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Cosplay

So I have to be an “Active ALT” at one of the schools. Which meant no more sleeping at my desk. Which is a shame, because sleeping at work is just a notch below “That Extra 5 Minutes in the Morning” as the best sleep ever. Oh well, time to wipe the drool off my face and actually do something productive, I suppose.

One of my extracurricular duties included making a monthly English newspaper. By newspaper, I really mean just a big sheet of poster paper with some kind of story or article written on it in English that would be put up on the bulletin board outside the teachers’ room. The teachers showed me the last one the previous ALT had written before he’d left. It was something about the fish canals in Seattle, Washington.

Clearly, the guy had no clue about the interests of Japanese students.

It’s a common mistake really. A lot of ALTs come in all enthusiastic about getting to teach Japanese kids about their home country. There are people who try to give talks about the Boston Tea Party or the white sands of New Mexico, or even the annual watermelon seed spitting contest of Portland, Oregon. And while that’s all well and good, these people often forget to take into account one crucial aspect–Japanese kids just don’t give a flying fuck. Japanese kids don’t give a shit about stuff that’s actually Japanese, they certainly can’t be asked to care about something that’s over a whole ocean away.

I found this out during my first year of teaching.

Kids: Hey, what do you like to do on the weekends?
Me: Well, I like to go into Kyoto and meet friends.
Kids: Kyoto! Wow, that’s really far away!
Me: WTF? It’s only 30 kilometers away! Less than an hour by train!
Kids: OMG, so far. You really like to travel.
Me: It’s only 30km away!
Kids: So, what’s it like out in Kyoto? Is the weather the same as it is down here?
Me: THIRTY. MOTHERFUCKING. KILOMETERS.

So unless the fish canal article described how the fish ended up directly on their dinner plates, I doubt the kids cared. If I was going to put the effort into making it, I wanted the kids to at least read it. Or, at least stand there and look at it for a few minutes before saying “eigo wakaran” (I dunno English) and going off to go fondle each other lovingly in the hallways, blow on a duck horn, camp outside a bathroom window, or whatever the fuck it is these kids are doing these days.

So I decided to write about the explosion of anime and manga in America. This always gets a huge kick out of Japanese people, no matter how old they are. When it comes to internationalism in Japan, there is nothing Japanese people love more than–

1. Japanese people succeeding overseas.
2. The chance to laugh at non-Japanese people being stupid.

The anime/manga explosion in America gives Japanese people a chance to accomplish both at the same time, which gives them a twisted sense of orgasmic joy that they haven’t experienced since…ever, perhaps. Every now and then the evening news does a story about it. I saw one such story once-at the end of the story, one of the reporters read off a list of the top three anime in America.

Male Reporter: And apparently, the top three most popular anime in America now are Naruto, Inu Yasha, and Bleach.
Female Reporter: Ah, soo desu ka?

Now, as many of you may know, the Japanese language is filled with all sorts of tiny nuances that can radically change the meaning of a word or phrase. For you amateur Japanese students out there, you might have read the female reporter’s response as, “Ah, is that so?” However, if you had actually seen the look on her face as she said that, you would have realized that this is a much better translation.

Male Reporter: And apparently, the top three most popular anime in America now are Naruto, Inu Yasha, and Bleach.
Female Reporter: I have no idea what the fuck you just said. Was that even Japanese?

I decided to write about the American anime/manga explosion, and to help pad for space I threw in a blurb about cosplay and figured I could provide a picture as well. This turned out to be sort of a mini-dilemma–what kind of picture would I include? I briefly considered using my All-Time Favorite Cosplay Picture, Sol Badgirl. However, I quickly ruled that out–I got the feeling that most boys would just skip reading the article and stare at Ms. Badgirl’s massively wonderful cleavage. I wouldn’t blame them–hell, *I* would stop reading and just stare into Titty Valley. Plus, Sol Badgirl is too good. I thought it wouldn’t be as fun to include a picture of cosplay that actually works.

Then that brings us to bad cosplay. And certainly, there is some horrendous shit out there. And while I’m sure it would have been madly entertaining, I had to think about what impression I’d be giving these kids. Kids are terribly impressionable–ESPECIALLY Japanese kids, and I didn’t want an entire school of kids running around thinking this kind of thing was the norm in America. No, I had to do some damage control.

I eventually found a Naruto group cosplay picture. It wasn’t extraordinarily bad, nor was it exceptionally good. It was just average. I thought this was a good medium–entertaining, yet not damning. I printed it out to use in my newspaper.

(I would LOVE to reproduce the Naruto cosplay picture I found here, but I just don’t have it anymore. I tried looking for it, but I realized after an hour that that was quite impossible. Looking for one specific Naruto cosplay picture is like looking for whale semen in the ocean–you know it’s there, but there’s no way to distinguish it from all the other crap, and even if you do find it you’ll just wish you hadn’t.)

