Cosplay, Japanese Popular Culture in Indonesia

The word cosplay, or kosupure in Japanese, is gotten from ‘outfit’ (コス) and ‘play’ (プレ). Cosplay implies wearing the ensemble or going about as the characters of manga, anime or computer game (Cosplay). In this paper I am contending that cosplay as a pop culture works and circles in view of postmodernism. I limit my perception to cosplay marvels in Indonesia, which was colonized by Japan.

Cosplay people group mushroomed in real urban communities in Indonesia. There are around 30 groups in Jakarta and ten in Bandung (Antar Venus). Cosplay was started by Japanese division of University of Indonesia. There is Nippon Club in Bina Nusantara University, which hold Japanese Evolution, a yearly Japanese celebration. Right now cosplay is held month to month in real urban areas in Indonesia. It is supported by computer game magazines, for example, Animonster. Cosplay has turned into a social movement. Sites with extensive variety of talk point, for example, Cosplay.com which centers around cosplay when all is said in done, and Animecafe.com which shows rate-capable pictures of cosplayers all through the world.

Cosplay is a play between fantasy and reality, building ‘carnivalesque’ space where individuals can be someone or something other than themselves (Bakhtin in Lunning). This aspect is postmodern in nature as postmodernism is the attempts to destabilize concepts such as presence, identity, reality and meaning. The term “postmodern” was first used in Jean-François Lyotard’s book La Condition Postmoderne published 1979. The book is a kind of an experiment in the combination of language games as well as an objective “report”. The rapid growth of technology in the second half of the twentieth century caused the shift of the emphasis of knowledge from the goals of human action to its means. In the topic of art, Lyotard believes that the postmodern sublime happens when the viewer is affected by abundant unrepresentables which have no reference to reason for the origin (Postmodernism).

In Japan, cosplay is related to Harajuku fashion, which originated in Harajuku district in Tokyo. Like punk style in England in 1980s, Harajuku is a subculture that puts forth its identity by the outfit. Punk style is identical with ‘improper’ dress like torn-t-shirts, safety pins and self-made accessories like chain necklace. Meanwhile, Harajuku style is based on mix concept, without matching the dress. In other words, the more unsuitable, the better.

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As regards outer appearance, there is an interesting fact about Indonesian or Asian people and human representation in manga. In spite of manga plurality in themes or content, we can still see the unique characteristics of Japanese manga characters. These include simple lines and form; big face and eyes; unrealistic hair style and color, slim figure; and the use of common trends, exaggeration, emoticons also cultural elements (Yuliani 9). The characters may have green, blue, yellow or purple hair. Japanese people generally have slanted eyes, but this is not depicted in the manga. It is more or less the same case with Indonesia. There are dark-skinned people, big-eyed, those who are not Chinese descent. Cosplayers who are not aware of these physical appearances are of the characteristic of the postmodern condition, which Jameson describes as the death of subjectivity and the emergence of social schizophrenia. The simple forms and lines are an abstraction of the real forms by focusing on certain details. This is based on the psychological research that people identify themselves by simple or iconic forms.

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