Praxis

Cosplaying the media mix: Examining Japan's media environment, its static forms, and its influence on cosplay

Matthew Ogonoski

Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

[0.1] Abstract—Cosplay—costume role-play—has dramatically increased in popularity over the past 20 years in conjunction with the cultural institution of anime, comic book, manga, science fiction, and other related fandom conventions. Cosplay was prominently established in Japan before gaining attention in North America. In this article I analyze the significance of those Japanese origins in relation to the experience of a unique media environment. The aesthetics and practices of cosplay in Japan are fundamentally informed by a specific ontological characteristic of Japanese anime, manga, and ancillary forms: the static image. Of essential importance to these consumption practices—both materially and conceptually—is the phenomenon of the anime database: an archive of static images that is continually accessed for the purposes of understanding, consuming, and creating new media. Through a detailed discussion of Hiroki Azuma's conception of the moe database, Thomas Lamarre's discussion of the cel bank as a material requisite of the database, and Marc Steinberg's assessment of the media mix, I extend the phenomenological affects of this media environment and its static images to the act of cosplay posing—an act that aspires to create a mimetic and collective connection between cosplayers and particular media images. This exploratory platform will permit me to develop specific conceptions of Japan's complex media environment and its transformations of material forms into ephemeral consumption practices.

[0.2] Keywords—Anime; Cel bank; Convention; Database; Fandom; Moe; Posing; Role-play; Stasis

Ogonoski, Matthew. 2014. "Cosplaying the Media Mix: Examining Japan's Media Environment, Its Static Forms, and Its Influence on Cosplay." In "Material Fan Culture," edited by Bob Rehak, special issue, Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 16. http://dx.doi.org/10.3983/twc.2014.0526.

1. Introduction

[1.1] Over the past two decades cosplay has grown into a veritable institution of fan culture practice. The term cosplay is a portmanteau of costume and role-play (Newman 2008, 83; Gunnels 2009, ¶1.1), and today thousands of Web sites are devoted to cosplay culture, including community sites for the consumption and distribution of the practice, and commercial sites that sell cosplay materials. The most widely recognized form of cosplay is that which adopts the aesthetic qualities of popular media properties, including anime, manga, comics, television, film, and video games. This form, in which participants adopt the roles of their favorite media characters, is the focus of this study.

[1.2] There are two principal settings for cosplay, conventions and cosplay community Web sites such as the North American site Cosplay.com (http://www.cosplay.com) and the Japanese site Cosplayers' Cure (http://curecos.com/): the Web sites are international, but were established and are maintained in their respective regions. These community Web sites typically include areas for sharing photos and video, forums for discussing cosplay strategies such as those of costuming and photography, calendars of upcoming events, and cosplayer profiles, and are generally used for the circulation of all things cosplay. Cosplay takes place at a wide number of conventions related to popular media properties as well as at cosplay-specific conventions. Though many cosplayers wander the conventions in various degrees of dress, the crux of much convention-situated cosplay is stage performances, also referred to as masquerades. Participants enter contests in order to display their skills and win approval from fellow players and convention attendees. In her article "Costuming the Imagination," Theresa Winge discusses the difference between cosplay stage performance in Japan and North America. In Japan, cosplayers enter the stage and strike a number of poses for the benefit of photographers. In North America, however, cosplayers perform short skits or sketches, followed by a brief period of posing before they exit the stage (Winge 2006, 73). Patrick Galbraith makes the same observations (2009, 53).

