COSPLAY CULTURE

Learn how to look the part — at a hefty price

by Edan Corkill

For successful kosupure (“cosplay,” or “costume play”) it is not enough to know your “Bleach” from your “Basara.” You also need to be able to make your plats stand on end like Itsuki (from the manga “Basara”), give yourself an extra jaw like Grimmjow Jeagerjaques (from the manga “Bleach”) — and as well deck yourself out in a black cloak like Ichigo Kurosaki or a white one like Sosuke Aizen (both from “Bleach”).

Most cosplayers learn their makeup and costume-making skills from magazines and by talking to their friends. As of January 30, however, one of Tokyo’s largest vocational schools, Vantan Career School, has also been offering a more professional approach.

“We had been running traditional fashion and hair/make-up courses for a long time, but we came to realize that many of our students wanted to apply those skills to cosplay,” explained manager of the new “Cosplayers Course,” Satoshi Yamagiwa.

The inaugural class attracted 35 students, between 80 and 90 percent of them women. “They almost all signed up with the aim of honing their own cosplay techniques,” Yamagiwa said. But although none has so far voiced a desire to become a professional cosplay makeup artist or costume maker, Yamagiwa enthused, “It’s a growing market, so that could happen in the future.”

The three-month course, which includes up to 12 hours of tuition per week at a cost ¥560,000, is centered on two key classes — Character Hairmake and Costume Making — with others for prop-making and photography.

The costume-making process is similar to that for theater or film — with vinyl and plastics employed to make skimpy space-trekker outfits and lengths of material folded into capes and cloaks.

“One difference from stage costumes is that the materials need to be light and easy to shape,” said Yamagiwa.

It’s also important that cosplayers be able to carry them around the city to attend events. Urethane resin and light-weight polyurethane are the materials of choice for the all-important daggers, swords, spears and guns.

According to Yamagiwa, Vantan’s first batch of students are well on the way to transforming themselves into characters such as the Victorian maid Mercury Lampe from the manga “Rozen Maiden,” and the very regal-sounding son of the “Emperor of Britannia,” Lelouch, from the anime “Code Geass.”

For Vantan Career School, the Cosplayer’s Course is the latest in a long line of often short-lived courses designed to assist Japan’s youth in whatever fad or movement preoccupies them at the time.

The school’s managing director, Tatsuya Fujiwara, explained that other popular courses include one for making dog clothes. Meanwhile, back in the 1980s, there was even a Hausumanukan course, which — believe it or not — was for budding “house mannequins.” They were sales staff at women’s boutiques who modelled their employers’ wares.

After “house mannequins,” cosplay courses seem almost creative!