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Cosplay (コスプレ) is short for costume play and involves dressing and acting as popular characters from television and film. As a subculture of Japan’s highly active fans of manga, anime, comic books, video games, films, pop music, and Visual Kei, Cosplay is enjoyed by millions around the world and is usually practiced at conventions and exhibitions designed specifically for such fans. The word itself derives from the combination of two English words, witnessed by a Japanese science fiction journalist while reporting on a convention in the United States in the 1980s.



For most cosplay participants, the lifestyle takes place at video game shows and dedicated parties at amusement parks or nightclubs. However, there are a number of locations in Tokyo and other cities where teenagers might gather in cosplay, including Harajuku and he cosplay cafes located in [Akihabara]][, where even the wait staff will dress in cosplay.

The biggest venue for cosplayers each year is the semi-annual Comiket convention held in Tokyo during the summer and winter each year. Hundreds of thousands of manga and anime fan from throughout the world arrive to enjoy doujinshi and cosplay of the event.


Different from the idea of holidays such as Halloween where the costume is the extent of the event, Cosplay involves actually becoming the character which is being emulated. Detail to the original character’s attire is incredibly important as are the mannerisms and details of the particular situation with some characters attracting hundreds of costumes from different parts of the character’s narrative. There are dedicated artists who spend weeks creating cosplay costumes and selling them to the top bidder while other cosplayers spend months making their own costumes.


Japanese cosplay magazines include Cosmode and Dengeki Layers with the former being the more popular of the two. Additionally, outside of Japan there are other magazines including AniCoz in the United States and Cosplaymix in Mexico.

International Interest

Like much of Japanese pop culture, cosplay has found a home outside of Japan with an emerging trend of popularity amongst teenagers and science fiction fans. While anime and manga conventions in other countries are bigger and more populous than ever, there are also those that dress in the costumes of their favorite characters from Star Trek, Star Wars, fantasy novels, comic books, and historical events.

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