Cosplay event, Taipei
By Jody Burley
13 Jun 2010
I first came across the Cosplay scene in Japan. It's basically a type of public performance art in which the participants dress up as characters from their favourite anime cartoons, manga comics or video games. It's a common on a Sunday morning spectacle around Tokyo's Yoyogi park and Harajuku district to see youths amassing early to don ghoulish make up and costumes ready for what has become a huge tourist magnet in the capital city. Cutesy kitten girls pose beside bloodied nurses and cybernetic nightmares known to only the most discerning manga collectors; an extrovert expression for an otherwise very shy and reclusive youth subculture.
Perhaps here in the lies the attraction of 'Costume play': It brings its followers a way of getting out of themselves, a way of conquering the social anxiety that has been accentuated by the long hours spent immersed in the introspective world of manga storylines and online gaming. I'll never forget watching a news article about this quiet internet café in Akihabara (Tokyo's electric town) where a small group would gather in costume with their laptops in order to speak to each other via online chat rooms: in the same room! They explained to the reporter that it was less stressful than speaking face to face.
The pictures here are of a Cosplay event across the East China Sea from Japan in Taiwan. This was a huge event, organised at The National Taiwan University, with timetabled events for catwalk shows, costume workshops and tons of paraphernalia for sale. It looks like Cosplay is becoming big business in Taiwan; perhaps not that surprising when you consider the pull of influence that Japanese culture has in Taiwan, especially on Taiwanese youngsters. Something that was apparent to me was that most of the people involved in Cosplay, in both Japan and Taiwan, were female. That's not to say that there were no males involved but the vast majority were female. I was trying to think of a reason for this- girls like to dress up more than boys was the obvious suggestion from a friend but I couldn't help thinking that there was more of a cultural incentive here. Perhaps an acceptable form of social rebellion in a society so infused with Confucian ethics? These ethics are the bedrock of Taiwanese society where conformity to the social unit, be it family or state, is valued above individual expression. In this case the proverbial phrase "good wife, wise mother" shows the constraints and expectations held over these women. Or perhaps I am being too presumptuous and it's just that girls like to dress up more than boys. Whatever the reasons, Cosplay events remain a great opportunity for photographers to capture some really unique images with models who absolutely love the limelight. Just make sure you get in there before the model's 'minder' counts down from ten to zero and whisks them away for refreshments and another make over.