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TAIPEI (Reuters) - Fancy dressing up in a long pink wig and costume, or do you want to become your favorite character from animation with fellow aficionados? Then a shop in Taiwan may be the place to go.
Mofa, in the southern city of Kaohsiung, offers a US $50 package allowing devotees to dress up as a favorite anime or manga comic character, complete with wig, full makeup and costume, and have their photograph taken.
"It began as a hobby, I have been doing cosplay for a long time, and this is an activity I am interested in," owner Yoda Huang, 32, told Reuters in an interview at the shop in a plain building tucked away in a narrow sidestreet near the center of the city.
Dressed as Japanese anime character Megurine Luka with a long pink wig, Huang, whose regular job is as an event organizer at a marketing firm and who in the shop uses the name 'Prince', said he saw a good business opportunity in the growing popularity of cosplay -- short for "costume play."
"I wish to spread cosplay information to my friends, to make it more popular, so everybody with the same interest can have a place to have fun together," he said.
Cosplay originated in Japan and has spread globally as more Japanese anime films are shown overseas.
Its popularity has grown in Taiwan over the past few years, particularly after the launch of the island's first dedicated magazine on the subject in 2006. Huang, a cosplayer for 10 years, invested more than $17,000 in the studio, which is taking in some $1,380 a month. Appointments are booked up to June. The shop is open three afternoons a week and Saturdays by appointment only. His clients range from teenagers and students to people in their fifties. Some couples or families with children also come for photographs. The shop also offers regular, non-anime cross-dressing photo shoots or even just standard portraits.
One client, a 25-year-old cafe owner who called himself Yotung and was dressed as the warrior servant Saber from the Japanese manga Fate/stay night, shares his cosplay hobby with his girlfriend. "She said, 'Wow, is this really your picture? Are those really your legs?' when she saw the pictures. She was surprised in a nice way, and she does not feel repulsed by it," he said.
Another, a 23-year-old student who called himself Amene Sakuya and looked every inch the Japanese schoolgirl in his Kotobuki Tsumugi manga character outfit, said cosplay helps him to understand women. "Since I am used to man's attire, I do not understand some of the challenges girls experience, such as how easily I can be exposed wearing a skirt. This way I learn to appreciate some of the things that girls may find difficult."
"This is not easy for men, we just have to pretend to be cool or masculine. This is a great challenge," he said.
Writing by Jonathan Standing