Inside the world of cosplay

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The idea of dressing up may conjure images of homemade childhood costumes for running round the garden in, or awkward ensembles at drunken stag dos and office parties.

But far from the threadbare cowboy costumes, tin foil knights and lonely rear ends of a pantomime horse there is the colourful, dramatic and detailed world of cosplay.



Originating in Japan, cosplay is short for costume play where fans – known as cosplayers – create realistic, often highly-detailed outfits and adopt the mannerisms of their favourite fictional counterparts.

The hobby draws from influences as varied as television, film and computer games, but is still predominantly based on characters from the popular Japanese cartoon styles of anime and manga.

Cosplay is enjoying growing popularity across the world with events such as the San Diego or London Comic Con attracting thousands of cosplayers each year.

With such worldwide appeal, it is no surprise that Portsmouth is about to have its first cosplay event, Cosplay HD, organised by local fans.

William Louth, 21, from Waterlooville is the anime and cosplay fan behind Cosplay HD.

‘I’ve always been into anime and I had the idea of setting up an event in Portsmouth,’ says William.

‘I wanted to go to cosplay events like they have in London, but it was difficult and there are a lot of people here that are into cosplay but don’t have somewhere to meet.

‘This is the first event of its kind in Portsmouth and I hope the event makes cosplay more accessible for people. At the event we are going to have cosplay, Japanese lessons, an anime quiz, fan art, a costume competition and reenactment where you act like your character.

‘We’ve got 40 people on Facebook coming to the event and I hope it will bring people together to meet friends and have a laugh.

‘Cosplay is fun. Everyone can have fun, nobody gets judged and you all get to have a good time. It’s good for people to have somewhere that they can be their heroes – people can be who they want to be.’

Despite coming up with the idea William recognises the importance of local fans’ support.

‘Cosplay HD couldn’t have come together without all the anime and cosplay lovers and Ada’s help,’ he says.

Ada Wong (pictured right) is the owner of J Mart Supermarket, a shop offering Japanese and Korean imports including cosplay outfits and a large selection of anime products.

‘Cosplay can be anything,’ says Ada. ‘It can be movie characters, superheroes or computer game characters but anime is the main influence.’

Anime is the name for animated cartoons drawn in the style of Japanese manga comic books, featuring highly stylised characters with a broad range of themes from everyday life to fantastic superheroes.

‘In Asia it’s really commong for people to read manga,’ says Ada. ‘Everyone reads it at some point and anime is on TV all the time. There are adult animes on late at night and children’s animes too.

‘Anime and manga is used to teach young people – they try to teach you to be brave and honest. Cosplay is a way of trying to live in that good way and it encourages people to try and think like good characters. I think people respect the characters who they dress up as and try to copy who they are.’

She adds: ‘I’ve been in England about five or six years. I moved here with my family and I set up J Mart about two years ago. When I first opened I sold food and snacks, then my customers asked me about anime and asked me to order anime items for them. There was a big interest so I started bringing in more.

‘At the beginning I didn’t know that many people liked anime here, but there are a lot of people who love anime in Portsmouth. We have about 40 to 50 people in Portsmouth that like cosplay and there’s a community that is growing stronger and stronger.’