The picture to the left was taken this past Sunday at the World Cosplay Summit, which was conveniently held 10 minutes from our apartment. The character you are looking at is Porco Rosso, who is from one of Hayao Miyazaki's oddest films: Porco Rosso.
Cosplay is a compound noun formed from "costume" and "roleplay." In Japanese it is pronounced "ko-su-pu-re." People (mostly young) dress up as characters from manga, video games, fantasy novels and movies, anime, and hentai. It is quite an odd event but it's also a lot of fun if you're open minded. The people get really into it and put on quite a good show.
There were a few Final Fantasy characters - mostly Cloud and Sephiroth - and a lot of Zelda characters. Most of the Links I saw were women and they were as attractive as you'd imagine they would be. Unfortunately I didn't get a picture. My friend did get an awesome picture of Ganon though:
He looked even better in full costume. At this point he was walking to the stage where the performances took place. You didn't think people from eight different countries just came to dress up, did you?
Each country put on a ~5 minute skit that was typically a popular scene associated with their characters. We saw four of them but not the one I really wanted to see: Cloud vs. Emerald Weapon. Don't bother clicking the link if you didn't play the game - you won't like it. Their costumes were both excellent, but I only got a shot of Cloud:
The best performance we saw was put on by the Korean team. Unfortunately I didn't get any pictures of them because we didn't see them before the skits started and we were too far away to get decent pictures of them when they took the stage. One of them was dressed as a giant robot and the other was dressed as a samurai warrior. The samurai would jump off the robot doing these aerial kicks or he would run up him and flip off him like you see martial artists run up walls and flip off them. The choreography was really well done for an amateur exhibition.
This event was probably the most quintessentially modern Japanese thing we've seen so far. We've seen the traditional things you think of when you think of Japan (castles, temples, kimono) but this was something entirely different. Even though it's relatively new (the Summit has only been held since 2003) there was still the same sense of propriety and custom you feel at a traditional Japanese event. You weren't allowed to take pictures at random - you had to ask permission and then thank the person or people for allowing you to take a photograph. This stems from the initial practice of photographers photographing reiya (people who dress up) and then giving them copies of the pictures as gifts. There was also a level of seriousness from the reiya that I didn't expect. They would get in character when they had their photos taken and then they would be all smiles and happy afterward. It was really interesting to watch the transformation.
I can definitely see the appeal of being able to transform yourself into a character from your favourite entertainment medium but I don't think it's for me. I do enjoy dressing up for Hallowe'en but I don't think I'd like to do anything more than enter a best dressed competition.