Costume play – or cosplay, as it is colloquially known – is a performance art practised by participants who are usually called cosplayers, to dress as a certain character in pop culture. With the popularity of anime, or Japanese animation, in the Philippines since the late '90s, cosplaying as a hobby or career soon became prevalent in the country through cosplay conventions and similar gatherings.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, however, events celebrating this activity have been cancelled or moved to later dates as is the custom now. Despite the lockdown, cosplayers still found a way to enjoy their passion through social media.
I’ve interviewed members of two cosplay groups – Loren Agraviador and Charity Venus of BLACK STARS, and Joren Rivas and Hitoshi Kazama of Raket Riders Ph – to discuss their cosplay experience in the quarantine era.
Cosplay group Raket Riders Ph during a 2016 convention.
Cara: How has cosplaying life been like this quarantine?
Joren Rivas: It is actually no different from your different life. Most of the time, it’s either we make new costumes or improve the ones we currently have. Cosplay life in quarantine is actually no different with waiting or preparing for a specific convention. Other than that, we just spend the day (at) home doing what we can.
Hitoshi Kazama: I miss performing at cons or meeting up with my friends outside to eat. Right now, I haven’t thought about making a new costume since I’m worried about our status here in our house.
Raket Riders Ph launched a Henshin Video Challenge Contest last April encouraging their followers to submit videos like this, which aimed to show off their makeshift quarantine cosplay skills.
Loren Agraviador: I’ve been planning who to cosplay in the future, thinking like this is some sort of comeback, so I should probably toss in the best costume I have once the quarantine is over, LOL! The cosplay market has been crowded as well nowadays, which is a BIG weakness for an impulsive buyer like me! I already bought a few sets (which I didn’t originally plan to), and hopefully I can use them sometime this year. I’m also doing a closet sale for costumes I no longer use for others to cosplay as well!
Charity Venus: Luckily, my friends and I had shot a lot of stuff as if we knew what was coming. So right now, we have all the time we could use to go back to our backlogs and still have cosplay photos to post online. Quarantine had me thinking about a lot of things, too. So, whenever I’m anxious, my coping mechanism is Shoppee. And to not make it sound like compulsive spending, I convince myself to buy stuff that would complete my incomplete costume sets here at home. I cleaned up my closet and listed down what I needed to buy. And along with it, a list of costume sets I’m now willing to let go.
Cara: What do you (or your group) usually like to cosplay?
Joren: We like cosplaying Japanese Tokusatsu characters like Ultraman, Kamen Rider, and Super Sentai (known in the west as Power Rangers).
Hitoshi: I usually portray the Tokusatsu genre – mecha, especially – and the same goes to my fellow Kamen Rider group (Raket Riders Ph).
(In Japan, “tokusatsu” refers to films that utilise special effects typically seen in science fiction, fantasy, or horror genres – as is the case for the mecha/robots and Power Ranger series that Raket Riders Ph cosplays.)
The BLACK STARS cosplaying virtual K-pop group K/DA.
Loren: I’ve been a member of a group called BLACK STARS for over a year now and some of the group cosplays we did were K/DA (all their versions!), Doki Doki Literature Club, and Avatar: The Last Airbender (ATLA). We’re very much excited with the next one – RWBY! As an individual, I often cosplay characters from games and anime. My favourite one would probably be Kai’Sa, because the time I cosplayed her was the start of me being active in cosplay so much. I have lots of pending costumes in my closet, so I hope I can pull them off!
Charity: I usually like to cosplay characters that remind me of myself (because your girl just forgets who she is sometimes – who am I, what is me?). I also like it when my friends and I complete members of a group. SO. SATISFYING.
Charity Venus as Toph Beifong from ATLA.
Cara: What made you (or your group) cosplay?
Joren: We all have our own reasons for cosplaying, but one thing we have in common is our love for the characters we cosplay. Our love for those characters is what pushes us to create and make them come to life. And as fellow geeks there’s nothing more satisfying than seeing your favourite character/s from the TV screen come to life.
Hitoshi: What made us cosplay those stuff is because we want to make the Tokusatsu and mecha scene in PH alive just like other genres, and also to show our skill by performing while wearing heavy suits.
Loren: Watching anime is one of my greatest hobbies, and some characters I have come to like so much – to the point that I would buy their merchandise. So, the moment I discovered cosplay, I just had to do it! Cosplay made me feel that I was linked to the character somehow, and I enjoy being surrounded with fellow Cosplayers who share the same passion as well.
Charity: I’ve always been a weab (weeb or weeaboo, a term for enthusiasts of Japanese culture) since I was a kid, and I wanted to be like those kawaii (cute) girls I watched. In cosplay, it’s okay not to be yourself for a while. It’s like a brief escape from reality. Though, I also like to showcase my art through cosplaying, since my course is really far from the arts.
Charity and Loren with their cosplay group BLACK STARS.
Cara: What do you (or your group) look forward to after this quarantine as a cosplayer?
Joren: The quarantine did impact some activities we do. Like going out together, making costumes together, attending conventions together. All we expect after the quarantine is for our annual activities to be back without the fear of the virus that caused this pandemic. It is really satisfying when you get to hang out with your friends again without having to look at a mobile or computer screen.
Hitoshi: I am looking forward to eating with my friends again at a buffet, and also likely create new content with them for our page since we are into video game streamers.
Loren: I definitely look forward to being reunited with my Cosplay friends wearing our quarantine-planned costumes! There may be no conventions yet, but hopefully we could go on photo shoots which could be safer.
Charity: I’m so looking forward to seeing my cosgroup (cosplay group) again after quarantine. We had a lot of cosplans (costume plans) laid out for the whole year, but then 2020 did its thing.
Loren Agraviador as Lesley from Mobile Legends.