Cal State Fullerton’s Japanese Anime Club celebrated the joy of cosplay at their annual Cosplay Picnic at Craig Regional Park Saturday.
“Cosplay” is a term that was coined by the Japanese, abbreviating the words “costume” and “play.” Although the word has only been around for about three decades, it has had a significant impact not only within the realm of comic and science fiction fandom, but has also secured its place more seriously with that of modeling, photography, fashion and performing arts.
The events that occurred throughout the day went from more traditional picnic affairs such as a scavenger hunt, to the slightly more bizarre, such as finding a mystery soft taco in the picnic lunch.
The atmosphere was laid back, accepting and often humorous. Students even came from Cal State Long Beach to attend the event, and cosplayers had their own section of the park to celebrate the chance to socialize with those who had similar interests.
Japanese Anime Club President James Kim noted how this generation in particular is “very accepting,” and that it is a “very good time to cosplay.”
Cosplaying isn’t only about anime and Japanese culture though. In fact, Kim, who was dressed as Captain America, explained how cosplaying holds a deep sense of acceptance and community, despite any cultural references.
“I feel like cosplaying is on a different level. Some people get really serious about it, and others just do it for fun,” he said. “But I feel it’s different because you get to be your character and you have all these people around you who enjoy this character with you and who might be their own characters.”
Robert Gudino, the Secretary of Japanese Anime Club, who was dressed as Finn from Adventure Time, explained the difference between cosplaying and costume-themed holidays such as Halloween, claiming that the difference is that when you cosplay, “you’re emulating the character,” in a sense becoming them.
“You put on the skin, plus the soul,” said Gudino.
Gudino also noted the ever-closing gap between Japanese cosplaying and American cosplaying.
“You see at conventions now—people aren’t just cosplaying as characters, but they’re cosplaying real-life people. I think cosplay has a strong identification with Japanese culture, but over here in the states and any other country, it’s starting to slowly be an expression of emulating characters rather than Japanese ones.”
Cosplaying is something that goes beyond scarce social events. In Japan, it is commonplace to wear cosplay like normal everyday clothing, and there are also dedicated clubs and bars that embrace the fashion as well.
Samanta Tavenner, 21, a Japanese major, who was dressed as Little Red Riding Hood, embraced that idea as well. She expressed the desire to start wearing cosplay fashion on a normal basis, despite any social stigma.
“Cat ears, schoolgirl uniforms… I give (the school and students) a couple months to get used to crazy me, and then they have to get used to crazy outfits and crazier me,” said Tavenner.
The dedication of cosplay goes beyond just one day of dress, as Ann Tani, 20, a graphic design major who was dressed as Korra from The Legend of Korra, noted.
“It’s not just a one-time thing,” she said.
Tavenner added that good cosplayers “try to be as accurate as they can,” and the expenses of cosplay reach far beyond that of normal costumes, but make up for it in superior quality.
“More dedication, more love to the character,” Tavenner said.
However, despite any dispute over whether or not cosplaying truly “belongs” to any specific group is trivial, she said.
“Forget what all the critics say, if you’re having fun, that’s the most important thing,” Tavenner said.