Going to Anime Expo for the first time this year? If so, prepare yourself for the onslaught of cosplays. Even a diehard anime-watcher could get stumped trying to identify every character on the convention hall floor. With that in mind, we created a small sample of the titles you're likely to see represented this weekend.
Arguably, the most common cosplays you'll find at Southern California events are from Naruto. While looking through our archives though, we realized that we had no Naruto cosplay photos, so we'll go with what is perhaps the second most common anime reference at cons.
Bleach is a long-running manga and anime series about a student named Ichigo Kurasaki who becomes a soul reaper. It is incredibly popular. At conventions, you'll see a pretty good variety of soul reapers. Their costumes vary, but typically revolve around a black kimono. Also, you will probably see a few people who aren't in cosplay, but are wearing green and white striped fishermen-style hats that look like they came from a rave circa 1992. That's a reference to Bleach character Urahara Kisuke.
Even though Bleach has more characters than the mind can sometimes handle, you can oftentimes recognize the cosplay even if you haven't seen much of the show simply because of the consistency in the outfits. One Piece is different, though, in that the characters have drastically different costumes. This series has been around since the 1990s and both the manga and anime continue to this day, so there are quite a few characters to cosplay as well. The most common, and best recognizable to someone who isn't a One Piece devotee, is Monkey D. Luffy. He's the young leader of the Staw Hat Pirates who dresses in rolled up jeans, a red vest and straw hat. You're likely to see a few others from One Piecetoo.
Final Fantasy vs. Kingdom Hearts
Cosplay isn't just about anime. Many people dress as video game characters. Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts seem to be the most heavily represented games at anime conventions. In fact, sometimes, it feels like there's a competition to see which video game will bring out the most diehard supporters. If you're not a fan of either, don't despair. You'll see a wide variety of video game cosplays this weekend.
Studio Ghibli Cosplay
Even if you aren't a big anime fan, you might recognize some cosplayers as characters from Studio Ghibli hits like Princess Mononoke and My Neighbor Totoro. But you'll see some of the legendary anime studio's lesser known work represented as well, like Porco Rosso. The cosplayer above was recently featured in the book Cosplay in America.
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is a newer anime with a fairly hefty following in the States. The characters are high school students, so they dress in nearly identical uniforms. Just remember that Haruhi has brown hair and a yellow bow, Mikuru Asahina is a redhead and Yuki Nagato has a short, lavender hair style. As for the male characters, Kyon should have shorter hair than Itsuki Koizumi, and will probably appear to be more agitated by Haruhi's actions throughout the weekend. Read more in "The Fandom of Haruhi Suzumiya."
Death Note cosplays turn up quite frequently at cons, but few are as epic as the one in the above photo. You will likely see a lot of L cosplays, meaning that you will see more than a handful of both men and women with short, messy black hair in faded jeans and a long sleeve white shirt eating junk food. Light Yagami will typically be wearing a tan blazer and carrying a Death Note and Misa Amani should be wearing some sort of quasi-goth outfit.
We started seeing Black Butler cosplays before Yen Press even announced that they would be releasing the manga in the U.S. (We mentioned the manga in our recap of Anime Expo 2009.) Now that the manga is here and Funimation is picking up the anime, we're bound to see more. The butler is Sebastian Michaelis. Ciel Phantomhive will be wearing a top hat, suite and eye patch.
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Singer Stephanie Yanez was the first person we saw cosplay K-On! and it's not all that common yet. However, since Yen Press has licensed the four-panel strip about high school girls starting a band for release in the U.S., we anticipate seeing more soon.
For up-to-the-minute coverage of Anime Expo, follow @lizohanesian and @ShannonCottrell on Twitter.