In the world of cosplay, despite what they say about equality, some cosplayers are more equal than others. Some just have things others don’t; fairer skin, that perfect hourglass figure, and sparkling white teeth. These are the people that make it through the Internet’s harsh standards and eventually rise to stardom in the cosplay world. It just so happens that most of them reside outside the territorial borders of Indonesia. I’m not saying that we don’t have cosplayers to be proud of; it’s just that the truth is most of them still live under the radar.
This is something that has been bothering me for some while. But it was only after the DAF scandal I began to give it more serious thought. I might as well add a new time period in Indonesian cosplay called the “Post-DAF” era. Anyway, as you might have noticed, DAF was perhaps the only locally-organized event brave enough to invite more than 10 foreign cosplayers as guest stars for just one event. Even though it fucking blew up on itself, it was one of those events that questions our standards in cosplay. Can it be that we Indonesians tend to fixate too much on foreigners, to the extent that we develop an inferiority complex? So please enjoy this essay as an Ahotaku39 birthday special. Side note: If you haven’t already, join my giveaway raffle on my FB page. I’m giving out free LoveLive merchandise!
Thank You, Internet
With the advent of internet and social media, it has become easier for us to connect and discover other people online. It has also become way easier to get exposed and become famous. The internet, along with widespread acceptance of cosplay subculture, plays an important role in accelerating the process of cosplayers becoming popular. Before social media, such as Facebook and WorldCosplay, anime conventions or forums were the only way cosplayers and people could communicate with one another. We now also have access to countless profiles of cosplayers, and we also possess the ability to create one ourselves. As a result, more and more cosplayers are coming out of the woodwork and joining this growing internet community built by weebs and cosplayers. Networks are then constructed, further strengthening the subculture.
But, the increasing openness also fosters sometimes not-so-subtle competition amongst cosplayers. In moderate amounts, this competition is healthy, leading to new friendships, partnerships, or self-betterment. As for the bad side, flame wars, “my cosplay is better than yours”, and all that shit.
Ideal Scenario of Conventions and Cosplay
When did cosplay become mainstream in Indonesia? We don’t have an official cosplay historian, so let us assume that it started kicking off in around 2007 or a few years earlier. And that’s not the time it became totally mainstream and embedded in every J-event ever. Clearly we have a late start compared to other Asian countries. And when did inviting cosplayers as guest stars at anime conventions become a thing? I don’t know for sure. But, it happened some time ago, and has become really mainstream right now.
Anime conventions come in many forms, from tiny ones organized by Japanese literature students in universities to massive ones organized by professional event organizers. And we also have a special class, called the “miserable tryhard conventions”, in which DAF falls into. Anyway, anime conventions cater to many subcultures. Combine added interest in cosplayers with low airfares and an emerging middle class of weebs that are eager to spend their parents’ money on anime shit they need to buy just to regret later on, and you have the perfect market segment for a new business opportunity: anime conventions with cosplay guest stars.
Let me start by classifying anime conventions. Smaller anime conventions are often organized by broke college students on a shoestring budget, while larger events are handled professionally. As for objective, smaller conventions tend to lean towards being a place for like-minded weebs to enjoy themselves rather than profit; whereas larger conventions almost always lean towards profit.
Now that we have a clearer image of conventions, let me formulate an ideal scenario for conventions. Smaller conventions are similar to “small ponds”, peaceful places where weebs can just hang around until they get bored. Due to their limited budget, small conventions usually only stick with inviting local cosplayers as guest stars. This is actually good for new cosplayers that lack resources or are unnoticed by the larger community to gain some recognition and build networks. You gotta start somewhere on the fame ladder.
Moving up the ladder, we have bigger conventions. Since the top brass doesn’t want to fuck around about money, they only want cosplayers that are sure to reel in as many fans as they can. Because ka-ching, bitch. Anyway, this is also good as these foreign cosplayers can serve as a cultural bridge and open up new channels of communication between people of two countries sharing the same hobby. In International Relations, it’s called P2P diplomacy, or “people-to-people” diplomacy.
Given this ideal scenario, everything seems organized and capable of fostering healthy competition needed for cosplayers to develop. You start small as a local idol, then gradually move up the steps and become international fap material. I mean, even the LoveLive squad and K-On! girls started small and look where they are right now.
Suddenly, Shit Happens
And you thought we were going to stay in the ideal world for long? Too bad.
The problem comes when smaller conventions want to mimic the success of larger conventions. “AFAID can invite Aza Miyuko, why can’t we?” said a retard in KKO. This is the problem with people: envy. Anyway, smaller conventions want to become as successful as larger conventions. They see that inviting foreign cosplayers as guest stars can raise their attendance numbers. And then, they proceed to try as hard as they can to invite them over.
The problem is this: it’s all a cognitive bias. The success of a large event is not always correlated or even causative of foreign cosplayers as guest stars. Larger conventions, having more resources and connections, simply have a wider reach of different subcultures, allowing for more diversity in the convention and thus a wider market reach. Look at AFAID. They have Anisong, cosplay, music, doujins, everything. And you wonder why they rake in the money every year. They simply have more diversity, thus more people come (and are willing to hand over their money to based SOZO). Smaller conventions DO NOT have this advantage. So, they can either focus on one thing, or accept being a mediocre jack-of-all-trades.
That’s what happened with DAF. It fucking imploded just because they were biting off more than they could chew.
