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Horns ‘n Hooves: Monster Visitors of the Book Fair in Leipzig

Every year thousands of Cosplay fans from all over Germany come to Leipzig. Bird in Flight asked Katerina Babkina to talk to Don Quichot, Princess Moon, Zombies, Kitties and a devil.

Elves’ ears, deer horns, fangs, hooves, spears, automatic weapons from the future, artificial fur mantles and skinny latex – on average, one half of the Book Fair in Leipzig visitors dispose of those accessories. And since the fair hosts over 150,000 people each year – try to imagine the crowd! But no one considers it an eccentricity since a large part of the fair’s agenda is consecrated to a Manga and Anime convention and the European meeting of Cosplay fans.


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Mountains of books, conferences and even a costume contest don’t attract participants so much as the possibility of spending two days in the company of elves, orcs, geishas and pokemons. That’s the idea – to dress up as a monster and roam around the pavilions, taking selfies and pictures of other fair attendees, eating tepid noodles from a lunchbox, and dozing on the floor. Nobel prize winners and famous TV hosts working in the main pavilions have long grown used to horns, helmets and mohawks in the auditorium. The pokemons have nothing to do so they kill time at literary readings. When the complex closes for the night the fatigued devilry head to town. The Leipzig community takes it easy as they are used to seeing catwomen and transformer warriors on public transportation.


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Cosplay (“costume play”) is a Japan originated form of imitating anime, manga protagonists, video game, comics and myths characters. The right kind of costume is handmade and it’s not enough to be just wearing it – one has to be a performer. That’s why girl-kittens in Japanese school uniforms need to be rubbing one another’s butts, and space warriors are swinging their light swords, and the zombies act like they are dead and rotting.

TV hosts working in the main pavilions have long grown used to horns, helmets and mohawks in the auditorium. The pokemons have nothing to do, so they are killing time at literary readings.

The Manga Convention Cosplay participants engender new trends and anti-trends. Thus, last year a lot of teenage girls came with pre-fabricated “FREE HUGS” plates. Within a few hours the glass corridors and smoking areas were full of teenage boys with handwritten free blow/handjobs slogans. And shortly near the end, a grey-haired participant of the “adult” book fair, a German writer, was wearing a sign saying: Premium Hugs: €5.

Oliwer Zille, head of the Leipzig Book Fair, was quoted as saying this year’s entrance fee went up to keep the Cosplay chaos at bay. The measure hardly had any effect. The Cosplay and anime fans filled the exhibition pavilions, making themselves comfortable on the floor, like refugees at a border.


Azentrimp, 19 years old


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I am Don Quichot from the One Piece anime. I am not taking part in the costume contest because I don’t think there can be the best costume of the best character. Everyone does what they can. I made my own costume, it took a few days. But as it is, I am a student of Forestry economics. I came from Freiburg, it is 650 km from here.


Charlin Wolf, 57 years old


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I am the Queen of Texts. I come from Hamburg. I am a poet, a member of “Text Laboratory.” It is an open stage; anyone can read anything he pleases there and the listeners are happy. Or unhappy. But anyway no one competes there. My friend, the founder of “Text Laboratory,” passed away so I took her place. Two years ago there was a meeting of queens in Hamburg. Over 200 queens and princesses from all over Germany came there. It was a really big festival – exhibitions, performances, etc. I decided to try to join them and try promoting the “Text Laboratory” there. That’s how I decided to become a queen too. I travel a lot, do a lot of public readings. On my way here there was a huge traffic jam on the highway – because of an accident the traffic was stopped for a few hours – so I read my poems out loud right on the bus. A short time ago I celebrated by 24th birthday, but my passport for some reason is adamant that I’m 57.


Ilaï and Sunny, 22 years old


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We are students from Munich. We are zombies from Resident Evil. It took us four hours to get dressed this way. We used liquid latex for the rotting flesh effect, as well as artificial blood and usual makeup things.


Stefan, 23 years old


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I am Ira Gamagoori Ira from Kill la Kill anime. I am cosplaying him because he is my size. I am two meters high; he is also quite big. He is funny. All my friends are wearing costumes of characters from that cartoon, so I also picked one. We are not taking part in the contest, just having fun. I have been in Cosplay since 2010 and ever since then I always come here. I made the costume myself – everything except the pants. It took me a whole day to make it. I am a student in Japanese studies.


Devil, 30 years old


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Just Devil. From “The Legend” that’s a very old film. I am not taking part in the contest, I am too shy for it. It took me two months to make this costume. When I was a kid I saw that movie and liked it a lot, especially Devil. Ever since then that was who I wanted to become. My friends were very supportive, that was very important for me.


Rena, 24 years old


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My character is Princess Moon who turns into a unicorn pony from “My Little Pony Friendship is Magic.” It took me six months to make the costume. I am not taking part in the contest, just hanging around. I come here every year. I am from Münster, it is 500 km from Leipzig. I work at a pharmacy.


Tina, 38 years old, Iova, 48 years old


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We are not interpreting any characters – we just dressed up for fun. We are wearing dresses from a second-hand shop and have some sweet accessories to spice up a bit. We like the image of Lolita, the literary character. That was our inspiration. It took us two weeks to get ready. We are from Halle, and work at a shop there.


Sandra, 21 years old, Kata, 26 years old


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We are from Chemnitz. We don’t impersonate any characters – those cats are our own creation. We are students.


Zakhu, 18 years old


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I am a student of biology. My character is Caitlyn from the League of Legends. At the entrance to the fair I had to go through a weapons check. They try to figure out if a weapon can be used to kill or injure a person. Wood, glass, metal – all that stuff is not allowed. That’s why my gun is made of a special light plastic. Besides, it can be completely taken apart! I did my friends’ and mine costumes while she was busy with the guns. It took us a whole day to get here by bus. I am here because my friend asked me to make company for her character. Now she vanished somewhere though so I am hanging around by myself.

Photos: Armen Asratyan

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