A female samurai and her half- elfin, half-animal friend let out elated shrieks of joy when it was announced that they were placed third at Anime Festival Asia's (AFA) Regional Cosplay Championship last Saturday.
Beneath the armour and furry hoodie, whole human beings emerged. Singaporeans Siti Norzaisah, 28, and Lauren Lim, 20, were cosplaying as hunters from video game Monster Hunter, in which players either kill or capture monsters in a fantasy environment.
On their win, Ms Siti says: "I was surprised and really happy. All those long hours of hard work have paid off."
The preschool teacher spent three months and about $300 on her costume, which is made of foam and tulle spray-painted and put together with glue and "lots of velcro".
Their prize was $300. In second place was a team from the Philippines and an Indonesian team won the top prize.
The competition featured six teams and was part of AFA, a three-day festival celebrating Japanese pop culture. It ended yesterday.
Last Saturday, young people thronged the Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre, where the event was held. Most striking were the cosplayers decked out in peroxide wigs and dramatic costumes befitting their favourite anime and video-game characters.
Some, however, did not limit their imagination to Japanese characters.
Junior financial controller Skyy Sia, 27, came with Ariel from The Little Mermaid, his girlfriend Joan Ang, 22. He dressed up as Ariel's love interest, Prince Eric.
Both avid cosplayers, it was Ms Ang who thought of them dressing up as Ariel and Prince Eric.
"Ariel's my favourite Disney princess and I know many grew up knowing her story," the university student says.
She bought her wig online, sewed the bra top herself and Mr Sia's mother Shirley, 67, helped her make the character's tail. She estimates that 10 hours went into making the $40 costume.
Because having a tail restricted Ms Ang's movements, Mr Sia made a "rock" for her to sit on. It comprised cushions and a mattress, which were covered with brown cloth. The "rock" was then placed on an industrial goods trolley, which was wrapped in blue cloth to represent the sea. This way, he could push her about easily.
"Cosplayers display their outfits by walking around and many people were thrilled that we could move about," he says.
Another cosplayer who spent much time and effort putting together his outfit was national serviceman Kogin Ko, 22.
He took an entire year to make his costume, an armour worn by the character Cyan Pile from the anime Accel World.
"Because I'm in the army, I only had weekends to work on my costume," says Mr Ko, who completed the costume in December last year. The $500 costume is made of craft foam held together by hot glue and then spray painted.
Convention producer Jason Koh, 32, who has been cosplaying for more than 10 years, observed that many more cosplayers are making their own costumes and the standard of craftsmanship has improved in recent years.
He heads Neo Tokyo Project, an events company focused on the craft of cosplay. "We do corporate commissions, working with companies to create costumes," he says.
The company also gives pointers to local cosplayers on the techniques that can be used for costume-making.
Ms Siti is someone who has benefited from such tips and is so good at costume-making now that people commission her to make costumes and props for them. She charges $80 to $300 depending on the complexity of the request.
Festival attendees also observed that more people are getting into cosplay.
Polytechnic student Charlotte Lee, 19, who has been cosplaying for three years, says: "The number has definitely grown in recent years and more young people have been exploring cosplay."
She liked how this year's festival had a section that showcased fan art by local artists because she enjoys seeing how artists offer new interpretations on existing Japanese pop-culture characters.
Now into its seventh year, this was the festival's largest edition to date, spanning more than 12,000 sq m over all six halls on the exhibition centre's fourth floor.