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Expensive hobbies: The world of Cosplay

March 5, 2014

Love it or find it strange, welcome to the world of Cosplay; where dressing up as your favourite comic or anime character is liberating and most importantly fun.


By Michelle Brohier

Hobbies are integral to well-being. Ask anyone whose idea of unwinding involves very specific activities. But as with anything in life: hobbies aren’t made equal. Some take more effort to partake in and some cost a pretty penny. And very few hobbies take as much dedication and money as the world of Cosplay.

For the uninitiated, grown adults dressing as anime or cutesy comic book characters seems a tad juvenile. But for those in the world of Cosplay; the enjoyment and friendship created via the hobby; makes all the hard work (and odd stares) worthwhile.

Love it or find it strange, welcome to the world of Cosplay; where dressing up as your favourite comic or anime character is liberating and most importantly fun. But is it also as expensive as it seems?

A little background

Cosplay is a word combination of costume and play, where you wear a costume either with accessories or props that resemble a character from a film, comic, video game, anime or just any form of media. The world of Cosplay has been growing for decades now in various countries but it started off rather simple in Malaysia when the first well known anime event was organised in 2002.

“My first Cosplay was hilarious and cheap,” said Jonathan Goon, who has been cosplaying since 2005. “It was an Akatsuki cloak from the anime Naruto, and it was the first thing I had ever sewn too! I bought some cheap fabric from some textile shops, so the whole thing costed around RM50.”

Asyraf Noor Azizi, can also attest to that during his first Cosplay in 2007. “I cosplayed Cyborg No. 17 from Dragon Ball Z and all I needed was to cut up some green cloth, wear jeans and a shirt and I was done. My hair was already similar to the character so the entire outfit barely cost me anything.”

All about the money

As the years went by, the passion to portray their favourite characters better began to grow, raising the bar as they invested more time and money into their costumes. This is especially so for Sky Fara, a well-known cosplayer who, together with her partner Yuan, represented Malaysia in the World Cosplay Summit in 2011. Having been cosplaying on and off for the past 10 years, she and Yuan have participated in many Cosplay competitions and are known for their dedication to bring their favourite characters to life.
Their last project proved to be their most expensive as it wasn’t just one Cosplay, it was a combination of 3 Cosplays that were made for a group competition. “It was the Sonic team Cosplays with the characters Sonic the Hedgehog, Dr. Eggman and Miles Tails Prower,” she explained. “It was pretty expensive because we were trying out various materials to make our costumes. These included metal wires, wood, sponge, latex mask, feathers, vinyl, buttons, pleather, compressed and expanding foam, paints, and various types of glue. Some of the materials were imported from other countries like Thailand and China, which added on to the cost. On top of that we bought ready-made items like makeup, shoes for the base, glasses, and gloves. I think overall we spent about close to RM1500 for this project.”

Sky isn’t the only one. After such a simple start, Jonathan is now well known for his Ghostbusters and Daft Punk costumes which he handmade himself. The props he needed include fiberglass, urethane plastic, metal and wood, some of which were imported from the US and the UK. With shipping costs together with the casting silicon used to make casts for the Daft Punk helmet molds, he invested RM6000 for his Ghostbuster costume and RM4000 for his Daft Punk costume. Despite the steep cost, he is still keen to further invest and improve on his costumes.

Cosplay on a Budget?

Not all cosplayers spend thousands on their costumes though as there are still those who are keen to keep their Cosplays as cheap as possible without losing out on quality. Asyraf actually tracks his expenses and takes note of what he buys. “I prefer to make my own Cosplay costumes as it’s a lot cheaper compared to ordering it online. Because those may not come out the way you want,” he said as he explained how he used craft foams and spray paint to make a suit of armour. Some of the props he makes are made from items that can be found around the house, such as boxes and manila cards. He also tries to reuse the wigs or any parts of a costume he’s used in the past for future Cosplays. His current costume is considered to be his most expensive, costing about RM100.
Asyraf Cosplays together with his twin brother Iqbal, and their efforts in making props and even performing skits have made them well known in the Cosplay scene, as they have won many competitions for this. Being in the Cosplay scene, they both understand how tough it can be for cosplayers who don’t stick to a budget. “I know a lot of friends who got into Cosplay but dropped out because it was too expensive for them,” said Iqbal. “The thing is, cosplaying doesn’t have to be expensive. You just need to be smart in how you plan it out.”

How do they do it?

For the older cosplayers, most of them earn some form of income to help support their Cosplays. Jonathan earns his own money through prop commissions, and he also has various properties in Malaysia and Australia rented out. Sky works as a 2D animator and puts away RM300 per month dedicated to ‘entertainment’ needs. She admits that cosplaying has affected her savings quite a bit though. “Because of cosplaying, I have less money to do other things like taking a trip overseas or even watching movies. But I really enjoy cosplaying, so I am okay with this.”
For Yoake Hikaru, a new cosplayer who is still a student, she funds her Cosplay by saving up her allowance and not spending on items she doesn’t need. “Sometimes I sell off my old costumes, wigs and shoes to willing buyers at a cheaper price.”

As for their advice for cosplayers, everyone emphasised on the importance of budgeting. “I’ve seen a lot of friends who tend to work on Cosplays that are beyond their budget,” said Yuo-chan, an on-and-off cosplayer since 2009. “Plan a Cosplay that is within your budget to make sure you have enough money for other expenses. Some cosplayers spend so much they don’t even have enough money to buy a meal at the events!”

Research is also vital for cosplaying. Ask for advice; find out the prices for the materials, and Yoake even advocates using your Google skills to learn more tips on cosplaying. Jonathan advises saving at least RM50 to RM100 weekly as a special saving fund while Sky advises taking on part time jobs if need be.

Whether you choose to spend RM100 or RM1000 on a costume, it’s no doubt that for the individuals participating; the money doesn’t affect how much pleasure the hobby gives them.

This was brought you by Michelle Brohier from RinggitPlus.com. RinggitPlus compares credit cards, personal loans and home loans to help Malaysians get more for their money.


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