How do cosplayers feel about reading a manga about...themselves? Here's a few that share their thoughts on Yui Sakuma's manga.
Complex Age, by Yui Sakuma, is a manga that revolves around Nagisa Kataura, a 26 year old temp-worker that is also a cosplayer, and how she handles pressure from society on her hobby and views on cosplaying. There’s not a lot of manga, if any, that examines it in this manner — so I ended up reaching out to a couple of cosplayers who have read Complex Age. Below is their thoughts, and if they feel the series tells the story about cosplayers well.
State: South Carolina
How long have you been cosplaying, and what’s been your favorite one to do so far? I’ve been cosplaying for ten years now, and I would have to say my favorite costume I’ve done is Ame-Comi Robin. It’s a female DC comics Robin design from the Ame-Comi Heroine Series of figures that was later turned into actual comic books titled Ame-Comi Girls. I had been in love with the colorful and unique design since I first saw it and getting to portray one of my favorite superheroes as a kick-ass female was a lot of fun!
What’s been the most challenging part about cosplaying for you? Cosplay encompasses so many different skills from sewing to prop making to wig styling to posing and more, so anytime I have to learn a new skill it always initially feels very challenging or at least intimidating. For example, I used EVA foam for the first time recently to make D.Va’s light pistol from Overwatch for my Junebug D.Va costume. It involved a lot of patterning, cutting, glueing, dremeling, sanding, sealing, and more. I realized later I probably could have bought a 3D-print of it, resulting in a lot less stress and time, but I appreciate the new skills I gained from trying something new. This is part of what makes cosplay so fun since cosplayers nowadays tend to be jack-of-all-trades and able to do anything.
How did you find out about Yui Sakuma’s Complex Age? I work in a library and am constantly checking our latest manga additions to the collection. As soon as I saw a manga about cosplay I knew I had to check it out. I was a little wary at first since the hobby is so dear to me, but luckily I had nothing to worry about as it far exceeded my expectations.
How many volumes of it have you read? How do you feel about how the series portrays cosplayers and cosplaying overall? I have read all 4 volumes released in the US so far and am eagerly awaiting the fifth. I find it to be such an accurate and heartfelt portrayal of cosplay. There are some differences between the Japanese cosplay scene versus the US scene as illustrated in moments such as designated changing and cosplay areas at conventions and cosplay photography studios (I wish we had these here!), but the spirit of cosplay and love of the hobby is something universally expressed. Every volume examines moments I’ve felt as a cosplayer from hiding cosplay from coworkers to that feeling of pure joy getting the perfect shot at a location shoot, so I’d say it’s very realistic.
I’m incredibly grateful the series follows characters in their 20s partially because I’m that age and can relate more, but also because it can be hard to find manga where the protagonist isn’t still in middle or high school or teenaged. Nagisa has really had time to hone her cosplay craft. I find the story much more meaningful being about a cosplay veteran than a newbie that might not stick with it as passionately. The series also doesn’t shy away from some of the negative sides of the cosplay scene such as bullying and photos taken of cosplayers without permission.
Is there a particular moment that stands out to you from reading it? Yes! Volume 3 is my favorite so far because it’s full of all these emotional scenes that really resonate with me. One of them is when Nagisa’s boyfriend nonchalantly comments about her not being able to cosplay forever and Nagisa fires back at him for deciding what she gets to do with her life and hobby. So many people see cosplay as just playing dress-up for kids or a silly nerd thing, but to many cosplayers it’s an integral part of who we are. And you just don’t ask someone to stop being who they are. Cosplay is for everyone regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, body-type, etc. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t cosplay!
