Manga-crazed youngsters are flocking to Hong Kong's annual comic fair thanks to a Japanese porn star's hugging contest and covetable limited edition action figures.
Hundreds of excited teens camped out for days so they could be among the first inside the venue, turning elevated walkways leading into the city's convention centre into makeshift homes.
"We are expecting a record-number crowd this year -- higher than ever before," a spokeswoman told AFP as the event opened Friday. Last year's event drew a staggering 680,000 people.
"Youngsters were queuing up outside nine days ago -- they had their sleeping bags, foldable chairs and everything... We have some hardcore supporters," she added.
Some of those streaming inside were dressed as their favourite characters from anime -- the term for Japan's distinctive animation used in television series, films and video games.
Hong Kong is home to many fans of Japanese anime and manga -- or comics -- and related action figures are among the most sought-after offerings at the fair.
"The limited edition items are very hard to purchase. Basically, I won't get them if I didn't come so early," 13-year-old Jesse Yun told AFP, adding that he had been standing in line for 12 hours through the night.
But apart from the cartoon characters, one of the big draws was the chance for visitors to embrace former Japanese porn star Maria Ozawa.
Extra security was reportedly drafted in to maintain order as Ozawa offered hugs to the first 40 people to enter the five-day fair.
Inside the packed convention hall, 14-year-old Winston Cheng was more excited over the HK$1,000 ($130) he spent on toy soldiers.
"I've been wanting these for a long time. I'm so happy!" he said.
Alan To, a 16-year-old student, figured the fair offered him a chance to make a sound investment in his favourite anime collectibles.
"What's also good is that the price rises with time -- so I may be able to make a few bucks off of it," he said.
Some were even paid to hold a place in line.
"I will get HK$1,500 for lining up here for three days," a primary school pupil told the South China Morning Post, adding that "it's quite a good sum of money for me to spend in the summer holidays."
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