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Cosplay: Get Your Cape On!

While most of us went no further than donning towel capes as children, there are certain adults who have the confidence to step out into the world dressed as an Italian plumber and not blink an eye when the inevitable pointing, snickering and clicking begins. And in conventions that celebrate geekdom, this indeed is refreshing – the ability to step away from the mundane and step into the skin of a character, masks, capes, feathers, and scars all in place. The term “cosplay” was first coined in 1938 by Nobuyuki Takahashi, a name that all anime fans would recognize as being intrinsically connected to their favourite two dimensional worlds. A combination of the words ‘costume’ and ‘play’ (kosupure in Japanese コスプレ), cosplaying has slowly started creeping into the lives of Indian popular culture enthusiasts over the past few years. However, much as the word rolls off their tongues, cosplays, cosplay is not exactly child’s play, to forgive the pun.

As registration queues for cosplays grow significantly longer with every passing year, the silent observer realizes that an increased exposure to pop culture conventions and global trends means that youngsters in India no longer shy from donning costumes that allow them to roleplay the characters they admire – albeit just for a few hours. Sadly, what many of them fail to understand is that merely loving a character from a favourite comic book isn’t enough to pull off a great cosplay. In fact, failing miserably at cosplay is far easier than coming up with something impressive.

Wait a bit, though, before you dismiss me an impossible-to-please cosplay snob – I don’t think that everyone who tries their hand at it ends up looking pathetic. Meet Reetam Majumder, a 26 year old manga enthusiast. Reetam took a good month before attempting to roleplay of one of his favourite manga characters – Kurogane, during which time he not only designed and created the costume but hand-crafted most of the accessories as well. Majumder’s depiction of Kurogane, one of the main characters from Tsubasa Chronicles, helped him realise a thing or two about the world of cosplaying. “Choosing the right cosplay is half the work done. The choice could be made on the basis of anything from practicalities like avoiding cosplays with bulky costumes and heavy makeup in mid-summer, to aesthetics such as choosing a character you can look convincing in!”

With most people attempting cosplays for the love of comics or the love of attention and at times both, it is essential to keep in mind that being in costume comes with a great responsibility. One that requires you to not only be familiar with the physical nuances of the character, but behavioural ones as well! And Ankur, 22, from Mumbai, famous for his DIY depiction of Ryuk, the Shinigami or Death God from the popular series Death Note, helps us figure out exactly how. “Watch a dozen episodes featuring the character the day before you cosplay, or watch AMVs on YouTube – do anything you must to understand the way you need to move, talk and generally conduct yourself – and be that way at all times,” he says. “Well, except when you’re being intentionally out of character, for fun,” he adds, as an afterthought.

While crafting a simple cosplay on your own is eminently possible, with increasing complexity of costumes comes and increased number of details you must keep in mind. Making sure that you have adequate time in hand to complete your costume and make it wardrobe malfunction proof is essential, as is choosing the right materials, and even asking for help from skilled friends and acquaintances who are better at crafts than you are. “Common sense and Google have never failed me,” grins cosplayer Daniel Victor. And indeed, when you take a look at his larger than life depiction of Gundam Exia, you realize that online cosplay tutorials are an invaluable tool for any cosplayer.

“Never hesitate to ask for help,” offers Viraj Koshimkar, who once pulled off a fabulous LadyDevimon from the Digimon Adventures. Executing the female fallen angel to perfection is something that most men wouldn’t have been not too comfortable with, but Koshimkar practices what he preaches. “Be resourceful and creative,” he says, as advice to all those who wish to attempt good, even great cosplays. And for those who hesitate to step into this wonderful world, it is well known that all the world is a stage, so why shy away from putting up a performance that will spread some smiles?

Also published in Bangalore Mirror