We at TSB dish out our share of friendly ribbing to the cosplay community in the name of good fun and fair play. While our motives may have more in common with Statler and Waldorf, far be it for us to stay huddled in the safety of our balcony seats. Today is the day that we open ourselves for attack and travel deep behind enemy lines for the sake of curiosity and journalistic integrity. Today is the day that we cosplay!
Phase I: The Metamorphosis
Attendees are free to arrive in costume if they like, but props and photography are only allowed within one of two designated outdoor areas. Stepping into this zone is like traveling to another planet, so cosplayers need to register and obtain the appropriate passport to enter.
Registration and the male changing room is located at the top of the world’s longest escalator. Its grinding steps take in normal men and process them into schoolgirls and childhood hero fantasies made real. During the endless climb, we couldn’t help but stare at the line of newly unmasked perverts with a mix of trepidation and excitement, knowing that it would soon be our turn. And that during the equally ponderous descent back down, the procession of peering eyes would be turned back upon us.
The changing area itself is part field hospital, part backstage of a newhalf cabaret show. All cosplayers are corralled into a single convention-hall sized chamber that offers all the privacy of a crowded beach. We had to press through a shag carpet of men in various states of undress and woman's dress to find an open spot and set up shop. Though honestly, if you’re too timid to let it hang loose in front of your peers, you don’t have what it takes to brave the cosplay pit. It’s like an Olympic sized high school locker room, only with the jocks checking each other’s makeup and putting on their girlfriend’s fake lashes.
Props need to be checked in as well. The staff carefully measured our accessories with the scrutiny of a police clerk examining a firearm for registration. Anything over 30 centimeters is out, as are weapons, breakables, and music. Once the bureaucracy recognized us as a non-threat, our passport was stamped and we were free to pass through customs.
Part II: The Trial
Finally, after putting up with the paper work, it’s time to meet our adoring public! We arrived early to secure a choice spot on the West lot, and within the hour the slow trickle of people had collected into a whirlpool of photographers and other cosplayers. Trannys to the left of me, moe to the right. And here I am, stuck in the middle with… another tranny, though Voidmare wasn’t wearing a bra so he gets off on a technicality.
And oh, how my expectations were shattered! I had anticipated to be embarrassed, to have people snicker at us cruelly in passing, or worse still, ignore us completely! Imagine my surprise at the waves of Umezu fans asking excitedly for our picture. We were even photographed by a cross dresser, thus completing the circle. Some approached hesitantly, while others made a beeline across the lot, alerted to us by word of mouth. Our costumes may have been more misses than hits, but all those hits were bull’s eyes. To be accepted by all or be loved by a few—that is the cosplayer’s dilemma.
Part III: Contemplation
If an ego can be fed, one must be careful to regulate its diet. The soul can’t subside on junk food. With that said, cosplay may seem like the spiritual equivalent of cotton candy—fluffy, childish, devoid of nutrition—yet in reality there could be no better power snack. Cosplay inspires fresh creative outlets, brings hobbyists together, and gives back to the community. This last point resounded with us most strongly. The relationship between the viewer and the viewed is mutually rewarding. Some cosplay to fascinate, some to fantasize, still others to disgust. Regardless of the seemingly self-serving reasons, the spectacle brings nothing but smiles, wry or otherwise. I have nothing but praise for cosplayers and the culture surrounding it.
But I’ll still make fun of you if you look like this guy.