Students find cosplay as new outlet of expression

Evan Ponstingle | Staff Writer

 Cosplayers have found a new way to step out of the world of high school and into the world of anime, video games, and comic books.

Cosplay (an abbreviation of costume play) is a relatively new subculture blossoming from the increase of comic conventions (popularly referred to as comic-cons) and other fan-culture events. Cosplay involves dressing up in elaborate uniforms, wigs, and makeup to reflect characters from video games, movies, and comic books. The cosplay phenomenon has spread from coast-to-coast, around the world, and even to the halls of Mason High School (MHS). 

Freshman Ashlyn Holt is one of MHS’s students involved in the cosplay community. Holt has cosplayed numerous characters from shows such as the anime Soul Eater and from video games like Five Nights at Freddy’s. Holt has cosplayed at least twelve characters over the span of the last few months. She got her start in the cosplay community through social media with just one makeup video that snowballed into cosplay.

Freshman Ashlyn Holt showing off one of her cosplays.

“I first heard about [cosplay] when I saw a creator doing awesome makeup on the app,” Holt said. “I was surprised at the likes and comments the video received and started buying makeup of my own to experiment. I ended up buying wigs and cosplaying; it’s been quite an adventure and very fun.”

Freshman Chairs Lewis cosplays characters from the video games Danganronpa and Omori. They post the cosplays on social media and even cosplay with friends in public parks and malls. Lewis spends countless hours meticulously planning every aspect of their cosplay uniform. They budget their money accordingly and do a combination of purchasing from online sources and handcrafting for their outfit. Lewis works alongside their mother’s sewing abilities for homemade creations.

Chairs Lewis showing off one of their cosplays

“My mom and I sew together and right now we’re working on one of my cosplays,” Lewis said. “I’m going to cosplay a character from a video game called Your Turn To Die. I’m cosplaying as one guy who has a plushie that I’m going to try to make just by myself..”

Lewis sees cosplaying as characters from video games Danganronpa and Omori as a meaningful way to escape the drudgery of everyday life.

“It’s almost a coping mechanism for me,” Lewis said. “It’s like being able to stop what you’re doing for an entire day and just pretend to be someone else and live their life. It’s really weird, but it’s definitely one of my favorite things to do. Sometimes when I go home, I’m not feeling okay, and I’ll just be like, ‘Okay, I’m going to pretend to be someone else.’”

Holt sees the cosplay as a form of self-expression. “It brings out creativity and confidence,” Holt said. “When I’m wearing my cosplay, I feel more confident. I’m proud of what I’ve created and the effort it took.”

Junior Rebeca Gomez de Leon has been cosplaying for several years since she first started following cosplayers on social media. Gomez de Leon sees the entire outfit, from clothing to makeup, as a way to express a close relationship with the character.

“Personally, I enjoy the makeup aspect more than the costume,” Gomez de Leon said. “Don’t get me wrong, the costume is fun, but I think the creative liberties I take with makeup are more indicative of my personality. As much as I enjoy my clothes and dressing up, I find it harder to express myself when a character doesn’t have the same or similar fashion as I do.”

Freshman Chairs Lewis sees their cosplay as a chance to embrace the concept of escapism and be someone else.

“Pretending to be a different person is almost like a break from reality,” Lewis said. “It’s like pretending to be a different person to escape life. It’s about just taking a break, pausing life, and just doing what you want for however long you do it. 

Gomez de Leon feels that cosplay allows participants to gain a deeper insight into their characters. “Cosplay gives me a deeper appreciation for the character because I tend to notice little things about their design or personality that I can incorporate into the cosplay,” de Leon said. “Plus, I can explore other ways in which I can relate to the character [for the cosplay].”

Lewis has found a welcoming community in cosplay. The deep appreciation for characters allows for connection points between individuals. 

“Knowing who the characters are, being able to connect with others on various platforms is such an experience. talk for hours and hours on your favorite characters and plot points.”

Lewis said cosplay has gotten a bad rep in some media representation. Lewis believes that students should see past that mindset and view cosplay as a unique way to exit the world for a little while.

“Cosplay shouldn’t be seen as weird,” Lewis said. “I want people to learn that cosplay is a coping mechanism…Coping mechanisms should be seen as normal and should be like, it should be seen as that escape. And the amount of times that I’ve been quote unquote, bullied for being in cosplay or being in public and cosplay, it’s not fun. I want more inclusitivtivity with everyone to be like, hey, this is a thing, it’s going to be a thing, it’s probably going to be a thing for a long time.”

According to Holt, people should cosplay with pride.

“I think it’s something that people shouldn’t be ashamed of doing, or scared to show off,” Holt said. “It’s something you should be confident in! Show off your talent with a smile and who cares what others think. You only live once, so why live it worrying about others’ opinions.”

de Leon feels that people should embrace their favorite characters, and participate in an activity that she feels should be more widespread.

“I encourage everyone to try it at some point,” de Leon said. “Put on a wig, throw on some eyeliner, find clothes you wouldn’t normally wear…It’s good fun.”