[1.3] Galbraith's and Winge's research focuses on Japanese cosplay practices from around the turn of the century. Over time, this difference (stasis on one side, performance on the other) has become less dramatic, as a result of exchanges between transnational cosplay communities. However, of fundamental importance to my analysis is the concept of stasis as a traditional characteristic of the Japanese media environment, and an investigation of how this characteristic might influence cosplay practices. I analyze Japan's culture industry by reviewing scholarship concerning the phenomenological experience of the media environment. I will first contextualize cosplay within larger fandom structures and provide an overview of the forums in which it is produced, consumed, and distributed. I examine the specificity of media environments proposed by Hiroki Azuma, Thomas Lamarre, and Marc Steinberg in order to relate cosplay to wider practices of Japanese media consumption. I use Winge's and Galbraith's assertions to speculate on why and how stillness functions in cosplay practice. Database consumption influences cosplayers to pose according to the characteristic stasis of images that run throughout Japan's media mix. (The term media mix refers to the many iterations of a media property across a variety of commodity types, including adaptations into different formats, and ancillary products.) I offer a reading of the Japanese media environment in order to understand one narrative of cosplay within its expanding, globalized cultural exchange.

[1.4] Japan's media history is unique in that the mainstream consumption of anime and manga far outweighs North America's consumption of cartoons and comic books (Napier 2001; Kinsella 2000). Hiroki Azuma's discussion of otaku culture, in his Otaku: Japan's Database Animals (2009), helps to distinguish the qualities of the Japanese media environment. Though cosplayers are not always what Azuma would consider otaku, cosplaying is indeed one of the many activities that otaku practice. Azuma sees otaku as consumer groups that indulge in "forms of subculture strongly linked to anime, video games, computers, science fiction, special-effects films, anime figurines, and so on" (2009, 3). At best, otaku is a term that refers to a broad diversity of consumers. The practices of both otaku and cosplayers are what Koichi Iwabuchi would refer to as the fan practices of prosumers (producer-consumers) and approreaders (appropriator-readers), "who [do] not just passively consume media texts but actively and creatively participate…in their cultural signification processes" (Iwabuchi 2010, 87). Because the fanbase is diverse, Iwabuchi uses these terms to avoid a fixed taxonomy of fan characteristics. Neither these prosumers nor their practices can be comprehensively totalized. Like Lamarre, who refers to otaku as "a set of practices related to the reception of anime, games, manga, and related media" (2009, 108–9), I wish to approach cosplay as a set of practices situated within media consumption, and not a demarcation of a contained and totalized consumer. This approach avoids essentializing formations of cosplayers. However, a particular practice within these cultures can be assessed in order to shed light on its significance: the static pose of the cosplayer. Consumption practices like those of otaku exist in North America, such as the transmedia practices of fan cultures that are discussed by Henry Jenkins and his peers. But the propagation of the term otaku in Japan indicates that otaku practices have more comprehensive historical significance and cultural cachet than do fan practices in North America. However, instead of focusing on the historical significance of the term (see Azuma 2009), I wish to draw attention to the ways in which otaku culture—and cosplay by association—is often practiced in Japan, and how the practice of posing may align with an understanding of media consumption.

[1.5] Despite some accounts that privilege the Japanese origins of cosplay (Winge 2006), there is general agreement amongst commentators that cosplay emerged from similar practices in North American fan cultures in the 1960s. Properties utilized for this progenitor of cosplay were the Star Trek and Batman television shows (Winge 2006; Galbraith 2009, 51). Star Trek fans at this time were the most consistently invested in the practice. Role-play also factored into this activity, as Michael Jindra notes (1999). In one way or another, this costume play found its way to Japan. The use of the terms cosplay and cosplayer are reported to have begun with Takahashi Nobuyuki, a Japanese journalist who attended Worldcon in southern California in 1984. Takahashi himself acknowledges his use of the terms as early as 1983 in My Anime magazine (Galbraith 2009, 51). And, as Winge points out, Takahashi encouraged otaku to take up this form of masquerade (2006). Regardless of its origins, cosplay practices within Japan are markedly extensive and widespread, as is reflected in contemporary cosplay culture. According to Galbraith, cosplay represents a $350-million annual market in Japan. As of 2007, the most popular cosplay Web site in Japan, Cosplayers' Cure, had 200,000 members and 270,000 registered users, and was gaining 200 members a day. "In 2007, Net research firm iSHARE released survey results showing 46.8 percent of women between the ages of twenty and forty said they want to try cosplay, and 18.9 percent said they had already done it" (Galbraith 2009, 52).

