In the Realms of the Unreal: Dressing up at Anime North

Established in 1997, Anime North is the largest fan-run anime convention held in Canada, with the number of attendees increasing every year. Anime fanatics from across North America gather in Toronto for three days to meet each other, meet their idols, buy collectables, and most importantly, dress up.

Though not everybody comes in costume, and it is certainly not a requirement, cosplayers get a lot of kudos and credit for their outfits, especially if they’re homemade.

Why do these costumes play such an important role in these anime conventions? We ventured into the unknown waters of the wonderfully nerdy fandom, and took some pictures along the way.


Most otakus (obsessives, fans) came dressed as their favourite anime and manga characters. There’s a certain kind of attention that dressing in cosplay brings; the unwritten rule is that if you don’t want to be spoken to, you don’t wear a recognizable costume.

At Anime North, although there are rules of cosplay and etiquette for both cosplayers and attendees, the invisible frontiers between fictional worlds cease to exist. Sailor Moon can be seen taking a picture of Misa Amane or several Hatsune Mikus. All time-space problems that would normally arise in our world of different-era films and shows are dropped, and suddenly, you’re in a time warp with every character from every setting that there was, and they’re all interacting. It’s weird, and it’s fascinating, and it really is a bit unreal.


Conventions like Anime North provide an escape in costume for otakus, an opportunity to briefly step into another world and associate with people like them, who will understand each other’s references and love their costumes. Even if you’re not a cosplayer yourself, it’s easier to talk to strangers when you believe them to be somebody you love.

It’s a funny thing, clothing. The way an outfit can change your appearance is obvious, but less so is the way it can change your entire persona, altering the way you think and act for a day. And perhaps that’s why cosplay has become such a culturally significant thing, especially at conventions such as these – the attendees can see their favourite characters, and cosplayers can act like them




Text by Sofie Mikhaylova
Photography by Brittany Lucas

4 thoughts on “In the Realms of the Unreal: Dressing up at Anime North

  1. Stop using the word ‘otaku’ it has negative connotations and not every anime fan or cosplayer refers to themselves as one. Some of us get angry if we’re called otaku.

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