It was only recently, after starting to hear the phrase more frequently, that I finally looked up what the term “cosplay” meant. It’s short for “costume play,” referring to a lifestyle in which participants engage in performance art of sorts wherein they, as the name suggests, dress up in costumes. These costumes usually represent a character from fiction, often from comic books, video games and movies.
The cosplay lifestyle has developed such that there are now social networks and websites devoted to cosplay activities, and some cosplay figures have become almost as legendary as the characters they dress as.
It is some of these people who are the subjects of the new Syfy series Heroes of Cosplay, a six-episode docuseries that looks inside the world of cosplay competition. The series follows some of the hottest cosplay stars as they hit comic book conventions around the country, and delves into their lives as they create visually stunning costumes each week. While the underlying reasons that people enjoy this dress-up lifestyle are likely varied and complicated, in this case they are all trying to impress convention judges and win a cash prize.
Among those chronicled is cosplay legend Yaya Han (pictured far left) who serves as a judge at some of these events, including at Wizard World Portland, which is the focus of the premiere episode. Although not competing as much as she used to, Yaya still feels the same type of pressure in coming up with new costumes to impress her fans, who she says hold her to a higher standard.
Heroes of Cosplay also introduces us to some other established cosplay figures, as well as one who is trying to make his name in the field and eventually become a costume and prop designer. From what was shown in the premiere episode, the show will be a gripping look into this world that, in the words of one participant, has gone from a “subculture to pop culture.” We, of course, visit various comic book conventions where many cosplay personalities enter contests and meet like-minded folks, but we also delve into the personal worlds of this select group of cosplayers and get to learn their various personalities, relationships, insecurities and extreme dedication to putting many hours and, in some cases, thousands of dollars, into their final products.
Between Heroes of Cosplay and Syfy’s recently announced docuseries, Fangasm, which debuts Sept. 24 to take the place of Heroes of Cosplay after its six-episode run, it looks like those immersed in the sci-fi/fantasy fan culture may have a few enjoyable reality series to follow. It’s also fitting that Heroes of Cosplay airs as a companion of sorts to Syfy’s current hit Face Off, which begins Season 5 tonight, as many of the cosplay actors demonstrate similar makeup creativity and innovation in creating their looks.
Heroes of Cosplay premieres on Syfy Aug. 13 at 10:30pm ET/PT. The series airs regularly Tuesdays at 10pm ET/PT starting Aug. 20.
Heroes of Cosplay image: Paul Conrad/Syfy