ZU Magazine is a publication of ZU Media. Below is an article from Issue 4, “Character.”

Staff Writer | Toph Buzzard

Imagine this: it’s the morning of Oct. 30, and you get dressed for the day in full costume.  As a sleep-deprived college student, you forget that Halloween is tomorrow, not today. But, it’s too late. Azusa Pacific has already witnessed what will now be your answer to the common ice-breaker question, “What is your most embarrassing moment?”

Now, imagine something else: you willingly dress in full costume, not for Halloween, and you enjoy every minute of it.

This is exactly what junior film production major, Amy Rose Lowery, and junior studio art major, Curran Grant, do on a regular basis.

It’s called cosplay.

The definition of cosplay, according to Oxford Dictionary, is “the practice of dressing up as a character from a film, book, or video game, especially one from the Japanese genres of manga or anime.”

Lowery and Grant admit that it feels a little weird when they walk out of their University Village apartments dressed in full costume, en route to the cosplay conventions —“cons”— that they frequently attend.

Also awkward: when they order inside at McDonald’s dressed in full costume. Or when they need an Uber ride to their next con. Lots of stares, quite a few uneasy questions.

But all that seems unbearable becomes bearable when they arrive at the con. Those awkward moments quickly become afterthoughts when a fellow con attendee compliments their costume. Grant describes this as “the best feeling ever.”

Countless hours and healthy amounts of money go into the building of a costume. The highlight of Lowery’s cosplay career was her Prince Zuko from “Avatar: The Last Airbender” costume, an $80 investment. This is not a small amount of cash for your average college student.

This is not including the price of the con admission ticket or the cost of travel. A ticket for ColossalCon in Ohio, a con that Grant traveled to last year, costs around $60 for a four-day pass. The world-renown, four-day San Diego Comic Con is currently running for $450 a pop on Stubhub, and that’s the least expensive ticket.

You might be asking what all that money goes towards. Is it just a bunch of people hanging out in expensive costumes? Well, yeah, kind of. But of course, there’s more to it.

Famous cosplayers will be in attendance to meet and talk to. Many times, attendees also get the ability to stand in meet and greet lines with celebrities from the latest upcoming movies. Character panels hold contests, not just for the costumes themselves, but the cosplayers’ ability to act like the character they have dressed as. If that weren’t enough, there are also cosplay raves.

Whether it’s sports, music, traveling or a different passion, everyone puts their time, effort and money towards something. For Grant and Lowery, it’s not just cosplaying their favorite anime and video game characters, it’s also showing off their work to people who care.

“I’m there to show off my costume to people who understand it, and people that will recognize it,” Grant said.

Both students suffer from social anxiety and claim that the cosplay community has offered them a sense of belonging. The communal portrayal of fictional characters has given them an opportunity to fulfill the innate human desire of “being a part of something that’s bigger than yourself,” as Grant said.

Photo by Olu Eletu on Unsplash

“Cosplay for me is being a part of a community of people that are like me… I have met a ton of really good friends,” Lowery said.

Lowery brought this community to campus by founding the APU’s Underground Pop-Culture Club. While the club is currently inactive, their Facebook page has 47 members, and Lowery hopes to free up her schedule so she can run frequent meetings.

Although Grant and Lowery share the cosplay bond, they have different aspirations when it comes to their futures.

Cosplay extends beyond the world of hobby. Those making a living off of cosplay showcase their characters on Instagram to grow their following. They make money by staring at cons, making costumes and allowing photographers to take pictures of them.

Alyson Tabbitha, one of Lowery’s favorite, falls into this realm of superstar cosplayers. Tabbitha is known for her talent and thriftiness; unlike other superstars, she makes her own costumes and each costs under $100.

“I would love to make [cosplay] a career ambition, but for now, it’s a hobby,” Grant said.

Although Lowery does wish she had more time and money to cosplay more frequently, she doesn’t hold the same stance as her counterpart.

“It’ll always be second to my career goals in film making,” Lowery said.

Nevertheless, cosplay allows for people to mask the non-fictional character that makes up who they are. For a moment, it gives participants a public space to be creative and explore their abilities and passions.

Perhaps we could all learn something from cosplayers.