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Cosplay: Discovering a Sense of Self Through Fandom

Time & Location

October 28, 8pm EDT


For the 11th episode of our JFNY pop culture series, we will take a closer look at cosplay and its fandom!

Cosplay, a portmanteau of “costume” and “play,” is the practice of dressing up as a fictional character, usually from an anime, film or video game. The practice has grown in popularity around the world and has even evolved into a profession in some cases. Nowadays, cosplay represents a significant facet of popular culture, and has grown to a level where the practice has even produced conventions and competitions globally. Cosplay continues to maintain and expand on its massive social media presence and other forms of media, attracting new fans daily.

What are the appeals of replacing one’s identity with a fictional personality? What powers do the costumes give us? Why do communities around the world embrace this activity so much?”

Please join our panel discussion with four cosplay experts who study cosplay and have worked in the field both in the U.S. and in Japan: Edmund Hoff, Frenchy Lunning, Akiko Sugawa-Shimada, and Diana Tolin. They will delve into the history of cosplay and how it spread globally, exploring the core essence and the power of cosplay through examining topics such as gender, identity and race.


We will discuss based on your comments:
If you are a cosplayer, please give us your comments about what your biggest motivation for cosplaying is on the Eventbrite page when you register! We will structure our discussion based on your comments.

The discussion will be followed by a live Q&A. Now is your chance to ask the experts your questions about cosplay! Please ask your question when you register. Live commentary will also be enabled on the YouTube stream, so you can participate in the Q&A session live as well.

This event is free. Registrants will receive the link to the stream via email.


Originally from Vancouver, Canada, Dr. Edmund Hoff‘s research lies in popular culture related to Japan with a focus on cosplay. He is an organizer for the World Cosplay Summit and is the longest continuous support staff member for the event since its inception in 2003. In 2016 he was involved in bringing the Mechademia Academic Association’s Conference to Japan and continues to play a role on the steering committee. His most recent publication was a chapter dealing with the early foundations of cosplay culture in Japan from Helen McCarthy and Darren-Jon Ashmore’s book Leiji Matsumoto: Essays on the Manga and Anime Legend (McFarland, 2021). Edmund conducted his postgraduate studies at Nagoya University and currently is a lecturer at Tokyo Denki University.
> Official Website

Dr. Frenchy Lunning is a Professor Emeritus at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and teaches classes in art and design history and theory. She has written books and numerous essays on Japanese popular culture and costume culture, including Subcultural Fashion: Fetish Style (Bloomsbury, 2013) and Cosplay: The Fictional Mode of Existence (University of Minnesota Press, Spring 2021). She is currently working on a new book that addresses the revolutionary aspects of the shōjo in Japanese art and culture. The director of the academic conferences Mechademia Conference on Asian Popular Cultures in both the US and in Asia, she was also the editor-in-chief of the book series Mechademia, a completed ten volume book series on Asian popular cultures and is now co-editor-in-chief of the new Mechademia: Second Arc journal.
> Official Website

Dr. Akiko Sugawa-Shimada is a Professor of the Graduate School of the Urban Innovation at Yokohama National University in Japan. She specializes in Cultural Studies (anime, manga, games), Gender Studies, Audience Studies, Contents Tourism. Her current research centers on Manga of/for Women in Asia, Cosplay and 2.5-dimensional musicals, and Contents tourism. She is the author of numerous books and papers on Japanese pop culture, including “Fashioning ‘Feminine Masculinity’ through Cross-Dressing Cosplay (Crossplay) of Manga/Anime Characters: Changing Gender Dynamics in Singapore and the Philippines.”
> Official Website

Diana Tolin has been a cosplayer and member of the anime industry for over 25 years. She worked in licensing, translation, and localization before following her passion for costuming and cosplay and starting her own business, Dial C Costumes, in 2016. Since then she has crafted costumes for companies such as Square/Enix, Marvel Entertainment and SCRAP Real Escape Rooms. After representing the United States at World Cosplay Summit in 2016, she produced and curated the WCS Team USA Retrospective with the cooperation of WCS USA Alumni teams throughout the United States. In 2018 Diana joined the Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation, becoming the organizer for WCS USA and Entertainment Coordinator for their flagship show, Anime Expo. In 2020 and 2021 she developed digital cosplay events for SPJA/Anime Expo Lite, The ‘Match Your Mask-querade’ and ‘Anime Expo Lite Cosplay Spot-Lite’ competitions, as well as produced educational, cultural, and scripted content. Diana currently works for Ultimate Cosplay as the Director of Internal Production and Business Development and is a guest curator for the upcoming Williams College exhibit Repro Japan: Technologies of Popular Visual Culture.
> Official Website

Previous Sessions

EP1: Roundtable: Why Do We Study Anime and Manga?
EP2: Through a Glass Darkly: Identity Crises in Ghost in the Shell and Neon Genesis Evangelion
EP3: The Power of Music in Anime
EP4: Satoshi Kon: Tracing the Legacy of an Anime Giant
EP5: Sailor Moon: How These Magical Girls Transformed Our World
EP6: Anime Takes the Stage: The Rise of 2.5-Dimensional Musicals and Beyond
EP7: Hayao Miyazaki: Children Entrusted with Hope
EP8: Exporting Studio Ghibli: The Road to Worldwide Recognition
EP9: How the Japanese Video Game Industry Found, Lost, and Rediscovered Its Way
EP10: Godzilla: A Pioneer of Global Pop Culture

Watch all the episodes on YouTube.

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