On the weekend I got invited to do my first round of cosplay at Comiket, one of the biggest anime/dojinshi conventions in Japan. A few friends had decided to go as a trio from an anime called Steins;Gate, and they were kind enough to invite me along as the main character—in no small part because they knew I would come along with my camera.
Tokyo Big Sight
I'd never done cosplay before, so it was a bit of an experience—beginning with waiting an hour just to get into the changing area. You weren't allowed to wear your costume outside a certain part of the venue, the reason being that staff were also in costume and it tended to cause confusion. The cosplay area was entirely outside, and with temperatures at 39 degrees celsius on the concrete, it was a sweaty affair. At one point we were interviewed by a very sweaty TV crew.
There were people with swords, guns, giant cardboard robot costumes that must have turned into heat boxes, and the best Doctor Doom I could ever hope to see. The nice thing about Japanese cosplay is that people actually dress as characters that match their body type, so you don't get short, fat guys dressing as tall, skinny heroes. Instead, there were even quite a few guys who played convincing female characters, and vice-versa.
For the Fans
The big feature for me was seeing other people's excitement as they recognized your character (particularly when I heard "sokkuri"—"looks just like him!"), or running into other characters from your "set" and exitedly jumbling together to take a more complete photo. It turns out that Steins;Gate is madly popular at the moment, and on the last day of the convention (it was 3 days in total), I ran into no less than 6 other people with the same costume as me. At one point we had four "Okarin" gathered together for a single photo. My only problem was that I knew none of his poses or catchphrases, but by my second day I had my research down and was able to pull off a convincing Okarin laugh that would invariably draw hordes of cameras toward us. The highest honour for us was to have staff come and do a countdown to end one of our marathon photo shoots as people kept coming up to ask for a shot.
Etiquette requires that you ask before taking a photo. It also seems to require that you ask if you plan to use a photo on a blog (everyone says fine), and most people have cosplay business cards listing their blogs—which, now that I think of it, is a brilliant way to attract traffic.
Between camera work and the mad excitement of seeing familiar and unfamiliar characters done so remarkably well, I was never bored just walking around in circles. Over two days, I never even went in to look at the merchandise inside... though I did come a little closer than I'd like to getting heatstroke.
Us & Friends of Us
Any photos of me by Yuta Takeda.
For the girls, the afternoon of the last day was all about running around and getting photos with all the hot ("ikemen") guys they could find. They were invariably polite, and more often than not quite complimentary indeed. I tried not to be too jealous.