10 Cosplay Genres Explained: From Fan Service to Crossplay

To help you distinguish one cosplay genre from another, we explained each in plain English, with the help of cosplayers themselves, and prepared a quiz to check your knowledge

In recent years, cosplay has become an integral part of modern culture. Every year brings more new faces while the number of works is growing exponentially. Even geeks sometimes have trouble understanding all the genres and intricacies, which leads to unfair clams towards cosplayers and their works. In this article, we’ll define the terms and analyze the main types of cosplay with specific examples.

Authentic cosplay

Authentic or canonical cosplay is a work that is maximally close to the original source. The cosplayer strives to achieve similarity with the heroine with the help of the costume, makeup and facial expression.

‘’In the life of a cosplayer, there are such good moments when a new character corresponds to you completely, both in character and appearance. The public always notices such coincidences. If you add cosplayer’s acting talent, attention to details of the costume, makeup and hairstyle, the image becomes an internet bomb!’’ says Jannet Incosplay.
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Widowmaker from Overwatch is the image that Jannet was talking about. Among her photosets, she has both the standard looks and the Talon image
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Maria Hanna as Joi from Blade Runner 2049. She’s also in the cover of this article
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Recently, Anya iChios has been collaborating with Nintendo so her portfolio includes mascots of the Japanese company including Samus from the Metroid series. Photos by Yaguar
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Elena Samko as Elvira: Mistress of the Dark from the same-name film
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Mellu as Margaery Tyrell from the Game of Thrones
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With time, the number of costumes for the character increases. Today, all Harley’s costumes from the cartoons, Batman Arkham games and Suicide Squad are considered to be canonical. Sonikella’s image is an authentic cosplay on miss Quinn from the 2016 film

Creative experiments inside the canonical framework

Cosplay from this category can be attributed to a kind of authentic works. We are talking about photosets in canonical costumes which form a complete story that was not present in the original source. However, such a story could have taken place under different circumstances.

‘’Canon should not put cosplay in a tight framework. Staying true to the image, preserving the character and the universe, cosplayer should add something of her own. We are talking about a creative hobby in which there’s a place for some fantasy which makes your performance memorable, unique and catchy,’’ believes photographer Kseniya Rogutenok.
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An example of Kseniya’s creative work. As conceived by the photographer, Triss, rather than Geralt, found Philippa and Cynthia. As a result, the story got an expected continuation. Elena Samko as Philippa, Fragaria Zefir as Cynthia
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Maddard, Katerina Knyazeva and Hvít úlv in a scene of rivalry between Yennefer and Fringlilla who fight for Geralt’s heart. Photographer — Nerina
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According to cosplayers’ idea, Ciri was not alone in the sauna – Triss Merigold was also there. A slight deviation from The Witcher 3 plot allowed showing a beautiful scene of rest of a red-haired witch and a young sorceress. Jannet Incosplay as Triss, Falka of Cintra as Ciri
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The meeting of Keira (Lada Lyumos), Yen (Anastasia Vvedenskaya) and Triss (Asami Gate) can also be attributed to creative experiments. In The Witcher 3, we could have seen all three sorceresses in lingerie, so this photoset stays canonical and does not turn into fan service. Photos by Kira Mitenkova

Fan service

The most discussed type of modern cosplay which often brings new subscribers but also opens the door to critics who believe that cosplayers use it too often. The problem is that this definition includes too many concepts. Secret costumes that have been originally present in the game, thematic outfits dedicated to a holiday, light erotica and much more that can please the fans of the corresponding universe. Unfortunately, many people, including some cosplayers, have been recently associating fan service exclusively with nudity. That’s not quite true. Sometimes, it takes even more effort and money than the canonical image. Let’s look at this type of cosplay in more detail.

