The Magic of “Awase” Cosplay

併せ(Awase; Eng. “team cosplay”)” refers to cosplaying together with another person or people and following a common theme.


If I had 10 seconds to explain it, I would leave it at the simple definition above, but it simply doesn’t do it justice; the depth of team cosplay is truly fascinating. 



Why is it that so many cosplayers go out of their way to prepare costumes and pay for space to wear them? Well in my case, I’m fascinated by the magic that can only be experienced the moment we come together for a team cosplay. The joy of being yourself, the intrigue, and to put it in today’s lingo, it’s awesome and gives me the feels. And really to be completely honest, it’s hard to put into words. 


Through this, I hope to give you a chance to see what I have been gushing about by sharing some of my own magical and memorable experiences. I’ve done team cosplay nearly 100 times so far, but even so I want you to listen to this and take it as just the soliloquy of a solitary cosplayer.


Common terms: Characters that appear in the same work or series, or that are in line with the same concept (character image features, etc.)



Now I Will Paint You a Picture of My Doujin Experience 

I can’t draw illustrations or comics, and I’ve never written anything that can remotely be called a story. To me cosplay is my way of  expressing the world of my favorite work. Moreover, to do awase cosplay is to create the world together with other cosplayers. It’s a vastly different approach to expression than doing a solo drawing (writing) project yourself.



The characters come together as layers in a scene. Together we try to understand how to successfully portray the connection between the characters through discussing expressions and poses that work well between the two people, and then we figure out how to reproduce that scene in the booth at the studio; with this a story that cannot be told alone is born. 


At the hand of the photographer that connection becomes captured in the one photograph and in that one moment, the story becomes something that can fit in a selfie folder on a smartphone. Even if that photograph doesn’t remain in my data, remembering the time we spent together in the team, makes me feel as though I am reading back through my own personal doujin that I created together with my scene partner or partners.



Stimulation From Creations (things), Stimulation From Layers (people)

Making costumes and props, cutting/styling wigs, applying makeup, in all of these skills there are so many different people with so many different talents. It’s because of this that up until now I have been blown away countless times by people’s cosplay. People who participate in awase that have handmade costumes have their own work reflected back to them in the picture and they are able to admire it between shoots. I feel it’s like an exhibition of your love and commitment to the team. 



In addition to this, it’s understood that cosplay conveys a layer of one’s personality and one’s feelings toward the work itself. I often observe others during awase. Things like their choice of words when discussing the composition and nuanced facial expressions used when shooting give me a glimpse of their personality and how they interact with the work. 


Seeing the finished photo on Twitter cannot even compare to the overwhelming feeling of actually participating in and being one of the layers in that scene. That is exactly why I get the urge to do my own cosplay everytime I see the photos.



Awase Connects Us


As I continue my hobby of cosplay, I’ve gradually become used to talking to new people. So much so in fact that I realise how nice it is to meet new people at. I have even had the opportunity to do spontaneous awase at Comiket. These are referred to as “guerrilla” awase. People from all around Japan and all over the world join the group one by one greeting each other, taking selfies and following each other on Twitter. The fact that there were so many people who were expressing their love of the work with all of their hearts standing there beside me filled me with a great sense of community and a real sense of excitement at what meetups like this could bring in the future.


Moreover, through cosplay I’m able to make friends of different ages and from all walks of life; people that it would be impossible to meet in a school or work setting. Personally, I strongly feel that making friends and interacting with people who hold different thoughts and values is an invaluable experience. 



Looking back at what I’ve written, I would like to put a few important points in perspective. There may be people who don the image of their favourite character along with their otaku friend and they’re happy to simply hang out and chat and there are people who are nervous to cosplay by themselves and as such join a team; the reasons why people team up are vast and unique to each person, and that is okay.  


Cosplay may look like a big funny game of adult dress-up to outsiders, however I don’t think it’s a game to people who are serious enough to spend time and money on it. I think the best hobbies are those that you have a passion for and that can be shared with friends who hold that same passion and this in one of them.


In the current climate of self-restraint, it’s difficult to come together to do awase, but I patiently wait and hope for the day when I can once again chase that magical feeling with my fellow cosplayers.        




A registered dietitian and a new writer in the world of cosplay with areas of expertise in otaku culture, food and nutrition.


Rhiannon Charles

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