Cosplay is something that so many people in today’s society have heard about, but what does it mean?
The truth is, cosplay has evolved dramatically in the past 20 years.
I was 8 years old the first time I saw a Cosplayer At that time, the Internet was new, the PlayStation was the must-have console and gaming was finally becoming something the cool kids did and no longer associated with sweaty nerds locked in their bedrooms.
I was in to martial arts in a big way at this time in my life. After being inspired by playing Tekken, I took on Taek-Won-Do and Ju-Jjitsu on top of my two Karate lessons a week.
I’ve always had a fascination with characters, and I used to read the biographies of video game characters (you know when they used to write little stories in the instruction books?) I was particularly interested in Jin Kazama.
So I thought I’d look him up on this hip new thing called the Internet To my surprise, I found pictures of Japanese men dressed up as him! I thought it was the best thing I’d ever seen. Consequently, these pictures ended up printed out and stuck all over my bedroom wall. There wasn’t a blank space left by the time my Squall Leonheart obsession kicked in!
It was only when I grew a bit older that I understood this was cosplay. I assumed these conventions only took place in Japan, as all the pictures were always of Asian people. I wanted to cosplay so much but felt there was no place in the UK to actually do it. I even went to the trouble of dressing up as Lara Croft for the first movie release and as a Pokemon trainer for the first Pokemon movie.
I had pretty much put the idea out of my head and resigned myself to the fact that cosplay was only done in Japan and America when I joined an Anime society club at University in 2009. It was here, I learned about the London MCM Expo and that people would be going to the event in full cosplay! This was an opportunity I couldn’t miss, so I set about picking a character I liked (and could dress up as on a tiny budget with no sewing skills). I decided on Rikku from Final Fantasy X-2 after my friends convinced me I’d look good as her. I was able to buy the bikini and skirt cheap from a charity shop and mod it until it resembled something like her. Looking back, I didn’t look very convincing!
Needless to say, the expo was on of the best experiences of my life. I had hundreds of people coming up to me and congratulating me on my cosplay. I was utterly overwhelmed. It was at this event that I met most of my best friends – the Final Fantasy Round Up crew. What started as a small group of Final Fantasy fanatics grew into a fully fledged group within a year and we have been meeting at conventions ever since.
With the support of my new found friends, I gained the confidence needed to make bigger and better cosplays. I spent longer amounts of time on each one of them. I brought new people into the group and we have flourished.
You might be wondering why I called my article ‘Being Mickey’. There is method behind the madness!
As a Cosplayer I always dread someone asking me “What are your plans for the weekend?”. Most people respond with “Drinking”, “Shopping”, “Going to the movies”. My response is “Well…… you’re going to think this is really geeky…”
And they usually do!
I don’t mind this, I’m proud of my hobby and I love my friends who share the same interests. These days, most people understand in some respect what cosplay is. “Like Comic-Con?” “Like Big Bang Theory?” “Like in that movie Paul?”. It’s still considered a geeky thing and gets a few laughs from fellow colleagues who usually call me sad, but at least I don’t have to explain what it is! It’s established as a hobby.
When they ask me what it’s like, I always say the following;
“The expo is the once a year opportunity to meet with all my friends. We spend the entire weekend together, doing normal things, drinking, playing games and hanging out together. We walk around the convention and are treated like something special. For a lot of us, this is the confidence boost we need to get us through the entire year. We might swear at our sewing cuts, our super glued fingers and our heat gun burns, but the thought of seeing our friends and being praised on our efforts makes it all worth while.
To me, the expo is like a multi-media Disneyland experience and every Cosplayer gets to be Mickey Mouse (see? I told you I’d get back to it!). I have had Japanese kids screaming my character’s name and asking for pictures with me, I’ve had people recognise me from pictures and ask for interviews and I’ve been lucky enough to have my picture taken by some very talented photographers. They act as if they’re privileged to spend time with me. But I’m just Kitty, and the fact that these people think I’m something special is the most humbling experience I have ever had. I owe everything to cosplay, and I encourage anyone who has ever thought about giving it a go to do it. You will not regret your chance to be Mickey!