Diving into Otaku, Cosplay Culture and New-Age Streaming with Aorin Shariyari

Our discussion with Colour Me Aorin turned into a fireside chat, touching upon the many facets of cosplay culture, streaming and content-creation in India. Here’s part two of what was an open, intriguing discussion:

A lot of people are confused about the difference between ‘fancy dress competitions’ and ‘cosplay’. What do you have to say to them?

Fancy dress is a very desi way of saying costume dress, and many cosplayers are offended by it. Cosplaying is dressing up as characters from TV shows, movies, comics, or books. Even dressing up as original artwork. It is much more than that fancy press. We spend days, even months painstakingly crafting these costumes. Cosplay is more than a hobby, it is passion and art. Fancy dress is the wrong term widely used in our country.

Aorin Shariyari
On the business of Cosplay with Aorin Shariyari

Is this just a rich person’s hobby, since a lot of the material is so expensive? How can someone of fewer means become a part of this?

You can cosplay on a budget. I usually conduct a seminar where I talk about budget cosplays. But if you are looking at cosplaying at a professional level or at a competition level, then you have no choice but to spend – or craft it yourself, which can consume a lot of time. Cosplaying is an expensive hobby because making quality cosplays requires tools and materials that can end up costing you more than your rent. Tt all depends on factors such as the selection of character, the materials used, etc. In the end, if you have the money to spend and want to get a higher quality cosplay, go for it. But if you are not sure you want to spend a lot, then it doesn’t mean you can’t cosplay. Do your research, see what fits your needs, and choose a character accordingly.

Is ‘otaku’ culture something that you ever see catching on in India?

Yes, I do. Otaku culture is slowly but surely making its presence felt in India, and constantly evolving as more people engage with it. Classics like DBZ are still in the fan-favourites, but with increased access to the internet people, aren’t limited to channels that hardly show any anime. Today, we have Netflix and other streaming sites that provide an unlimited anime playlist for enthusiasts.

What is the blueprint of a general cosplay business? What are the elementary steps required to start a cosplay business, especially in india?

Keep your expectations low. Majority of the people I know who keep getting featured or are doing well already have a set of ‘contacts’ and helping hands. For someone new to cosplay, the main thing to remember is that Indians don’t want to spend money and will always look for a cheaper option, so it can be hard to deliver quality products especially when the market isn’t very large and it can take time and a lot of patience to get somewhere. Always have a back up ‘day job’ because depending solely on cosplay as a career won’t be enough to pay the bills – at least until you make it.

How competitive is the circle in india? Is it healthy competition or otherwise?

For lack of a better word, I would say the competition in India is plastic. Cold, shiny, hard (yes, I’m quoting Mean Girls). You see the same thing happening time and again. Make a big armour and you win, befriend the judges/organisers and you win. There is some level of understanding between a few cosplayers who respect each other and let each other take turns when it comes to competitions and help each other out, but we also have a lot of salty people who only care about their 15 minutes of fame. The completion won’t progress until the ‘big armour mentality’ remains. Quality cosplays are ignored and large costumes are always favoured. Put on some shiny LED and you have a winning costume. The only time I have seen any other type of costume win has mostly been due to a lack of participation.

Cosplay Culture
Cosplay Culture

There have been cases of brands and events using pictures of cosplayers without their knowledge. How bad is the copyright infringement problem in India right now?

Copyright in India? Does that event exist for artists? I have seen cosplayers and artist struggle with people using their work giving them due credit. Without their permission and knowledge. Forget brands, I have had cosplayers use my images without my permission and knowledge and when I requested them to take it down, I was blackmailed by the said person stating, “I will take it down if you do this for me,” and this person is an admin of the Indian Cosplay Community. These are the ethics that are shared amongst cosplayers in the local fraternity, so what can we expect from brands?

It’s a common thought that cosplay is majorly considered a female-driven profession. How true is this? Is it really difficult to survive or make it as a male cosplayer?

This might have been 100% true a few years ago, but in recent years the boys have picked up. It’s no secret that the majority of the well-known cosplayers in the world are women, but there are so many extremely talent male cosplayers as well. The struggle is equal for all genders in the cosplay world, though many female cosplayers who create exclusive adult/sexy content do tend to have a higher following on revenue-generating sites. But the boys also have amazing content and don’t shy from being sexy and flaunting themselves anymore.

Here, I would like to take a moment and remind people that cosplay is not consent. There is a real person behind the character they are playing as, and you should not touch them without their express permission!

And that’s a wrap of our interview with Aorin Shariyari. You can find her on Facebook here. Meanwhile, here’s hoping that the cosplay and streaming culture evolves organically and in the right way.

Pritesh Patil

Purveyor of stories, hope and rebellions. Often found exploring the nooks and crannies of the city searching for adventures and gaps between worlds. You can find him on Twitter as @TheQuillseeker.

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