Making headlines in recent anime-related news is reports of a live-action version of Akira is coming to theatres courtesy of Warner Brothers and Leonardo DiCaprio. The studio is looking at making it a two-parter, thus hopefully remaining closer to the manga than the original anime (which had to be cut due to constraints).
Wow. I have to admit, I'm intrigued. Being a milestone in America's exposure to anime, Akira has become a pop-culture phenomenon. It's rarely outright parodied, but you'll find still find subtle references to it in everything from South Park to Boondocks. Seems like giant pulsating monster-babies have a way of imprinting themselves into our memories. I wonder why.
I want to see where Leo takes this. I'll be honest: I don't think the guy's a hack. I was a fan of his long before Titanic, after which he kicked back and phoned in his work for a few years. If you've never seen The Basketball Diaries (and there's a chance you haven't, since a school shooting scene makes the movie taboo in America), I recommend it unto you.
As for today's column, we're continuing the subject of costume play ("cosplay"). How old were you when your mom made you stop running around in your underwear and calling yourself He-Man? Probably six. Maybe sixteen, if they were open-minded. But if you're an anime or game fan (or a LARPer), you're likely familiar with the fact that just because you grow up, it doesn't mean you have to grow out of dressing up like your favourite hero.
As long as you do it competently.
The clothes we wear carry a lot of power. At some point or another, everyone's seen the ceremonial costumes donned by ancient tribes or aboriginals who call upon spirits or their ancestors for guidance. That's a pretty intense experience; if the Chief half-asses it, the ceremony loses much of its power and significance.
The same mindset should apply to anyone who's dressing up to "adopt" the look and attitude of their favourite anime or game character. Of course, cosplay doesn't carry the weight and significance of a religious ceremony, but there is still a spiritual element to it. Humans are curious creatures. There is a thick social bond between us that can't be severed no matter how often we forgo face-to-face conversations for text messaging. When a lot of like-minded people are gathered in one spot and flaunting costumes, it initiates some strange ritual inside us. Inside of a convention, a well-tailored costume can make you a king as attendees kneel before you and fumble with their digital cameras for a good shot. Outside of a convention, a well-tailored costume might get you pelted with a Big Gulp. You are also certain to hear the word "Fag!" howled at you from a rapidly retreating car at least once.
So cosplay is about fun and community, but does that mean you can still do it wrong? That depends. A bad costume has as much of a strange effect on people as a good one: You might suddenly find yourself a target of hate. Disturbingly potent hate. And if you dress up as the wrong kind of character, you might blend into the convention-going crowd even more than if you'd not worn any costume at all.
In other words, no one's holding a gun to your head, but it's appreciated when you put some thought into your costume. There are some unspoken, common sense rules that often go ignored.
1) Be someone different. If you attend an anime convention, you're going to see a lot of red. Not because of the outrageous food prices, mind you: It's because half the damn population inevitably decides to cosplay as Inuyasha in his trademark red robes. Fabric merchants surely run out of red material right before a big convention.
Why does everyone adopt the dog-demon as their avatar when they attend a convention? It's beyond me. To begin with, I'm not a fan of the series (I followed it for a while but quickly noticed it wasn't going anywhere…then I heard that it was the longest-running series in Japan, and considering the longevity of most anime series, that's a scary, scary thought. So I bailed). I understand that it's a popular franchise and there's some pleasure to be derived from dressing up as a character you love no matter what, but…there are hundreds of anime series out there. Many are underrepresented. Anyone who wants a challenge should go for the petticoat-wearing Sphinx from Le Chevalier D'Eon. I dare you.
This point might be moot anyway: I predict the Naruto and Inuyasha cosplayers will peter out in favour of Death Note. It's easy to muss your hair, put on jeans and call yourself "L". Too easy…
2) Cosplay according to your body type. Please. This little bit of advice is doled out so often, and it's ignored just as often. I'm not claiming any sort of superiority here: Everyone has schmaltz they wish they could get rid of. But squeezing into a Yuna costume…isn't recommended. It's not to say you have to avoid playing the character, but you should fit your costume according to your body size. I have a larger friend who once cosplayed a Final Fantasy character, and she tailored the costume to her body size instead of fighting against it. She looked fantastic and won piles of awards.
I once saw a totally ripped guy cosplay as Vega from Street Fighter. That was admittedly hot. I also once saw a chubby fellow cosplay as sumo wrestler E. Honda from the same series. Everyone loved him--and I imagine he was significantly more comfortable in the summer heat than the rest of us.
3) Remember that you're going to be walking a lot / stopped just as often. I'm really surprised at the amount of people who don't consider comfort when they make their costumes. They spend weeks on an elaborate ensemble that contains tonnes of chicken-wire and paper mache, and then they cook to death inside their own personal oven. Or they find it hard to walk. Or they get bumped and jolted in the crowd and their bulky costume is squished in no time.
Sometimes people try to make themselves more comfortable by removing pieces of their costume, but that gets frustrating quickly when the requests for pictures start coming in. If you're wearing a big, flashy costume, expect lots of people to want to take pictures of your big, flashy costume. Of course, you can tell them to bugger off…but word about sour cosplayers spreads quickly, so do so at your own discretion.
Have fun. Avoid flying Big Gulps.