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Lai Pin-yu: Cosplayer, Activist – and now, Legislator

Ok anime fans, let’s get political for a moment: Taiwan has finished their election last January 11. Normally, this is a day for its citizens to exercise their right to suffrage and vote for their next set of executive (the 15th time to be commenced) and legislative (10th time) officers.

Incumbent president Tsai Ing-wen has been re-elected for a second term with around 2.6 million votes more versus her competitor. We are supposed to leave this matter out of the anime context, but a politician dressed up as Evangelion’s Asuka Langley Sohryu during her campaign trail.

Her name is Lai Pin-yu – and she just won her seat for New Taipei City’s 12th electoral district in the Legislative Yuan, one of the five branches of Taiwan’s government. She will be serving the city for 4 years starting February 1 this year.

The first thing that popped up in my mind as I read more about the news is MAGES’ Idol Incidents franchise, which casts idols who represents Japan’s 47 prefectures. Politics and the anime culture do quite mix well in some cases, but this one’s a different story.

Keoni Everington of Taiwan News describes Lai in a post-election report:

“Lai graduated with a bachelor’s in law from National Taipei University in 2013. During her college career, she participated in many student movements, most notably becoming a member of the Black Island Youth Front who occupied the Legislative Yuan in 2014. During the protest, Lai was arrested for chaining herself to other demonstrators to block traffic. In 2016, Lai served as a legislative assistant at the office of Freddy Lim (林昶佐), who was a key figure in founding the New Power Party (NPP) but who has just re-elected as an independent.”

Prior to her newly-elected position, the 27-year old daughter of a former legislator and a journalist has been cosplaying, having her own social media channels as well as a Cure WorldCosplay profile for cosplay-related matters. She has even done cosplay works with popular cosplayers .

In her interview with New Bloom Magazine, Lai describes her election campaign:

“[…] I’m trying out something new, that if someone like me can get elected, this really means that the times have changed. I believe that this will also be encouraging of many young people, telling everyone that if they want to enter politics, they don’t have to force themselves to appear a certain way. If you stay as you are, if you have your own specialty, and are honest, voters can still accept you. Only if you’re liberated in thought can the times advance. Our politicians need to accept this.”

In a country where politics is an eagerly-discussed topic (citing Forbes contributor Ralph Jennings), a new generation of unorthodox politicians has already risen from major movements, including the 2014 Sunflower Movement which saw a lot of the country’s younger demographic occupying the legislative office to protest a trade pact which they deem critical to their country’s independence.

Anime is widely accepted in Taiwan, with several companies catering to the culture such as Animate and Kadokawa building their own branches there.

This is not the first time we saw a cosplayer running for politics – in 2016, The Fandom Telescope featured Cara Nicole Trujillo (AZ Powergirl) who at that time was running for a seat in the Arizona State Legislature.

Header Image: 賴品妤 on Facebook

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Jay Agonoy

Jay Agonoy is a Marketing Services Officer at Pasig-based event company. He also oversees his personal project – the online journal “keepsakes.” – established in 2017, operating its blog, podcast and video channels. Jay has written feature stories for websites such as The Reimaru Files and Rappler, as well as moderated select panel discussions on the local anime and idol cultures. In the new normal, his next interest will be the trend of Virtual YouTubers and Online Pop Culture Conventions.

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