10 Japanese Characters You Can Cosplay
Suit up as these famous fictional characters from Japan!
Naoko Takeuchi/Toei Animation
Nobuyuki Takahashi coined the term cosplay in 1983 as a portmanteau of “costume” and “play.” The word first appeared in an issue of My Anime as Takahashi described the costumed participants at the Comic Market (ComiKet) fan convention. Way before the word was created, the earliest recorded instance of the hobby was in the early 1900s when Mr. and Mrs. Fell dressed up as Mr. Skygack from Mars and Diana Dillpickles respectively during a masked skating party.
What sets cosplay apart from regular Halloween fare is the performative aspect of the hobby. You’re not just dressing the part, you are the actual character. There’s more preparation involved since the coser has to study idle poses, action moves, character tics and mannerisms, quotes, and behavioral patterns. Roleplaying may seem like a huge undertaking but having a genuine love for the source material makes it easier! We’ll help jump start your new hobby by suggesting characters that may speak to you on a personal level.
Naoko Takeuchi/Toei Animation
The most iconic heroine in shoujo history was named one of the official ambassadors for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic games. Whether you opt for her school uniform or Sailor Soldier outfit, you’ll def be recognizable on the convention floor. Sailor Moon mangaka Naoko Takeuchi loves fashion and designed a variety of looks for the girls out of battle gear that’s ideal for casual cosplay. You can even find most of the clothing in your closet. Search for “Sailor Moon casual” to find inspiration online, invest in a wig, and cosplay in the name of the moon!
Makoto Shinkai/CoMix Wave Films
Makoto Shinkai’s animated masterpiece gained a lot of traction when it was shown in Philippine cinemas. We’re pretty sure couples started scribbling messages on each other’s hands after watching Your Name. We adored the female lead for being headstrong, outspoken, and yet vulnerable. You can achieve Mitsuha’s schoolgirl look with a white polo shirt, black skirt, and black knee-high socks. You can buy a bow at the craft store. Don’t forget the red ribbon that she uses to tie up her hair!
Pokémon Sword & Shield
Game Freak Inc./Nintendo
This sheep-inspired kawaii ball of fluff is one of the most popular ’mons from the Gen 8 Pokémon lineup. Go for a gijinka (the Japanese term for anthropomorphism) cosplay, which is a human version that still retains animal attributes of the character. Think: cat ears or bunny girls! For Wooloo, you can wear a faux wool coat, knitted cap, fluffy boots, and a gray wig with braids.
Boku No Hero Academia
Shonen Jump/Bones Studio
The cute and bubbly zero-gravity heroine is a popular choice among female cosplayers. Ochaco is the optimist amidst adversity in the BNHA world whose selflessness has saved her classmates on more than one occasion. Her superhero alter-ego requires heavy-duty armor props and a custom-made spandex suit. If you don’t have the time or resources to work on her Uravity outfit, then you can wear the UA High School gym suit that’s available in most fandom merchandise stores. There’s even a hoodie version when you want to feel more comfortable while you’re squeezing through a costumed crowd.
Final Fantasy VIII
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Final Fantasy VIII. What better way to celebrate the JRPG’s legacy than portraying fearless resistance member, known dog-lover, and true trendsetter of caramel highlights, Rinoa? Her battle outfit consists of a black tank top, cycling shorts, denim skirt, docs, and a blue deconstructed stretchy knit fabric. If you need a budget-friendly option, try her ballroom look: a white minidress with matching strappy heels. Plus points if can also bring a pupper as your animal sidekick Angelo.
Crypton Future Media/Sega
Miku Hatsune’s creation in 2007 ushered in a whole slew of virtual idols in her wake. Powered by Yamaha’s vocal synthesizing software, the popstar has serenaded crowds for more than a decade. If you’re having difficulty getting Miku’s look down, you can always take character accuracy to its logical conclusion with animegao (anime face) kigurumi (costumed mascot). This offbeat trend features “dollers” wearing giant headpieces or costumed masks that are designed exactly like the fictional character to an almost eerie degree, as if it were a moving mannequin. The bodies are padded to replicate the curves of said character and mostly men have been following this trend. Now that we think about it, that’s the perfect approach to portraying someone as uncanny valley as this vocaloid.
Sanrio’s ragey Red Panda echoes our office woes with relatable content such as difficult bosses, overtime work, and blistered feet. There are many ways to bring out your inner Retsuko: go as a casual gijinka with cute ears and heavy eyeliner, wear a papier-mâché replica of her head, or be extra with a full-on furry mascot costume. Remember to add a removable sticker that says, “rage” in kanji character (retsu 烈) on your forehead.
Boruto: Naruto Next Generations
The daughter of Sasuke Uchiha and Sakura Haruno from the OG Naruto series is reppin’ bespectacled girls everywhere. She’s the feisty foil to Boruto, the more outgoing son of Naruto Uzumaki and Hinata Hyuga. This kickbutt kunoichi is the perfect megane (glasses) cosplay if you can’t be bothered to wear graded contact lens while out and about in costume. You can also do away with a wig as long as your natural hair is styled appropriately to match Sarada’s look.
RX-0 Unicorn Gundam
Take your love of unicorns to the extreme by doing an all-out mecha cosplay! Have fun with it by using white cardboard, poster paint, and a little ingenuity. If you want a more accurate version, it may require months of preparation, different kinds of paints and sealers, and lots of rubber foam. (Wear a mask when painting to protect from harmful fumes.) If you’ve got the cash to spare, there are skilled crafters and prop makers that can build it for you and may even put a little wiring to light it up. When walking down the convention hall in mech or armored cosplay, you will require a handler (a trusted friend/significant other) to assist you in moving around. For inspiration, you can visit a larger-than-life replica of the Gundam displayed at DiverCity Tokyo Plaza.
Dragon Ball series
Akira Toriyama/Bandai Namco
Who doesn’t know Goku? The Dragon Ball series has been running so long (decades!) that it has reached several generations of otaku. He was also named a Tokyo Olympics ambassador alongside Sailor Moon. Crossplay (suiting up as the opposite gender) is quite common in the community as cosplayers aren’t limited by gender. There are popular local and international female cosplayers who are known for their uncanny resemblance to male characters. Get the Super Saiyan’s orange martial arts uniform by sewing your own or getting one custom-made from a seamstress and style a long black wig with a ton of hairspray and gel.
Avoid putting immense pressure on yourself when cosplaying any character. Don’t let anyone stop you from portraying someone just because of gender, body type, and other perceived limitations. Remember to have fun and choose a character not solely for its popularity and likeness but because of how they make you feel. Cosplay should help build confidence and courage as you live vicariously through the character.