The art (and the artists) of the dress-up

Ordinary folk turn into their favourite characters in cosplay

The Singapore Toy, Game & Comic Convention (STGCC) opens on Saturday and among the highlights are the colourful cosplayers who show up at such events.

For the uninitiated, cosplay is short for costume play.

It is a performance art form where participants wear costumes, make-up and accessories to transform themselves into characters from films, books, anime, manga and video games.

On Sunday, members of the public will be able to see cosplayers strutting their stuff on the STGCC Cosplay Runway.

Here is a look at who some of the real people behind the elaborate make-up and fantasy get-ups are.

Harry Potter. In real life, he is student Seow Howe Liang (right), 23. “You feel like you are not being yourself. You are not your normal character and you have to portray another character with a different personality. It’s really fun.

"There was once I was Starscream from Transformers. I saw some friends and tried to scare them, and they still did not recognise it was me.”

Joker, Batman’s nemesis. In real life, she is housewife Ann Wong (right, stage name Yugana), 31. “I feel like I’m breathing life into a character. I’m bringing people’s dreams alive as well because they get to see the character that they love come to life, so I will try to be in character as much as I can. But most of my characters are a bit more vicious, so I try to tone it down a bit so as not to scare people off.

"I like to play vicious characters because there is a fine line between sanity and insanity but what actually defines it? If you go into the character of the Joker, his world is actually very sane and there is a logical explanation for what he does. It’s fun to keep people guessing.”

Crusader from video game Diablo III. In real life, she is portrayed by freelance photographer Joey Lim (right), 29. “When you cosplay a character that fans can identify instantly, it means that you have achieved the look that you want. I make my own costumes, and it feels like my craftsmanship is being recognised.

"You meet new people along the way – like-minded fans of the characters you cosplay, and when they take a picture with you and compliment you on how you have brought their favourite characters to life, it feels like you are making their day.”

Natsuki Shinomiya, from PlayStation game Uta no Prince-sama. In real life, he is polytechnic student Kazue Chua (right), 22. “Going to events and getting bombarded by photographers, the feeling is awesome because you get a sense of completion as a lot of hard work, many hours and months are put in to do the costume well.

"In cosplay, you can be like a chameleon. You can always try different characters with different styles.”

Predator, an extraterrestrial creature from the movie, Predator. In real life, he is Mr Reno Tan (right), 43, founder of Movie Mania, a western movie and pop culture community. “The look of fear and awe on people’s faces is very satisfying because you make people feel that a Hollywood character has been brought to life from the way you walk, the way you pose and even the growling sound effects.

"For us to be in a cosplay costume, immersing ourselves in a role can be a form of escapism from normal work life. I’m just that character in a different world, a fantasy one, for the moment. When you look through a mask, no one can recognise you.

"I think people should try it if they have never owned a costume before. They will enjoy it."

Megurine Luka from animated music mix Vocaloid-Sandplay. In real life, she is Ms Elizabeth Seah (right, in her normal attire), 34, owner of Haru House, a shop that sells Japanese subculture fashion, anime goods and cosplay wear. “It’s fun not just for those aged below 30. I really enjoy it. Even as we grow older, even for my age, you feel the excitement like a child wearing a Spider-Man costume pretending he is Spider-Man.

"For models, they show the clothes, but for us, we show the details of our costumes and the feel of our character on stage.”

The Singapore Toy, Game & Comic Convention runs for two days – Sept 6-7 – at Halls B & C, Level 1, The Sands Expo and Convention Centre, Marina Bay Sands.

Tickets are $19 for one day and $25 for two days.