‘’Fan service is beautiful. I find such photos visually pleasing and I love to participate in such shootings. Even the subscribers of my patreon know that I do not cross the lines of vulgarity. Judging by the comments, many people like my fan service,’’ says Oichi.
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Oichi as Korra from The Legend of Korra animated series. The lingerie was crafted by Vera specifically for this character. Photos by HaJI
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You can recognize Lara Croft in this image by Anksunamoun, but her costume turns the authentic image into a themed New Year suit
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New Year’s Yennefer from Sasha Son. A random (at first glance) error adds piquancy to the image and is fully consistent with the sorceress’ character
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A secret schoolgirl costume was present in Bloodrayne 2 but few people know about it so cosplay in this outfit belongs to fan service. Anya iChios as Rayne, photos by Frame 48

Sexualizing well-known characters

With this approach, cosplayers make the character sexier than in the original source or even turn a modest heroine into a real sex bomb. However, there are also examples of female cosplay on male characters (more on this later), animals and even objects.

‘’People often confuse sexualization and initially sexual characters. There’s a big difference between heroines who look erotic in the original source and the desire of cosplayers to show their body despite the canon. However, I do not see anything wrong in sexualization. Before you say anything, check out the original source – this is the right thing to do’’, says Elena Samko.
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Velma from the Scooby-Doo franchise is often turned from a modest girl to a luxurious woman. However, that’s typical for Jessica Nigri
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Kalinka Fox as Ciri is much sexier than the original image from The Witcher 3
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Hair and crown are the only things left from the original source in this sexy Princess Peach by Jenna Lynn Meowri

Fem versions of male characters

Fem versions of male characters are a separate genre of non-canonical cosplay. Girls dress in the costumes of male heroes so that it can be seen that a woman stands in front of you. Fem versions can be attributed to sexualized cosplay, although there are exceptions.

‘’I wanted to make cosplay on Red Hood because I like this image – his history, character and appearance. As I couldn’t embody the male original well, I decided to make a fem version of this character,’’ says Oniksiya Sofinikum from Nu Vi Ponyali.
‘’I love the first season of Spartacus: Blood and Sand. When my friend told me that he would craft gladiator’s armor, I had an idea to create an image of Spartacus. However, I did not want to embody a man, so I went with the fem version of the gladiator,’’ tells Helena Winnowill.
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Oniksiya Sofinikum in the image of the fem version of Red Hood from DC universe. She focused on the character of this antihero, and her suit resembles the outfit of the former Batman’s ally. Photos by Greed
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Fem version of Spartacus by Helena Winnowill combines the brutality of the original source and the female beauty of the girl herself. Armor crafted by Plastic Armory
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Fem version of Kratos by Octokuro was dedicated to the release of God of War (2018). The work is based on fan art by Shadman
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Kirk and Spock from the classic Star Trek by Anya iChios and Trisha Layons. The costumes show the distinctive features of the classic show’s characters. Photoset is made in the pin-up style that was popular in the ‘60s. Photos by Tim Tim
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Jessica Nigri’s portfolio has a surprising number of fem versions of famous characters. A striking example is a cosplay on Nathan Drake, the protagonist of the Uncharted series

Crossplay

Crossplay is the opposite of fem versions of male characters. In this genre, the girls try to resemble the original source as much as possible. Ideally, the viewer should decide that he is looking at a man. Crossplay is rare among men but regularly appears in female cosplay.

‘’Almost all of my works fall into the category of crossplay. Male characters are often more detailed than female ones and they suit me visually. In addition, male heroes were required for works with my cosband colleagues. Why crossplay and not fem versions? I want to impress people with costume and role play and not with a beautiful body,’’ says Natasha from cosband ‘’Houston, we have a problem’’.
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Natasha as Ulquiorra from the Bleach anime series. The girl managed to fool the visitors – she was mistaken for a guy
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9S from Nier: Automata is a male character who appears in female cosplay more often than others. In this photo, you see Kaito Sai as 9S
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Knight of Ren as Connor from Detroit: Become Human. Thanks to an exact copy of the costume and attention to detail, this cosplay can be called authentic
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The girl known under the pseudonym Hide Xxx as Keith Kogane from the fan crossover of Voltron and Supernatural shows

Original images

Cosplayers do not always copy famous characters. Sometimes, they embody the images of non-existent characters. In this genre, the girls are not limited to canon and are free to create their own image. Most often, their heroines belong to a well-known universe but sometimes a character is 100% new.