[1.6] It has been argued elsewhere that cosplay is not simply a form of escapism, but provides a space in which participants can express their love of a particular media property while also displaying their own agency: they are not wholly subsumed by characters, but form new identities through the utilization of those characters (Lamerichs 2011). Regardless of the amount of agency involved, however, role-play remains an inherent part of the practice because the very act of reproducing a particular media character implies adopting a particular role. For Winge, the role-playing aspect of cosplay is facilitated by the player's ability to dress and act like the chosen character, regardless of whether this role-playing is accurate, parodic, or frivolous (2006). I would extend this point to also include subversions: why choose any particular character unless that character's identity, or role, holds some significance for the cosplayer? Winge emphasizes the costume as the most important element of cosplay, the element utilized in order to "nonverbally communicate his or her chosen character and character traits" (2006, 72). But how can role-playing be identified purely visually? This is where accuracy of character can be differentiated from the enactment of a skit. Winge states,

[1.7] A distinguishing characteristic between Japanese and North American cosplay is the way in which cosplayers perform in competition. In North America, during masquerades cosplayers wear their dress onstage and perform skits, often humorous but not necessarily an exact mime of their chosen character. In Japan, cosplayers also wear their dress on stage during competitions; however, they usually give only a static display, such as striking their character's signature pose or reciting the motto of their chosen character. (2006, 73)

[1.8] Galbraith refers to these skits as "cos-plays" and emphasizes that they are far less common in Japan than in North America (2009, 53). I do not consider these two practices of cosplay definitively distinct, but read them instead as workings within different geographical and cultural media spheres. Furthermore, they should be considered in their historical contexts. As mentioned above, many cosplay practices now interpenetrate cosplay communities around the world. Galbraith's and Winge's studies document particular practices witnessed at past cosplay events in Japan, practices easily distinguished from North American cosplay practices of the time. The differences in masquerade practices suggest the experiences of different media environments. As I will argue in this paper, Japanese cosplayers may have traditionally emphasized the static pose because of the particular characteristics of Japan's media environment. But how can the action of role-play be reconciled with the stasis of posing? Before answering this question, however, I will first examine in greater depth the method of cosplay that is the focus of this paper.

[1.9] The most obvious explanation for the importance of cosplay posing is the fact that photography requires stasis. However, the documentary aspect of photography does not account for cosplay methodology. For example, an alternate history of cosplay photography might have seen cosplayers stand directly facing the camera, or in profile, in order for as much costuming detail as possible to be captured. Yet, cosplay-posing guides explain that such poses are undesirable because cosplay—and posing, by extension—is not simply a process of documenting a cosplayer's costuming skills, but a process of illustrating the cosplayer's understanding of that character. Doubtless there are many ways in which cosplayers pose for photographs. But there is also an undeniable importance placed on particular methods of photography—and being photographed—that circulate through certain groups within cosplay culture. I examine the etiquette of this form of cosplay posing, which aims to mimetically connect with the media characters on which the costumes are based.

[1.10] Two cosplay-posing guides, linked through Cosplay.com and uploaded on deviantART (http://www.deviantart.com), list a number of characteristics to aspire to and avoid when posing for photos (Tux Team 2011; Cherazor 2011). Deviantart.com is a popular prosumer site that hosts media productions from a number of otaku-like practices, including cosplay. The guides agree in recommending energetic and engaged poses that should somehow convey the iconic attitude of the chosen character. Cosplayers should also avoid the utilitarian approach of facing the camera directly or standing in profile. The "Tux Team Guide to Posing and Convention Etiquette" provides a series of photos that concisely illustrate the primary concern of this study. One of the models used, China (snowpeachdrop), cosplays the character Uzumaki Naruto, an adolescent ninja popularized in both anime and manga. In these photos, accompanied by an illustration of the character, focus is placed on emotiveness.

Individual in Naruto cosplay with the word 'NO' in the upper right corner.

Figure 1. Naruto, forced pose. [View larger image.]

Individual in Naruto cosplay with the word 'OK' in the upper right corner.

