Cosplay competitors to strut their stuff

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The Independent Culture

Fans of the international phenomenon that is cosplay will be flocking to the Japanese city of Nagoya in late July for the eighth annual World Cosplay Summit.

A contraction of "costume play," it is a form of performance art that has been popularized in Japan and involves participants creating and then wearing costumes worn by characters drawn from popular fiction. Manga and anime have long been a source of characters, as well as video games and feature films.

This year's event is scheduled to be held over the weekend of July 31 and August 1, with the organizers saying the aim of the summit is to promote international exchanges through costume play.

Preliminary rounds for this year's World Cosplay Summit have already taken place in Spain, Finland, Italy, Germany and three cities in Australia. The finalists from those competitions as well as ones in France, China, Brazil, Thailand, Singapore, Mexico, South Korea, Denmark, the United States and host nation Japan will arrive in Nagoya for the finals in July.

A Japanese duo won last year's event, putting on an exhibition of fighting between characters drawn from the Sengoku Basara - a video game developed by Japan's Capcom and set in feudal Japan that has also been adapted into a manga and animated television show.

The first World Cosplay Summit was held in 2003 as part of the campaign to drum up interest in the Nagoya Expo in 2005. The competition element was added in 2005, when the event was again staged in Nagoya, with the Italian team winning first place.

The event will this year include a red-carpet welcome for some of the genre's most famous performers, as well as a parade through Nagoya's Osu shopping district and a series of symposiums dedicated to cosplay.

The event has the support of local broadcaster TV Aichi, local trade and tourism authorities and Japan's Foreign Ministry, which is encouraging the spread of Japan's "soft culture" overseas as a money-spinning export.

Anime conventions around the world host cosplay competitions, with Animania in Sydney, AmeCon in Britain, the Japan Expo in Paris and Kumoricon in Portland, Oregon, among the biggest conventions on the calendar.