Enako is not only Japan’s most famous cosplayer, she is also perhaps the country’s most successful. As Kotaku previously posted, she has said she making up to $90,000 monthly from cosplaying, streaming, and promotional activities. Today, news broke that she is dating pro gamer Kenki, causing “プロゲーマー” (pro-gamer) to trend on Twitter in Japan.
Bunshun Online, known for hounding celebrities and politicians, revealed the relationship earlier today, publishing photos of Enako and Kenki walking together at night, holding hands as they walked back to her apartment building. The publication added that the two were living together. The couple, it seems, met at Ubisoft’s Ubiday event a few years back.
Honestly, this kind of stuff might seem like whatever, really, who cares. What makes it of interest is how a cosplayer’s love life is seen as interesting enough to warrant this sort of coverage, just like a movie star would.
I would argue that cosplay went mainstream years ago. In Japan, this certainly cements that argument even further.
Bunshun Online reached out to Enako’s management about the relationship, assuming that the public disclosure that she had a boyfriend would somehow be upsetting to her fans. Her agency replied, “Their relationship and cohabitation is true,” adding that they wanted Enako to be happy, as they should.
“For us, we have nothing to hide,” her management added. This reaction from her management has not been the norm for young, famous women (and men) in Japan. Managers and agencies have long wanted to keep the illusion of the talent being “available” and “unattached.” Disclosing that they’re in a relationship will crush the fantasies and demands some fans place on idols. Here, Enako’s team is being up-front and not trying to hide anything. This seems so obvious, but this isn’t always true in the Japanese entertainment complex, so good for them.
Enako was then interviewed by the publication, saying that she did not want to lie. When asked if the news of her relationship would sadden fans, Enako replied, “Cosplayers are not idols.” She added that her agency did not ban her from falling in love. “Perhaps, due to this news, there will be fans I lose, but I think there’s nothing I can do about that,” Enako replied. “Given that, I’m also a grown woman...”
Back in 2013 pop singer Minami Minegishi from idol group AKB48 shaved her head and then apologized for seeing someone, breaking the group’s no dating rule—a story that Shukan Bunshun (the weekly print version of the publication) broke.
While Enako isn’t an idol per se (though, she might be considered a cosplay idol due to her status alone and her distinction could be seen as merely semantic), the fact that this latest revelation didn’t lead to a similar reaction might be evidence that young people in the spotlight in Japan are gaining greater freedom. I certainly hope so.