World Cosplay Summit and the Globalization of Japanese Culture

When I think about globalization, my mind defaults to thinking about the ways in which the world at large has embraced North American culture. For example, when we were in London and Paris earlier this year, we heard the same music blasting on speakers everywhere we went. Who would have thought that Paris would love “Old Town Road” so much?

Maybe it’s just me being ignorant for not seeing the ways in which globalization has gone the other way. I acquired a taste for video games thanks in large part due to games that Nintendo and other Japanese developers were publishing in the 80s and 90s. Tetris, a game I herald as the closest thing mankind has made to the perfect video game, is a Russian export. I don’t really watch anime anymore, but there were stretches of time where I obsessed over Dragon Ball and Bleach. Heck, if I turn on the radio here, it won’t take long before I hear the K-Pop sounds of BTS.

After watching the documentary Cosplay Culture on Netflix Amazon Prime, it served as yet another reminder of how work from foreign countries can have a massive influence around the world.

To provide a bit of setup before we go further, Cosplay Culture is a documentary that highlights specific aspects of the cosplay experience. There are segments that involve the history of cosplay, the life of professional cosplayer Marie-Claude Bourbonnais, and more. In particular, the segment about the World Cosplay Summit sparked the idea for this post. Starting off as a small event between three countries and five teams, it’s since grown to involve dozens of different nations. One of the interesting parameters around the competition is that the cosplay must be based on Japanese source material.

While in that way, it feels counter to the globalization movement, it didn’t seem to matter to the contestants. In fact, they embraced it. Cosplayers the world over made immaculate costumes and performed every word and action with conviction. Seeing cosplayers the world over wow crowds while paying tribute to Japanese culture in their own way was a sight to behold! While they don’t show much of the competition in the documentary itself, Steff and I powered through a playlist of the 2018 grand finals and watched every country perform. Everyone did great, but shout-outs to Indonesia, Chile, Mexico, and Vietnam for being our favourites!

The source material may have come from Japan, but the impact is global. Can’t get enough of seeing fandom break down barriers like this. I hope that as a global society, we continue to share and embrace the works of others like this!


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