Yay, we made it through Tokyo Fashion Week without showing too much of excitement! In terms of unique Japanese fashion we investigated a bit and thought we’d rather first show you something else: Finally we managed to meet a girl who can tell us candidly all about this mysterious world of cosplay! Cosplayer Mello Yubari visited the PingMag office to talk about one love…
Written by Chiemi
Translated by Natsumi
When did you start with cosplay, Mello?
I first encountered cosplay when I was in second year of junior high school. I had always loved manga and anime and I discovered the world of dojinshi at around that time. Dojin activities involve things like drawing your favourite manga characters to make original goods and distributing fanzines of new stories featuring characters from existing manga or anime. One day, I attended a dojin event to get their freebies and dojinshi and found people dressed as my favourite manga characters. It just seemed like such a fun thing to do!
Mello dressed as the character called Mello from the quite popular manga Death Note. Obviously, also her cosplayer name.
Another one of Mello as her favourite character from “Death Note.”
That depends on if the person is wearing it as a fashion or not. For instance, people wearing that kind of clothes in Harajuku are mostly doing that for fashion. So Lolita isn’t the same as cosplay and it even has subcategories such as Gothic Lolita, Sweet Lolita and Black Lolita within. Meanwhile, there are cosplayers who wear costumes of occupations like nurses and maids, or the costume of a band member. I would say: Cosplay is somewhat closer to lookalikes.
No, this is not just some Lolita fashion! This is Shinku cosplay from Rozen Maiden.
I see…. By the way, is there any hostility between Lolitas and cosplayers?
Some Lolita fans don’t like to be mistaken for cosplayers, but I don’t think cosplayers mind as much as they often double as Lolitas.
What kind of characters do you usually cosplay as?
Basically, I cosplay as my favourite manga and anime characters. It can be for all sorts of reasons – I might like the story, the style or the character’s appearance, and I sometimes wonder if I might look good in it or not.
Do you feel differently while you are cosplaying, like you have assumed a different personality?
Many cosplayers say that they enjoy becoming a different character but I do it because I can truly express my love for the character. I feel as if I can get to know my favourite characters even better by wearing the same costumes.
The cosplay of Iroha Miyamoto from manga and anime Sumomomo Momomo.
Another cosplay of Iroha Miyamoto. Strike a pose!
When you cosplay, do your gesture and the way you speak change at all?
No, not really. (laughs) But I pose as the character at photo shootings. Costuming is essential for cosplayers, but it’s just as important to look at your own pictures objectively. Cosplayers deepen their love for the favourite manga by doing shootings in costume – just like those people who make fanzines based on their favourite works. Cosplayers want to see their favourite characters’ costumes as a real thing and to realise it with their own hands.
That’s wonderful! I never knew that cosplayers felt that way. Do you make all the costumes and accessories by yourself?
You can buy popular costumes in many shops – but when it comes down to minor items, we have to either make it ourselves or place an order for it at a specialist. A popular cosplayer item will generate sufficient demand for vendors to mass-produce it, so it will most likely appear in the “Cosplay Costumes” category of Yahoo’s online auctions. However, most people learn sewing on their own and make costumes by themselves. Some people even go into sewing careers from there! Once you start, you’ll become more conscious of your fabrics’ selection too.
Haruhi Suzumiya from The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. At this point, cosplay almost resembles Cindy Sherman’s, self-portraits.
How do cosplayers socialise with each other?
There is a word for that: “awase, for ”gathering,” which means to cast the parts. Cosplay is fun enough on your own but you can duplicate scenes from your favourite manga if you get enough people together. At events, we participate with friends as an awase but you can meet new people through online communities, where there are posts like “We have an awase for such-and-such manga, looking for someone to play so-and-so.”
Another way is at events, where there are people in elaborate costumes or playing intriguing characters. So it’s common to ask if you can take their pictures. Cosplayers usually carry their own business cards with their cosplay photo or their website address, so we exchange cards and get in touch to suggest an awase.
You also participate in “photo shootings” – what is that like?
A private photo session is for one model and about five or more photographers, and she will appear in all sorts of costumes. There are also group photo sessions for an awase of one specific manga or anime.
Well, are there sometimes unpleasant moments at private photo shootings?
If it’s a modelling job then you might come across strange people, but you have to think of it as all part of the job. In my case, I only participate in shooting with reliable photographers. Essentially, cosplay is all about socialising so there aren’t that many people who act strangely.
And finally, what does cosplay: mean to you?
It’s a way of expressing one’s love for something – it’s a really fun mode of expression.
Mello, thank you for your fascinating and enlightening story today! Please continue to deepen your love of manga and anime with this incredible costumes!