Every month at Animate's main store in Ikebukuro, Tokyo, there is an event called "Animate Performance Carnival," which features stage performances by cosplayers who sing, dance or play a musical instrument.
The event is very popular, and the venue is always packed.
These kinds of get-togethers are actually a fairly new phenomenon among Japanese cosplayers. Yet they are a popular way to enjoy the art in other countries.
Indeed, the culture of cosplay-pretending to be a character from an anime or manga by adopting the character's hairstyle and costume-has been spreading not only in Japan but overseas, where it has been catching on among more and more people.
Cosplay events are becoming the norm during anime-related festivals in other countries.
In Japan, a major annual event called the World Cosplay Summit is held in Nagoya, during which the World Cosplay Championship is awarded.
At the event, cosplayers representing countries from across the world compete with each other. They are judged not only for the level of perfection of their costumes, but also for the execution of their performances as well as their respect for the work.
The competition is aired on TV and online and has been reported in a variety of media, which is believed to have helped cosplay gain greater recognition in recent years.
Though cosplay is widespread as it is, I think there are still people out there wondering how to enjoy cosplay.
The most common way is to take part in a cosplay event. But there are many other ways as well, and beyond cosplay itself.
For example, you can upload selfies in cosplay on social media sites. In fact, there are specialised websites for such purposes.
You can also coordinate costumes of your favourite anime characters with your friends and deepen your friendship that way.
Photo studios like HACOSTA are popular, too, because cosplayers can choose a set that may have appeared in anime or manga and have high-quality photos of themselves taken there.
In Japan, cosplayers are usually happy just donning costumes, having photos taken and making friends with other cosplayers.
Their overseas counterparts go one step further. As in Japan, foreign cosplayers pretend to be a character. But they put more weight on acting out the characters in costumes, whereas for Japanese cosplayers, having photos taken in the costumes is the important part.
Sure, taking pictures is a form of expression. In other countries, however, cosplayers often perform the characters by reciting their lines, singing their theme songs and acting out their parts, for example, at a type of cosplay competition known as a masquerade.
Such events have been gradually increasing in Japan as well, as seen in the monthly event at Animate, where participants have a chance to perform as their favourite characters.
Thus the culture of cosplay has been transmitted overseas, and overseas ways of doing cosplay with a performance element have come to Japan. Such mutual influence has helped spread cosplay culture even more.
By the way, I work at ACOS, a specialist shop for cosplayers run by Animate.
Those of you who are interested in starting cosplaying or just trying on a costume should come to the shop. In fact, we sometimes have customers from overseas. Many of them make inquiries about materials from manga on Shonen Jump magazine.
Traditional Japanese-style costumes are also highly popular with them. We stock many costumes, wigs and other items that make you feel like you've been transformed into an anime character by just putting them on. They are officially licensed and reasonably priced.
Anyone can enjoy cosplaying in their own way so long as they cause no trouble and keep to the rules. Maybe it's your turn to find about the allure of cosplay.