Anime Festival Asia 2014 : bigger playground, bolder cosplayers, better content

Sorry this is a little blurry. I was practicing my slow shutter speed skills. Clearly I have very unsteady hands.

Singapore’s 7th anime festival event, and my personal second. After what happened last year, I told myself I’d be more prepared and more intentional with what I wanted to see, hear, and learn from this experience. So many exhibitors, so little space. Too many sweaty kids, competing with so little oxygen left in the hall I could have either died from the manmade humidity, claustrophobia, or sheer exhaustion.

Well, not this year. Thank goodness.

First of all, I got smarter. The AFA official website provided as much detail as possible with the event guide, floor plan, and descriptions of the various anime showcases and competitions, special guests and even a Q&A box for fans to submit. Read the plan, people. It saves a lot of time, helps you plan your routes and activities, and protects you from regrets like missing your favorite seiyuus visiting the country for the first time.

This floor plan stayed on my Xperia tablet for days before the event.

Let’s start with the exhibition hall. The usual folks like Danny Choo aka Culture Japan (and his army of smart dolls), Good Smile Company, Aniplus HD, Animax, Sony Playstation, and so on. But a few critical differences stood out for me:

There was very little Bleach, Naruto, and One Piece. This is a good thing. They haven’t completely disappeared, but there hasn’t been much (or any) attention on them, other than the usual cheesy merchandise. The old must make way for the new. In this case, Shingeki no Kyojin was still popular, with more booths selling figurines of Mikasa Ackerman, Eren Jeager, Levi, and even Armin. Sword Art Online still has a strong following, but not overwhelming. In fact,

New anime titles are finally getting traction. That’s right. The folks up in motherland Japan finally realized that Asia could no longer be ignored. And to stop us from downloading illegal content (oh the horror!), they must win us over. Producers and directors from various companies like Starchild came to share the latest lineup of new releases – Sokyuu no Fafner: Exodus, K: Missing Kings, and Knights of Sidnoia: the Battle of Planet 9, all planned for 2015. Which reminds me,

Less marketing people, more actual VIPs. One major gripe I had last year was the number of marketing departments shamelessly promoting their products and shows. This year, there was only one guy. With luck, we should expect to see more cast and crew from our favorite shows heading this way in future. Yui Horie was here with Kenjiro Tsuda when they were promoting K: Missing Kings. YUI HORIE, PEOPLE.

There were Q&A sessions with the teams from Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works (including Ayako Kawasumi, who lends her voice for Saber), and Noragami (including director Kotaro Tamura and a special message from Hiroshi Kamiya himself. I repeat: HIROSHI “YATO” KAMIYA), as well as a special screening of Episode 9 of Psycho Pass 2. I also saw some old people (and by old, I mean senior in age and rank) sitting in during the main stage events, silently watching from behind. They could be there observing the market and feeling the land for themselves. But the old people are here, folks. Expect serious business.

So what else is new?

It’s like X Factor without any judges hating you – and other people writing comments across the screen on your face instead.


NICONICO was there. Japan’s answer to Youtube, these guys set up a NICONICO KUNIKAIGI stage for singer-wannabes to get up, strut their stuff, and have their acts broadcast LIVE to Japan. There was an isolated solo-karaoke booth for you to sing your favorite Anisongs (songs from anime). If you’re bolder, you get up on the stage. Either way, LIVE comments will be running across your face.

No words on the screen is not necessarily a good thing if you want to be popular.

There was more hands-on action. There was a booth for SnK fans to feel what it’s like to balance on wires, just like how the new cadets are trained before being handed their 3D maneuver gear. Aniplus HD (thanks, Mediacorp) set up a Psycho Pass booth with 5-8 minute videos of insights into the personal developments of the main characters like Akane Tsunemori, Shinya Kogami, Nobuchika Ginoza, and the likes. Even though it was just a mini-repeat of some highlight character-molding scenes from season 1(but in 3D), you still queue for at least a good half hour, if you’re lucky. Same thing for Sword Art Online, which had an “Oculus Rift” booth for people to wear these goggle contraptions, and they are immediately immersed in a 360-degree Matrix-y experience – but you’d still know you’re in the real world because the computer graphics will remind you of that.

Teach me to fly and not be killed by giants!
Pretend for 5 minutes that you work for the MWPSB and peek into some “secret” files of your favorite Inspector/Enforcer.
Character artwork. JUST TAKE MY MONEY ALREADY.
 
 Canon also got smart and had a solid piece of an entire corner dedicated to photo booths, selfie corners, and exclusive photos with famous cosplayers from Japan, Taiwan, and wherever they hailed from. I felt a little unsafe with my Sony NEX 5T, but I got away with it. I guess they must’ve spent enough of their marketing budgets on the music and PlayStation booths.
I get that this must be a popular cosplayer. I just don’t know who she is…

Also, this may seem easily overlooked, but the Creator’s Hub was very organized. Even though they were parked right at the back of the hall, I actually had a proper view of some very personal but excellent anime-inspired works. FeiGiap was one such person. His drawings are inspired by the landscapes of Malaysia, but they look like a world in a sci-fi fantasy. And let me tell you, his shit is good. I actually bought a deck of postcards from him, not even realizing I was literally buying work from the artist himself.

The Creators Hub…
… and FeiGiap catching me in the act. Whoops.

All this good stuff is just the tip of the iceberg too. I won’t go into the cosplays and visiting artists, because there was just too many of them – FripSide, THE iDOLM@STER, LiSA, angela, and so on. Three consecutive nights of I LOVE ANISONG performances, too little time. And not enough cash to go around. I must’ve busted nearly $500 because I bought a few toys for myself as well.

Let me introduce you to:

Now THAT’S what I call a Dominator. This isn’t mine yet, but it will be towards the end of the year. It’s not heavy (probably the same weight as the phony one I have), but it has lights and a proper trigger. All it needs to do now is turn into Lethal Eliminator mode.

People have apparently been trying to buy me out for this. I made my purchase yesterday, but because of a company event, I could only pick it up today. According to the store manager, TEN people tried to buy this LAST PIECE, even though I’d already paid for it. I could not be more thankful, grateful, and smug that I GOT THE LAST PIECE. 

And of course:



Support original art folks, even if they are inspired. LOOK AT THAT.

Before I forget, one very noticeable absentee from this year’s AFA is the maid cafe. This was apparently the highlight of events past, but after seeing the lines and crazy prices ($20 for omurice, anyone?), followed by a need to give that space to other things that matter (like photo booths and swings on wires), food was provided by Nissin cup noodles, Ocean water, and a very small food booth which ran out very quickly. Not a huge loss though, considering the cheaper, yummier, and wider variety of food outside the convention centre.

And now to leave you with more pictures from AFA:

Psycho Pass:

 

Booths:

 
Dolls and art:
 
 

And of course, cosplay:

 

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