Love it or hate it, dressing up as cartoon characters, or cosplay, is gaining popularity in Hong Kong. Sheena Lo Pui-cheung, a Year Three creative media student at City University of Hong Kong, is among those who love it. She's been a cosplayer since Form One. 'I'm a big manga and comic fan, and the idea of dressing up and acting like my favourite comic character is fascinating,' she says. Ms Lo calls it a 'serious activity' because cosplayers need to put a lot of effort into outfits. 'On one occasion I played Saint Seiga and I spent two weeks making an amour out of cardboard, clay and model paints,' she says. She says she's used to people staring. 'I understand there will be people who like it and people who don't. I cannot worry about how everyone feels so I don't really take it personally when people give me strange looks.' Some cosplay fans complain about commercialisation of the pursuit, as game companies use cosplayers to promote their manga tie-in games. But Ms Lo thinks it's a good thing, because it means cosplay is becoming more widely accepted. 'I know some cosplayers frown upon the idea of making money from cosplay because they think it shouldn't be commercial, but I think it's great to enjoy my hobby and make money at the same time,' she says. 'I think a good cosplayer should make all their clothes and accessories themselves. Apart from the look, facial expressions and body movements should also adhere to the original character as much as possible. It should be like the character has jumped out of the book.' Anne Smith, assistant professor of English at City University of Hong Kong, has been studying Hong Kong's cosplay culture for some time. She thinks the rise of cosplay in Hong Kong and around the world is a reflection of young people being suppressed by parents and society. 'Children in Hong Kong and many other places feel they are being suppressed by parents and schools about what they can or cannot do. They feel they are being controlled and cosplay is one thing that can free them from the control. When they take up cosplay, they can decide how the costumes are made and what the makeup looks like. They have control over everything. It's like breaking out from the real world they're in.' Dr Smith also says most people who do cosplay are manga or comic fans. 'The characters they watch growing up are like friends to them. It's very interesting for them to dress up and act like characters they have seen on TV or in comic books.' Cecilia Chan Wai-man, a Year Three student studying English for communication at City University of Hong Kong, says she was not impressed by cosplay when she first came across it. But she has come to respect cosplay fans. 'Now that I know about the work that goes into making costumes, I've come to respect them. It's not just a bunch of teens fooling around.'