Cosplay for family bonding

Mr Joverst Lee (above right), his daughter Chanel and wife Cassandra dressed as characters from anime series Kill La Kill at a cosplay event in 2014. Mr Yuen Xiang Hao (left) and his wife Rain (far left) play characters from the video game series Kin
Mr Yuen Xiang Hao (right) and his wife Rain (left) play characters from the video game series King Of Fighters, while their daughter Xue Ling is dressed as Elsa from the Disney movie Frozen, during a taping of The 5 Show in 2015.PHOTO: YUEN FAMILY

The families say such events help their children learn the importance of imagination and be more sociable too

One of the first words that Chanel Lee learnt to say was "cosplay". The four-year-old has worn elaborate costumes to role-play characters from manga and anime.

When she was one, she dressed up as Chibi Mikasa, the female soldier from manga series Attack On Titan, for the Anime Festival Asia event at Suntec Convention & Exhibition Centre.

A year later, she dressed as the revenge-seeking anti-heroine Ryuko Matoi from anime series Kill La Kill for The Cathay's J-Obsession event. She wore a navy blue blouse and skirt, a red-and-blue bandana, and had a red streak in her hair, like the character.

She was styled by her parents - online marketer Joverst Lee and accountant Cassandra, both 23, who are avid cosplayers. They generally make their costumes themselves by modifying clothes from shops. "Cosplay is a good way for our family to spend time together," Mr Lee says.

His wife adds: "Taking Chanel to cosplay events encourages her to be more social. It beats staying at home in front of the TV or iPad."


Mr Joverst Lee (above right), his daughter Chanel and wife Cassandra dressed as characters from anime series Kill La Kill at a cosplay event in 2014. PHOTO: FU ZHIRONG

Mr Lee's alter egos include the shy but cursed God of the Underworld Hades Aidoneus from anime series Kamigami no Asobi and the warrior Yasuo from the online game League Of Legends.

After he got married in 2010, his wife also picked up the hobby. She has dolled herself up as the goofy and energetic teenager Mako Mankanshoku from Kill La Kill, who incidentally is the best friend of Ryuko, Chanel's character.

At Chanel's first event when she was one, her father said she "cried and wanted to go home".

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He added: "I figured that she felt uncomfortable being around so many people. So we encouraged her to look at the pretty costumes and performances. She calmed down eventually."

The next year, when she was dressed up as Ryuko Matoi from Kill La Kill, he went as teal-haired hacker Hoka Inumuta from the same series. He says: "This time, she had fun. She kept reaching out to touch the costumes and weapons, and smiled whenever people wanted to take photos with her."

The couple live with their two children - they had a baby boy Jaylon last year - and Mr Lee's parents in a four-room HDB flat in Woodlands.

Another family which cosplays together regularly are Mr Yuen Xiang Hao, 38, his wife Rain, 35, and their daughter Xue Ling, seven.

Mr Yuen, a physics teacher, says: "We treat it as a day out together. I like taking photos and being photographed. Rain loves meeting the other cosplayers. And for Xue Ling, it's one long, unending adventure full of surprises."

The family have been cosplaying together for the last three years, attending events such as The Cathay's J-Obsession in 2014 and last year's Comics Fiesta in Kuala Lumpur. They will also attend this year's The Cathay's J-Obsession.

The couple have dressed up as characters from the video game King Of Fighters: Mr Yuen as Kyo Kusanagi, a cocky high school student, and Mrs Yuen as his red-haired enemy, Iori Yagami.

Mrs Yuen, a translator in a games company, says: "Through cosplay, my daughter learns the importance of imagination.

"When she is in costume, she learns to imagine herself as someone else. And when she takes it off, I hope she learns that heroes and monsters are people, and it is our actions that ultimately define us."

So far, Xue Ling's characters tend to be Disney princesses such as Belle from Beauty And The Beast (1991) and Elsa from Frozen (2013). The trio have not appeared as an ensemble, but plan to do so.

Are the parents concerned about exposing their children to revealing or provocative cosplay costumes?

Mr Yuen says: "It is no different from going to the beach or walking down Orchard Road."

Most cosplayers, he adds, are extremely considerate and those dressed as the villainous sidekick of the Joker, Harley Quinn, from the Batman comics, have taken great pains to look non-threatening and "non-insane" when speaking to his daughter. He adds: "One squatted down to talk to Xue Ling at eye level. Another put her baseball bat away. It was sweet of them."

Mr Lee says: "If anyone were to say that I force my daughter to cosplay, I would say that is the way I choose to raise her.

"I want her to have a happy childhood where she can dress up and imagine she can be anybody she wants. I don't want to take away this bit of fantasy and innocence from her."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 30, 2016, with the headline 'Cosplay is fun with mum and dad'. Print Edition | Subscribe