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

  • Matthew Ogonoski Concordia University Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema PhD Film and Moving Image Studies
Keywords: Anime, Cel bank, Convention, Database, Fandom, Moe, Posing, Role-play, Stasis


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.

Author Biography

Matthew Ogonoski, Concordia University Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema PhD Film and Moving Image Studies
Matthew Ogonoski is a PhD candidate in the Film and Moving Image program at Concordia University, Canada. He is currently working on his dissertation, which is an historical analysis of film advertisements as ancillary forms and alternative platforms through which film culture circulates. His Master's Thesis, titled "The Brand Behind the Mask: Batman in the age of convergence," is an analysis of the branded qualities of Batman and how they function in relation to extra-narrative production concerns, such as advertisement and third-party tie-ins. The study determines how non-narrative based renditions of the character can maintain factors of recognizability, regardless of aesthetic variation.