A Japanese cosplayer was recently horrified to find that their homemade cosplay of a much-loved character — an outfit still sitting in their own home — was listed for sale on an online outlet under their own photo and some of their own words.
A Labor of Love
A cosplayer named Ritsuki (@ritsu_h116 on Twitter) made a cosplay outfit of Izumi Mitsuki, a character from the popular game turned anime Idolish7. Ritsuki describes themself as a big fan of this character, and to me, it is clear in the care with which they assembled this cosplay, which took them a month to personally assemble with the help of a sewing machine.
The work is a full outfit including an impressively detailed hat and a matching pair of shoes. Upon completion, justifiably proud of their hard work, they posted photos of the outfit and of themself wearing it, to Twitter. They had little opportunity to wear the cosplay after that photo shoot, though, and thought to sell it.
But that was only the beginning of this strange episode, because their own photos surfaced on an unfamiliar online outlet, shortly after they listed the outfit for sale on Japanese online marketplace Mercari for ¥10,000, or about USD $75.
The unfamiliar site– run by what appeared to be a large, busy Japanese company called Freeenvy– lowered the fraudulent listing’s price further, to about ¥6400. The listing featured more than just Ritsuki’s photos. It also included their own words from the Mercari listing, copied verbatim.
Surprised and a little worried, Ritsuki took down the Mercari listing. They posted about the incident on their Twitter, bringing the attention of their fans and the media to the incident.
But what was the story behind the company that was selling Ritsuki’s handmade cosplay outfit as though they actually had it? One journalist pursued further details in person. The truth, as ever, is stranger than you might imagine.
A Fake Storefront
Freeenvy, the business listing Ritsuki’s Idolish7 cosplay as though they had it and could actually sell it in the first place, claimed that it was a decade-old company staffed as of February 2023 by over a thousand people, and based at a brick-and-mortar address in Nishinomiya, a city in Hyogo Prefecture. Photos available on the company’s website gave the impression that it was a trendy business selling luxury watches and similar high-end products.
Itō Daisuke of Maido na News investigated this address in person, traveling first by train and then by bus to the address on record. In the neighborhood, in a quiet residential corner of the Yamanote district, there was no sign of any such business. He asked a local, who confirmed that they’d never seen such a business.
On further asking a passing newspaper delivery person, they also said they’d never seen any such building at that address. Finally, Itō asked the residents of the house nearest to the claimed address, and was again told “we’ve never heard of such a place.”
The business license number listed on its homepage likewise did not return any results from the Tokyo Metropolitan Public Safety Commission’s database of secondhand vendors. It seems as though from top to bottom this was an entirely fraudulent operation.
My own investigation online into this company’s identity suggests that Ritsuki was far from Freeenvy’s only victim. Another creator, listing their art and writing for sale on Mercari, likewise saw it reposted to Freeenvy without their consent.
Their comments on a post to Yahoo Chiebukuro echo Ritsuki’s own– the items were reposted without permission, and priced at a steep discount. “What is this site?” asks the creator. “Scary.”
A Disappearing Act
In the interest of getting a statement from the company, Itō sent a set of questions to it via its only listed point of contact, an email address on its homepage. Despite waiting several days for a response, there was none by the 15th. Shortly thereafter, the homepage vanished from the internet altogether. Per my own check, it remains offline presently.
The fake company has vanished, and at last report the Mitsuki Izumi cosplay remains in Ritsuki’s possession. But as they observed, if someone had bought it, what, if anything, would they have ultimately received?
In the simple words of someone answering a query from the other creator mentioned above, whose work had similarly been stolen: “Even if you order, nothing will show up.”
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