Monday, December 4, 2006

Now Let Us Praise Famous Cosplayers...

It's super-cold here today. Cold and windy, but sunny. I'm starting to dread winter; one reason I quit Nova last year was because I didn't think I could put up with another miserably cold winter in that dirty, drafty apartment with those dirty, draftbeery dudes.

And all the mold in the shower room.

Winter has come early to Nihon. I spent my dinner break in Ito Yokado, desperately searching for a jacket that's a) warm and b) cool.

Speaking of cool...

One popular pasttime among anime/manga/game fans here in Japan involves dressing up as your favorite characters. Costume play, or cosplay for short. It's an element of all geek conventions here in Japan, but the participants are usually young, cute females. Or maybe I have this impression because they're the ones who get their photos taken the most.

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Akihabara, which was once the electronics shopping destination for both the Japanese and foreigners here, has undergone something of a sea-change. Now it's the domain of the akiba-kei, formerly known as otaku (it means "hobby-obsessed geek")... which is a term willingly adopted by American anime and manga fans but has much more negative connotations here in the land of its birth.

Akiba-kei, on the other hand, are starting to get a reputation for cuteness. Or at least a sort of respectability even if they are considered a bit strange. Cosplayers are not necessarily akiba-kei, who are almost exclusively male.

And no, most people in Japan do not engage in cosplay. In fact, most of the people I've asked about it think it's a bit odd and silly. Giggleworthy.

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I don't know who this maid is supposed to represent, but according to what I've gleaned from conversations, Akihabara has a lot of "maid cafes," where the girlfriendless akiba-kei can go and drink coffee served by uber-cute gals dressed in elaborate maid costumes. So anime maids... well, they're a mighty subgroup of cosplaying. There are also a lot of characters who dress like maids in manga. Why?

Who knows? A lot of office women have to wear business-style uniforms, and then there are the high school girls. Maybe that's the connection- uniforms are considered cute.

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This girl is something of a gothi-loli. Or loli-goth, if you prefer. But here, let's take a closer look!

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Wow! She's wearing red contact lenses! That's some hardcore cosplaying right there, baby! A lot of manga, anime and game characters have eye-colors that match their hair. So someone with red hair might have red eyes, someone with green hair might have green eyes. You get the idea.

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Who can deny the indomitable cuteness of these girls? Who can stand against a level of kawaii so overwhelming it makes it difficult to think? Should you dare try, they will steamroll you and leave you destroyed.

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Even gaijin get into the act. I guess it's a release. Dress like someone you're familiar with and inhabit the character. Everyday can be Halloween!

On my trip to Tokyo later this month, I'm going to spend some time sightseeing in Akihabara. I don't plan to become either otaku or akiba-kei... but as a fan of modern Japanese culture, I feel like I need to investigate this scene further.

Plus, I want to look at all the crazy space toys.

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