What is the current situation of cosplayers under the COVID-19 pandemic? Interview with Hikari, a Japanese cosplayer
This is Sally’s editor Ayane from Taiwan, It’s been a year since I met Hikari, a cosplayer who I’ve always admired as a fan of Japanese anime and cosplay.
Hikari has traveled to more than 40 countries as a backpacker, so that she travels abroad once every two months to participate in cosplay events as a guest. We asked Hikari how she’s been spending the past year, how COVID-19 pandemic has affected her and other cosplayers overseas, her recent life and her favorite works.
Hikari suffered a sad incident last July when she went to Malaysia as a guest at a cosplay event. Because of the organizer’s faulty about VISA, she has got detention by the Immigration Bureau and unfortunately put in jail though she was totally innocent. Anime News Network, the largest subculture news site in the U.S. and Europe, wrote about the details of the case, including how she was taken into custody and what she was like in jail.（Anime News Network: Locked Up for Dress Up: Cosplayers Recount Harrowing Week in Malaysian Prison）
――Did the incident at the event in Malaysia change your mind about being a cosplayer abroad?
Thank you for reading this article on the “Anime News Network”. I had visited many abroad, even if it wasn’t for cosplay events, and I loved people from abroad. However, I came across this very shocking incident. This made me think, “I need look up in detail by myself too and not depend everything on the event organizers.
The Anime News Network is a large and solid media, so to maintain neutrality, they interviewed not only me, but also the organizers and the embassy. After the article was published, we received an email from a representative of the Japanese Embassy Mr.Orikasa in Malaysia who actually helped us. Then I read in the email that the main reason was that the organizer didn’t get a visa, and I was strongly thought that I need to do make my own research beforehand without relying too much on the organizers. I love people overseas, and I don’t think I’ll ever stop cosplaying overseas, but I thought I’d be more careful not to assume that just because I’m going as a cosplay guest that the organizers are doing everything for me and that I’m safe.
――What kind of reaction did you get from foreign cosplayers after the incident was published on Anime News Network?
The reason why I decided to write the article is that I told my friends in Europe about this incident when I was abroad for an event, and they all felt that it was so terrible and were shocked. So I decided to write the article to tell more people the incident. Some of my friends said they cried while reading the article. The Malaysian organizer said, “Everything is fine. We worked hard to solve it. But the organizers hadn’t revealed at all how bad the prison was or how badly we were treated, so everyone seemed really shocked when they reported by the article.
I am also really shocked, but people worried for me after reading the article healed the wounds in my heart.
――Do you keep in touch with other cosplayers in Japan and around the world? How do you spend your time?
All of my friends who are cosplayers who seem to go abroad frequently as guests stayed home because events are mostly cancelled.
――How do you spend your time?
Some people releasing self-made videos like YouTuber. Although I would also like to do it, it took too long to prepare.
I also play games and watch anime as usual. Because of staying home all the time, a lot of people start to make videos.
――What is the theme of most of your videos??
Some people I know make videos about how to make clothes. However, many of my friends are European, telling more about themselves than in cosplay or anime.
Many of my friends in Japan do TAKUCOS (cosplay at home/TAKUCOS is a combination of the words ”taku”(it means“home”)and ”cos” as cosplay). There are even foreign cosplayers who cosplay at home. It seems that many Japanese cosplayers use Twitter, but it seems that most of overseas cosplayers use Instagram and YouTube.
――How has Hikari’s life changed as a result of COVID-19?
Until now, I’ve been so busy preparing to go to events abroad and writing articles for magazines that I haven’t had time to think about myself or calm down. Now that I have more time to spend on myself, I take a walk, read some books, and have recently started playing app games.In addition to posting and going out, I’ve been able to enjoy enough time for myself.
――What are the app games you are playing now?
It’s “A3!” I’m doing it every day, from morning to night. It’s a lot of fun. The English version of the app “A3!” was released 6 months ago, and I heard that my overseas friends are also doing the English version of the app. I’m glad if I can meet someone who knows “A3!”.
――Who is your favorite character in “A3!”?
I like Itaru. I’m doing it every day to collect Itaru’s cards. I’ve been playing games and making wigs for Itaru. It’s a shame that I can’t do cosplay gatherings right now due to COVID-19, but I’m going to cosplay at home by myself.
I had plans for a studio and location, but they were all cancelled. Since I can’t go outside, I’m going to try to shoot at home,so I bought a light equipment to shoot with. If we have a light for filming/photography, we can take beautiful pictures, so we can do a lot of cosplay at home!
