It’s a cosplayer’s world, and we’re all just living in it. That’s how it feels when I attend conventions. Based on the increasing number of people in costumes I see at conventions, the cosplay hobby seems to be growing. Cosplayers pour money and countless hours into crafting wearable pieces of art, and Brian Ashcraft and Luke Plunkett explore the global cosplay phenomenon in their new book. Cosplay World offers an in-depth look that goes beyond glossy photos (though there are plenty of those, too). I got in touch with the authors and asked them about what inspired them to explore the topic of cosplay.
Adafruit: Tell me what makes Cosplay World different than other books on the market that showcase cosplay.
Brian Ashcraft: We’ve really tried to canvas the entire scene. We’ve talked to cosplayers, photographers, and prop builders as well as historians, former cosplayers, and people who have helped defined the scene. While doing this, we’ve really approached cosplay as an art form, which it certainly is.
Luke Plunkett: I think the interviews we’ve done, and how they cover little-known areas like the origins of the craft and the word itself, are things you won’t find in other books about cosplay. It’s more than just a coffee table book, there’s a lot to read and learn in Cosplay World as well, not just about the art form but the people who are into it. I also think the fact we’ve focused on not just cosplayers is important too; while they’re deservedly the main attraction, photographers and props builders can be just as vital to the finished product, so we made sure to include them in the book as well.
Adafruit: What about cosplay interests you as writers?
Ashcraft: As a writer, I’ve always been interested in fandom. Cosplay is one of the ultimate expressions of that. With cosplay you can see just how much someone loves a character by the amount of work and detail they put into the costume. And unlike, say, drawing, cosplayers can bring that character to life in a three dimensional space.
Plunkett: As a writer, it’s the fact that cosplay is an emerging art form. It’s still so fresh and raw that it’s exciting to watch it grow, as its community develops and shifts as it explodes in popularity.
Adafruit: What new things did you learn about cosplay while researching and putting together this book?
Ashcraft: Both Luke and I were surprised to see how far back cosplay goes. It’s certainly not a recent thing.
Plunkett: Definitely the history of the craft. There’s an assumption that cosplay originated relatively recently in Japan, but as the book shows, cosplay is actually much, much older, dating back over 100 years (and going through some fairly important transformations along the way).
Adafruit: Based on cosplayers you’ve interviewed, what are the most common reasons why people cosplay?
Ashcraft: It really depended on the person. People cosplay for numerous different reasons. Some liked making costumes and dressing up, while others wanted to show their gratitude to a particular and thought the best way to do that was with a cosplay. It really depends, and that’s one of the things that makes cosplay so wonderful.
Plunkett: I don’t think it’s fair to single out one reason. Everyone is into it for their own reasons; for some it’s about tribute, others the craft, others the performance aspect.
Adafruit: How long have you been collecting photos and stories for this book? Do you have any idea about how many conventions and events you attended?
Ashcraft: We’ve been working on this for a long time. Even before we started officially working on this project, I feel like, since Luke and I have been covering cosplay for years, we were laying the ground work for this book. Over the years, I’ve attended many events and have always been impressed with the cosplay–and just how brave cosplayers are to put themselves out there like that. That cannot be stressed enough, I think.
Plunkett: We started work on the book early in 2013. Since we’re based in Australia and Japan respectively, it’s been tough getting to many conventions, but we’ve been lucky enough to get help from some of the world’s best cosplay photographers in putting the book together.
Adafruit: What were the most creative costumes you spotted while working on your book?
Ashcraft: Oh, there are simply too many! I loved all the costumes we featured in the book, and now you’re essentially asking to me pick my favorite child. That’s too difficult!
Plunkett: Hrm. I think the most creative are probably Peter Kokis’ (aka Brooklyn Robot) outfits. Most cosplayers dedicate themselves to replicating a character’s costume as authentically as they can, but Peter – who cobbles together huge robot suits out of everyday items – adds a lot of flair and individual touch to his pieces.
You can order your copy of Cosplay World in the Adafruit shop.