This has been massive in Japan and parts of the US, and now the art of cosplay is picking up in South Africa. Not to be confused with out-of-season Halloween enthusiasts or Mardi Gras revellers, cosplayers are in a league of their own.
Cosplay – short for “costume play” – is a form of fan art where “fanboys” and “fangirls” dress up in costumes and accessories to depict their favourite anime and manga characters or an idea or movie.
Cosplay usually attracts artistic people who generally create their own costumes. These are worn to conventions or social gatherings and Cape Town’s cosplayers are preparing for a cosplay picnic at the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens tomorrow.
One of the organisers, Genevieve Lesch, explained that the concept of cosplay existed long before the term was first used and the individuals who participated did so for a variety of reasons.
“Some love the creative process of creating a costume, while others want to embody the spirit of a character they love,” she said.
The characters or concepts can be based on anything, including animated and live-action movies.
It is also common to see gender role switches. This is known as crossplay and is a sub-category of cosplay.
Cosplay is different to fancy dress because the intention of the outfit is to replicate a specific character rather than reflect the symbolism of a holiday event.
“Anybody can do it, since any concept or character one admires can be cosplayed in some way or another,” said Lesch.
The concept was created in Japan, where it influences popular culture.
Saturday’s event will be Durban's second cosplay picnic; the trend is still relatively new in SA.
Lesch said it had become necessary to organise cosplay events after a small local group was formed on Facebook.
She said that while cosplay was growing in Durban, the city lacked social events at which cosplayers could gather.
“We needed to create our own path and establish the community in order for it to grow to what SA has the potential for it to be.”
Cosplay is also growing in Joburg, which hosted rAge – a gaming expo many cosplayers attend.
Cosplayer and fellow picnic organiser Sasha Perdigao said: “I attended rAge since it started in 2003, until I moved to Durban.
“I missed taking part in cosplay and, after noticing the interest in it here, decided it would be worthwhile organising our own event.”
She said there were many closet cosplayers.
“Attending the event eliminates people’s inhibitions to cosplay. Nobody wants to be the only one cosplaying; this is usually how it feels for first-timers,” said Perdigao.