――What kind of anime or manga are you watching these days?
My favorites are “A3!” and “HYPNOSISMIC”. “HYPNOSISMIC” is well known abroad, and in Israel, I cosplayed as HIFUMI with some Israeli cosplayers. In Indonesia, an Indonesian friend of mine from 10 years ago cosplayed DOPPO and did a gathering of DOPPO and HIFUMI.
Although I also loved “Ensemble Stars!”, when I got detention in Malaysia, I was taken to prison by the costume of Izumi Sena from “Ensemble Stars!” This took too much of hurt with me and it’s going to take a little more while to normally watch “Ensemble Stars!” again, but I really enjoyed “Ensemble Stars!”.
――Do you have a cosplay character you’d like to try in the future?
I’d like to cosplay Itaru from “A3!” and RAMUDA from “HYPNOSISMIC”. I love RAMUDA because he’s so cute. Also, I’d like to try cosplaying old anime/manga too. For example, Kaworu from “Neon Genesis Evangelion”. I’d like to do some of the old ones that I’ve always liked but never did. It’s difficult to set perfectly a wig for “A3!”‘s Itaru. I’ve made a lot of wigs so far, but it’s really difficult to make a wig like the hair of Itaru. It’s probably one of the hardest one I’ve ever made.
I was feeling very depressed after the incident in Malaysia and the impact of COVID-19, but thanks to “A3!” I’m getting back on the internet again with my “A3!” cosplay. I haven’t had the energy to update my SNS for a while, but I’ve been feeling much better lately.
――I was worried to see that you haven’t updated your SNS for a long time, It’s been great to see new photos you’ve uploaded from this year.
Thank you. When I upload photos on the Internet, many people watched at the time, but of course after a while if I do not active for a while, some people forget me, or lose touch with me, but on the other hand, there are also some people who are still connected even after ten years. The internet world moves so fast so I sometimes think that if I stop updating it, I might be forgotten… but there are people who remember me and have been good friends for 10 years. Then I’ve been thinking lately that I’m going to go at my own pace, and enjoy communicating with the people who remember me even though I do not update lots.
Anyway, everytime I truly appreciate to all who watch my works and remember me, again, thank you so much!
―― I recently watched your videos on YouTube about cosplay.
I’m very happy when my overseas friends come to Japan. So when people come to visit, I show them around cosplay goods stores and figure shops, and I’ve been getting a lot of questions about anime goods and cosplay goods in Japan. I decided to release videoed so that many people would know what to buy in Japan and where to buy them. When it comes to cosplaying, Asian people put a lot of effort into makeup, but European people don’t want makeup tool. I was told that the color contacts sold in Japan are not suitable for Europeans because they are only suit for Asian people.
We all have different interests in different areas that we like. My friends who like to make clothes ask me a lot about materials for clothes, and some of them even ask me to translate“Doujinshi”. When I gave a Doujinshi of “HYPNOSISMIC” as a gift to a friend who liked “HYPNOSISMIC”, she was very happy with it, but she asked me to translate it because she didn’t understand much Japanese… I translated also the very dirty yaoi parts and read it out loud to her…. She had another yaoi lover friends and invited them a different day, and in the end then I need to read again in front of everyone…!!
――It was a great reading session, wasn’t it?
Yes…it was very excited made me blushed, but it was fun!
――Finally, please give a message to all the cosplayers around the world!
I’m very sad because I can’t go abroad this year and there are a lot of people I can’t see. But I really love meeting and befriending people from overseas and connecting with them through cosplay, so once COVID-19 is under control and things have calmed down, I’d like to go back overseas again and meet and befriend lots of people. I’m really looking forward to meeting you all in person and not just on the internet.
Hikari made Cosplay videos in English for foreigners, such as wig shop recommendations, contact lens list, etc, it must be great help when you want to buy wigs or contact lens in Japan!
(Japanese Best Online Cosplay Wig Shops List)
(Japanese Best Cosplay Color Contact Lens Brand)
I listened to the story while wondering if I could ask about the incident in Malaysia, but I was very moved by the positive message of “I want to go abroad again when COVID-19 is under control”, and the videos being edited for foreign cosplayers, and the big love for cosplay and anime.
Due to COVID-19, we were unable to meet in person, so it was an online phone interview, but I look forward to seeing Hikari again when the epidemic is under control.