Cosplay involves more than just dressing up

Like a formal ball or a Halloween party, one of the most important questions before an anime convention is, “What am I going to wear?”

For true cosplayers, the real question is, “Who am I going to be?”

Last year was Rhyss Vivian’s first time cosplaying. He said he enjoyed the role-playing aspect.

“It’s fun,” he said. “You get to pretend to be someone else for a while, do stuff you normally wouldn’t.”

Unlike many generic Halloween costumes, cosplaying usually involves choosing a specific character from an anime, video game or movie. Vivian said getting into the character and having fun with it is important.

“You can have a great costume, but if you can’t pretend to be the character, you’re not completely cosplaying.”

For some, cosplay is a creative expression similar to art or theatre. Kira Buckland started cosplaying for Halloween in 2004 and found a love for the experience.

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“I don’t like to just do that once a year,” she said. “I love bringing characters to life, whether it’s through writing fanfiction, voice acting . I’m a different person when I’m cosplaying. Haruhi Suzumiya is crazy, so when I’m dressed as her – it sounds silly – but I can go out and do all the things and act like she does.”

Buckland said there are many reasons why people might cosplay, and different levels of commitment, but cosplayers should be appreciated for whatever effort they make.

“The thing that bothers me is when people don’t understand cosplaying and so they just make negative comments about it.”

Ian Keen, who got into serious cosplaying around five years ago, likes to cosplay as characters similar to himself.

“If they look good it’s fine by me, I can kind of adapt to their personality,” he said. “But there are certain ones that are more like myself, which are better to cosplay.”

Still, the look of the character often has the most to do with whom Keen chooses to cosplay as.

“One of the main things I look for is ‘OK, can I actually pull this character off?’ – like the body type and such – and then the intricacy of the costume itself. There’s only one costume I’ve actually ordered. Most of the time I just rummage around my house and pick out stuff that looks good and kind of fix it up.”

Amanda Neyman also said the look of a character is the first thing she considers.

“I go for what would probably look best on me – hair color, clothes colors – and then I go for personalities.”

Neyman said she became interested in cosplaying from looking at pictures of her out-of-state friends’ costumes at anime conventions. After attending last year’s Aurora-Con, the only other anime convention to be held in Anchorage, Neyman said she got hooked. For Senshi-Con, she’s creating her own costume from scratch.

Cosplayers who can’t sew can buy cosplay accessories and full costumes from online outlets. Buckland said she sometimes buys costumes off eBay or commissions a friend to make her an outfit, but said cosplaying doesn’t always have to be a big expense.

“Some costumes you can find stuff from your own closet. I cosplayed as Mamimi from ‘FLCL,’ and I just got a plaid skirt and a hoody,” she said. “Schoolgirl socks can do anything; there are some cosplay accessories that you can use for, like, five different costumes.”

While cosplayers often put a lot of effort into their work, most limit their activity to conventions and the occasional club meeting. But every now and then, longtime cosplayers like Keen just feel like being different from the blue-jeans wearing crowd.

“I guess once in a while I’ll throw on a piece or two,” Keen said. “But it’s not like I go out everyday, like I’m going to put my costume on and drive around.”

Buckland, however, said she sometimes goes to class cosplaying for no particular occasion.

“Everyone will look at me like, ‘What is she dressed as? Is she crazy?’ and my professor will always give me kind of a look,” she said.

“They know it’s me – they stop asking.”