More than 4,000 cosplayers thronged Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre over the weekend for the annual Anime Festival Asia.
Dressed in striking wigs and colourful costumes to look like their favourite anime and online game characters, the crowd of mostly teenagers and 20somethings turned up for the three-day festival celebrating Japanese pop culture. It ended today (Nov 29).
The festival is now in its eighth year and as of Sunday morning, executive festival director Shawn Chin said it was on track to achieving the same attendance figures as last year's festival. About 90,000 people attended last year.
Organised by Singapore-based company Sozo and two Japanese companies, the Dentsu Group and Zepp Live Inc, this year's festival featured a regional cosplay competition, a concert featuring anime music by Japanese singers such as solo artist May'n and hybrid rock group Back-On.
There were also about 200 booths selling mostly anime-related merchandise, including a Creator's Hub, which featured 100 booths of merchandise made by anime fans, such as posters, postcards, keychains and bookmarks.
Malaysian university student Qayum Hakim, 20, drove from Penang with four friends to attend the festival. It is his third time doing so. He bought three anime-related plastic figurines to add to his collection of 20 at home and was excited to see his favourite artists Lia and Nano from Japan perform at the concert.
"I brought about $600 here. I started saving up as early as six months ago," he says.
ITE student Pong Biao Ping, 19, was at the festival for the first time last Saturday. She bought an anime-related puzzle and three cellphone straps.
She says: "I had been trying to avoid it because I heard it's very crowded. But I am glad I came. I will probably be back next year."
Assistant teacher James Ng, 25, was one of two Singapore contestants at the regional cosplay competition, which saw 10 contestants from five countries.
Mr Ng and his team mate, Mr Steven Taslim, cosplayed characters from the Saint Seiya anime and manga series. Mr Ng spent about 120 hours and $500 making the costume for Saint Seiya, his favourite character in the Japanese anime.
Although he did not win, he remained upbeat: "Winning is not everything. At least I got to make friends with cosplayers from other countries."
The winners were from Indonesia, who cosplayed as characters from the Capcom game, Devil May Cry.
Not all came as Japanese characters though.
University student Jolene Chan, 21, and her friend, Ms Dion Tan, 18, polytechnic student, appeared as characters from the *hidden sword" sect in Legend of the Swordman Online III, an Chinese online game they both enjoyed, complete with swords made of wood and Eva foam.
Their friend, Ms Xia Ming, 18, a polytechnic student, was dressed in red as the beautiful Soah from the Korean comic, Bride of the Water God.
The three friends bought the costumes online and added their own accessories, spending between $120 and $200 each, and burning about 20 to 50 hours to make their costumes closer to the real thing. Ms Tan worked with the Eva foam to make the designs of her sword and Ms Chan's more intricate, while Ms Xia re-did the top of her costume.
The trio met one another at cosplay events about a year ago and have become good friends.
Polytechnic student, Eileen Chee, 19, attended the festival as frosty-haired master archer Ashe from the American online game League Of Legends.
She bought the wig, costume and shoes online for about $80 and spent about two weeks making her own armour of bow and arrows from foam and wood.
Her efforts paid off. At least 40 people approached her for photos last Saturday.
She says it is easy to bond with fellow cosplayers, especially when one meets another cosplayer dressed as the same character or a character from the same movie or game. She says: "You want to go up and hug them."