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Cosplay in the PH: Then and Now

Just how much the community and hobby changed in the course of four-five years? There are both positive and negative things… but we all still love this hobby, don’t we? I take you to list of an opinionated-based Nine Then’s and Now’s to compare how it was previously and how it is currently.

1. Costume and Play
Then: More in play, less on costume
Now: More on costume, less in play

– back then when the hobbyist had no other means to acquire wigs or lenses, the cosplayer relied on portrayal. And it was easy to recognize who they were upon first view. “OMG. You’re Lupin the 3rd!” or “Son Gokuuuu~ Vegetaaaa~” were some of the many remarks I heard during my event-attending four years ago. That is to say, pertaining to now, a lot of people are joining the bandwagon by simply wearing the attire, spending heaps on rents or buys or MTOs but with missing characterization. You just don’t make a gleeful V-sign when you’re Ciel Phantomhive or look snubbish or tired when you cosplay Misa Amane or a stiff and unenergetic Naruto Uzumaki. You just don’t.

2. Accuracy in Costume/Props/Craftsmanship
Then: just-so
Now: Good! Even getting better!

– this goes without saying with the accessibility of tutorials on the internet or self-taught knowledge from books, magazines or  101 programs that go along with time: hobbyist are now more familiar with raw materials, its functionality and versatility and they share these ideas to others. And because we are talking about cosplay, it somehow comes with art — the desire to be accurate and almost the same with the character. I had my share of witnessing mecha cosplayers during cons and they were real head-turners. And now they, along with other more complicated characters, have stepped up and created even better and durable designs that could be parred internationally. I do appreciate those, yeah.

3. Communication and Event Anticipation
Then: BB forums/text messaging brigade or announcement during an event
Now: internet

– does anyone remember the times when an event is ending, they’d invite the organizers of the next event in months to invite cosplayers, attendees and hobbyists to theirs? Or had a very exciting conversation of seeing your newly-met friends, telling them you’ll be present on the next event? Such were the delights years ago when knowing and attending an event to be held soon was a promise between you and your new buddies. Emotional, really. But those were the times that honesty and sincerity for the hobby was genuine — that you want to share these experiences with those who enjoy it as well.

The internet ain’t so bad really. In fact, it has gotten announcing more convenient and reachable even to distant places, even outside the country.

4. Events and Gathering
Then: had at least two or four months in-between
Now: almost every week of the month

– THIS. I can’t stress enough how some years ago there were only, maybe, two-three major events in a year and few minor ones being held, of many months in-between. Conventions were meticulously planned and had weeks of preparations to assure competency and attendance. Now, I’m more surprised at the idea that almost every weekend, there are cons everywhere. Am I saying it is bad thing? It definitely has its pros and cons, surely. I guess it goes to show just how Cosplay gained popularity before it was just “underground.” At least you have the reason to spend the weekends in fun with fans.

Speaking of popularity…

5. Popularity
Then: you’re a weirdo if you cosplay; “Why are you into this hobby anyway? You don’t get anything from it!”
Now: ZOMGBBQCOSPLAYYYYNARUTOBLEACHNARUTOOOMASCOOOT; Let’s put Cosplay in our event line-up!

– With me being exposed to cosplay, anime and manga and general Japan culture for as early as 2000, I had heard these labels of weirdo and odd-ball for being into the hobby. Back then I couldn’t even express that I cosplay because of societal ridicule. Only when I think I was conversing with a fellow hobbyist that I tell them what I do and what I was interested with, and what came after was a connection. That was the cosplay and anime convention in the Philippines was four-five years ago: a  bridge between fans. Now I’m not even sure if I want to tell people I cosplay simply because there are more of people joining the trend with a less passionate conviction and attention. Recent times make this fangirl really sad, especially to non-anime/manga-related events putting Cosplay in their list just to garner interest. Sigh. Sad truth.

6. Expression
Then: I cosplay because I like this character very much. Thank you for recognizing it.
Now: I cosplay because it looks cool and easy. By the way, who is this character I’m doing again?

– I cringe at this, because not only it is one of the most evident signs of joining the trending bandwagon but it’s something that’s currently happening now as I write this. I belong to these cosplay market forums and Help and more often than not some people inquiring about who is good to cosplay or what character suits them best if they have this type of hair, body and skin or worse: I want to this costume MTO. Can anyone tell me first who this character is? Thank you!

