Cosplayers typically come from the ranks of otaku--that is, fans of Japanese comic books, known as manga. They gather at public events such as comic-book and video game trade shows, as well as at dedicated cosplay parties at nightclubs or amusement parks. In Japan teenagers gather with like-minded friends in places like Tokyo's Harajuku district to engage in cosplay. Since 1998 Tokyo's Akihabara district has contained a large number of cosplay cafés, catering to devoted anime and cosplay fans. The waitresses at such cafés dress as game or anime characters; maid costumes are particularly popular. In areas outside of Japan, cosplay is primarily done at manga and anime conventions.
Once in costume, cosplayers often adopt the affect, mannerisms and body language of the characters they portray (with OOC or, Out Of Character breaks). The cosplayers do this because once they have that certain costume on, they feel and act like the character that they are dressed up as. Some Cosplayers prefer to snap into character for photos with poses and stunts, but otherwise remain fairly out of character. Cosplayers often gather to view the costumes of others, show off their own creations, take pictures, share tips, and participate in contests. This activity is maintained between major events through participation in online forums. Major events include but are not limited to anime and comic book conventions as well as costume balls such as Labyrinth of Jareth Masquerade.
The animegao, or dollers , represent a niche group in the realm of cosplay. Their approach makes them a subgroup of what is called in Japan kigurumi--that is, mascot -style role players. Dollers are often male cosplayers representing female characters. Female dollers are also found who represent male characters, especially male characters that lend themselves to the treatment, such as robots, space aliens and animals. Dollers wear bodysuits and masks that completely hide their real features so that the original appearance of their characters may be reproduced as literally as possible. Their costumes display all the abstractions and stylizations characteristic of the cartoon art, such as the oversized eyes and tiny mouths so often encountered in manga.
The increasing popularity of Japanese animation outside of Asia during the late 1990s led to an increase in American and other Western cosplayers who portray Japanese characters. Anime conventions have become more numerous in the West in the last decade. They now compete with science fiction, comic, and historical conferences in attendance. At these gatherings, cosplayers, like their Japanese counterparts, meet to show off their work, take photos, and compete in costume contests. Anime conventions attendees are mostly seen dressed up as Japanese animated characters, but many others dress up as famous Western comic book characters, or as famous characters from movies like Star Wars, Predator, and Pirates of the Caribbean. It is also quite common to see many dress up as Disney characters or as popular characters from games such as The Legend of Zelda, Mario Brothers, and Halo.