SINGAPORE: Thousands of cosplayers and anime fans flocked to the annual Anime Festival Asia (AFA) in Singapore over the weekend, held for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began more than two years ago.

The three-day convention celebrates all things Japanese pop culture.

Anime, a sub-culture originating from Japan, has continued to thrive and grow internationally in recent years despite the pandemic, largely due to its vast online presence and supportive participants.

AFA attracted 120,000 attendees the last time it was held in 2019. Although exact ticket sales will not be available until a later date, festival director Shawn Chin told Reuters that he expects the Singapore event to reach the same number, if not surpass it.

"Now that I'm in Singapore it feels like a meetup of old friends, because I was in constant online contact with people here," said a featured Taiwanese cosplayer, Hiko, from her booth at the exhibition hall.

Singapore eased most of its COVID-19 curbs this year, and had seen various international events returning to the city-state in recent months.