But, more and more smaller conventions have tried to at least invite one foreign cosplayer as a guest star, preferably the cheapest and closest ones. Ying Tze comes to mind, which brings me back to Seishun no Matsuri, a small-sized event organized by a university in Bali. It was the only successful attempt at bringing over a foreign cosplay guest star. As more conventions try to pull over foreign cosplayers, this brings up some of my initial worries: would it be possible that we’re too fixated on foreign cosplayers, so much that we have (or will) develop an inferiority complex?
I say that we already have an inferiority complex and yes, we are too fixated on foreign cosplayers, so much as we forget we also have potential here in Indonesia.
On Foreign Cosplayers
As I have said before, there are good sides to having foreign cosplayers come to Indonesia. Though from an economic standpoint it would clearly be unwise to invite them if the cost exceeded expected profits, foreign cosplayers serve more than just marketing purposes.
There’s one good side: more publicity. If the cosplayer wasn’t famous enough, you, as an EO, would not have considered inviting them in the first place. By having foreign cosplayers, you gain better publicity, which leads to a larger potential crowd. Simple as that.
On a more intangible basis, foreign cosplayers serve as ambassadors of the subculture. That is, if they’re actually given a chance to tell their stories about how cosplay is in their countries or are allowed to host a Q&A session during the Meet and Greet session. In an informal discussion with KAORI and associates, Rafly Nugroho made a point that inviting foreign cosplayers allows us to gain new perspectives on how our shared hobby is in their (the cosplayer’s) country is. This encourages very weak P2P diplomacy and builds connections.
Nevertheless, there are also other pitfalls that we need to consider when inviting foreign cosplayers. There is the economic argument, that inviting foreign cosplayers could cost a fortune. Again, very simple. This was a point brought up by Luthfi S. from KAORI: local cosplayers are easier to handle from an economic standpoint, because EOs won’t have to consider expensive transportation and accommodation costs.
But what I would like to point out are the legal aspects of inviting foreign cosplayers into the country. There needs to be more discussion as to whether foreign cosplayers should be equipped with general or work visas. Big thanks to the failed DAF for bringing up this issue. KKO claimed that they were planning on providing general tourist visas for foreign cosplayers. However, a general visa does not allow the bearer to partake in paid work during their visit. What cosplayers need is a limited stay visa because they surely must receive remuneration for their services as a guest star. If anyone out there’s a lawyer, please help me out on this.
Furthermore, inviting too much foreign cosplayers too often could cause us to develop an inferiority complex and inhibit development of our own local potential. Let me rant a bit about this.
We’re a fucking unappreciative nation. We just don’t appreciate anything anyone makes. Take, for example, graphic designers. People think all they need to do is whip a magic wand and masturbate vigorously, and voila! A fucking perfect design rivalling Van Gogh is born. Or what about making logos? It’s fucking hard to design a logo. That’s why my logo sucks. Yet companies don’t understand the process. They just think designers just need to click and type and it’s done. No, you fucking idiots, it’s not like that. Concept, philosophy, meaning, esprit de corps.. making a logo is more thinking than actually designing. And then they have the audacity to ask why it costs 5 million just to design one logo. Then they screw you and look for some idiot who’ll do it for free. Fucking capitalists.
Now add our tendency to lick the shoes of white people that come to our country. It all began in the Suharto years. Foreigners are always richer, more powerful, and better than us. We were told that because Suharto wanted their money, that fucking neoliberal. And it has persisted until now. We continue to idolize and worship foreigners, including foreign cosplayers, just because they’re foreigners and are automatically better than us. So, fuck that local cosplayer who can pull off a great Nico Yazawa cosplay. A foreign cosplayer did it better. Weebs will be reluctant to buy a 50K photobook made by a local cosplayer because it’s too fucking expensive, yet they’ll queue for weeks just for a 500K photobook of a foreign cosplayer and say it was totally worth the money.
Okay, glad I got that out of my chest. *breathes deeply*
The thing about foreign cosplayers coming over is that they’ll raise the standards of cosplay in Indonesia. It’s not fair for aspiring local cosplayers, as they’ll have to struggle to meet the already-high standards imposed by the weeb hive mind regarding cosplay. Imagine having to compete against a Ferrari with a butt-old Supra motorcycle. Coincidentally, AJ from the Philippines also agrees with me. Too much exposure to foreign cosplayers would undermine our local cosplayers.
In the long run, too many conventions inviting too many foreign cosplayers will only serve to undermine the development of our local cosplayers. It is also a subtle form of intellectual insulting of our potential. We have good human resources, why not use them?
I am not saying that we should boycott all foreign cosplayers. They are fun to have around, and are beneficial from an economic standpoint. But, in the long run, foreign cosplayers will eventually raise our baseline expectations for cosplay too high until no local cosplayer can reach it. It’s a shame to see good potential wasted just because they cannot compete with ridiculously high standards imposed on them by the weeb community.
Perhaps smaller conventions should try and stick to local cosplayers and just leave the foreign ones for the bigger conventions. Smaller conventions are supposed to be community-driven events that allow development, not as money-milking schemes. Let the bigger conventions milk money from people. Smaller events should stay true to the spirit of developing the community and providing a place for aspiring cosplayers to network and potentially become a star one day.
If you made it this far (which I doubt), thank you for reading. I would also like to know your opinions. Feel free to hash it out in the comments below! Best comments get featured!