In 1984, Japanese journalist Nobuyaki Takahashi came up with the term cosplay to describe what he saw when he attended Science Fiction Worldcom in Los Angeles that year. Teenagers and adults were dressed up in elaborate costumes and role played as specific comic-book, anime, manga, and video-game characters. Since then, cosplay has grown from a small subculture popular in Japan and the U.S. to large-scale cosplay conventions, with hundreds of thousands of cosplaying attendees from around the world.
Three B.C.–based cosplayers are the subject of Vancouver filmmaker Josh Laner’s new documentary, My Other Me. The low-budget film follows Lilly, Danae, and Lucas to four cosplay conventions in Vancouver, Victoria, Seattle, and Bellevue, Washington, over the course of a year. As the cosplayers prepare for each convention—sewing costumes, creating wigs, and building props—Laner spends extensive amounts of time with each person in an attempt to peel back the mask on who cosplayers really are.
What we learn is that Lilly, a homeschooled 14-year-old new to the cosplay community, relies on conventions to make friends. Danae and Lucus, who are both 21 and more established in the cosplay community, struggle with coming into their own identities. Danae discusses the significance of “crossplay” in cosplay when she finds herself attracted to her androgynous best friend; meanwhile, Lucus, who is transitioning from female-to-male reflects on how cosplay helped him hone his masculine identity. Laner focuses so much on Danae’s and Lucas’s coming-of-age stories that the film ends up being more about identity struggle than it does about cosplay, ultimately losing a firm grasp on either topic through its drawn-out 90 minutes.
The overarching message from beginning to end, however, is that sometimes, you have to be someone else in order to be yourself. And when it comes to the cosplay community, which seems like a fun, accepting bunch of young adults united as misfits, that’s perfectly okay.
The Rio Grind Film Festival presents My Other Me on Friday (November 2) at 5 p.m. at the Rio Theatre (1660 East Broadway).
You can follow Michelle da Silva on Twitter at twitter.com/michdas.