‘’I like the Hellraiser universe, especially the motivation of cenobites who selectively choose their victims. I wanted to make a pleasant rather than creepy image in the style of the original film,’’ says Valery Himera.
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This image by Valery Himera is considered to be original but based on the known universe. Lovers of quality horror films should immediately recognize the style of the cult film Hellraiser. Photo by Dmitry Gabdukaev
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Original elf image by Oichi
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Abstract Lady Sith by Mellu. The Star Wars universe is immediately recognizable, but the cosplay is deemed original as it is not associated with a particular character. Photo by Greed
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Witches by Vika Karter, Olga Saxon and Diana Simon who do not belong to any known fandom. Photo by Nikolay Zharov

Crossfandom

Crossfandom cosplay is the combination of different characters in one. Usually, the image has the traits of both heroes or heroines. Any work in the genre can be considered original.

‘’My love for Joker and Batman is unlimited. I always wanted to make cosplay on them, but I was limited by the fact that I’m a girl. One special day, I decided to combine both characters in one image. It was created with special thrill and attention to details,’’ says the girl known under the pseudonym Dark Incognito.
‘’I got hooked by Nier: Automata and had a desire to make a cosplay based on it. Such works appeared often but I wanted to realize an original idea. My cosplay was inspired by art in which Mercy was dressed in 2B costume,’’ says AGflower.
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BatJoker by Dark Incognito. Photo by Nikolay Zharov
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Features of two characters at once are visible in this image by AGflower. The sword, dress and boots remind of 2B from Nier: Automata, while the hairstyle, halo and wings are from Overwatch’s Angel. Photo by Ksenia Rogutenok
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Jannet Incosplay combined the image of Harley Quinn and Negan from the Walking Dead. The hairstyle and makeup remind of Joker’s girlfriend, while the bat with the barbed wire and the suit – about the character of the most famous zombie show
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Kalinka Fox made Pennywise sexy and combined his image with Harley Quinn. Photo by Aku

Erotic cosplay

All 18+ works belong to erotic cosplay. It can be canonical if explicit scenes were present in the original source, or it can belong to fan service if no such scenes were seen in the original. Often, adult content is placed in subscriber-only areas on patreon.

‘’I have always wanted to take pictures in the erotic genre. The main reason is that I will look at my photos when I’m an old granny and indulge in pleasant memories’’, says Erika Solovey.
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Some cosplay works of Erika Solovey have an erotic continuation, for example, in a case of Ava Lord from the sequel of Sin City
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Lada Lyumos’ work has both erotic cosplay and works without reference to a well-known character
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Valery Himera periodically participates in erotic photosets. In case of Yennefer, the image remains canonical as we have seen the naked body of the sorceress in The Witcher 3. Photo by Mrakor
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Each image of Helly Valentine has both ordinary and erotic version

Cosplay tests

Sometimes, girls do cosplay tests before working on the new image. It allows to show the work process to fans or helps decide whether it’s worth to shoot a full-fledged expensive photoset. Most often, they are made on the phone camera.

‘’I often do cosplay tests to understand whether the character suits me. Sometimes, I just want to try a new image even though I know that I won’t do a full-fledged outfit,’’ says Irina Sabetskaya.
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Cosplay test on Cerys an Craite by Irina Sabetskaya did not turn into a full-fledged cosplay work but stays in her plans
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Cosplay test on Kara from Detroit: Become Human by Torie. Photo by Milligan
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In the wake of Bowsette popularity, Anya iChios made a cosplay test for this heroine. That’s the case when the studio photoset was not planned right from the start
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Sometimes cosplay tests look like real work, albeit simple. AGflower as Harley
It’s hard to understand all genres of modern cosplay. However, many viewers do not want to get into details and blame the girls of presenting non-canonical images in the cases of fandom or original images. Before you write an angry comment, recall that dozens of hours of hard work are behind almost every cosplay image.

And now let’s check what you have learned from this article. Take the quiz and find out how well you understand cosplay now!