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Self-Improvement & Hobbies

Cosplayers draw fans to anime fest

Fifth edition of Anime Festival Asia at Singapore Expo expects to meet target of 85,000 visitors.
The Straits Times - November 12, 2012
By: Nicholas Yong
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Cosplayers draw fans to anime fest Cosplayers (from left) Mandy Kew 'Bonbori', Bernice Lim 'Hozuki', Xiuhui 'Hatsune Miku', Alison Cooper 'David Bowie's Pink Flo' and Violet 'Poison Ivy'. -- ST PHOTOS: LAU FOOK KONG, MARK CHEONG FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Tens of thousands of people, many of them clad in outlandish outfits and sporting every shade of hair colour imaginable, descended on the Singapore Expo over the weekend for the fifth edition of Anime Festival Asia.

Exact attendance figures were unavailable, but festival director Shawn Chin says the convention is on track to meet its target of 85,000 visitors.

The largest showcase of Japanese pop culture here ran from Friday till yesterday, and featured cosplayers, concerts and exclusive merchandise.

Last year's edition, held at Suntec City, drew some 82,000 visitors, a third of them from countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.

By comparison, other pop culture events such as the Singapore Toy Game and Comic convention drew almost 35,000 visitors. The two-day Cosfest, held annually in Downtown East and focusing exclusively on cosplay, draws more than 13,000 people.

Fans of Japanese pop culture queued as early as 11.30pm the night before to enter the exhibition halls, which opened at 9am last Saturday, said cosplayer Nike Lim, 22, who works as a security guard.

"Now that it's at Expo in Changi, I have a lot further to travel as I live in Jurong," says Mr Lim, who has been to all five editions of the anime festival and spent $90 on his costume this year.

Cosplayers such as full-time national serviceman Daniel Chin, 21, who was attending for the second time, was impressed by this year's festival: "The convention is much bigger and there's lots more happening and more cosplayers. I made and sewed everything myself except the wig, which I bought online."

The festival was spread over two halls and the Max Pavilion, occupying 7,500 sq m. There were more than 100 exhibitors, including media franchise Pokemon, which made its debut this year.

Japanese pop culture personalities such as Taiwanese cosplayer Hiko and top anime director Shinichiro Watanabe were also there.

Fans also flocked to three days of anime-themed concerts at the Max Pavilion by performers such as the highly popular TM Revolution from Japan.

The event had a new feature this year, the Japan Future Entertainment Zone, where Japanese artist management companies and record labels such as Horipro and King Records showcased their latest artists, dramas and movies.

The collectibles at AFA were also a big draw.

Full-time national serviceman Neo Shao Ming, 19, spent $212 on an exclusive, limited-edition Saber & Saber Motored Cuirassier, based on a character from the ongoing Fate/Zero anime series, and was planning to buy more items: "I'm not really a big fan of the series, but I just found it cool."

Student Alexis Tong, who was attending the festival for the first time, made more modest purchases. After waiting in line for 30 minutes, she bought $60 worth of Pokemon collectibles. The 14-year-old said they were worth every cent, given the scarcity of Pokemon merchandise in Singapore.

She said: "I think I spent little compared to the others. Most figurines were going for $180 to $200 each, and yet there were still people buying them."

Mr Chin, the festival director, said the anime festival satellite events in Malaysia and Indonesia, held earlier this year, helped to strengthen the event's branding. He said: "We have reached a stage where the AFA brand has some equity for the fans. Our satellite events in Malaysia and Indonesia have helped."

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