Cosplay is somewhat of an anomaly – 2 borrowed foreign words (costume and play) used to describe something predominantly Japanese. If you don’t know, cosplay refers to the act of dressing up as a fictional character. It’s often practiced in groups and its influence stretches far beyond Japan (you know this if you’ve ever been to any Japanese festival anywhere outside Japan).
Next month photographer Yuji Susaki‘s tantalizing photos will take center stage in a solo exhibition at Emon Photo Gallery in Tokyo. Susaki, who has spent the last fifteen years examining the relationship between eroticism and disguising oneself, describes cosplayers as novel, yet somewhat pensive. Mischievous yet unique and charming. “His models are sparsely adorned with only the key elements of each persona to create a “less is more” interpretation of cosplay that seeks to provoke an evolution of Japanese fetishism itself,” says the gallery.
One of the most popular manifestations of cosplay in Japan is the maid, and subsequent maid cafes in which customers are served food and drinks by girls dressed as maids. Critical theorist Azuma Hiroki describes the phenomenon as an “animalization” of the body. But you don’t need to have a degree in critical theory to understand Susaki’s work, which cuts through jargon and focuses on the essence of cosplay.
“The true enjoyment of maid cafes,” said Kiyoshi Hayakawa, founder of the Hayakawa publishing house, “is seeing the fictional characters of manga and anime come to real life.”
“COSPLAY made in Japan” is on display from August 24 – September 14, 2013.