Rundown of 8th Myanmar Cosplay and Otaku Festival
3-meter long plastic swords? Check. Blindingly bright blue wigs? Check. Heath Ledger’s Joker posing for photos with grinning children? Check. We felt a little under-dressed and out of place in a plain white shirt and longyi, but dived into the experience anyway. This could only be Myanmar’s 8th Cosplay Convention, which returned to the MICT centre this past weekend.
Cosplay, or Costume-play, is the act of dressing up as a favourite Japanese anime character and emulating their behaviour and mannerisms. It is a full immersion into a fictional character’s backstory where everyday people become the hero (or villain) from games and comics who they identify with the most. Everyone needs to escape reality from time to time, so it’s no surprise that cosplay has strong cross-cultural appeal.
Cosplay is primarily for anime lovers , but as its popularity has spread, so has its inclusivity. Modern cosplayers can dress as anyone – or anything – they like. While Anime characters remained the most popular cosplay at the MICT centre, Batman’s the Joker, Deadpool, Star Wars characters, the Little Mermaid and more were all present. Costumes are of course the most important thing in Cosplaying, and it was inspiring to see the amount of time and effort that each person put into looking their most genuine for the event.
Cosplay events are held regularly all over the world, although the largest events tend to be in Japan or America where big weekends can draw in crowds of tens of thousands. The Myanmar convention was small by those standards with perhaps 2 thousand attendees over the weekend, but this is still a big crowd for a fledgling Myanmar scene. It’s also a respectable increase upon the 500 attendees in 2012, and reflects the increasing appetite among Myanmar’s young people for foreign trends and media, and new and unusual ways to socialise and connect to countries beyond their own.
The weekend’s events were lively, light-hearted and supportive, with singing and performance competitions on Saturday, and competitions for best costume on Sunday. The crowd was laughing and smiling throughout while taking innumerable selfies; everyone seemed at home, relaxed and comfortable in their outfits (if a little hot, especially one woman in a faux fur coat).).
Each competitor in the main cosplay competition on Sunday performed a short skit or pose based on their character, and were then judged based on the quality of their costume and their performance, before each winner was announced to thunderous cheers from the packed central hall.
We caught up with Linn Aung – the organiser of the event – towards the end of Sunday, and asked him why he loves cosplaying, and what makes it so popular. His response:“That cosplaying lets you be your true self – to escape and become the person you always wanted to be”. Having seen the grinning, confident faces of the Myanmar cosplayers this weekend, we absolutely agree.