Cosplay is a Japanese subculture centered on dressing as characters from manga, anime and video games, and, less commonly, live action television shows, movies or Japanese pop music bands.
The term cosplay (pronounced kosupure in Japanese) is a contraction combining the words “costume” and “play” which accurately describes the hobby of having fun by dressing up as one’s favorite characters. Besides dressing up for public events such as anime conventions, it is not unusual for teens in Japan to gather with like-minded friends just to do cosplay. Since 1998 in Tokyo Akihabara district there is a large number of cosplay cafes, catering to otaku – anime and cosplay fans. The waitresses there dress as game or anime characters. Maid costumes are particularly popular.
Cosplay has spread across the world in recent years, joining with costuming at science fiction conventions in North America and Europe. The main difference between cosplay and costuming in the United States and Europe is that in Japan people typically dress up as characters from Japanese animated films (anime), Japanese comics (manga), or Japanese video games, as compared to dressing up as Star Trek characters or in Renaissance-era costumes. The other difference is that most costuming in the United States and Europe is centered on particular events such as conventions or festivals.
One such small niche of this field are dollers, the term for an amateur kigurumi player. These cosplayer wear masks to fully transform into their characters.
Cosplayers are often called “layers” and the otaku who photograph the layers are called cameko, short for “Camera Kozo” or “Camera Boy”. The cameko give prints of their photos to the layers as gifts.
In North American otaku culture, cosplayers at conventions often find themselves on the receiving ends of glomps, a type of high-powered hug.