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Chinese cosplay fans hold splendid summer summit

Colorful wigs, peculiar costumes and contact lens that make the eyes look freakishly big - over 10,000 cosplayers in full gear crowded the Badminton Hall of Beijing’s Olympic Sports Center stadium in baking heat on August 17 for their Comic Con-esque cosplay convention.  

The convention is called Natsu Matsuri, named after the Japanese Summer Festival. Unlike Comic Con which has become a major element in the pop culture in the US, cosplay has not yet entered the mainstream Chinese culture, although it has become a favorite pastime of many young Chinese.  

First Natsu Matsuri attracted tens of thousands of fans to the Beijing Olympic Sports Center. Photo: sino-us.com

Perhaps the enthusiasm is best represented by the two main organizers of the event who are fellow cosplayers themselves: a second-year high school student and a college sophomore. It was their first attempt to organize such an event.

Along with a number of volunteers, they managed to pull off a full-scale cosplay convention with vendors, performers, and most important of all, thousands of attendees, including young children accompanied by their parents. Some foreigners joined too, according to one of the organizers. “We did not publicize it on websites popular among the foreigners,” she explained, “We are very happy that these foreign friends joined us.”                                                                                                                          

“We certainly want to continue,” said one of the organizers in an online chat with sino-us.com, revealing that their convention is unique because it is organized by individuals. “Some other conventions in Beijing have had a history of over 10 years. But they are organized by companies,” she said. “There is a lot to learn and a lot to improve.”

Most of the cosplayers are young people, especially the so-called post-90s generation. A 24-year-old girl said she felt “old” amongst her younger fellow cosers, many of whom are high school students. It seems that almost every middle school and university in China has an anime or manga club which many cosplayers are members of.

The 24-year-old in black costume said it was her cousin (right) who brought her into the world of cosplay. "I make some of my clothes and props myself when they are hard to get." said the girl in pink. Photo: sino-us.com

A portmanteau of the English words costume and play, the term cosplay has been adopted by the Chinese for lack of a catchy Chinese translation. The cosplayers have their own QQ group (QQ is an instant messaging service popular in mainland China), their own Baidu Tieba (Baidu postbar, a Chinese communication platform provided by the search engine Baidu), and also a strong presence on Weibo, China’s biggest microblogging platform.

A young teenage couple told sino-us.com that they fell in love with each other because of this shared hobby of theirs. Photo: sino-us.com

Most of the Chinese cosplayers seem to favor characters from manga, anime and video games compared with real people. Someone cosplayed US president Obama on last month’s San Diego Comic Con, but would that happen with Xi Jinping in China? “Everyone can be cosplayed,” a young ‘soldier’ told sino-us.com, “It depends on what takes your fancy. So who knows? Maybe someone will, or maybe somebody already has.”

“Characters from TV and films are popular sources too. And I’ve seem someone dressed as White Snake before,” a ‘Japanese school girl’ added.

White Snake, or 白蛇, is a famous character from a Chinese folk story. There were also people who dressed like characters from Chinese opera, which is a unique characteristic of the Chinese cosplay.

This teenage girl, like most cosplayers, was happy to share her story while she waited for her friend in the subway station before the start of the convention. "I've been dong this for over a year now. And my parents are very supportive," she said,"so long as I finish all my homework first." Photo:sino-us.com

Outside of the cosplay circle, the Chinese public does not seem to be used to the idea of dressing up as fictional characters. In a nearby subway station where many cosplayers came through, many Chinese eyed these young people with heavy make-up and strange costumes with a confused look on their face. @薛蛮子, an Angel Investor and Weibo big shot once asked on Weibo, “Are there people who do cosplay in China?” This is perhaps the best summation of where the majority of the Chinese stand on this issue.

The cosplayers don’t seem to mind at all. They are perfectly happy in their costumes and love to pose to whoever wants to snap a picture. “It gives me a sense of fulfillment,” an attendee told sino-us.com, “I enjoy being my hero, even though I am only impersonating him for a day.”

“Oh I love having people taking my picture,” a girl laughed, “I feel like a star! And it gives me great satisfaction when people share my pictures on baidu postbar! I’ve made a lot of friends dong it too.”

Most of the people busy snatching pictures are young. But there are exceptions, like always. Photo: sino-us.com

More photos from the cosplay convention coming up.


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