As my desk was too small for the large newspaper, I took all my supplies to a nearby conference room. There, a group of sannensei girls were working on sewing some skirts for what looked to be a school presentation. I asked if I could have a corner of table space to work on my newspaper, and they graciously agreed. I spread out my supplies and began to work on the article.

After a few minutes, one girl came over and took a look at what I was doing. Quickly losing interest in the English (as most Japanese schoolkids are prone to), she began to look at the pictures. Suddenly, she just started laughing. It wasn’t like an explosive burst or anything, but like a chuckle that gained downhill momentum, fast. The picture eventually just got the best of her, as she fell to her knees, with her head buried on the desk, laughing.

Gee, wonder which picture she found?

Her friends eventually come over to see what’s so interesting. The girl is completely paralyzed–the best she can do is weakly offer up the picture to the newcomers. The second girl takes one look at it, and also collapses into a laughing heap on the floor. This causes pretty much all the girls to now rush over and see what the fuss is all about.

This is another one of those times where I just need to step back and let the situation explain itself.

Girl 3: Holy crap, what is this?
Girl 1: (still in stitches) I…can’t…breathe…
Girl 4: Is this…Naruto? Is this…cosplay? Is this…Americans cosplaying Naruto?!
Girl 5: I think it is supposed to be Naruto. Look, there’s Naruto right there. And look, there’s Kimimaro.
Girl 2: No, that’s not Kimimaro. Kimimaro was sick, but he wasn’t THAT pale and thin!
Girl 5: Well, I think it’s supposed to be Kimimaro.
Girl 3: Look, that’s Orochimaru!
Girl 4: Wow. I didn’t think that character could be anymore disgusting, but hey look, they found a way to do it.
Girl 2: …Is this supposed to be Kakashi?
Girl 4: No. Kakashi’s not a tub of lard. That’s gotta be Chouji.
Girl 3: No no, look–he’s got the face mask and a copy of Icha Icha Paradise. That has to be Kakashi.
Girl 4: Maybe if Kakashi stopped working out and ate chocolate cake everyday…
Girl 2: Look at this girl, pretending to be Sakura! Look at her smiling, as if she’s doing nothing wrong.
Girl 1: (Is trying to speak, but is still laughing too hard–I think she may actually be dying.)
Girl 3: Is this a real picture? Like, you didn’t make this up with any computer voodoo, did you?
Me: Nope, that’s a real picture. Real people went to an anime convention, actually dressed like that.
Girl 2: So, like, there were no mirrors in their houses, and nowhere along the way to the convention, were there?
Me: I’m pretty sure there had to have been a mirror at some point…
Girl 2: So you’re trying to tell me that they did this intentionally?! …WOW.

Keep in mind, that the picture I’d printed out, I considered to be “average.” I shudder to think what might have happened had I printed out one of the bad ones.

The girls are now absolutely enthralled by the picture, and by corollary now interested in my article as well. They even try to read it, despite it being in English. Since they’re third years, they are able to understand most of it. Girl 1 finally recovers, and decides to ask me a bit about cosplaying in America.

Girl 1: So, there’s anime and cosplay in America?
Me: Yeah, anime is really popular in America now. Some people go to conventions. And some people do cosplay. Not all, but some.
Girl 1: What kinds of anime do they cosplay?
Me: Everything, really.
Girl 2: …Everything?
Me: Yeah. Naruto, Inu Yasha, Dragon Ball, Sailor Moon…
Girl 1: How about Full Metal Alchemist?
Me: Yeah, that too.
Girl 1: Really?! Do they cosplay Al? (Alphonse Elric – a character that is a suit of armor.…Not wearing a suit of armor, mind you, IS a suit of armor….Don’t ask.)
Me: I’m sure they have at some point…
Girl 1: …How? Judging from this picture, it seems like they’d just make a suit of armor out of cardboard.
Girl 2: Poor Al…
Girl 3: What else do they cosplay?
Me: Just about anything. There’s even Gundam cosplay.
Girl 2: Gundam?! GUNDAM?!
Girl 1: ….Oh my God. So much cardboard.

After awhile, the period bell rang and the girls had to rush to their homerooms. But not before making me write down URL’s with sites of American cosplay pictures on them. Girl 1 says as she heads off to her class, “If you don’t see me at school tomorrow, you’ll find me dead in front of my computer screen. Died from laughing too hard.” Well, if the Joker ever wants to set his sights on Japan, apparently he can cut costs on developing deadly laughing gas, and just print out a few cosplay pictures and start handing them out on the streets. I don’t think even Batman’s supreme prep-time could save the Japanese.

I do want to re-iterate that the picture I chose, was by all means, average cosplay.

Don’t think me mean or cruel. But, if you’ve ever cosplayed anime in your life, and someone took a picture of it…and if that picture just happens to be on the great wide interweb…there’s a good chance there’s a group of Japanese schoolgirls laughing at you as we speak.

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Categories: Gaijin Smash
  1. September 13, 2010 at 7:15 am

    They’re probably calling me fat and old. XD

    I knew a guy who milled metal to make an Al armour.

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