Apr 25, 2016

    Fantasies come to life in Yangon


    PURPLE-HAIRED princesses, wolves and dolled-up maids mingled at a cosplay fantasy costume festival held over the weekend in Myanmar, where the global role-playing craze is building a cult following.

    Hundreds gathered at the two-day convention in Yangon to enter singing competitions and chat with others sporting the colourful garb, make-up and exotic hairstyles of their fantasy idols.

    In cosplay, short for costume role-play, enthusiasts gather to imitate characters from anime series, comics and video games, many drawn from Japanese pop culture.

    Chuu Kay Khine, 21, who attended the event dressed as a Japanese anime character, said she was still eager for more fans to connect with.

    "The more people that know about it and the more friends we have, the better," she added. "Then, we could have even more fun."

    Many of the eye-popping costumes on display in Myanmar's biggest city were imported from Thailand and China. Others were homespun or specially tailored for the occasion.

    The cosplay fad has swept much of the world but is still relatively new in Myanmar, where young people are racing to catch up with global trends a few years after junta-era Internet restrictions were lifted.

    This year's festival is the eighth since the hobby first found a footing here in 2012, shortly after a reformist government began loosening the military's grip on freedom of expression.

    It is now one of a host of new sub-cultures mushrooming across Myanmar. Yet like fringe fads everywhere, the cosplay scene has not been met with universal enthusiasm.

    "The main difficulty is trying to get people to accept the culture of cosplay in our country. We have to keep explaining it," said Lin Aung Kyaw, a 24-year-old who helped organise the event.

    "Some animated series are just as good as films, with very meaningful plots," he added.