months from Halloween, but Singaporean youths - complete with skin
tight PVC outfits, knee high leather boots, assorted coloured wigs
[neither of these are very strange], and otherworldly make-up - are
becoming a familiar sight on Orchard Road over the weekends.
magnets of curious stares are "cosplayers" (short for
costume players), enthusiasts of a hobby that originated from, arguably
the eighth wonder of the world - Harajuku in Tokyo, Japan.
cosplayer is a person who dresses up like his or her favourite J-Rock
band member," said Pink Spida [this isn't her real name], a
co-organiser of most J-Rock cosplay events here.
a person, added the 17-year-old Visual Communications student at
Temasek Polytechnic, who is really Shirley Koh, who goes by that
unique moniker, "is a physical representation of the music
great is the fervour of cosplayers that Len, the leader of top Japanese
cosplay team, Cool n Glamourous, created a website dedicated to
cosplaying which has over an incredible two million hits! Initially
an underground cosplay website, the protective cosplayer had her
URL changed three times just to avoid hordes of fans who would even
stalk them out at Harajuku. [Note: Four out of five of Cool n Glamourous'
members live in Tokyo.]
of popular Japanese visual rock band, PIERROT,
she hopes her love can inspire others to feel "love towards
J-rock fans only cosplayed during their favourite bands' performances
but the number of cosplayers ballooned so rapidly that costumed ones
decided to claim part of the most famous and fashionable street for
youth in Tokyo - Harajuku, their cosplayground.
J-Rock cosplaying originated in the late 80s when many young Japanese
rock stars tried to follow in the footsteps of Western rock bands
like Guns N' Roses, Metallica,
and The Smashing
Pumpkins - and their fans followed suit. These young Japanese
rock star wannabes incorporated music and dressing styles of the
Western Rock bands with their own and created their own unique form
of music and style which some also call Visual Japanese Rock.
- the undisputed cosplaying haven - hundreds of cosplayers gather
on weekends while countless excited tourists flock to the site to
marvel at the unique art that has already been assimilated into the
calls for creative expression, Singaporeans, not only do not seem
to share the cosplaying enthusiasm, some are openly hostile.
Yi You, 19, a Multimedia Engineering student at Singapore polytechinic
feels that cosplayers resembles unearthly beings from the other
dimension. She said that she cosplayers "look like ghosts"
and she would "avoid one when she sees one". She also
believes that cosplayers are associated with black magic and cults.
police ought to shoot them all," said Theresa Siow, a 51-year-old
housewife, when she saw newspaper articles on cosplayers in Singapore.
hatred fuelled by criticism and veiled insult from newspapers like
The New Paper, which described cosplayers as "freakballs",
it is no wonder a fight broke out between Malay skinheads and J-rock
cosplayers during a recent Indies J-rock band's concert.
bands from Asia had gathered at the Youth Park on June 29
to perform a 6-hour gig, but when the most popular Indies
J-rock band, Baroque, was performing, "a bunch of Malay
skinheads started body-slamming the crowd of J-rock fans and
cosplayers", said an avid J-rock fan who wanted to be
only known as X'lest.
said the police were called in after some of the cosplayers
were physically assaulted by the other group, a high price
to pay for a typical youth struggle to assert or find themselves.
Dr.Roxana Waterson, a National
University of Singapore associate professor, compared
cosplaying to an identical phenomenon in America where "people
who repeatedly went to see the film The
Rocky Horror Picture Show, dressed as their favorite characters
in the movie."
She believes that these youths just want to have fun and noted
that personal "style" is a common way for young
people to forge a sense of identity.
added that style is "especially important for young people
who haven't had time to define themselves through experience, career,
etc. yet - so clothes and music are the most obvious ways to carve
out an image for oneself."
Meanwhile, despite the setbacks, Pink Spida has confirmed that there
will be many more cosplay event collaborations with FM
96.3 the international radio station that Singaporeans can expect
to see in near future. A cosplay event has been scheduled for this