By: Luis R. Pérez Lasalle
Popular culture in theU.S.has always been influenced by a mixture of the media and entertainment industries of both theUnited StatesandJapan. For decades, Japan has been a world leader in technological advances and a forerunner in cultural movements both traditional and modern. It comes as no surprise that the popularity of Japanese animation, or “anime”, made its way into the pop culture of theUnited States.
As the popularity of “anime” shows grew, so did the dedication of the western fan base that supported them. The followers of such shows quickly took pride in their love of them and the more dedicated fans would routinely attend conventions dressed in intricate costumes that resembled the clothing worn by popular or recognizable characters within each series or comic.
The term “cosplay” comes from the combination of the words “costume” and “play” and refers to the activity of dressing up as characters from American and Japanese animation and comics as well as characters from Science Fiction and Fantasy novels and movies. It was first used by Nobuyuki Takahashi to describe his impression of all the costumed fans that attended the 1984 Worldcon, a Science Fiction convention held inLos Angeles. The costumes worn by cosplayers are often a testament to their own creativity or resourcefulness, involving careful planning, design and more often than not the ability to craft clothing or accessories to ensure that every detail matches the character they are trying to emulate.
Roberto Alejandro Arias is a Computer Engineering student as well as an avid and experienced cosplayer. I had the opportunity to speak with him about his past experiences as a cosplayer on the island as well as in the States while attending a smaller convention held on October 8th and 9th named “Kaisen 9”.
As we toured the convention grounds held in the Cosme Beitia Coliseum in Cataño, Puerto Rico, it quickly became apparent that I had stepped outside the conventional world and into a world of fantasy. Everywhere I looked, I could make out different characters, cosplayers posing for photos as well as scouring the merchandise booths in search of collectables. As I helped my friend take a picture with some female cosplayers, I asked him about the growth of the community within the island.
“Well, I’ve been doing this for about 3 years, give or take.” Replied Roberto with a smile as another eager bystander snapped a picture of him. “I would think there are more hardcore cosplayers on the island than anything else, since the community hasn’t been mainstream for that long.” he added after taking a few more pictures.
Touring the grounds, I couldn’t help but agree that the convention seemed rather humble when compared to larger conventions in the States I had seen online. “ I’ve experienced both and they have been equally awesome,” he commented. “You can note some difference in the kinds of cosplayers in both countries. The Puerto Rican cosplayers tend to warm up to new people in a faster rate, but the North American cosplayers are more random in terms of what they come up with in a conversation.”
As the day rolled on, the convention remained as lively as ever. Game tournaments were held, dance competitions and comedic skits were performed with cosplayers acting out their favorite scenes from their respective shows. And finally by the end of the day the awards for the best costumes were handed out, with everyone feeling a mixture of exhaustion and deep satisfaction.
Commenting on the success of the convention I asked Roberto if he considered the larger conventions held on the island could improve or mimic the ones held in the States. “Oh, definitely yes. There are so many things that the conventions in theUShave done that we still lack here.” he replied enthusiastically. “Improving gaming and trading card tournaments are just the tip of it all. Finding bigger spaces to celebrate the conventions is another thing they could do as well as securing a larger participation from the big names in industry such as DC Comics, and Marvel Comics” Roberto added as we exited the convention grounds.
The cosplaying community of Puerto Rico is an avid, joyful and dedicated one that does all it can to expand and bring more attention to the hobby they enjoy so much. With more and more conventions being scheduled yearly, as well as newer ones dedicated to specific sectors of the community already in the works, it is clear that the cosplayers of Puerto Rico will attract much more attention and members in years to come.