Malaysian singer-songwriter Joyce Chu has always loved anime, but never had the courage to cosplay as one of the characters… until now.

Chu will be making her film debut in Singaporean cosplay-themed flick Young & Fabulous, where she plays a cosplaying teenage student who is the social media star of her school.

During a recent press conference to promote the movie, the 19-year old said she was thrilled when she learnt about the cosplay theme, because of her love for anime, which was largely influenced by her brother. “Even the anime that only boys will watch, I’d also watch. But, I never tried cosplay before, because I never had the courage. So when I read the script, I was actually quite excited.

“I could hardly wait for filming to commence. I looked forward to all the costume fitting sessions because I finally could be someone else…” recalled Chu.

“Anime is what I love, and what I have been watching since I was young. And to become one of the characters, for me, is super exciting. So, it is like fulfilling one of my childhood dreams.”

Cosplay is a term coined in Japan to describe the act of dressing up and role-playing popular characters from manga and anime.

Director-producer Joyce Lee, who was also at the press conference along with Chu and two of the movie’s other stars, Joshua Tan, 26, and Jordan Ng, 10, said she decided on the cosplay theme as she wished to make a film that was meant for youngsters, pointing out that most Singaporean films were targeted towards very mature audiences.

Young & Fabulous

Hao Ren (Joshua Tan) cosplaying as Naruto and Violet Ong (Joyce Chu) as Sakura in Young & Fabulous.

“I wanted to encourage youngsters to pursue their dreams. Even though we want to promote creativity, parents will most likely want their children to be doctors and lawyers and accountants because those are considered very safe paths for their children,” she said.

She gave the example of Joseph Schooling’s recent Olympic gold medal win for Singapore.

“If everybody were to really go through that kind of path, there would be no Olympic gold medal for Singapore. I want youngsters to go ahead and pursue their dreams even though it is a road less travelled,” Lee urged.

Drawing on her 13 years of experience as a film distributor, director-producer Lee spoke about how the release of anime films helped her discover a local fanbase and get to know regional cosplayers.

“Cosplay is something that is getting more popular in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. Even though it is a niche genre, it is related to manga and animation and is widely popular among the youngsters. So, I thought this topic will actually help Singapore films to travel. If you watch the film, it’s not all about cosplay, it’s more about pursuing your dreams, against all odds.”

Cosplaying for the first time, the three cast members had different stories to share about their experience.

young & fabulous

School discipline master Mr Boo (Gurmit Singh) discovers Hao Ren cosplaying The Hulk to earn some pocket money.

Chu said some of the costumes she wore in the movie could be quite challenging. “The Sakura one with pink hair where I’m wielding swords … the hair was super thick and heavy and I had to do the action sequences and remember the moves under the hot sun,” she recalled. “I also play a witch during a fighting competition, and we had to fight and dance. I’m not much of a dancer, so I had to put in a lot of effort there to learn how to dance really well.

“We had to use all our imagination because it was a green screen, and we had to remember our power moves at the same time. Also, some of the clothes were very tight, like the outfit for the witch. I couldn’t even breathe and I still had to fight!”

Australia-born Singaporean actor Tan shared that, unlike Chu, he did not have much experience with cosplay as he was less exposed to anime and cosplay-related themes. “I had to spend two or three hours in the makeup chair for the cosplay scenes, and since I can’t sit still for long, it was very frustrating for me.

Playing a student named Hao Ren, who is always out to make a buck from his schoolmates, Tan also expressed his admiration and respect to cosplayers who were so dedicated to their craft that they made their own costumes and learnt to do their own makeup. “A big challenge was the fake eyelashes we had to wear every time we cosplayed, as they were very heavy. Aloysius (Pang) and I have never put on fake eyelashes before, so it was very uncomfortable. Wearing them made it difficult to keep our eyes open, and we had to consciously open our eyes wider every time!”

The hunky actor also shared how his military camouflage training came in handy during a scene where he cosplayed the green-skinned Hulk. “That one was fun. We actually used the green camo paint. The makeup artist was actually using a paintbrush and trying to paint me green bit-by-bit using makeup foundation. That’s a waste of time so I just took the army camo green, put it in my hand and spread it all over my body, in five minutes. The back was a bit iffy so they helped me.”

Singaporean child actor Ng, who plays child cosplayer Jordan Chio, was also cosplaying for the first time for his movie debut. Among his costumes were Crayon Shinchan, Naruto and One Piece’s Tony Tony Chopper. “My favourite was Naruto, because I was not so familiar with One Piece or Crayon Shinchan. Previously, I didn’t know what cosplay was. I thought it was only acting, not costume making like what they were doing. But now, after I experienced it, I feel this movie will be very well-received.”

First-time director Lee has not tried cosplay herself, but when asked to choose one character she would want to cosplay to celebrate the film’s success, she said she would pick Doraemon. “That was my childhood fantasy! I always thought that being able to get so many things out of that pocket was a pretty cool idea.”

The movie also stars other familiar faces in Singaporean showbiz: Aloysius Pang as a top student who aspires to be a fashion designer, Jeffrey Xu as a cross-dressing cosplayer from mainland China, Gurmit Singh as a discipline master, Henry Thia as Hao Ren’s father, Quan Yi Fong as Royston’s mother, and even the four members of indiepop band The Sam Willows as student bullies.