Plenty of folks can tell you where the impulse to cosplay comes from—even though it varies from person to person, there’s still that difficult to define, fan-driven urge that’s impossible to shake. But what about the actual history of cosplay? Who were the first people recognized for strolling into a convention in costume, brazen, heads held high? Would you believe this can all be traced back to 1939 at the World Science Fiction Convention?
Not long after it began, dressing up as your favorite character and attending the World Con was referred to as “futuristiccostume.” It was in June 1983, also at World Con, that the term “cosplay” was first used by visiting Japanese writer Noboyuki Takahashi.
While Americans invented cosplay, it was the Japanese who turned it into an art form. Sometime after reading Takahashi’s report in a Japanese fanzine, Japanese fans began making costumes based on their favorite anime characters, TV heroes, and game protagonists. Because cosplay soon became so much more sophisticated in Japan, many fans thought it was a Japanese invention.
Whether that’s news to you or not, you’ll want to dig into the history of cosplay in a special feature within the photo-packed pages of Cosplay USA magazine. Lauren Orsini provides a solid overview of what could have been nothing more than a flash in the pan moment of public boldness, but, as we all know, went on to become a phenomenon of its own. Cosplay is an art form unlike any other, so it’s appropriate that its history has its own unique flavor.
In addition to an overview of how it all started—from those pioneers who stepped before everyone in futuristic garb oh so long ago, to Noboyuki Takahashi’s coining of the term and beyond—Lauren’s article includes some insight into why it’s become such a staple of the convention scene. Could you imagine a con without any cosplay? We shudder to think of such a world. Thankfully, it would take some kind of overwhelming apocalyptic force for that to happen, so we can continue to celebrate dressing up as our favorite characters from one end of the globe to the other.
This story originally ran in the 9/3/13 issue of the Otaku USA e-News
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