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They like to dress up in out-of-this-world outfits and dye their hair red, pink and blue.

They are New Zealand's growing band of "cosplayers", who will be meeting for an anime festival called Doujin Overload on July 26.

Yesterday some of the participants gave a glimpse of what what they will be wearing to the festival.

Cosplay, or costume play, is where people dress up to look like their favourite anime or manga character, and cosplayer and festival organiser Macy Montallana said the number of cosplayers in New Zealand has grown from barely 50, 10 years ago to about 2000 today.

Originating in Japan, where it is known as 'kosepure', cosplayers here are between 14 and 30 years, and come from all walks of life.

"I guess many get into it because it is fun, and cosplay gives them a break from the predictable routine of their jobs," said Miss Montallana, 23, an animation artist.

Originally from the Philippines, she started "serious cosplaying" when she moved to New Zealand five years ago, and described the interest as "addictive".

Many in the cosplay fraternity have formed an online community and keep in touch with each other through a forum called cosplaynewzealand.

Jess Woodword, 17, a Howick College student, said cosplay allowed her to become someone else and let her "imagination run wild".

She will be cosplaying Bianchi, from anime series Katekyo Hitman Reborn.

Another cosplayer, student Jen Metcalfe, 16, will be dressed as Kairi from Kingdom Hearts II for the festival.

"You kinda feel like a star for a day when people clamour to have photos taken with you at festivals like Doujin Overload, and I even got wolf-whistled at today," she said.

Aleena Soo, an Auckland University undergrad, said dressing up can cost between $100 to $1000 s.

"It can be a lot of money for students, but we see it as money well spent," she said.

In addition to cosplay, the anime festival at Mercure Hotel on Customs St will also feature a Final Fantasy piano performance, and manga art competition and exhibitions of Japanese pop-culture.