Figure 2. Naruto, strong pose. [View larger image.]

Graphic image of Naruto with an upraised hand, with two other figures in the background.

Figure 3. Naruto. [View larger image.]

Individual in Naruto cosplay with a neutral expression.

Figure 4. Naruto, unenergetic pose. [View larger image.]

[1.11] In the first of these images (figure 1), China demonstrates a problematic pose, a pose that is "completely out of character for Naruto" (Tux Team 2011). In contrast with the second pose (figure 2)—the successful pose—Tux Team calls the first pose "seemingly forced," which is to be avoided. China's facial expressions in the pictures are similar, yet one of them is disparaged. There is an undeniable mimetic connection between the second photo (figure 2) and the illustration of the character (figure 3): the pose is not quite the same, but the facial expression of the character is easily recognized. As Cherazor states in her tutorial, "The first thing you should do when trying to come up with a good pose is to check what signature poses your character has. If the character has no 'signature pose,' have the character's personality in mind, or you might end up with very weird photos…Another thing to remember is energy. If you're posing half-heartedly you might as well not be posing at all!" (Cherazor 2011). A forced pose is one that is not characteristic of the character or easily recognizable as part of the character's repertoire. In the case of these images of Naruto, figure 4 features a facial expression like the one in the illustration (figure 3): both images display Naruto frowning. However, China's expression in figure 4 would be characterized as forced, half-hearted, or unenergetic. In this approach to cosplay, these sorts of adjectives not only criticize the commitment of the cosplayer, they indicate the disparity between the cosplayer's method and the understandings of characters as they are rendered by the commercial industry. In other words, figures 1 and 4 fail to illustrate an understanding of Naruto that corresponds to the broader understanding of the character as depicted in his many media iterations. Thus, this method of cosplay is not so concerned with the exact replication of particular images as with appreciating the character's nature or personality within the media mix. Yet the character's appearance remains contingent upon a form of stasis that enables the subject to appear through a variety of images while maintaining the recognizable traits of a particular iconic image. The complexities of representing a character's iconic attitude in a single image will be discussed at greater length below. But first, a brief sample of the popular media character Tifa Lockhart on the sites Cosplay.com and Cosplayers' Cure—the two largest cosplay communities online—will serve as examples of how this reproduction might be traced.

[1.12] Tifa Lockhart is part of the Final Fantasy franchise, an expansive role-playing video game (RPG) that includes at least a dozen iterations in sequel and prequel games, produced by the game developer Square Enix. The franchise has generated an enormous ancillary market, and Tifa is one of the most utilized cosplay subjects. James Newman points out that cosplay community Web sites such as Cosplay.com "clearly illustrate the ways in which videogame cosplay is seamlessly located within wider cultures of anime and Manga costuming and conventions and events typically bring together cosplayer form across the spectrum" (2008, 86). Cosplaying practices that are informed by anime in turn inform how cosplayers engage with video game characters. Furthermore, the particular rendition of this character that I will examine first appeared in Final Fantasy: Advent Children (2005), a CGI film adaptation of the property. There is a wealth of Tifa cosplay images on these community Web sites, but I have chosen a particular pose because it is easily recognizable and distinct (figure 5).

Screen capture of dark-haired individual in landing or crouching pose.

Figure 5. Tifa Lockhart in Advent Children. [View larger image.]

[1.13] The image is a still from Advent Children in which the character is engaged in battle. During the battle, there is a momentary reprieve in which Tifa strikes a three-point pose while crouched against a wall: this is the most static moment during the battle. In this moment, the character is poised for another attack. This image was adapted into other forms for the purpose of promotion and commoditization (posters, desktop backgrounds, etc).

Promotional image of dark-haired woman in front of a stained glass window reading 'Final Fantasy VII Advent Children'.

Figure 6. Tifa desktop background. [View larger image.]

Promotional image of dark-haired woman in front of a stained glass window reading 'Final Fantasy VII Advent Children' with additional text in Japanese.

Figure 7. Advent Children poster. [View larger image.]

