Every year the city of Nagoya plays host to the World Cosplay Summit (WCS), a large-scale competition between cosplay representatives from around the world. Teams of two from 20 different countries are all brought to Japan to take part in this life-changing opportunity. The championship finals will be held on the outdoor stage of Oasis21 on Saturday, August 3, starting at 7 p.m. Japan time. Tickets are available, though they are not required to watch the event. In fact, you don’t even have to be in Japan to watch this year’s world-class cosplay performances. It’s been announced that for the first time Niconico Douga will be stream the entire event on the World Cosplay Summit’s official channel.

But you know, not everything to do with the WCS involves competition. Cosplay itself is about bringing together people of similar interests and building a sense of community between those who like to dress up as Japanese characters. These cosplay teams must prepare not only as performers but as representatives of cosplay culture in each of their respective countries. Before the finals even take place, teams must take part in a week’s worth of parades, photo shoots, and official meetings. it’s a good thing there are some opportunities to relax worked into the schedule as well.

As a general overview, the World Cosplay Summit began in 2003 as a cultural exchange program between cosplayers from four different countries, to discuss the practice of cosplay around the world and strengthen the sense of community that cosplayers share. It’s truly a bond that knows no cultural boarders, as evidenced by the fact that the event was very well received and has seen steady growth in the years since. In 2005 a competition aspect was added to the summit, and it soon became the main focus of the event. Now in its 11th year, the WCS championships include representatives from 20 different countries, plus a pair from the Philippines attending as observers. Outfits feature everything from billowing ball gowns to giant robots, and the performances themselves include choreographed fight scenes, quick costume changes, and explosive stage effects. With so much skill and variety on display, the competition is quite tight.

About full week before the championship competition, WCS’s list of scheduled events began with a parade through the streets of Ichinomiya on July 27. Since then, they have taken part in a long string of official meetings, stage appearances, and TV spots. They’ve met with government officials, like the cosplaying mayor of Nagoya, and with corporate sponsors, exploring the museum of Brother sewing machines. And all of this is in addition to the contest judging, stage direction, and skit rehearsals that they must endure!

Between the many language barriers and the overall pressure that these teams and team organizers must face, stress levels can skyrocket. The smallest communication error can escalate into widespread confusion and panic. Luckily, the event coordinators have scheduled in a fair share of free time and, as a treat for the middle point in the week, a catered karaoke party for all of the teams, organizers, and staff members.

As a member of the staff myself, I was able to take part in this friendly gathering of cosplay fanatics and take some exclusive shots behind the scenes. For two hours, daring divas took to the stage, singing and dancing for the entertainment of all.

▼ Though it makes sense for Haruka (cosplay name) of Korea, representatives from Brazil, Italy, and the organizer for Germany are surprisingly knowledgeable of K-pop!


Seeing the camaraderie shared between all of the teams in spite of the looming competition was warming to my heart. Many of the team organizers are, themselves, past representatives and have years of history between them, but even the fresh-faced cosplay teams, who have known each other for a mere five days, were easily able to find friendship amongst their multi-national peers.

Rather than take place in your standard Japanese karaoke room—a place with couches, a central table, a TV screen, and two mics—the party took place in a large room with chairs around back edges, tables of food to the sides, and a stage at the front, fully equipped with four microphones and a projector screen. There was a large spread of food and drinks, both alcoholic and not, being offered free of charge thanks to the kind sponsorship of Joysound Karaoke, a long-time supporter of the WCS. It was the perfect place for everyone to chat and mingle and for cosplay divas to strut their stuff. The teams ate, drank, sang, and danced together to their heart’s content. Most of the songs were either K-pop or anime theme songs, and when iconic tunes like the theme from Evangelion, Cruel Angel’s Thesis, began to play, the entire room erupted in song.

Cruel Angel’s Thesis was a real crowd favorite.


The party lasted just over two hours, but it was enough to help the teams forget for a moment about the looming finals. On Friday, they will all be back in the thick of things, going through dress rehearsals for the championships on Saturday evening. If you live in the area, be sure to come down to Oasis21 for a visit. The streets will be crawling with cosplayers. If you happen to be stuck at home, check out WCS’s channel on Niconico Douga for streaming video of the finals. The judges are set to include voice actors Furuya Toru (Darien/Tuxedo Mask from Sailor Moon) and Sugita Tomokazu (Gitoki from Gintama) and a four-song musical performance by Youko Takahashi (Cruel Angel’s Thesis) is scheduled for intermission. It’s definitely worth checking out!

Now for more behind-the-scenes pictures!

▼ Those without mics took to the stage as dancers for this Korean pop song (though the lyrics were shown in Japanese)


▼ The team from Thailand gave us a lovely serenade.


▼ Team USA, aka Cupcake Cosplay, were kind enough to pose with their organizer, Diana.


▼ The organizer from Indonesia was happy to be surrounded by the pretty-boy student staff volunteering for the WCS.


▼ Team Indonesia all together: Eko, Naru, and their organizer, Hua.


▼ Team Finland are awesome characters both in and out of costume!


▼ Here’s Erin and Heather from team UK, with their organizer, Emily.


▼ At one point this was one half of a large spread of food…


▼ Team Brazil has been competing in the WCS for years. They’re two-time champions, now hoping for a third win.


▼ Uh-oh, a Korean photobomb on Fran (cosplay name) of Team Japan.


▼ These four organizers spontaneously put together a barbershop quartet for Japanese songs.


▼ Everybody loves Sailor Moon! Especially, the US representatives on the left, dragged onto stage for having brought along appropriate cosplay.


▼ This is me with Ed Hoff, who’s been working with the WCS since it first started in 2003!


▼ The party ended with a group song for all the teams. They’ll be performing this one at the very end of the finals.


▼ Any guess as to what they’re singing?


▼ Now, while I can’t give away any pictures of the teams’ costumes before they appear in the finals, I can show you some examples of costumes by past competitors, for a taste of the quality one can expect. These four outfits were all donated by the team organizers and past contestants.





If you’re at all curious about cosplay, the WCS is definitely worth checking out! These people are practically professionals (if not literally), and the things they piece together out of love for Japanese manga and games is admirable and altogether inspiring. The magic that happens onstage can at times seem unreal, but beneath the costumes and the make-up are just regular people with real passion. Seriously, check it out.

References: World Cosplay Summit Official Site, WCS Channel on Niconico Douga
Pictures: RocketNews24