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Over the past just half decade or so, cosplay has gone from being a niche hobby that some people found intolerably nerdy at best (and a sign of social dysfunction at worst), to being not only accepted by most, but even celebrated, with some of the best and most frequent cosplayers even enjoying a sort of minor celebrity status.

Cosplay’s growing popularity no doubt has a lot to do with the ongoing explosion of superhero films and the growing mainstream acceptance of other “nerdy” hobbies like video games, comic books and even anime and manga. Suddenly, the idea of using cosplay to escape your own skin and explore other identities on a regular basis is nearly as socially accepted as donning your Robo Pope costume for Halloween.

And some masterful cosplayers have used the medium to explore such drastically different identities that seeing them sans costume can be a shock, as Japanese Netizens learned recently when a popular cosplayer revealed some old yearbook photos.

Hobbyist and possible professional cosplayer Byakkodo Hiya (certainly a pseudonym) frequently posts cosplay photos to Twitter. The costumes depicted are almost all of female anime protagonists, so it must have come as a shock to at least some of Hiya’s followers when the frequent dress-up artist posted the yearbook shots from high school and before, revealing that, the whole time, Hiya was in fact a “crossplayer” (a term I just made up. You’re not allowed to use it)!

It’s not the first time Hiya has posted costume-less self portraits, so he certainly wasn’t hiding his true gender from anyone, but it’s safe to say – given the way the above photo series has blown up on the Japanese Interwebs – that a lot of fans were surprised by the revelation. It certainly speaks to Hiya’s talent as a cosplayer that he looks just like the female characters he dresses as when in costume, and it also highlights the power of cosplay to enable people to explore gender identity in addition to letting them step into the shoes of pop culture’s most badass heroes and villains.

Source: Hamster Sokuhou
Photos: @byakko_yun