[1.14] Many of the Tifa cosplay images on both Cosplayers' Cure and Cosplay.com (figures 8 and 9) directly mimic the promotional images (figures 6 and 7). These cosplayers strike a similar three-point action pose. In fact, one of the cosplayers used digital manipulation to embed flower petals into the scene, making an even stronger mimetic connection with the promotional still (figure 9).

Cosplayer in similar pose to that found on the promotional images.

Figure 8. Tifa cosplayer 1. [View larger image.]

Cosplayer in similar pose to that found on the promotional images.

Figure 9. Tifa cosplayer 2. [View larger image.]

[1.15] Though the energy called for by the tutorials is an ambiguous concept at best, it clearly has to do with striking cosplay poses that faithfully represent characters' iconic attitudes. The adaptation of this image for promotional material suggests that the pose is important to understandings of the character: this is Tifa in a nutshell, so to speak. Cosplayers were obviously not opposed to this commoditization of the image, as it ended up becoming the model for hundreds of cosplay poses. Of the 2160 Advent Children Tifa images on Cosplayers' Cure, 210 directly mimic this pose, and of the 3925 images on Cosplay.com, 206 do so. The pose thus comprises 10 and 5 percent of the total number of images based on Advent Children on these two Web sites. Furthermore, these numbers only represent the reproduction of one pose; other cosplay images reproduce other widely circulated images from this franchise iteration. What motivates cosplayers to reproduce the mimetic sensibility of such images? In order to examine this question, I will contextualize cosplay within the Japanese media environment.

2. Media Environments

[2.1] For Hiroki Azuma, otaku culture fits comfortably within the rise of postmodernism in Japan (2009). He categorizes three generations of otaku, the most recent of which, born around 1980, are the most directly relatable to his conception of the database. By the 1980s, postmodernity, as it related to narrative form, greatly influenced Japanese media production. Japan's fragmentary history—resulting from the traumatic events of WWII, the postwar occupation by the US, and the economic crash of the 1980s—produced an otaku who lacked the grand narratives that cultural discourses had instilled in previous generations. This fragmentation inspired new practices of media consumption. Azuma states,

[2.2] Independently and without relation to an original narrative, consumers in the 1990s consumed only…fragmentary illustrations or settings; and this different type of consumption appeared when the individual consumer empathy toward these fragments strengthened. The otaku themselves called this new consumer behavior "chara-moe"—the feeling of moe toward characters and their alluring characteristics…without relation to the narrative or message of those works. (2009, 36)

[2.3] As Lamarre explains, moe "refers broadly to the affective responses to elements that appear to sprout from manga, anime, or game characters, such as…costumes or uniforms, and poses, gestures, or situations" (2009, 258). For otaku, moe-elements overshadow the narrative significance of these media forms. As a result, both otaku and media producers utilize "a database for moe-elements that generates the characters" (Azuma 2009, 47). This database is both conceptual and material: conceptual in that it organizes consumption practices of moe, and material in that it organizes production practices, such as the cel bank used by anime producers. Azuma continues, "Since those who feel moe toward a particular character tend to buy its related goods excessively, the success of a project for the producers of such goods is directly determined not by the quality of the work itself but by its ability to evoke the moe desire through character design and illustrations" (47). A production/image/design is judged not according to originality but by its association and referentiality of the moe database.

[2.4] The consumer behavior that results from these practices is what Azuma refers to as "database consumption" (2009, 54). However, database consumption is not completely without narrative quality. Azuma refers to the bare-bones narratives associated with moe consumption as small narratives. It is the dissociative behavior of database consumers—their separation of these small narratives from grand narratives—that facilitates their reactions to "the drama in the outer surface layer of the work, despite their desire to disassemble, analyze, and reassemble works, or precisely because of this desire" (2009, 94). All of these actions combine to form what Azuma sees as the contemporary human, which he refers to as the "database animal" (2009, 95).

