If you are a fan of My Little Pony, or Pokemon, or pretty much any film, book or game with aliens or monsters, there’s a chance you have a favourite character who is non-humanoid. This can be a major problem if you want to show your love for them through cosplay!
With the more animal-like characters there’s the option of fur-suits and quad-suits – if you have the right skills, tools, materials and a large workspace – but if you dont, or for characters like Portal’s Weighted Companion Cube, there’s the option of Gijinka.
Gijinka can be loosely translated as “humanoid” or “anthropomorphic”, but what it refers to in the cosplay (and fan-art) world is humanised versions of characters.
So how do I start?
If you are considering making a humanised version of a character, you’re probably not the first person to think of it. Fan art sites like DeviantArt often contain artists, or even groups, who enjoy drawing characters in Gijinka style. When I decided I was going to cosplay as Derpy Hooves from My Little Pony, it was because I had seen Emlan’s wonderful humanised version on DA.
A Google Image Search should also bring up other artists’ interpretations, and these can be valuable inspiration.
From there it’s just a case of finding, making or modifying clothes and props just as you would with a regular cosplay costume. It’s also polite to let the artist know they’ve been an inspiration, and to send them a link to pictures of the finished thing.
Designing your own!
When I decided to dress up as Queen Chrysalis from My Little Pony, there was a lot of fan art, but not much in the humanised style that I liked, so I was left to design my own. If you’ve picked someone too new or obscure for there to be any good fan art, you’ll need to do the same.
The first thing I did was write down a list of her key points – main colours used in her design, distinctive features, and recurring themes and symbols. For ponies you’ll want to look at body and mane colour, any features like wings or hats, and what symbol is used for their cutie mark. For a Pokemon, you’d look at skin/fur colour, patterns like stripes or spots, and features like tails and horns. Its also worth thinking about their role in the show – for example, as a princess, Celestia from My Little Pony would suit a regal design. Wheras a cutesy mascot like Pikachu would look odd if you went with formal attire.
One you’ve got your list, you need to think about how they translate into clothes and props. The ponies from MLP have narrow legs and wide hooves, and as Chrysalis was taller than the main cast, I though it might be interesting to represent this as flared trousers rather than the more usual flowing dresses worn by Celestia and Luna cosplayers. An easier decision was to translate the crown-like growth on her head into an actual crown.
My top tip for this stage is to print out a bunch of body templates and start drawing designs. As a chunkier cosplayer I prefer the blank “superhero templates” you can find online, but all sorts of fashion templates can be found with a simple image search. You might need to try a few before you get something you are happy with, but have a play and see which elements look best together. This is the design I finally settled on:
I wanted to continue the flared design for the sleeves too, but as I am broad-shouldered, a long sleeve wouldn’t be very flattering. Instead I decided on singlet top with detached sleeves, which also continued the “clubbing” look I was going for. You can also see from the picture that the carapace became a wide waist sash, and while I kept the horn, I decided against the ears.
Once you’ve got your design down, again its time to start sewing, buying or comissioning.
All this advice is just the conventional wisdom. If you are feeling very creative, there are plenty more options available:
- If you are feeling particularly brave, there are a number of Pokemon cosplayers out there who do “bikini, ears and tail” costumes.
- Steampunk interpretations crop up a lot online, and these can be fun to try
- Consider gender-switching your character (where they even have a gender!) and creating a costume
- And then there’s the incredibly silly crossovers! At the October 2011 MCM Expo there was a wonderful Assassins Creed themed Rarity and Pinkie Pie (and Gummy!)
Have fun and go wild!