YVONNE EPPS WRITES- Summer is the season of sun, fun, and numerous nerd conventions throughout Southern California. These are notorious for attendees that cosplay, and I’m no exception. But as I prepare for Anime Expo 2015, the largest anime convention in North America, I can’t help but lament certain aspects.
Cosplay is the act of constructing and wearing a costume based on a character from a poplar media source like an anime, a video game or movie. It has roots in both Japan and the West, where con-goers in Japan admired and emulated the costumed attendees of Star Trek conventions in the States. Since then, the practice has evolved into an international hobby that includes novices and professionals and has become a staple of fan conventions.
As a multicultural phenomenon between its origins and practice, it comes as no surprise that there are issues that emerge between cultures. In my case, there is a serious representation problem. Being a young, dark-skinned woman who is primarily settled in the anime and Japanese video game fandoms, it can be difficult when characters that represent my skin color are stereotyped as primal savages or big-breasted femme fatales.
I have been told that I can cosplay characters outside of my skin spectrum and I have before, but the issue lies in the source material. I can’t help that the anime and video games I consume lack variation in representation due to the audiences they cater to. With a homogeneous population, Japan lacks the spectrum of colors of cinnamon, mocha, and chocolate that SoCal has to offer. Even when I turn to media sources in the West, the pool is limited, but slowly on the rise.
The three cosplays I must prepare in the next month represent characters I’ve chosen as extensions of my own identity. All of them are dark-skinned and while I could have chosen a character that wasn’t, that’s not the point. By cosplaying these characters, I communicate to others that there is nothing wrong with the color of my skin and we should see more of these characters in the media sources that we love.
There are less than six weeks until Anime Expo 2015 and a lot of work left to be done toward completing my costumes, but my love for the characters I’ve chosen and the fandom I’m in motivates me toward completion. You can follow my progress towards Anime Expo 2015 at Mellihoney Cosplay.