If you don’t know what Cosplay is, then you’re not up to date on things which have been around for several years and really should take a quick glance at the Wikipedia explanation as well as do a search on your favorite search engine for examples. Basically, though, Cosplay is two words strung together: Costume and Play. It is the personal enactment through dressing up of favorite comic characters and it begins, at least for the Japanese who are masters at this game, with the youngest children acting out their personal favorites in the simplest form.
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It is also, as far as we Westerners are concerned, a highly erotic, fanciful pastime with many facets and many followers. Sadly, however, it is difficult to emulate the experts who have a complete industry behind them.
The erotic side of Cosplay comes out, in the Westerners mind, when mingling thoughts of sexy comic book heroines with the seemingly perpetual youth of Japanese women and their beauty. Added to which the apparent acceptance of Cosplay, at least in Japan, as a normal part of everyday life which can be practised without a raised eyebrow on open streets, in towns and villages, just as the reading of Manga comics is considered an everyday part of life.
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Cosplay allows the protagonists to play any part they wish, even ones which do not appear in Manga, and step outside of the normal bounds of social normality; to become a completely different person.
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To leave behind the trappings of work, the dullness of an ordinary day, and enter a different world where almost anything is allowed. And, as with the comic figures emulated by Cosplayers, this means a certain level of freedom in dress which might not otherwise be acceptable and which allows an alter-ego the upper-hand.
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The erotic side is, perhaps, more obvious to Western eyes than to those who wear the costumes. Taking on the form of a female superhero, for example, means a step into the fantasy world of women who have super powers and can, just with a glance, dominate. Many of the costumes worn are highly revealing and pander to some of the innate fantasies of the Japanese without being subjected to the same form of censorship evident elsewhere.
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The shy and withdrawn image of the Japanese woman, brought up to know shame as much as a high level of obedience, can be cast aside for a brief spell and the inner desires allowed to surface for all to see.
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Coupled with the mysticism of the East, and especially of Japan, it all combines to create a world of the modern within a modern world still caught in memories of the past, away from the factories and office blocks of a land highly over-populated but not quite back to the times of the Geisha and their highly extravagant costumes, or their perceived reputations.
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The wealth of different characters available is astonishing. From the Sailor Moon type schoolgirl right through to the Ice Queen herself, from evil heroines through to the more sexually charged characters of Hentai and the darkest fantasies of the mind. Cosplay shows the inner eroticism of the Japanese woman, of the Japanese man and, for the West, is a pure play on what everyone wishes they could do, what they could be, what they, given the chance, could experience either as a person or with a character who fulfills their every wish.
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Sadly the West has not yet managed to capture the same feeling, the same eroticism of the East. Comic books have gained in popularity over the decades, along with Graphic Novels, but not quite to the same extent. A comic book convention is something which happens once a year, in a major town or city, and with rather staid and stiff figures. The superhero in the West has nothing on the superhero from the east, not even Wonder Woman can compete.
And our ideas of what is erotic still have a long way to go.
Perhaps it is also a matter of the differences between societies. The history of the East is completely different to that of the West, there is less of the mystic here, less of the fantasy world of monsters and superheroes and more of the hero who saves the city against one foe, the world against a super-mind. And the industry isn’t there either: the people who make the costumes as much as those who wear them. For a while, with the advent of beautiful Gothic styles, there was a chance, but fashion moves on too quickly in the West and the superheroes which remain – Spiderman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Captain America and the like – are all staid and rigid or, like Iron Man, too much on the side of Good and not the darker side of our fantasies.
Love & Kisses, Viki.