While some conventions attract more people in costume than others, there's no denying that cosplay has become a very important aspect of the fan convention circuit. From how-to panels to masquerade events to impromptu meet-ups, cosplayers are everywhere.
This year, we put together a slideshow of 50 great cosplays from events like Anime Los Angeles, Anime Expo, San Diego Comic-Con, Dragon*Con, Comikaze Expo and Pacific Media Expo. Here, I'm giving a shout out to five that stood out either because they were unusual or they saw an unexpected surge in popularity this year.
5. Panty and Stocking
Anime Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt, which is featured in part 1 of our Best of the Cons roundup, is following a similar rise in popularity to what we saw with Durarara!! in 2010. Both shows were shown with subtitles on streaming site Crunchyroll shortly after their original broadcast in Japan. As a result, the fan communities in the U.S. took shape quickly. Panty and Stocking Anarchy, the wild angels around whom the show revolves, became one of this year's most popular cosplays. As the year progressed, more characters from the show popped up at conventions. And if the show continues to grow in popularity, like Durarara!! did, then you'll see a lot of more of Panty, Stocking, Garterbelt and the rest of the gang in 2012.
Camilla d'Errico, who I interviewed last February, is a painter and comic book creator from Vancouver who is influenced in part by her longtime love of manga and anime. Central to d'Errico's work are the Helmetgirls, a series of female characters whose ethereal faces contrast with their clunky headgear.
This year at San Diego Comic-Con, we saw three young women dressed as Helmetgirls. Since d'Errico makes a lot of convention appearances, her work has become quite popular with the convention crowd. However, this was the first time we saw fans dressed as her characters. Hopefully, we'll see more next year.
3. Fionna and the Ice Queen
Soon enough, characters from the episode turned up at conventions. Here are Fionna and the Ice Queen at Comikaze, the event we named Best New Convention of 2011.
2. Daft Steampunk
A lot of characters get the steampunk treatment, but few make as much sense as these electronic music-loving robots. With steamdisco outfits and a vintage boombox from an era that never really existed, Daft Steampunk forever earned my respect.
I saw this duo at Dragon*Con, which makes sense because it's a convention where inventive costumes are all over the place and the party never stops. There is video indicated that they appeared at the convention before, but this was my first time at the Atlanta event and my first encounter with Daft Steampunk.
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Andrew Hussie's webcomic, Homestuck, has been around since 2009, but it has only been this past year that we've seen cosplayers support this work in droves. There's a good reason for this. The cosplayers seem to prefer dressing up as the Trolls, who play a big part in Act 5 of the saga, which began midway through 2010 and wrapped up in October of this year.
Large groups of Homestuck cosplayers turned up at many of the conventions I attended this year, including Anime Expo, San Diego Comic-Con and Pacific Media Expo (photographed above). Check out photos of individual Homestuck cosplayers in our slideshow "2011: The Year in Cosplay."