Villains, Goblins and Ghouls: Cairo's Cheerful, Rebellious Cosplay Community

Format mpeg4, Bitrate 14.557 mbps

February 7, 2015
Cairo, Eygpt

Cosplay, a portmanteau of costume and play, emerged as a popular hobby in Japan during the 1990s and quickly became a symbol of Japanese popular culture across Asia and the US. Borrowing stylistic elements of anime, comics, and gaming culture, cosplayers take on the appearance of their favorite fictional characters.

In recent months, the activity has gained significant traction in Egypt, spawning small communities from Mansoura to Alexandria and Cairo. As the 2nd edition of EgyCon commences this weekend, we will be looking at the people sharing in this new-found identity. EgyCon is the name of the cosplay convention series in Egypt whose main goal is to spread anime and manga culture throughout the country. But as Egyptian youth blur the border between fantasy and reality, what are the social impacts and challenges of engaging in cosplay in a country marked by social conservatism, growing unemployment, and political instability?


  1. The shots in this video were taken at EgyCon 2 on February 8 and a meeting between organizers on February 9. The shots include b-roll, vox pops, and interviews from EgyCon and the meeting.


  1. soundbite (English)
    Male Cosplayer 1, Lambo from Katekyo Hitman Reborn!: 03:46 -- I always loved cosplay and I always saw videos and pictures. I was like, 'I want to be like one of those people.' Why not just do it? And I just did it. And yeah.
  2. soundbite (English)
    Female Cosplayer 1, Alucard from Hellsing: 03:54 -- About three years ago. And then I found out I'm really passionate about it. And each year, I became better and better at it. Finding materials. Characters. How to make myself, even if I don't look like the character, look good in the outfit. Or to make it have the hint that... This is actually a guy. I'm gender bending.
  3. soundbite (English)
    Male Cosplayer 2, Hisoka from Hunter x Hunter: 04:15 -- I started last year. It was EgyCon. I make a cosplay. I made a big sword. People liked it so I tried to make a better cosplay.
  4. soundbite (English)
    Female Cosplayers 2, Harley Quinn, Two Face, Robin Hood from DC: 04:27 -- This is really like the first real cosplay because we put a real effort into it. - We decided we were going to make a group cosplay. She first started as Harley [Quinn] and we were like, 'We're going to make a group cosplay!'
  5. soundbite (English)
    Male Cosplayer 3, Wolverine from Marvel: 04:42 -- After a while, I met a lot of Otaku [read anime fans] friends, like at gatherings and cosplay parties. Like small sized parties. In our houses and stuff. So then we started having these sort of large conventions. So I really got into cosplay.
  6. soundbite (English)
    Male Cosplayers 4, Rintarō Okabe from Stein's Gate / Kabuto from Naruto: 04:57 -- We've really been watching anime since we were this young and stuff. But then we actually became conscious of the word anime and the world of manga and Japan and stuff when we were entering about... entering teenagers. It's lovely, really. - Maybe if there is a party between us... If we're just friends who watch anime, we can cosplay a bit but not as seriously as we do it here. Here we like to give it our all.
  7. soundbite (English)
    Male Cosplayer 3, Wolverine from Marvel: 05:24 -- And of course, my dad thought I was crazy. And he doesn't like cosplay. And he's not convinced that a 21 year old could ever do that. He's like, these are kids stuff. But it's anime, not cartoons.
  8. soundbite (English)
    Male Cosplayer 1, Lambo from Katekyo Hitman Reborn!: 05:34 -- Well, a lot of people think it's silly, you know. And those kind of stuff. But I think, you know, with time, it just takes time. People will get accustomed to it and it will harness more fans.
  9. soundbite (English)
    Risha, Organizer / Admiral Fujitora from One Piece: 06:12 -- The challenges. The main challenges are how to tell everybody what is cosplay. When I go to some place, I tell them I want to rent this venue. They ask, 'For what?' And I'm like, um, cosplay. 'What's cosplay?' 'It's dressing up like an anime character.' 'Anime?' 'You know anime, the Japanese...' 'Japanese? Cartoons? You mean cartoons?' And I'm like, yeah ok. 'I'm doing a Japanese cultural event.' And then they say ok, ok, it's fine. This is the main challenge in Egypt. When we're trying to spread the cosplay culture. What else? Being in the streets. Going to... For example, I want to make a sword, for instance. So I go to a carpenter and I say, 'I want to buy this piece of wood and I want to cut it in this shape.' 'For what?' And here it goes again. Cosplay, what is cosplay? Anime, what is anime? So I go like, 'For a... We are some actors. We do some theater and we need this. And I start explain this. I start explaining concept of cosplay. And when I need to make something like this, I go to a tailor. And he's like, 'Why?' Whenever I buy clothes, they always ask, 'Why do you want the clothes?' 'For making clothes.' 'Which part?' I always say, 'You don't know what Kimono is...' So I say, 'For Kimono.' 'What?' 'Shoukran [read thank you], never mind. Just bring me two meters please.'
  10. soundbite (English)
    Risha, Organizer / Admiral Fujitora from One Piece: 07:54 -- So I like people confused. Is this real? Is this acting or is this serious? I like dressing up the character himself. Not just the clothes. I pretend to be a swordsman or someone. The passion. Doing cosplay, this is what most excites me.
  11. soundbite (English)
    Ahmed, Cosplayer / The Punisher from Marvel: 08:20 -- I'm interested in the character. I like the character's personality. When the writer wrote the character, he made it cool. Kind of resembles me. So when I cosplay, I feel like the character. It makes me feel amazing to be a part of this; to be a part of the character, to be in character. Something that resembles me. Something that I cannot be. Cosplaying it will make me feel a lot more like it.
  12. soundbite (English)
    Ahmed, Cosplayer / The Punisher from Marvel: 08:52 -- Yes, there are a lot of close-minded people here in Egypt. They keep telling us, 'You watch cartoons? Are you still kids? You didn't grow up yet?' They don't know what anime is. They don't know that it's not just about kiddie stuff. We're not kids. We just watch it because we like to watch it. Please respect our opinion. Why do you say that? You didn't even watch, you didn't give it a try. Why do you say it's a cartoon and call us kids? Why? We face a lot of challenges. People make fun of us. But the community is growing and people are starting to get to know anime. So that's really amazing. I'm amazed.
  13. soundbite (English)
    Ahmed, Cosplayer / The Punisher from Marvel: 09:35 -- Maybe next year, people will develop. They will study more the art of cosplay. They will know how to make armors. Style their wigs. Make it look realistic. It will be more amazing. Every year we are going to develop. The cosplayers are going to be more perfect, more precise. I don't know what else but maybe the next convention will be bigger. More people are going to start to come. When we made the convention, people are saying, 'Wow! Those are a lot of people. And they are all interested in one thing.' And [maybe] they don't like the thing. But what makes it so bad? Why don't they give it a try? And they will start trying to watch anime. And maybe when they watch it, they will like it. And if they didn't like it, maybe, at least, they will respect our opinion. Because we are a lot of people. Yeah, that's what I think.