Clarissa Punipun: Cosplayer, musician, software engineer
This Indonesian cosplayer has a software engineering degree from the University of Nottingham.
Clarissa Widjaya, better known as Clarissa Punipun, is one of Indonesia's most popular cosplayers. But few might be aware that she's also a software engineer, with a BSc (Hons) in Software Engineering from the University of Nottingham.
"I was preparing myself to be a doctor but after I found out about programming in junior high school, I thought that being a programmer was way more flexible in terms of the working field. For example, by being a doctor, I would stay in the medical field only, but by being a software engineer, I can create medical, restaurant, factory software. I always said that being a software engineer is like being a magician. They can create anything that they want and I really love that concept of being free to create anything that I want. And now, I embraced music and programming in my cosplay career by creating covers in cosplay and also maintaining my own website," Punipun told Digital Life Asia.
Music to our ears
Born in Jakarta, Punipun is a Japanese-Chinese-Indian mix and speaks four languages: English, Bahasa Indonesia, basic Japanese, and basic Chinese.
She is a brand ambassador of ASUS ROG Indonesia and Dunia Games Indonesia, as well as a Kurate Gakuen Moe Ambassador after being invited by the Fukuoka City Government in Japan.
Asked how she would describe herself and what does during her free time, Punipun replied: "You can call me Puni! I've been cosplaying since 2006 and started to work professionally as a cosplayer in 2012. Before cosplaying, I used to do anime and Japanese song covers (piano, drum, cello. guitar, bass, vocal) and I also did a bit of modeling despite myself being puny (yes, pun intended) since I'm just 155 cm tall. During my spare time, I enjoy playing games, reading manga, creating content (wait... is this considered spare time activity?), and playing music."
How did Punipun discover her passion for music?
"When I was small, I liked to play the melodica and recorder flute. It all started when I was exposed to anime and started to play the anime songs with the melodica or recorder. My parents saw what I did and decided to enroll me in a music class (Clavinova). Although, I only studied for three years because I wasn't good at reading musical notes and instead, I was very good at hearing, so I play most songs by ear now," she said.
From drawing to cosplaying
It was an anime magazine that first exposed Punipun to cosplay back in 2006.
"In that magazine, I saw cosplayers' photos and those are Pinky Lu Xun and Orochi X's photos. They are one of the pioneers in the Indonesian cosplay scene as they started early (around 1998 if I remember correctly). I was moved by their cosplay work and decided to try cosplay myself in 2006 at an event held by that exact same magazine. Before knowing about cosplay, I usually drew Japanese-style characters and played anime/game music through my melodica. Never have I thought that I could dress up as the characters I like instead of just drawing them.
"In 2006, there weren't many shops that sell cosplay stuff such as costumes, wigs, shoes, etc. So, me and my best friend, Benita (now my costume maker under the name of BEDA Clo) did our first cosplay in that event with no wigs, only our real hair cut into the characters' hairstyles and then sprayed with instant hair color spray and with costumes made of simple fabric sewn by the local seamster and a mix-and-match of our current closet fashion. We were so amazed by the experience and we kept going to more events until she finally decided to stop cosplaying due to personal reasons and focused on entering a fashion school in Singapore. After she graduated, she opened a bridal and costume shop and has been my costume maker for years now," she said.
Which is Punipun's favorite among the characters she has cosplayed?
"I have cosplayed more than 100 characters/costumes by now, I think. It's hard to name them all, but maybe some of the notable ones are Kobo Kanaeru from hololive Indonesia, Rem from Re:Zero, Marci from DOTA2, WanWan from Mobile Legends, Annie from League of Legends, and some Genshin Impact characters. I only cosplay characters that I like, so to name a favorite would be super tricky. If I have to choose one from a local character category (Indonesia's original character), I would pick Oren from re:ON Comics because there was a version of Oren using batik and I think it was so beautiful to implement batik in the costume design!
"For global characters, maybe I would pick Kobo Kanaeru as my current favorite! Because her character is so entertaining and I feel like I can relate to her as she plays more than two musical instruments and also codes! What are the odds, right?"
The adventure continues
According to Punipun, she has had so many wonderful experiences thanks to cosplay.
"One of the earliest ones is that I got to change from a tomboy who doesn't like to wear skirts and colors other than black (please don't judge me, I had my punk rock emo era back then) to being a very colorful person and becoming more feminine. Cosplay also brings me to a lot of places. I got to be invited by the Fukuoka Government to be their ambassador for a tourism campaign there and also selected by Microsoft Surface and TeamLab Japan to be in their commercial shown at the famous Shibuya Crossing," she said.
Apart being a cosplayer, Punipun is also an avid gamer.
"I loved games so much I almost failed the third grade of my elementary school. My first game was on SNES! It was Mario and a game about dolphins (I forgot the title). After that I played on the PlayStation series and PC," she said.
Asked to name her favorite game of all time, Punipun replied: "My favorite game of all time would be Final Fantasy X and Ragnarok Online. Both bring back a lot of memories. Final Fantasy X wasn't the first Final Fantasy series I played, but it was the first FF series I've completed. The story is just pure tearjerker and a wholesome experience for me."
Punipun is also a game streamer. She said that it allows her to interact with her supporters and share fun moments with them. Through streaming, she has gotten to know more people and even make new friends.
What message would Punipun like to share with her fans and with aspiring cosplayers?
"I would like to say thank you so much for giving your kind support to my work. I started cosplay as a hobby without knowing what social media was and I feel like receiving this much love from people around the world overwhelmed me in a good way. I hope to bring you joy always in each of my cosplay/music/gaming work.
"For fellow cosplayers, I sincerely hope you all enjoy cosplaying as much as I do, if not more! Cosplay is super fun and should be a happy activity for everyone. Love the characters that you cosplay and the rest will follow," she said.
Punipun said she will attend cosplay events in Indonesia and overseas this year, so she is looking forward to meeting more people there.
"I'm active on Instagram the most, so we can also interact online there and I will let everyone know if there are any upcoming exciting projects," she added.
Here's hoping Punipun will be in your area soon!