n. A play or skit in which fans dress up as their favorite Japanese cartoon characters.
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The cult of cosplay sprang to life more than 15 years ago, when Japanese anime otaku (fans) began dressing up as their favourite cartoon characters at annual anime meets, where fans attended talks, meet-the-artist sessions and caught up with each other.

Soon, cosplay masquerades were appearing in countries like the US, Canada, Hongkong and Taiwan. In 1990, Project A-kon in Dallas, Texas, was one of the first US anime conventions to feature a cosplay contest.
—Clara Chow, “Spider can eat my shorts,” The New Straits Times, March 08, 2002
1997 (earliest)
In Japan, the word "otaku" is something of an insult. Although it originally referred to dedicated hobbyists — particularly hard-core fans of manga (comics) and anime (animation) — it has over time acquired the aroma of obsession, suggesting a lack of social skills, nerdiness and geekdom. … To be honest, some of the activities might make even Americans translate "otaku" as "geek." Take "cosplay," for instance. This is where otaku dress up as their favorite anime characters. Not only does this require sewing skills and a keen eye for detail, it also takes some skill with makeup — how else would a grown man transform into Sailor Moon?
—J.D. Considine, “Otakon '97 attracts animated group,” The Baltimore Sun, August 08, 1997
When fans of anime (AW.nee.may; Japanese animation) and manga (MAWN.guh; comic books) attend conventions and other gatherings of like-minded souls, they often dress up as their favorite characters (the more elaborate and accurate the costume the better). Many of them entertain their peers by staging a costume play, which is now most often shortened to cosplay. Although the cosplay has been a cult activity in Japan since the mid-80s, it has taken a while for the media to notice, as the earliest citation (1997) shows.
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