In Brazil, the birth of cosplay occurred at an anime convention in São Paulo in 1996. Since then, the act of wearing of elaborate costumes and then going to a big room to compete and hang out with other people wearing elaborate costumes has exploded. Brazilian nerds were starving for something like this, and now that they have it, they are chomping it down like a horde of Jewish dads at a tantalizing bar mitzvah buffet of deep-fried obscure cartoon characters. Here are a few cosplay devotees we recently met in Liberdade, a Japanese neighborhood in São Paulo. They were in costume for no apparent reason other than that it’s awesome.
Leonardo Piccoli Mendes, 19 years old
Vice: What are you wearing?
Leonardo: I am Oogie Boogie from The Nightmare Before Christmas.
Is he your most favoritest ever?
He is one of my favorites. The whole project is mine: the design, the material, the way to build it, and how to make it look fat.
It seems like you’re a little uncomfortable.
It is a bit claustrophobic, but I managed to come up with some tactics to make it more malleable and breathable. It has a back zipper and a neck zipper, so I can take the head off when I want to talk, have some water, or eat something. The eyes and the mouth are made out of a fabric similar to nylon, which makes it easier to breathe.
And how much did it cost you?
My grandma sews, so I don’t spend money on making them. For this costume, I spent less than $20.
Do people make fun of you?
There is strong prejudice. They say it’s childish to wear costumes and “It’s stupid to think you’re someone else.” Some people who have different beliefs even say this is profanity.
Azzis Jirges Hanna Netto, 25 years old
Vice: Who are you?
Azzis: Deadpool, an American character from Marvel Comics.
You’re a pioneer of the whole scene in Brazil.
I was one of the first, yes. Someone said, “In Japan, people do that too, and it’s called cosplay.” We did some research and found out cosplay was born in the States, then it went to Japan. So we produced the first Brazilian cosplay event.
You’re huge, kind of a big bear. Doesn’t it seem weird to people who know you?
In the past, people from the martial-arts place where I train and teach thought I was a bit crazy. My teacher never did. Students are the problem. I teach a policeman and he gives me ugly looks.
Have you ever taken a cop to an event?
I did—my father. I made him dress like Toguro, from YuYu Hakusho, and go with me to a convention. He didn’t stay long, but it was so cool. He is a strong guy, six-foot-three. Everyone believed he was the actual character. He had a great time.
Loren de Oliveira Louro, 20 years old
Vice: Who are you dressed as?
Loren: Jo, from the Burst Angel anime.
And did you make your costume?
My mom and I did. She sews the fabrics and I build the structure and do the painting.
A passerby just called you a hottie. Does that happen to you a lot in the streets?
Dudes are a little stupid. They can’t deal with women. Japanese female characters usually wear less clothing.
Are you ashamed of exposing your body?
No, no. They are characters. It’s not Loren, the person, who is walking around in panties.
You don’t care because it’s not your ass showing, it’s the character’s?
In this case it is my ass, right? I’ve given interviews in which men would only film my ass, then my friends from the internet forums would tease me. There are people who admire what you do, while others can’t admire anything but your body.
Fabiola Russo, 29 years old
Vice: What are you wearing?
Fabiola: I am dressed as Ichimaru Gin, from the Bleach anime.
Are you the oldest in your group?
I think I’m the grandma around here. I’m 29.
How long have you been cosplaying?
Since 2005. I started just for the fun of it, doing something we call “cospoor.” You make a not-so-good costume and go to the events just to play around. But I really liked it, so I took advantage of my knowledge of plastics, framework designing, and handicraft, and I was very excited.
What do you do in your spare time?
I love to read, especially about medieval fantasy and the cyberpunk universe.
And what’s the psychological profile of your character?
He is a very sarcastic villain, the kind of guy who hides his game throughout the whole anime. You don’t know why he is following the other two bad guys. He is as perverse as Woody Woodpecker, extremely sarcastic and a big laugher. You can’t tell if he’s just having fun or actually planning something.
Gabriel Niemietze Braz, 27 years old
Vice: Well, we know who you’re supposed to be. How old were you when you started cosplaying?
Gabriel: I was 22. I studied theater for nine years. In drama school, you’re already cosplaying, but with different clothing. I decided to check out one of the events and, you know, once you cosplay, you can’t ever stop doing it. And I take advantage of my theater techniques.
Building the structure of our costumes, for example—we use metals. I can use powder to make smoke and I can use different papers to represent fire or leaves blown by the wind. We also do puppetry and clowning. The advantage of being familiar with theater is to be able to act, to know how to stand on a stage and to know how to move.
So you’re into contests?
I’m very competitive in everything I do. I love competing. But I like to defeat others—I hate losing. So I prefer going for tricky cosplays, things people think cannot be done.
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The Brazilian Issue