[2.5] With these insights, the importance of stasis within the practice of cosplay becomes more palpable. Images and traits of characters are more important than narrative significance, as in Azuma's model of database consumption. Cosplayers must not only depict a particular character's design features, such as clothing, but also reconstitute the character's attitude and personality. According to the cosplay tutorials, one depicts attitude or behavior by energetic, engaged posing. In this sense, a correlative to Azuma's small narratives is established, if not literally, then at the very least analogically. In the above images of Naruto, two photos of China depict the character with a frown on his face, but only figure 2 conveys the significance, and China's understanding, of Naruto's small narrative characteristics. Figure 2 is not an exact replication of figure 3 but it nonetheless connects with the illustration in a way that figure 4 does not. In this example, cosplay is a definitive example of database consumption: a form of consumption primarily concerned with a substantial understanding of character through surface-layer qualities.

[2.6] Lamarre develops Azuma's concepts further by assessing the anime cel bank. A cel bank is a reserve of images that are used and reused in animation; such banks are maintained both in anime and in other animation industries. A single cel may be a drawing of a character's arm or leg in one position of a larger movement, or it may be a static image of a character. Lamarre asserts that the assembly mentality of the cel bank extends to other otaku consumption practices that use tools made up of parts, such as model kits and customizable characters in video games (2009, 192). The cel bank is not so different in form from the moe database, aside from the fact that a cel bank is not primarily conceptual but is a repository of material items. However, the cel bank is yet another element of Japanese media that supports database consumption. Anime, because it has a limited animation structure, utilizes the cel bank more than any other form of animation. Thus it holds particular cultural cachet in relation to Japanese media.

[2.7] Furthermore, anime's superflat structure provides otaku with multiple entry points into the consumption of anime. The lack of depth in the anime form results in a lack of a stabilized viewing position: there is no primary focal point on which to concentrate. For Tamaki Saitõ, this enables otaku as prosumers to focus on "delocalized layers of context." Lamarre expands on this: "At this level, Saitõ's notion of multiple orientations…seems to follow from, or at least to be consonant with, the very postmodern condition that Azuma calls grand database or database structure" (2009, 267). For Lamarre, superflat structure further facilitates Azuma's database consumption, since the destabilized viewing of anime elicits the promotion of moe elements and overshadows narrative structure: this is an otaku way of viewing the world.

[2.8] Limited animation relies greatly on the appeal of individual images, which are instilled with meaning as they circulate and become available to forms of database consumption. These images become prime material from which cosplayers can assemble costumes and styles, because they are highly identifiable as objects of shared pleasure and knowledge. As the Naruto images above indicate, a shared experience is translated through particular methods of cosplay that evoke small narrative significance. Furthermore, the lack of a stabilized viewing position within limited animation forefronts the character—or moe element—separating it from its context. Again, whether literal or analogical, such a characteristic of database structure can be seen at play within the Tifa cosplay images above. The cosplayers mimic Tifa's three-point pose, yet the photographs are shot from slightly different angles and feature slightly different characteristics. Figure 8 does not replicate Tifa's dress flowing behind her, and both images utilize different backgrounds from those of either the promotional images (figures 6 and 7) or the film still (figure 5). The latter is particularly intriguing as both cosplayers (or photographers) use digital backgrounds, yet both neglected to exactly replicate the background of either source image. Regardless of these singularities, the cosplayers manage to affect engaged and energetic poses that illustrate their knowledge of the database structure and thus share their appreciation of the character.

[2.9] Marc Steinberg emphasizes the importance of the mass proliferation of database structure and how it influences the understanding of media environments in Japan. Database structure, and the practices of consumption it inspires, is not limited to the narrative media productions of these characters. In his article "Immobile Sections and Trans-series Movement" (2006), he examines the Japanese media mix. Though the concept of the media mix is akin to the affective economics of media convergence in North America—synergetic production strategies that bolster brand recognizability while diversifying and consolidating distribution channels—Steinberg examines the specificity of anime by asking, "What is the nature of the relation between motion and stillness of the image in Japanese anime, and how does this motion-stillness economy link up with the extensive commercial apparatus that surrounds and supports the anime industry?" (2006, 191). For Steinberg, the immobility of limited animation indicates not only the manga on which it is based, but also "similarly immobile commodity form[s]" (2006, 192). Cel bank images and elements find their way into ancillary products: particular images become easier to identify and are therefore coveted by fans. Steinberg refers to these as "privileged moments," assembled from a "discrete media—that deals in both motion and immobility, movement and poses" (2006, 199). Consumption practices resonate through still images that appear across media and products. Steinberg concludes that anime

