Cosplay (コスプレ kosupure), short for “costume play”, is a type of performance art in which participants wear costumes and accessories to represent a specific character or idea. Cosplayers often interact to create a subculture centered on role play. A broader use of the term “cosplay” applies to any costumed role play in venues apart from the stage, regardless of the cultural context.
Favorite sources include manga and anime, comic books, video games and films. Any entity from the real or virtual world that lends itself to dramatic interpretation may be taken up as a subject. Inanimate objects are given anthropomorphic forms and it is not unusual to see genders switched, with women playing male roles and vice versa. There is also a subset of cosplay culture centered around sex appeal, with cosplayers specifically choosing characters that are known for their attractiveness and/or revealing (even explicit) costumes.
The Internet has enabled many cosplayers to create social networks and websites centred around cosplay activities, while forums allow them to share stories, photographs, news and tips. The exponential growth in the number of people picking up cosplay as a hobby since 1990 has made the phenomenon influential in popular culture. This is particularly the case in Asia where cosplay influences Japanese street fashion and popular culture.