Hating on Love (of Cosplay)

Kristen Bell & Jay Baruchel cosplaying Slave Leia & Obi-Wan Kenobi in the movie "Fanboys."

I’m sure you’ve seen a movie or tv show featuring a geek and at some point, there’s a time where somebody (whether it’s a main character or background) shows up in some sort of costume. FanboysGalaxy QuestPsychRace to Witch Mountain, CommunityCSI, and of course, The Big Bang Theory are all examples of media where this might have been seen. When people dress in these costumes, THAT is called cosplaying. Cosplay is mostly seen at conventions, though people may also cosplay to movie/book premieres and at [pre-planned] public gatherings. Based on that information, it would seem like this is an activity that centers around having fun, right? What’s that? “Yes,” you say? Then that would be one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard in my life. Everyone who heard that is now dumber for having listened to you, you are awarded no points, and may God have mercy on your soul. No, that’s not me saying that, but it seems that there are people who actually believe this.

(Clockwise from top) An unknown cosplayer, HentaiGirl82, and Blikku cosplaying as Kanu Unchou, Ryomou Shimei, and Hakufu Sonsaku from "Ikki Tousen."

You see, as you might have seen on Community and its timeslot rival, The Big Bang Theory, whites aren’t the only cosplayers out there. Now apparently, this is a problem for some people – especially in anime fandom. I’ve heard many stories of snide comments made online and at conventions. It is supposedly because of the fact that most anime and video game characters are of a fair complexion that many people seem to think that people of color are unfit to cosplay anything but characters of color. While there are a good number of characters of color available and this site has a comprehensive list of many of them, though there are more that aren’t listed there, like:

  • Balrog/M.Bison from Street Fighter II
  • Barrett from Final Fantasy VII
  • Dudley from Street Fighter III
  • Elena from Street Fighter III
  • Jadakins from Tokyo Tribe 2
  • Kai Deguchi from Tokyo Tribe 2
  • Kaolla Su from Love Hina
  • Kevin Kotaro Abe from Whistle!
  • Mera from Tokyo Tribe 2
  • Octave from Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem
  • Takenori Akagi from Slam Dunk

My buddy, J Ryoga, as Tidus from "Final Fantasy X."

There are a few more, but I can’t remember the names. However, out of a few thousand anime titles, that still amounts to just under 200 names. Not only is it completely unreasonable to expect every darker-skinned person to stick to such a [relatively] short list of characters, but it’s absolutely ridiculous. Especially in a community where cross-playing is considered perfectly acceptable (Cross-playing is when a person of one sex cosplays as a character of the opposite sex). I should mention that I have absolutely no issue with cross-players, whether it’s a male cross-playing a female character or a female cross-playing a male character – just do it to the best of your ability. Cosplay is supposed to be about having fun and celebrating your favorite characters and/or series. If someone wears a good or bad cosplay, it shouldn’t matter if they’re black, white, fat, thin, male, or female. What matters is how the viewer likes the outfit. If you do, feel free to get a picture. If not, ignore it. If they’re not the same physical type as the character and they look amazing, praise them for doing so.

Any straight guys try to hit on this cosplayer, they're in for a shock - deviantArt's Manolo-kun crossplaying Utena Tenjou of "Revolutionary Girl Utena."

I find this whole behavior odd for a couple of reasons. Firstly, if you want to be technical about this whole issue, then outside of obvious European/non-Japanese characters like the Amestrans (eg: the Elrics, Roy Mustang, the Armstrong siblings, etc) of FullMetal Alchemist, Emma of Emma – A Victorian Romance, and Roger Smith of The Big O, there aren’t many “white” characters, either. Yes, there are far more than their darker-skinned counterparts, but the vast majority of fair-skinned characters in anime and manga are 100% Japanese born and raised. Even the majority of the characters who come to Japan from a foreign nation are of Japanese descent as well, but have simply returned to their home country (Minako Aino of Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon and Kanako Ohno of Genshiken are perfect examples of this). Therefore, according to their theories, they should not be cosplaying many of the characters they do.

The second reason I find this odd (and most importantly), is because if you’re involved in this activity, you’re more or less an outcast. Hopefully not literally in that you don’t have any friends at all, but an outcast in the fact that you don’t really have anywhere else to release this type of creativity. Perhaps you saw someone doing this in a movie or show and thought to yourself that this particular activity looked fun. Or maybe you’re a fan who was watching or reading a series and wanted to dress up as a particular character on Halloween, but just one day a year wasn’t enough. Point is, we’re all in this together. And when I say, “we’re all in this together,” I mean we’re all in this together.

(Clockwise from top) 'Chef' McElroy from "South Park," 'Might Suit' Naruto Uzumaki from "Naruto," 'Hunky no Jutsu' Temari from "Naruto," Kai Deguchi from "Tokyo Tribe 2" (Center) Eikichi Onizuka from "GTO: Great Teacher Onizuka"

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