Kigurumi (着ぐるみ?) is the Japanese name for costumed performers who represent cartoon characters, often animals. The name comes from the Japanese verb kiru (着る to wear?) and noun nuigurumi (ぬいぐるみ stuffed toy?). These performers appear at shopping malls, theme parks, and anime conventions. The costumed characters found in theme parks, such as Disneyland, on children's TV shows such as Barney and Friends and Bananas in Pyjamas, and roaming the sidelines of sports events as mascots are also included in the Japanese term kigurumi. Frequently their appearance serves a festive promotional purpose and they are often employed to entertain audiences of children. Kigurumin, a style of Japanese street fashion, employs kigurumi costumes as personal dress. Popular outfits include Pikachu, Winnie the Pooh, Hello Kitty, elephants, dinosaurs, dogs, cows, pigs, and pandas.
A subset of kigurumi in otaku and cosplay circles is anime kigurumi. In this style of representation humanoid characters are portrayed through the use of masks and bodysuits (the bodysuit is known in Japan as a zentai) that completely covers the bodies of cosplayers. The performer is known as an animegao or "doller". A doller outfit consists of a full bodysuit, usually in a fleshtone color, combined with clothing and accessories appropriate for the character. A mask covers the head with a wig and perhaps a hat to complete the look. The performer looks through eyeholes in the mask.
Dollers in Japan often perform on stage in promotional events for anime and other film and television shows (such as Tokyo Mew Mew, a children's program). Though still very much a niche speciality in the cosplay world, this style of portraying a character has become somewhat more popular in Asia since the 1980s and attracts some interest in North America as well. Two of the more well known vendors for doller costume supplies are Dolphin Factory and Build Up Studio SIGMA in Japan.
Because most dollers are men, portrayals of female characters often represent a form of crossplay. A long tradition exists in Japan of male stage actors portraying women on stage, as for many centuries women were not allowed to perform in public.
In English-speaking countries kigurumi are referred to as costumed characters, animal costumes, mascot costumes, or fursuits depending on the context. Fursuits are mascot-style costumes that represent animals and cartoon characters according to established styles within the furry fandom. Such suits completely cover the performer's body and are often padded as necessary to render the appropriate shape.
Variations of fursuits exist informally called "partials" in which only a costume head and costume hands/arms are worn, with standard clothing covering the rest of the body. Partials typically, but not always, include standard shoes rather than fursuit feet-paw-shoes, due to the fact that the wearer is trying to look casual, and the costume feet would be an additional effort to create. Also, keeping furred feet soles from being ruined while walking is already a problem for people wearing standard fursuits, who sometimes create sandals to protect the soles.
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Kigurumi also is used to describe full-body hooded animal pajamas styled after animals or cartoon characters. Sometimes called "disguise pajamas" or onesies, the clothing is normally worn non-commercially as Japanese street fashion or as sleepwear, and is not intended to function as a performance costume. The pajama outfits are made of fleece material, usually in an oversized "one-size-fits-all", and conforms to the body in the manner of normal clothing. The hoods do not cover the face.
Disguise pajamas can be purchased from a number of retailers. Preference is for creatures widely regarded as cute, such as cats, bears, dogs, rabbits, pandas, cows, pigs, penguins, foxes, raccoons, unicorns, hamsters, kangaroos and koalas. Characters found in TV shows, anime, video games and movies are also available. Popular characters include Pokémon characters such as Pikachu, InuYasha animals such as Kirara, Disney characters, and other well-known fictional characters such as Jack Skellington (from Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas), Hello Kitty, Totoro, Rilakkuma and the Care Bears.
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