This year’s International Cosplay Day Singapore (ICDS) doesn’t just intend to bridge the gap between Eastern and Western cosplay. It also plans on introducing newer cosplayers to the scene in general. Why is such hand holding necessary for something that should have come naturally?
“There’s actually a lot of negativity in Singapore (cosplay) conventions. People are just afraid to turn up in costumes because they feel that their costumes are not perfect.” Jason ‘Crimson’ Koh, one of the founders of ICDS, told us. “They don’t want to be flamed in forums… Singaporeans are usually more critical as well.”
He went on to relate an incident where a then-newbie member of his cosplay group had encountered a prominent local cosplayer while getting made up by his mother – a professional makeup artist. The prominent cosplayer, Jason said, had given the boy a scornful look, and that demoralised him so badly he stopped cosplay for about half a year.
Like many communities, cosplay in Singapore is driven by personal sentiment and desires. Many of the top local cosplayers are not keen to share their methods of cosplay or their photoshoot locations for fear of losing out. Keeping secrets keeps one on top, since it’s difficult for newcomers to upstage them. The backing of a corporate entity is also important.
“Organisers can’t stop you (from turning up in cosplay themed differently from their event) because Singapore’s a free country, but they can always say that hey, this is my event, this is my branding, and I’m doing this… so we don’t welcome you on stage,” Jason explained.
Most cosplay events in Singapore are Eastern themed. The difference in Eastern and Western cosplay is as simple as where the character you’re cosplaying was published. For instance, a Wolverine cosplay would be Western, while a Gundam cosplay would be Eastern. Many organisers prefer having cosplay of the same theme showcased at their events.
“So people who have great costumes don’t get to showcase them on stage at these conventions,” Jason said, reiterating the example he had related above. When asked why he felt Singapore was more oriented towards Eastern cosplay, he mentioned that cosplay in Singapore “has been shaped in the past ten years by a select number of people.” The first prominent cosplayer in Singapore held the Japanese culture especially close to his heart. Our close proximity to Japan, Jason said, did not help either.
Like the rest of Asia, Singapore also goes by its own standards of cosplay.
“Cosplay in Asia is all about the pretty face. It’s not about recognising talent,” said Jason. “True cosplay is really about the costume, the creating of the outfit, the performance art, the characterisation, the roleplaying aspect. It’s about the complete package.”
A lot of times, he went on to relate, people forget that the complete package is something that should carry more weightage in competitions. Unfortunately, the ‘complete package’ of an individual’s cosplay is often overlooked in competitions. Though the cosplayers might parade on stage and pose at select spots for eager photographers, that is where the judges’ perceptions end.
And that is why ICDS 2012 has two stage programmes for cosplayers: one that judges you based on your overall costume and how you carry it off (an actual competition), and another that merely has you strutting your stuff (a catwalk, with no prizes). Any and everyone is free to join, regardless of how many sponsors they have backing them, or how much they have paid for their costume
“We believe that competitiveness actually levels up cosplay,” said Jason, adding that “it forces people who are in power right now to relook their approaches and change stuff.”
New cosplayers might change the status quo, Jason admitted, but that’s the only way for the community to evolve.
Join in the unselfconscious, no-holds-barred fun at International Cosplay Day Singapore this Sunday, August 25 2012, at Ngee Ann Polytechnic!
Ticketing information can be found here.
This article is the second in a two part series featuring ICDS 2012. Read about the first one – which explains what ICDS is about – here.