While there’s still two volumes left to be published, what do you think you’ll ultimately take away from reading Complex Age? I don’t think I’ve ever related more to a manga than Complex Age. Nagisa goes through and experiences so many things I have felt as a cosplayer. This is definitely a series I’ve been recommending to all my cosplay friends. It’s also such a great gateway to cosplay for those not as familiar with the hobby. The manga includes a super helpful “Cospedia” or glossary of cosplay terms in the back of each volume to help people keep up to speed with all the cosplay slang and connotations behind things. It’s a heartfelt story about a girl expressing her love for cosplay and all the friends and memories she’s gained from it. Also Nagisa’s Magical Girl Ururu costume is super cute! Maybe one day I’ll cosplay from the series myself.
Where you can find her: Facebook
How long have you been cosplaying, and what’s been your favorite one to do so far? I’ve been doing it for about seven years now. Favorite one is hard to say as I love a lot of my cosplays for different reasons. I would say my current, main favorite has to be my Gudako cosplay from Fate/Grand Order due to the fun experiences I’ve had while wearing her.
What’s been the most challenging part about cosplaying for you? I am very detailed oriented to a fault. I make most of my costumes so a lot of it is making sure I get everything right, from the fit, to the smaller details. I hand embroider as well which adds another level of detail. At a certain point one has to give up getting everything right in order to get stuff done but accepting that fact can be hard at times.
How did you find out about Yui Sakuma’s Complex Age? I do a weekly-biweekly walk around B&N to check the new releases and I spotted the first volume on the shelf and was very intrigued.
How many volumes of it have you read? How do you feel about how the series portrays cosplayers and cosplaying overall? I’ve read 3 volumes at this point. I get my copies from the library to read so there is sometimes a wait before I get around to reading something. That’s why I still haven’t read volume 4 yet. As for portraying cosplayers, this is a pretty difficult question to answer. Complex Age tackles the Japanese cosplay culture which is vastly different from American cosplay culture. However, there are some aspects that do translate, like the difficulties of being an older cosplayer, from finding time for the hobby to having parents that do not approve to having coworkers find out. It also portrays the positives, like how free the characters feel while in costume and how much fun it is to do a lot of work to get that one perfect shot, and that one perfect shot is all you need.
Is there a particular moment that stands out to you from reading it? I do not know which volume it is in but I did take pictures of the pages because it stuck out to me (I think it’s volume 1 and I’m terrible at remembering names when I’m not reading something). But the character says, “I don’t think cosplay is about wearing a costume. I think it is about donning the character.” This line is a pretty good sum-up of how I think of cosplay.
While there’s still two volumes left to be published, what do you think you’ll ultimately take away from reading Complex Age? I hope this will be a series that shows the “truth” about cosplay. Usually when it’s portrayed in media and stuff, it’s more of a character quirk but from what I read, this series has made cosplayers appear human. Yes they cosplay, but their lives are not just cosplay.
How long have you been cosplaying, and what’s been your favorite one to do so far? I’ve been cosplaying since I was 17 so I am almost upon the 10 year cosplay anniversary mark. It’s really hard for me to think of a cosplay I’ve enjoyed most over the years, it’s a tie between a lot of things but I think Yona might edge them all out.
What’s been the most challenging part about cosplaying for you? Just learning how to do it. I started cosplaying juuuust before it started going mainstream so there were way fewer tutorials and guides when I started and I feel frustrated that I seemed to learn some things more slowly as a result. It took me forever to learn how to pose, that yes you need to use make-up if you want to take photos, and everything I sew feels like the toughest thing ever!
How did you find out about Yui Sakuma’s Complex Age? My friends started yelling about it on Twitter so I had to check it out.
How many volumes of it have you read? How do you feel about how the series portrays cosplayers and cosplaying overall? 4, hoping to get to volume 5 soon. As I mentioned on my guest appearance on The Taiiku Podcast about Complex Age, there are so many details that Yui Sakuma gets right about cosplaying that I wonder if she’s a cosplayer as well.
While there’s still two volumes left to be published, what do you think you’ll ultimately take away from reading Complex Age? I’m still really nervous how the series will end, I’d hate it if most of the characters stopped cosplaying by the end since I’m the same age as them and I don’t feel like I’m too old to cosplay at all! So I’m still very nervous about what kind of ending we’ll get but almost regardless of that, I think I’m going to be pointing this series out for years to come as “that one story that actually gets cosplay right).
