Spreading the Word About New Anime Through Cosplay

anime-expo-2010-friday-day-two.5015202.87.jpg Photo: Shannon Cottrell/LA Weekly, Durarara!! cosplayers from Anime Expo 2010 In our time covering conventions and other fandom events for LA Weekly, cosplayers have both directly and indirectly influenced the work that photographer Shannon Cottrell and I produce. Neither one of us has ever cosplayed, but we appreciate it as an art form. We try to look at cosplay culture from a variety of angles. One of our questions, on occasion, is about creating the cosplay. Cosplayers often spend months on their work and the process of becoming someone else for a day requires a lot of trial and error in costume design, prop creation, make-up, etc. We're genuinely curious about this. Other times, though, we look at cosplay to help us gain insight into what's making an impact within the fandom. This is most important when we're at anime conventions. Cosplay is, from our experience, far more common at an anime con than at any other sort of event. When you regularly go to anime cons, you'll notice that cosplays tend to reflect the newest anime and manga series. Thanks to cosplayers, we've become aware of many titles over the years, like Ouran High School Host Club, Black Butler, K-On! and, most recently, Durarara!!, which ran in the U.S. online via Crunchyroll alongside the Japanese broadcast, but won't be out on DVD for a few more months. Cosplayers are in some ways evangelists for specific anime and manga series. Because of their dedication to the craft, they help spread the word about new titles. This stands in contrast to the studio-driven hype at cons that I mentioned in a post on Friday. As an observer, seeing 100 people cosplaying a certain series on their own (something you can usually tell by the varying degree of quality in the outfits) can mean a lot more than advertising for fans. Links: Anime Expo 2010 Day 1 (Photos) Anime Expo Day 2 (Photos) Anime Expo Day 3 (Photos)


  1. This is too true, and it’s often surprising that the actual anime publishers just don’t get it.

    My friends and I can almost always predict what shows will be the most cosplayed. Yet, the shows that the companies are heavily marketing are almost never the shows that are popular at that moment. They’re usually a year late, and the shows have switched out. Why don’t the companies know what we know?

    I get the feeling that the shows that are cosplayed heavily might not actually be all that popular. They just happen to appeal to a small and very vocal and conspicuous minority. Meanwhile, there are shows that get far more sales that have almost no cosplay or conspicuous fandom. Afro Samurai comes to mind.

    1. I think the animes that are cosplayed heavily hold a certain amount of weight within the anime fandom, but may not necessarily have the appeal to people outside of the con setting. For example, I can’t imagine Ouran High School Host club appealing to people who aren’t already heavily into anime. There are way too many anime insider jokes in it to appeal to a larger audience.

      Something like Afro Samurai, though, I think might be significantly more popular because it has that sort of crossover appeal, similar to Cowboy Bebop. It’s one of those series where there’s a chance that even your friends who aren’t into anime at all will like it.

  2. OK, I admit my ignorance. What is the group in the picture with this posting portraying? I don’t recognize them.

  3. I’m married to a cosplayer and let her dress me up like a doll at anime cons from time to time. It’s fun but I don’t make the costumes myself.

    It’s true that seeing a crowd of people from a show we haven’t heard of makes us interested in the show – “let’s see what they’re so excited about” – etc.

    But also, a show popular with cosplayers is not necessarily a show popular with all fans. If only because not all shows provide good costumes. If everyone’s just wearing regular clothes it sucks a lot of the fun out of it.

    Also, I think core anime fans are watching fansubs of things ahead of the time licensed versions make it to the US. So in a sense by the time they’re marketed over here they’re already a bit over the hill.

  4. I will admit to knowing next to nothing about anime, and being completely removed from cosplay.

    But I have to say I love the pic for this article. So I guess it does work because now I’m curious about it!

  5. Them’s some unforgiving catsuits. Big thumbs-up to the shameless tarts… er, fearless souls who’ll wear ’em in public, helmet or no.

    I bet I know less about anime and cosplay than even blueelm above, but I’m curious: which of the five has reproduced the character most accurately?

    1. If one of them removes their helmet — and their head — that is the most accurate cosplayer.

  6. Cosplay and other kinds of extreme fan activism are definitely the future, and should be taken very seriously by the producers of entertainment material. I hope to see the art form mutate further to the point where cosplayers are creating original characters that recognizably fit into imaginary universes.


  7. Cosplay? It makes is sound like some strange fetish. In my day people used to dress up like Elvis and we called fancy dress. Fancy!

  8. Modern anime is so terrible. New anime watchers just don’t understand that. They just think that if it’s new and popular it’s automatically good. They just see that it’s more colorful and flashy that’s the only reason they need to just watch it.

    Mainstream anime such as this one are just cash cows. They just do it for the money and they put more money into advertising than making the anime itself.

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