Over the last couple of years, cosplay in Nepal has risen massively in popularity. What once was an obscure hobby is now a widely acknowledged subculture. Attracting fans from inside and outside the valley, cosplaying has changed the way anime and pop culture fans interact and socialize. So what started this, how did cosplay in Nepal make its way into the mainstream? Let’s take a look by stepping into the community.
It all started back in 2014 when a group of fans, namely the founders of Otaku Next and Otaku Club Nepal got together to host an informal public event. They held it in Irish Pub, Lazimpat and the event witnessed many cosplayers and anime fans. Following that year, Kavin Shah, Shalini Rana and Krishant Rana (Otaku Next) started the first official Comic and Cosplay Convention (ComCosCon). The idea was to promote manga culture in Nepal while creating a space for fans to interact. When ComCosCon first started, it was a small event that witnessed around 500 attendees, however soon enough it evolved into one of the country’s most prominent anime conventions amassing over 10,000+ people. Other notable and popular anime conventions that take place in the country are Otaku Jatra and Comic Con Nepal.
Aside from these landmark events, cosplayers and other fans are also a part of smaller events and festivities that are anime themed and appear in schools, colleges and other institutions.
We at Renai Otaku spoke with a few cosplayers and creators to get some fan’s perspective into cosplay in Nepal.
Wataru Oikawa Shrestha, who is the founder of the popular anime club Otaku Club Nepal, has been involved in the cosplay and general anime scene in Nepal since the last decade. Although he debuted his cosplay in 2015’s ComCosCon as Rurouni Kenshin, he has been cosplaying as a hobby in small-time events and at home. Not only has Wataru been cosplaying, but he’s also been acting as an instructor to other fans.
He takes classes where he teaches fellow cosplayers about crafting and prop making. According to Wataru, the feedback from cosplayers and other fans have always been positive. People outside of the community however, have not always been accepting and are only now slowly learning to open up and appreciate the idea of cosplay in Nepal.
Bandika Awa who goes by her stage name Maicha, comments that initially her family had not been so supportive. They thought that cosplay was an expensive hobby. But even with this Maicha continued her hobby, earning her recognition. She won the second-runner up prize while cosplaying as Katana from Suicide Squad. After a while, her family warmed up the idea and started supporting her. Maicha added that cosplaying has helped her come out of her shell and overcome her insecurities.
Nevertheless, there is some level of acceptance in the general public towards cosplay in Nepal too. As said by Prakriti Magar, popularly known as Kushina D. Magar, even though some people are generally indifferent, there are others who show interest in the cosplayers as well. For example, sometimes while cosplaying in public, even non-fans can recognize well-known characters and point them out.
Within the cosplay community, it is a positive feedback to be acknowledged and recognized as the character you are cosplaying. Kushina says that the cosplay community is something that is valuable to fans because not only do you find people with similar interests, you can find a welcoming space. You could talk about your hobbies and interests without fear of dismissal.
In spite of the cosplay community being a good space, it can also be a source of unwanted criticism. Fans have spoken up about the judgement and negative remarks people make about things out of their control. Negative comments can include remarks about how their skin color or body type isn’t suitable for a certain cosplay, their height, a minor flaw in their outfit, etc.
Such kinds of things can be demotivating especially if you’ve worked hard to make the cosplay. Ronish Subba, another young and budding cosplayer added that sometimes it’s not safe for female cosplayers due to predatory behavior from other fans. He remarked that there are people who do and act in a certain way to make the female cosplayers feel uncomfortable.
However aside from that, the community is a generally nice place to be. Ronish, like all other cosplayers above said that there is a connection between the fans so there isn’t a lot of conflict. Most of the people are always supportive of each other so it feels like a place where everyone can be themselves.
Talking about other aspects of cosplay in Nepal, most cosplayers would agree that it can be hard on the finances and also time. Ronish shared that he and his friends have to search a lot of places before they can get desirable materials. Some go-to places for them are Patan and Basantapur.
The cosplayers usually craft their props from cardboard, foam or paper-mache. There are some who choose to sew their own costumes, while others opt to get them tailored by a professional.
Abigail Begha Limbu is a notable seamstress. She has been sewing cosplay clothes since the last 6 years and the majority of cosplayers seek her to get their outfits made. It takes her roughly 12 hours, minus breaks, to sew a full costume on an average. When she first started making costumes, she too had trouble finding materials. But now it’s not much of an issue.
Although she has difficulties like time crunches due to people ordering last minute, a lot of cosplayers asking for orders at the same time, she says she enjoys doing her work. Abigail feels that when she finishes making an outfit, she feels very proud when the cosplayers approve of her work. She said that she takes honor in being trusted by the community to make their outfits.
Besides the cosplayers and creators of the community, cosplay in Nepal is another platform for the organizers too. Due to the growth in popularity, conventions are getting quite competitive among them. For example, Comic Con Nepal was the first to introduce a foreign influencer and cosplayer as a part of their event.
Organizers are always looking for new additions to their convention to attract more participants and attendees. But regardless of what the convention is about, at the heart of it, cosplay is about a communal feeling. The fans agree that cosplay in Nepal has grown to be something they wholeheartedly enjoy and want to invest their time in. Despite some minor negative aspects of the community, the cosplay community in Nepal remains faithful to the fans. Things can always be improved with time, but for now, it is a space fans can call home.
With thanks to:
Otaku Next Nepal (@otakunextnepal)
Wataru Oikawa Shrestha (@majincosplays)
Bandika Awa (@maichacosplays)
Prakriti Magar (@kushina.d.magar)
Ronish Subba (@ronish_subba)
Abigail Begha Limbu (@abigailbegha)
Samir Limbu (@samir_limbu_photography)
Chand S. Söderberg (@hohothebird)