NO. JUST NO. If you have just even a smidget of interest in anime or manga, gaming or movies, you’d know the character you want to portray. Don’t people take the effort to understand and get into the hobby properly? Don’t you want to understand the character you want to cosplay at all? C’mon.

Fear not, with the growing breed of new ones to the hobby, there are still those who take into the heart on what they do. They are everywhere actually. Hidden.

7. Camaraderie
Then: you almost know everyone who attends the event
Now: you don’t know anyone of these people anymore… and they keep to themselves. Yikes!

– I was glad I was able to at least experience belonging to a small community of fans and hobbyist — so small that we know each others’ names and cities. That when each event ended, those who lived in North would travel home together, same with those who lived in South and East. Or when an event is being held on an unrecognizable place, we try to accompany our fellow fans going there. Back then, approaching someone alone or in a group would be nerve-wrecking but in the end you’d be having dinner with them. I believe this still currently occurs during events but more of inside cliques and groups which are formed elsewhere: text groups, forums or invitations. The now, when you attend your first event, you come back home alone. Most probably. Back then friendliness and openness was the key to having fun during conventions but now… PASS THE DRAMA POPCORN!

The fandom is getting bigger, that is much true. With communication is as easy as clicking links, I’m not surprised. And with the media using this hobby, evidently there will be unwanted action-reaction occurring in and out of the community. Like I said, pros and cons.

8. Misconception in Interest
Then: you are into fashionably clothes and into individualism
Now: you are into fashionably clothes and labeled cosplaying

– So you have your thigh-high socks and colored hair and you are irked hearing the nth time for cosplaying Hatsune Miku during a fine afternoon inside the mall: what do you do? In the previous years until then, wearing outrageous clothing would get you stares and whispers. That is much anticipatory because of cultural upbringing: the Filipinos are not fashion-forward by default. I know this by experience and nothing is more annoying than overhearing whispers of you cosplaying “in your normal clothes”  just because you dress differently.

And we continue this segment in a much sadder reality: some people dress differently and THEY label it as cosplay. Wear a wig, it’s cosplay! Wear animal ears and paws, it’s cosplay! I believe that more of people mix these two together: Japanese Street Fashion and Cosplay and it is only because they have one denominator: the wearer stands out because they look different than norm and it’s from Japan. Remember, boys and girls: Cosplay IS NOT fashion. It’s an act of looking like the character and personifying their characters as accurately as possible. Costume and Play. They go hand-in-hand.

9. Crossing Continents
Then: within the walls of the PH archipelago
Now: International guests and having local delegates to send out to other countries to compete or local cosplayers visiting foreign events

– I probably missed out when exactly these things started to occur but only last year did I feel the excitement of meeting Singaporean, Thai or Malaysian cosplayers. Or cheering for fellow Filipinos as they fly for cosplay competitions elsewhere. Certainly there is this charm of having “foreign” people and circumstances that would require the community to be globally/internationally active — something that don’t happen regularly within the community years before. Ah, but one thing is for sure: Foreign guests are just like you and me, of equal footing and standing, and are into the hobby just as us and the PH could par with the other countries if a lot of us would creatively work hard for the hobby.

Like I said, these are based on pure first-hand experiences and clearly it can differ from one person to another. As a hobbyist for more than five years, I’ve had my shares of delights and disappointed in this interest and thought hopelessly of any redeeming factors that could “save” the “deteriorating” hobby. Maybe it isn’t deteriorating as many of us think, especially if there are those who are taking this hobby into the heart. We can’t really say we are complete mess of a community.

Though two things I’m most sure of is: I still love to be surrounded with the hobby: read mangas and watch animes and fan over Japan culture and do the utmost best in cosplay. This is, after all, what we can do if we truly like what we do. Let’s not be half-assed to something we are passionate about. And do not place too much drama-llama on the hobby as well — we all have other things we must be doing too, right? This is just a hobby, ladies and gentlemen.

So, what about you? What do you think about the cosplay in your country? Or to fellow local fans, what do you think about the cosplay in the PH, then and now? Or did I miss out to include something on the list? Share it with us!

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