So another year passes, and its been a really long break since I last visited an anime festival – roughly 4 years! Last year’s AFA was refreshing; a revisit those memories of my youth where I rabidly went to the city area and Singapore Expo for various IT Shows, and on occasion, anime/cosplay and/or Japanese festivals way back in 2006 and 2007. Those days also consisted of me reading (and buying) manga, and various anime shows as well.
This year’s AFA is a marked departure from the usual AFA, in that its held at the Expo this year, probably due to Suntec City undergoing renovation (although I suspect the main reason is cost, heh). I don’t really like that its at the Expo since I live in the west, but given the squeezy atmosphere at Suntec City, I would think its alot better as there is alot of breathing (and moving!) space for all.
So after a 4 year break from attending anime festivals, what do I see? Well, the content hasn’t changed much – besides XEDOSAGA being present at every show (they are partnering with Proware Multimedia International now, it seems), it seems that it has attracted bigger mainstream brands such as Panasonic, Sony and Toyota, and also business opportunities as well, though I question the strangeness in which some companies are reaching out to ticket-holders (hint, hint – pushing a prepaid credit card from America isn’t a good idea), especially when the demographic of the audience there are mostly teenagers and young adults (the first few years of adult life, anyway).
Merchandizing and retail were out in full force, as usual, but being an “old folk” as its own privileges – immunity to advertising and marketing +9000. I only bought two badges that costed $2.20 in total, and tried my luck at a $3 gashapon machine for a Daily Lives of High School Boys plate, and got what I wanted. Younger folk I’ve noticed at the festival, however, are more rabid in terms of being fans, and are more willing to part with their money (earned? or saved allowance?) for merchandise. Perhaps their thinking is very different from the people of my generation, but I would chalk it up to passion.
Something interesting this year was the live stream of the 3 concerts on Nico Nico Douga, which was extremely appealing to “old folk” like me, as I dislike crowds, and the days where I used to buy VIP/mosh pit tickets for concerts are over, and not to mention, for a far cheaper cost of $8, as compared to paying concert ticket prices to be there. It’s a fair trade, somewhat, since paying for the concert ticket entitles you to get merch/swag, and also complimentary festival access. So while the younger and more energetic people are at the concert, the older and more passive people like me turned on our computers and ate our supper/dinner in the comfort of home, while enjoying a lag-free live video stream of the concert online. I’d say its a win-win situation for everyone.
There are some areas in which things remain the same (i.e. the blatant merchandising and troll cosplayers/cosf**ks), but it seems quite muted now (or so it seems), as I’ve not spotted really bad ones, as compared to Cosfest of 4 years ago. If anything, the overall quality has improved! There are still some that gives the community a bad reputation though, but I hope this can change over time as well.
Another thing which needs improvement – we need to showcase the talents of artists (and costume/prop makers perhaps as well) more prominently. This is a little bit hard, since Western and Eastern cultures collide very often here, and thus, its near-impossible to organize a festival solely for artists to showcase their stuff (not counting national or fine art ones). Additionally, the cost of a booth is quite high for artists too (even for non-artists!). Perhaps a form of collaboration can be done with other events, so as to even out the cost or logistics for artists and make it more appealing for artists, or even some form of advertising, but I doubt this will happen.
Finally, the one thing that I missed since 2009 was the lack of orchestral concerts – in particular, video game and/or anime orchestral concerts. Besides the Cosfest last year with the Singapore Youth Wind Orchestra, there wasn’t anything much ado about such concerts. Maybe event organizers can do something about it in the future, and add an orchestral concert to their programme.