organize larger events around the same idea later this year.
Fast forward two weeks, another cosplay contest was held at Grand Indonesia. Satellite TV provider Indovision included it in their promotional exhibition. An equally select event in a small venue and fashioned for a dedicated audience, it still attracted a core of more than 100 cosplayers.
The day was filled with multiple events, leading with a laughing contest and a drawing contest for the kids by Animax. The giant Japanese TV broadcaster that specializes in Japanese anime shows, Animax hosted the cosplay contest in the afternoon to draw in a younger group. An evening live performance capped the day’s events.
The high turnout for the cosplay contest caught the organizers off guard. Besides the 100 cosplayers many more onlookers took in the phenom.
“We are very excited,” exclaimed Winnie, a public relations manager with Indovision. “This is our third stop of the promotional tour this year, and we expected the biggest turnout here. But nothing this big!”
The place was packed with cosplayers strolling around, striking poses so people could snap their photos, even in areas well away from the venue.
Dedication and diversity were on display in the range of creatures ambling about. Some cosplayers invested all their creativity in their get-up, others invested their purse. The elaborate ones cost more than a million rupiahs and showed months of work. Though designing the costume can eat up half the potential prize winnings, the spirit of competition was very high.
“[We] came here to win”, said Radit, one cosplayer who later bagged second place. Radit cosplayed a character from the Japanese game series, Caslevania. He told us his chest plate and the flying swords on his back took him two months to devise, clearly showed his effort and determination.
Just as eye-catching were the first and third place winners. Hades from the Saint Seiya anime series walked among us in full armored regalia. An elaborate winged duo, also from anime, landed long enough to collect their prize. So, why cosplay? What drives people to do this?
“Cosplay allows us to bring to life our favorite characters,” said Rui who was cosplaying as Nanoha from the anime Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha.
“We all have our favorite characters from an anime or game. We get to live as that character for a moment, and that is a great thrill. Especially when we create a costume and props we can be proud of.”
Even though Rui and her friends came to cosplay, they did not enter the competition. Not all cosplayers do it for the chance to compete. The number of contestants was still close to 100, though.
“Not all of us come down to compete – we just want to have fun. Events like this offered a chance for cosplayers to gather together and share the passion,” Rui explained.
And what do the onlookers make of it all?
“It’s interesting to watch,” says Ivander, one visitor. “We can see their effort, their passion, their work and creativity. It’s also added fun to see someone cosplaying as my favorite character.”
The Pasaraya management plans to roll out a bigger cosplay event around September this year. Indovision continues its tour to Surabaya and Medan later this year.
Aficionados can only hope that other organizers out there will see the appeal and sponsor similar cosplay events. Toy fairs have already caught on to the advantages of inviting cosplay under their tents.
Cosplay is here to stay, and will continue to grow. We will have to see if the trend becomes a movement.