‘Selling Otaku? Mapping the Relationship between industry and Fandom’ Notes

  • “In its purest form, cosplay is akin to performance art, taking on the habits of a particular character though costume, accessories, gesture or attitude; therefore not simply dressing up but rather inhabiting a role physically and mentally.”
  • Key issues around the relationship between industry and consumers
  • Commercial industries being vitally important in how fans define themselves
  • Consumer being defined by fans as bad or good depending of knowledge and activities-much like more mainstream culture
  • Defined in to elements-“Costume as DIY cosplay, as the textual performer”
  • Relationship between fandom and industry dividing the cosplay/industry network in to three nodes-The mainstream retailer, The niche industry and The cottage industry”-radically different role and cultural significance.


  • Nice Industries- Like “Madmen and its Otaku wear line, not only distribute but help contruct some of the key Otaku, and to the lesser degree, cosplay styles”.
  • Mainstream Retailer-Help develop the cosplay movement as much as they distort it.
  • In this way, each node in this network, from industry through to fandom, contribute to the formation of the cosplay scene.
  • Industry in the development of fandom and thereby better understand the sub-cultures as a part of much longer cultural networks
  • Cosplay is nothing new amongst fan cultures-star strek and star wars conventions-a ritual of identification with a particular character, a way of marking out a fan’s alignment
  • displays how heavily an audience member is invested in the ideals of the show or identifies with a particular character and shows others how ‘serious’ a fan they are.
  • It is an act of belonging to a greater community of like-minded fans. But cosplay is not simply a practise of identification, alignment and belonging. It has significant implications for gender play and gender disruption-Manga+Anime.


  • In anime, with many characters appearance looking to in between masculine and feminine, keeping true gender unrecognizable, this points a way in which costume allows gender indeterminacy and gender fluidity to function. Which is why gender blurring is repeated in cosplayers.-Maybe for ‘sexy’ versions too?
  • Can be seen as closer to ‘drag’, the ‘play’ part of cosplay, rather than suggesting alignment, could be the disruption of gender as you ‘play with it’
  • The gender ambiguity of such characters will often enable this appropriation than in other forms of media-which can be seen as bishonen (beautiful boy) characters-in that of anime.
  • However, more commonly the ‘dra’ does not involve the assumption of a different gender, but rather exaggeration of the cosplayers own gender-becoming hyper feminine or masculine- much like ‘sexy cosplay’-E.G. The cynical feminist fan will become the sexy, confident and empowering superheroine, who oddly wears a costume that if worn in real life the fan would belittle a woman for wearing such as something skintight and revealing.
  • Suggesting that gender is performative and something that we unconsciously do, inscribed by societal norms and repitition- then cosplay is a performance of gender. Ironically, it is through the wearing of another layer that the true nature of gender is revealed. In cosplay, this becomes a way in which fans not only identify, align or belong but also question socially and culturally constructed notions of what it means to be masculine or feminine.


  • Otaku-meaning more than simply a fan, favoured in anime and manga sub-cultures as it is deemed to be more ‘authentic’. Cosplay is important in terms of this as it allows the otaku to play with expectation in terms of quality. It exists to counteract the casual and mass produced culture like mainstream retailers.-Craftsmanship to a whole new level?
  • Authenticity is the key of requirement for a cosplayer, anything bought in-store is frowned upon. The more effort and labour invested in the making of a costume and props, the more authentic the cosplay experience.-So this could be why sexy cosplay can never trump craftsmanship?
  • These cosplayers, who are able to synthesise such materials, emphasise the rise and importance of DIY approach with fan cultures. Therefore reinforcing that craftsmanship is favoured among those who take cosplay seriously.


  • The cosplay scene is not an organic, grassroots culture that only meets industry when resisting ‘selling out’ or not getting what they want by being too extreme (otaku).
  • All levels of industry are actively involved in the cosplay scene, this one cannot live without the other.
  • Essentialist ideological opposition between cosplayers and industry is due to each other’s views cultural and capital and social structure.
  • The so-called hierarchies of ‘cool-ness’-operate in the symbiotic relationship with the industry. The various types of industry within cosplay can be re-conceived as a network that creates, classifies and distributes knowledge-like other institutions such as education.
  • The preconceived perception and judgement cannot be made without the ideals of western culture. The idea that sex sells has worked for centuries in that of media, but the ‘cos’ ideal strives to educate that their is more to these characters than what is seen, it looks to educate with skill in both craftsmanship and representation of such characters.
  • It is not that cosplay is a manipulation of fandom through industries, it is that industry plays a part in the fandom

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