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  • Kaleb Evans-Lao

Why Are You Scared? Isn't This What You Wanted?

Words by Kaleb Evans-Lao

Photos by Kohika Creative

Let's make one thing clear: this article will be discussing Animegao Kigurumi. If you look up ‘kigurumi’ online, you’re mainly going to see onesies. However if you want to know more about this style of cosplay you’ll have to look up ‘Animegao Kigurumi’ specifically. 

Now that we have that out of the way, it’s time to explore the niche genre of cosplay that is picking up steam. Kigurumi is a Japanese word generally meaning costumed character, and Animegao means “anime face”—the two words compound to give us Animegao Kigurumi (shorthand referred to as kigurumi or kig). Kigurumi is a form of cosplay where the idea is to look like an anime doll. This is achieved via a kigurumi mask. Which is often coupled with a hadatai, a sort of full body “sock” that makes your skin look much smoother and less detailed. 

Both of these elements combine to create a stunning level of accuracy to the character—it's arguably the closest thing you’ll get to IRL anime women (or men). Of course it's not all about accuracy. As Polyblank (@Catchmesnapper on insta) says “it takes away the stress or worrying about makeup, facial expression and insecurities, you surprise yourself with how confident you become while wearing a mask of your favourite character.” Alastrina (@alistairk1 on twitter) adds “in a sense it's ageless. It allows you to cosplay identifiably and accurately as your favourite anime character regardless of your own gender or age”. I personally enjoy kigurumi purely because of how much you can mess with people. Everyone stares at you, but they don't know that under the mask you’re staring right back. It is also nice to be anonymous in cosplay—no one knows who you are under the mask, and I think kigurumi would be great for those who may be anxious but still want to cosplay. 

There are however downsides, the main ones being that it's impossible to verbally communicate through the mask, and your vision is limited. With practice one can mitigate these issues slightly, but it's best if you have a friend to be your eyes and voice. Also, you don't tend to fare too well in the heat, but that won't be a problem in Wellington. 

Another big barrier for many is the cost of getting a mask. Admittedly there are cheap options, if you're willing to do a bit of DIY you may be able to get one for under $300 (a good chunk of that is shipping) but there are pre-made ones for a similar price. Polyblank sums it up well: “Start small! Your first kig doesn't have to be perfect or greatly detailed, all that matters is that you enjoy wearing it.”. Alastina also says “take your time to research the characters you love. think about the most appropriate mask builder with the style that suits best. Think about how you are going to get into the cosplay and manoeuvre with the mask/suit and cosplay—otherwise go for it. Also it's worth saving and focusing on quality for kigurumi. Good masks can be expensive, but when you weigh that against the cost of everything else—I think it's worthwhile”. It's always good to research before you make any big purchase, and I would suggest seeing videos of people demonstrating mask vision so you can experience what it's like to wear it before you commit to a mask yourself (if you ask really nicely you may borrow mine: @the_casual_kig on insta).

Kigurumi is a niche hobby to say the least, even in its origin country of Japan it is still relatively underground. Here in Aotearoa such obscurity is exacerbated—there are only 7 publicly known kigurumi cosplayers (including myself) in New Zealand, but I was pleasantly surprised during this year's Armageddon how many people recognized the style of cosplay. 

If you’ve read this far, thank you. If you are even a little bit interested in this hobby, I encourage you to contact me via my insta. From there I can direct you to people who know much more than me (such as Alastina and Polyblank, who were a great help writing this article). Kigurumi is a lot of fun, and it's a cosplay type that is open to anyone, any age, any gender, any colour. As Alastrina puts it “I'm over 50 and I can do a reasonable job of cosplaying the characters I love”. But whether your portraying your favourite hololive member, genshin impact four star, manga character, or an OC brewed from your repressed angst, I think the most important thing about kigurumi is summed up nicely with this quote from Polyblank “don't let others bother you about it either, sure, it's a unique hobby, that just makes you a little more cooler than everyone else.”


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