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From Underground Trend to Mainstay of Subculture
August 14, 1998
Costume players go to great lengths to get their outfits just right. (Go Itoh)
More and more young Japanese fans these days are dressing up like their favorite characters from anime (Japanese cartoons) and video games. Costume parties are held regularly, and have even begun to be featured on television, as well as in major newspapers and magazines. The practice known as "costume play" has gone from being looked at as just another fan-inspired craze to an established trend in today's Japanese youth culture.
Costume Players Themselves Become Stars
Costume play is no longer limited to manga conventions. Costume parties have started cropping up all over Japan. The largest affairs attract thousands of participants, who dance to their favorite anime theme songs and pose in their costumes for photographs. Popular costume players become stars in their own right, receiving letters from their fans. Some even put out their own videos and photo collections.
"Visual" Boom Adds to Popularity of Costume Play
The recent trend of so-called "visual-mode" male rock bands who adorn makeup and gaudy costumes has added to the popularity of costume play among young women. One recent "visual-mode" concert was attended by many female fans dressed in the likeness of the band members, and many others in schoolgirl, military, and nurse uniforms.
Stores that supply character costumes have also begun to increase. An entire outfit can cost anywhere from 30,000 to 60,000 yen (207 to 414 U.S. dollars at 145 yen to the dollar). There is one reported case of a female office worker who placed a costume order for more than 1 million yen (6,900 dollars) to ensure that she wouldn't tarnish her favorite character's image with inferior apparel. There are even some specialty stores that design costumes to order. Customers bring in a photo of their favorite rock artist, have the store tailor a copy of the artist's costume, and then wear it out to their idol's concert.
The Hero and Heroine Within
According to one psychologist, this kind of character transformation is an extension of children's typical fantasy role-playing, which serves as a kind of escape from reality and gives the participant a chance to vent pent-up feelings. Costume play's popularity may also stem from the difficulty today's younger generation has in fostering close relations with people. Costume play makes it easier for these people to communicate even with strangers, since they can readily identify with their partners' costume characters from the outset.
Most recently, costume play has gone international, with costume contests featuring Japanese anime characters being held in places as far away as France. With this kind of national and even international appeal, costume play can no longer be looked at as just a fad, but a true fixture of Japanese subculture.
Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.