[2.10] is not only a medium that was formed by the convergence of discrete media (comics, animation, television) but one that functions through the continuing resonance between these media and the new medium of anime, a resonance (via the immobile image of the character) that extended onto (and created) a brand new social world of character-images: a social world that everywhere resonates with the diegetic world, and channels the consuming subject's desire. (2006, 202)

[2.11] This model of media production became a dominant force of cultural production in Japan, and remains part of the Japanese social world of character images.

[2.12] As a video-game character, Tifa Lockhart is indicative of the media mix. The image discussed above is an example of how stasis maintains an important place within the Japanese media environment: static images greatly influence consumption practices. A discrete moment in a moving-image medium (CGI film) was translated into static-image media (promotional materials), and was enveloped within practices of database consumption. For instance, Square Enix distributed desktop backgrounds of this pose that were free to download and that otaku could then appropriate, manipulate, and redistribute through prosumer media Web sites and forums. The image's recognizability moreover makes it a perfect subject for cosplay reproduction. These images of Tifa represent an evaluative convergence of cosplay with, and as part of, the media mix. They express the need to mime an emotive correlate of the source image. The emphasis on posing, and the resultant convergence of the Tifa image, implies that posing according to a mimetic guideline, and reproducing privileged moments, is indeed a substantial aspect of Japanese consumption of cosplay. This may be further evidenced by the greater number of images located on Cosplayers' Cure than on Cosplay.com.

[2.13] Still images and, more specifically, poses play a fundamental role in Japanese media culture. In terms of Azuma's grand database and the cel bank, poses prompt significant affective connections with the consumer, despite their impoverished narrative elements. Though practices of media consumption may have changed since Azuma first made his claims about the postmodern Japanese consumer in the mid-nineties, this model presents a coherent structure by which to assess the history and development of Japanese media and its influence on cosplay practices. Poses convey a character in a way that enables database consumption practices, based on small narratives. These practices infuse the stasis of the image with meaning—create privileged moments—from which to create a role to cosplay. Furthermore, as Steinberg notes, the social world of character images proliferates everywhere throughout Japan's media environment.

3. Conclusion.

[3.1] Japan's media environment facilitates affect on the basis of a surface-level engagement of the grand database, which manifests through static image iconicity. This iconicity suggests both stasis and movement, and establishes a specific form of consumption that injects these privileged moments with particular meaning on the basis of Azuma's small narratives. These small narratives nonetheless facilitate complex understandings of media franchises that enable the role-playing component of cosplay by implementing the significance of the privileged moment within the cosplay pose. The pose, as a form of static image, functions as a method of consumption of a referent database image. In turn, the cosplay pose becomes yet another productive element of prosumers' experiences of the media mix.

[3.2] In this article, I have traced a form of consumption within the Japanese media environment through the concepts of the grand database and the cel bank, and the importance of the static image within the media mix. I do not suggest that cosplay practice is determined by nationality: otaku culture and cosplayer practices are always changing and in flux. Instead, I present particular methods of cosplay practice, and furthermore express a conception of particular production and consumption practices within Japanese media environments. This study provides a starting point from which to contextualize otaku, cosplayers, and other groups of prosumers within ever-expanding transnational media practices. Moreover, this analysis reveals consumers' persistent motivations to actualize their social worlds of media experience in a variety of material forms.

4. Acknowledgment

[4.1] I would like to thank Dr. Marc Steinberg for the generous guidance and support he has provided throughout the writing of this paper and, moreover, throughout my academic career. I would also like to thank the Fonds de Recherche: Société et culture (FQRSC) for their financial support and for making this paper possible.

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