BOOK REVIEW: COSPLAY: THE FANTASY WORLD OF ROLE PLAY / AUTHOR: LAUREN ORSINI / PUBLISHER: CARLTON BOOKS / RELEASE DATE: MAY 7TH
Lauren Orsini’s Cosplay: The Fantasy World of Role Play is a love letter to one of geekdom’s more misunderstood branches. Despite its relatively short length, it proves surprisingly comprehensive, covering a wide spectrum, from anime to pop culture to furries. But more than that, it showcases the art, and yes it is an art, dedication and community of the vibrant subculture.
In her introduction, Orsini traces cosplay back to the 1939 World Science Fiction Convention where proto-cosplayers Forrest J. Ackerman and Myrtle R. Jones dressed in outfits inspired by the sci-fi flick Things to Come. They sparked what can only be dubbed a counter-cultural sea change. But it wasn’t until 1984 that the term was coined by reporter and manga publisher Nobuyuki Takahashi, and then the genie was well and truly out of the bottle. It’s since become a household term, with many involved finding celebrity status, corporate sponsorship and prosperous careers.
The rest of the book is broken down into five sections, each showcasing a different aspect of the diverse cosplay circuit. Anyone who’s already involved will know all of the information on offer. It’s more a gateway for people of the fence, watching from afar or just looking for a new hobby. That’s not to say it only caters for newcomers. The strength of the book is the impressive gallery of high quality images that show off the many different permutations of costuming, the variations and, above all, the sense of belonging.
Some of the images aren’t up to the same resolution as others, and it does make the book look like something fished from a bargain bin at The Works. But with the cosplayers names given where known, and photographer credits duly listed, there’s more than enough cues to go and start your own search. The images prove to be a great yardstick to glean the popularity of younger franchises; it’s telling that there’s plenty of Game of Thrones and Frozen cosplay. There’s also the usual staples, from Darth Maul to Final Fantasy.
The text might repeat a lot of the same information, but it does touch on important issues. The most pressing being that cosplay is not consent. While it’s only fleeting, it does get at the wider pervasive problem that plagues many conventions. But it also expresses the opportunities of new technology, namely 3D printing and the precision and possibilities it offers. The Fantasy World of Role Play is hardly the definitive word on the subject, but it’ll make a cracking stocking filler.