in Taipei, via Wikipedia
It’s not Halloween yet, but it is so common to see people in costume on any given day in San Francisco that I barely blinked when I saw a lifesize, live Barbie walking down Buchanan street in San Francisco’s Japantown yesterday afternoon. Then as I strolled past Peace Plaza to load up on Japanese rice crackers and nori at Ichiban Kan, I heard the sound of bad karaoke. But no, it was a live performance, and all of the sudden, it was as if I was in an anime film, spirited away. All around me, not just on stage, were elaborately done up people of all colors, shapes and sizes dressed up as Sailor Moon and other characters I did not recognize. What a fantastic sight.
Afterwards, I read up on what I had happened upon– Japan Center’s first annual Anime Day.
The costumes were not just for fun or performance, but for a Cosplay competition. This is a fascinating art invented at an anime convention in LA in 1984. Nobuyuki Takahashi of the Japanese studio Studio Hard coined the term Cosplay (a combination of “costume” and “play”) while admiring the costumed attendees of the 1984 Los Angeles Science Fiction Worldcon.
Cosplay is a type of performance art in which participants dress up as favorite characters from manga, anime, or other fantasy figures. The more dramatic and realistic, the better. I didn’t see any examples yesterday, but per Wikipedia, “inanimate objects are given anthropomorphic forms and it is not unusual to see genders switched, with women playing male roles and vice versa. There is also a subset of cosplay culture centered around sex appeal, with cosplayers specifically choosing characters that are known for their attractiveness and/or revealing (even explicit) costumes.”
What will Halloween bring?