A lot of people ask me, when they find out I’m a cosplayer, where do you start when taking your first steps into cosplay? What kind of characters do you look for, and how do you choose who to cosplay? In terms of selecting who I want to cosplay, it’s pretty simple; frankly, I don’t really have a set method, but here are some of the things I look for when picking characters.
1) Character Design
The first thing I look for is character design, or aspects of a character’s physical appearance that appeal to me. I typically tend to favor characters sporting vivid colors that go well together, and add an element of intrigue to the design (for example, Mii Kouryuuji from Project X Zone, and practically everyone from the cast of Dangan Ronpa). Along with colors, the physical makeup of a character’s outfit plays a role in my decision, especially in deciding which elements I’m going to sew or make myself, and which I would rather purchase. For instance, I’m attempting BlackRose from .hack for this coming summer, and in addition to having a great color scheme, I can also make 80% of her outfit, which played a huge role in determining my 2014 cosplay lineup. My advice in this area is look for what appeals to you, and don’t think too hard about it, because it’s far easier if you let visual appeal do the talking!
2) Character Stature and Personality
This is something that a lot of people look for right off the bat, but it’s seemed to work out for me so far that many characters I like have a similar stature to my own. Of course, that’s often not the case, so on top of picking characters whose physical appearance I like, I also look at how their height matches up to my own. I know most people declare that anyone can cosplay anyone they choose, and I concur; however, I’ve observed that cosplay is often a lot more plausible when your own height is somewhat in line with the character you’re portraying. Recently, as an example, I was toying with the idea of cosplaying Hanji Zoe from Shingeki no Kyojin (Attack on Titan), yet I was hesitant because of her height. Hanji is a good 5’7”, while I, on a good day, am somewhere around 5’4 ½”. My friend eventually came up with the solution, and she is now cosplaying Hanji, while she suggested I be Levi (whom, admittedly, I also love; I was iffy at first because he has a much different face from mine, but several makeup tests later I have been proven wrong). Two and a half inches might not seem like a lot, but to me, it’s proven to be a big difference between someone I can portray accurately and someone I could potentially fail miserably at recreating.
The other aspect of my decision-making process, as described in this section, is character personality. Actors, I’ve been told, act best when they can relate to the character they’re portraying; for me, it’s the same with cosplay. If I find a trait in a character that resonates with me or reminds me of myself, then I can portray them infinitely better. Everything from how I walk to the expressions I use in pictures turns out better if I really understand who I’m turning myself into, so I typically lean towards characters who are fairly similar to me. Of course, it can also be fun portraying someone completely opposite your personality, so play around with it, and do whatever feels the most comfortable, which leads me into my next section.
3) Overall Comfort
Having taken the first three things into consideration, the last thing I think about before making a decision is my overall comfort in depicting the character. This includes things like how revealing the outfit is, potential reaction of the fandom to my cosplay (this more applies to super-popular series where there’s a chance you might be mauled by fangirls if you can pull off a really good cosplay), my comfort level with the fandom and whether or not I plan on interacting with any other fans (I have some rather interesting Homestuck anecdotes), and a few other factors. My number one rule, though, is nevercosplay anyone you’re really not comfortable with. I’ve had the experience a few times, and there’s nothing worse than wishing you could take your outfit off from the moment you put it on. I’m certainly not advising against stepping out of your comfort zone a bit, because it’s always great to have a learning experience and try something new. However, stick to your guns, and remember that it’s always totally up to you, because it’s your hobby!
In conclusion, a good summary of all of this would probably be “cosplay what you want.” Don’t be discouraged or swayed by anyone else – it’s solely your opinion that matters when making the decision, and that’s what’s important! Whether you’re a beginner or someone more advanced, do what you love, and have fun doing it.