Name: Carly Smith
State: New York
How long have you been cosplaying, and what’s been your favorite one to do so far? I started cosplaying in 2008, and before that, all of my Halloween costumes were character-specific. I dressed up as Ash Ketchum from Pokemon one year, Harry Potter another, and even Sonic the Hedgehog when I was very young. My favorite cosplay now is Colette Brunel from Tales of Symphonia because I met lots of friends at conventions when cosplaying from the Tales of series. It also helps that it’s easy to get changed into, and it’s comfortable! But a very close second-favorite would be Hikaru Shidou from Magic Knight Rayearth because of the beautiful outfits designed by CLAMP and all of my fond memories with my friends who cosplay Umi and Fuu.
What’s been the most challenging part about cosplaying for you? Costume construction has always been difficult for me. I can’t make my own patterns because I’ve struggled with visualizing how 2D shapes come together to make 3D garments. Geometry is a no-go in my head. Nine years have passed since I started, and I still rely on a lot of mass-produced patterns! Fortunately, my friends are always around to help me with that in exchange for styling their wigs, and I’ve found people who I can commission to make things for me.
How did you find out about Yui Sakuma’s Complex Age? I work in the manga industry, so I try to pay attention to new releases. I think I first saw Complex Age mentioned in a round-up of new series just before Kodansha USA published the first volume.
How many volumes of it have you read? How do you feel about how the series portrays cosplayers and cosplaying overall? At the moment, I’ve read the first four volumes out from Kodansha USA, and as soon as volume five arrives in my mailbox in a few days, I’ll devour that one! Nagisa intimidated me so much in the first volume; I’ve always believed cosplay is all about having fun. If you want to buy a mass-produced costume, hang out with friends, and take selfies, you should do that! If you get joy from figuring out where the seams go in a costume and what fabrics to use, then that’s awesome! Bullying is an unfortunate part of the cosplay community—as it is in any community, unfortunately—and Nagisa forces her viewpoint of cosplay on others. However, she does discover the pure joy of cosplaying with friends without focusing on who’s the best, so I’m happy to see her growth!
The series addresses some things that seem to be pretty specific to Japan, or perhaps just how things were in the community a few years ago before cosplay became very mainstream. Most people these days don’t have to worry about their family members, coworkers, or friends thinking they’re perverts or weirdos for liking to make and dress up in costumes. (Some people may not want to advertise their involvement in the hobby, but it’s not like you’ll be bullied into leaving your job over it.)
Despite some cultural differences between cosplay in Japan and cosplay in America, Complex Age effectively hits on anxieties about one’s age or body type affecting their cosplay. Nagisa struggles with being tall when she wants to be young, cute characters, and her mother completely dropped a hobby when younger Gothic Lolita girls commented on her age showing. I’m 26 now, and most of the characters I cosplay are 14–18 years old. I know I don’t look as young as I used to, and I’ve felt insecure about how I look in photos because many of my fellow cosplayers are skinnier or more fit than I am. It’s hard to get over when a huge part of the hobby is about your physical appearance, and that’s why I focus on why I love the characters I cosplay and how much fun I have with my friends.
Is there a particular moment that stands out to you from reading it? I adore the part when Nagisa and the rest of the group spent a weekend vacation cosplaying together, staying up late watching stuff, and taking beautiful photos together. It reminds me of all the good times I’ve had a photoshoots with friends outside of conventions.
While there’s still two volumes left to be published, what do you think you’ll ultimately take away from reading Complex Age? I think ultimately, Complex Age is about acceptance. We need to make healthy, welcoming spaces for new and old cosplayers. While Nagisa started off as pretty elitist, I think she’s learned a lot about opening up to her family about her hobby, recognizing that her actions encourage others to be nasty, and how to make friends with people—even when they cosplay the same character as you! We’re all nerds who love the same thing, so we might as well have a blast while sweating in costume.