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Terra, Aqua, and Ventus (Cosplay)

A group of cosplayers portraying Terra, Aqua, and Ventus.

Cosplay (コスプレ kosupure?), short for "costume play", is a type of performance art in which participants don costumes and accessories to represent a specific character or idea. Characters are often drawn from popular fiction in Japan. Favorite sources include manga, anime, tokusatsu, comic books, graphic novels, video games, and fantasy movies. Role play includes portrayals of J-pop and J-rock stars, Taiwanese puppet characters, science fiction characters, characters from musical stories, classic novels, and entertainment software. Any entity from the real or virtual world that lends itself to dramatic interpretation may be taken up as a subject. Inanimate objects are given anthropomorphic forms and it is not unusual to see genders switched, with women playing male roles and vice versa.

Cosplayers often interact to create a subculture centered around role play. A broader use of the term cosplay applies it to any costumed role play in venues apart from the stage, regardless of the cultural context.


The term cosplay is a combination of the English words "costume" and "play". The term was coined by Nobuyuki Takahashi of the Japanese studio Studio Hard while attending the 1984 Los Angeles Science Fiction Worldcon. He was impressed by the hall and the costumed fans and reported on both in Japanese science fiction magazines. The coinage reflects a common Japanese method of abbreviation in which the first two moras of a pair of words are used to form an independent compound. Costume becomes kosu (コス), and play becomes pure (プレ).

Practice of Cosplay

Éclair (Cosplay)

A set of Larxene's knives for cosplay use.


Cosplay costume differs from Halloween and Mardi Gras costume-wear not only in existing independent of any particular holiday, but in its goal. The object of cosplay is interpretation: one attempts to become one's character much as a stage actor inhabits a role. Costumes are expected to adhere meticulously to the attire known to be worn by the character represented. Even more generic costumes get an elaborately artistic treatment. Cosplayers may purchase or create costumes through fan labor. Cosplayers often educate themselves in crafting specialties such as sculpture, face paint, fiberglasswork, fashion design and the like in the effort to render the look and texture of a costume accurately.

Cosplay costume compare to that of those wear during holiday are often more complex and details of the costume. Most cosplayers create their own outfits, referencing images of the characters in the process. In the creation of the outfits, much time is given to detail and quality, thus the skill of a cosplayer may be measured by how difficult the details of the outfit is and how well they have been replicated. Almost all cosplayers wear wigs in conjunction with their outfit in order to further improve the resemblance to the character. This is especially necessary for anime and manga characters who often have unnaturally colored and uniquely styled hair.


Once in costume, cosplayers adopt the affect, mannerisms and body language of the characters they portray. The cosplayers do this because once they have that certain costume on, they feel and act like the character that they are dressed up as. Cosplayers often gather to view the costumes of others, show off their own creations, take pictures, share tips, and participate in contests. This activity is maintained between major events through participation in online forums.


Cosplay may be presented in a number of ways and places, but there are 3 main distinction for them.

  • Photography - Some cosplayers choose to have a photographer take high quality images of the cosplayer in their garment posing as the character. This is most likely to take place in a setting relevant to the character's origin Such cosplayers are likely to exhibit their work online, on blogs or artist websites. Because of the rising popularity of cosplay photography, some photographers may choose to work exclusively as a cosplay photographer.
  • Conventions - Originally, the most popular form of presenting a cosplay is to wear it to a convention. Conventions dedicated to anime, manga, comics, TV shows, video games, science fiction and fantasy may be found all around the world. The single largest event featuring cosplay is the semi-annual doujinshi market, Comiket. This event, held in Japan during both the summer and winter, attracts hundreds of thousands of manga fans. Thousands of cosplayers congregate on the roof of the exhibition center.
  • Competitions - As the popularity of cosplay has grown over the past few years, many conventions have come to feature a contest surrounding cosplay. Popularity has increased to the extent that often, cosplay may be the main feature of the convention. Contestants present their cosplay, and often to be judged for an award, the cosplay must be self-made. The contestants may choose to perform a skit, which may consist of a short performed script or dance with optional accompanying audio, video and/or images shown on a screen overhead. Other contestants may simply choose to pose as their characters. Often contestants are briefly interviewed on stage by an MC. The audience is given a chance to take photos of the cosplayer(s) Cosplayers may compete solo or in a group. Award are presented, and these awards may vary greatly.

In Fandom

In Kingdom Hearts fandom, cosplaying has gained popularly over the past years, due to the length of the series and its large cast of characters. Cosplayers often take to portraying main protagonists such as Aqua, Sora, Roxas, and Riku, among others. Cosplaying as the members of Organization XIII has also gained popularly, due to the many members and their prominence in the games. The most frequently cosplayed Organization XIII members are undoubtedly Roxas, Axel and Xion.

Cosplaying in Kingdom Hearts fandom is usually not limited to Kingdom Hearts canon, an example of which is that cosplayers also portray characters from the Final Fantasy series. Cosplayers often go to great lengths to create original costume designs for characters; a popular theme in Kingdom Hearts is to create costumes related to a world, such as pirate-based and Halloween-themed costumes. Drive Form-based costumes for Riku and Kairi and also popular choices.


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