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The craft behind a costume

Dressed to kill Cosplay is considered an art form by practitioners and followers

Dressed to kill Cosplay is considered an art form by practitioners and followers  

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SOORAJ RAJMOHAN delves into the culture of cosplay and finds a community brimming with talent and passion

Last year, Mumbai-based cosplayer Niha Novocaine fulfilled her dream of nine years: attending game developer Blizzard’s BlizzCon event in California dressed as Tyrande Whisperwind, a character from the Warcraft game series made by the company. I

t took her almost three years to gather funds and months of effort to collect materials from across the world to make the costume.

Cosplay, which involves fans dressing up as their favourite anime, manga, video game or movie character, is a trend that has been catching on in India in recent years.

“I discovered cosplay about a decade ago, when I was looking on the Internet for pictures of my favourite character from the anime Naruto, and found people dressing up as characters,” says Niha, who is popularly regarded as India’s first professional cosplayer.

“When I started, everyone thought I was weird, and people are not always accepting and tolerant, but there is a growing community in India that is very supportive and tight knit,” she says.

While cosplayers usually gather at large conventions, the cosplay community in the country is active online all year round.

Vijay Sinha, a game designer for Hike Messenger and one of the Bengaluru-based administrators of the Indian Cosplay Community group on Facebook, which has over 3,000 members, believes events such as Comic Con kick-started the trend in India. “It has been about four years since Comic Con started and such events are a great place for cosplayers to meet up and interact. While most cosplayers focus their efforts on specific events, the community is a great place where members bounce ideas off each other, and discuss new looks for characters and how to replicate them. Social media has helped a lot in spreading awareness about it.”

Often confused with regular dress up, cosplay is considered an art form by practitioners and followers, due to the painstaking effort and creativity required to create a look.

Worbla, a thermoplastic moulding material from Germany which can be heated and moulded into different shapes to create armour and other costume essentials, is one of the primary components of most outfits.

Jasmeet Singh, founder of Makermandi, an online marketplace for handmade objects, saw this demand for the material among cosplayers and started selling it in India at rates comparable to those on the international market.

“Worbla, clear resin that is used to make gems and crystals, silicon for moulds and modelling clay are some of the materials that are popular among cosplayers. The amount of material required and cost depends on the character and the intricacy of the look. My own cosplay as Mandarin from the Iron Man franchise was among the more budget friendly ones,” he says.

The skill required to make props and costume components is hard to come by, and has led to cosplayers experienced in costume design and prop making doing commissioned work for others in the community. MBBS student Rohit Kailashiya’s Redemption Props page on Facebook has got him noticed in India and abroad, with some of his work being delivered to places as far as Ireland. “When the first Bangalore Comic Con happened, people were reluctant because they did not want to be the only ones dressed up. But with members of Bangalore Anime Club (BAC) and others taking the initiative, interest has started picking up. What a lot of people do not realise is that cosplay can be an expensive art, with detailed costumes going over Rs.50,000,” he says, displaying his current work in progress, Dota 2 character Terrorblade’s Demon Form, complete with lights and armour, which he has as his phone wallpaper for inspiration. The BAC has also come out with a cosplay calendar and has a cosplay band where the members dress up as anime characters and play songs from anime.

Despite the fun and dedication that cosplay culture is known for, the community does face problems. Societal ostracisation, body shaming for not meeting often unrealistic proportions flaunted by anime and video game characters, and harassment of female cosplayers for authentically replicating revealing dresses worn by their favourite characters being the recurring ones. Despite the issues, the community in India and abroad remains close, and wishes to be respected for their effort and creativity, a sentiment Niha distills, “Cosplay is an art and a hobby No one should be told who or what to play. A cosplay is a tribute to a character, and age, gender, body shape and the like are not the main criteria. Cosplay is for everyone.”

Cos Facts

While Japan is the primary centre for cosplay, it has grown in popularity in Russia, China, Taiwan, Philippines, Singapore and the United States, besides India.

Cosplayers usually gather at events such as Comic Con (Bengaluru, Delhi, Mumbai and Hyderabad), Anime Con (Delhi), Cool Japan Festival (Mumbai) and Japan Habba (Bangalore), apart from conferences like Nasscomm Game Developers Conference (Pune).

Cities where Comic Cons are held usually have cosplay workshops held by experienced cosplayers to introduce newcomers to the art.

For elaborate cosplays featuring gems, lights and armour, cosplayers can take up to eight hours to achieve their final look.

Cosplayers occasionally do their take on a character from the opposite gender, popularly known as crossplay.

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Printable version | Jun 19, 2018 11:54:31 PM | http://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/cosplay-the-craft-behind-a-costume/article8532447.ece