HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated October 9, 2016 – 12:00am
Some cosplayers from CosMania 2016 held at SMX in Mall of Asia
As part of my “Lolo duties,” I had to give up my Sunday last week to accompany my grandchild Ananda to a cosplay event at SMX in the Mall of Asia.
Cosplay events feature people in costume, mostly dressed as Japanese or Korean-inspired anime characters, superheroes and robots, meeting up, interacting and having a lot of fun.
Ananda had been planning on attending CosMania 2016 for quite a while. I accompanied her once before to a smaller cosplay event. Last Sunday’s event was touted to be a big one. She had an intricate costume made, and wore a long, curly, black wig which her Lola Lydia ordered from Amazon.com to complete the look of Celestia Ludenberg, an anime character dressed in school uniform.
We left the house before noon. When we got to SMX, the place was almost full. All kinds of people showed up in their best fantasies. A sea of heads wearing pink, white, black and green hair filled the building. As I looked around at a crowd that seemed to get bigger every minute, I put on my amateur socio-cultural analyst hat and tried to understand what was going on.
Here was a fun, vibrant subculture parading before me. I remembered readings by Joseph Campbell about rituals, costumes, masks and all things associated with tribes.
People in the olden days used to wear animal skins and paint white spots on their faces to emulate animal markings. They wore masks to look as fierce as the creatures they hunted. It was a way of summoning the power of nature, the spirits in the animal world to be with them.
As I looked at the characters in the room at SMX, I felt that these young people, though in modern garb, were doing the same thing, more or less. They were reliving that tribal thrill of possessing certain special characteristics via costumes, masks and accessories.
When a person wears a mask or a costume, or puts on a physical appearance that is different from what he or she is and that is compelling to look at, it is a way of dictating how that person wants people to relate to him or her. You command the way that people will interact with you. A monstrous or grotesque mask tells people that you are someone to fear. The people who came as Batman, Superman, Green Arrow and the like wanted to feel the awesome power, skills and personae of their idols who can rescue society and mankind.
The people in the robotic attire wanted to summon the awesome power of their destructive capability and potential. They had rockets, light sabers, lasers and weapons of mass destruction on their metallic bodies. It did not matter whether you saw their faces or not. They were not human. But they were dangerous and lethal.
Those who came dressed up to look like cute Japanese anime drawings wanted to embody beauty, youth, sweetness, with a touch of the innocent sexuality of the characters they admired. They put on colorful wigs, intricately designed costumes taken from cartoons and comic books, size-adjusting colored contact lenses that made their eyes rounder, cuter and quite mysterious.
I saw soldiers, Storm Troopers, witches, Pokemon Go characters, Suicide Squad characters, Johnny Bravo.
Famous characters (according to Ananda) were scattered all over the place. In truth, I hardly knew any of them, except perhaps, that yellow Pokemon, Pikachu.
Famous characters (according to Ananda) like the twins Rem and Ram, Sailor Moon, Fairy Tail, Satella, Naruto, Pikachu, Miraculous Lady Bug, Baymax, Rocket Raccoon of Guardians of the Galaxy, Demon Lady, Gravity Falls; and Vocaloids like Hatsune Miku, Rin and Len were scattered all over the place. In truth, although they are famous to the young generation, I hardly knew or had heard of any of them, except perhaps, that yellow Pokemon, Pikachu.
It was quite an experience for me. I felt the excitement of the young people, and admired their daring to show up as the characters they fancied. They were bold and they indulged their imaginations and fantasies.
I saw the thrill on their faces when people asked to take their pictures. They gamely emoted for the cameras. They preened, posed and lived their adopted personas. Those who came with elaborate flair and style were the most sought-after subjects for photographers.
I must say I was hooked! I told myself that I would join the next cosplay event and come in a really loud, eye-catching costume.
Events like Halloween and Cosplay festivals are venues and occasions for expressing aspects of ourselves we do not reveal every day. Joseph Campbell wrote that when a ritual has stopped moving or touching people, it has lost its energy and capability to transform or lead people to mystery.
To the young, cosplay is a way of discovering and displaying the many aspects of who they are while being assured of mutual acceptance. It is a huge masquerade, a “come as you would like to be” party.
In cosplay, one is allowed to get out of reality and live out one’s fantasies even for just a few hours. For a while, you are allowed some vanity, exhibitionism, indulgence and crazy role-playing.
I think this is something we all need from time to time! Photos by JIM PAREDES