Anime Festival Asia back for its fourth year
Colorful and elaborate costumes: check. Hordes of fans singing and dancing in unison to a larger-than-life-sized hologram: check. Up-close sessions with some of the top character designers from Japan: check. And not forgetting the exhibits and booths full of merchandise and toys, all catered to whet every anime fan-boy’s (or girl’s) appetite: check.
Where else could one experience so much Japanese pop culture in one place, if not at Anime Festival Asia?
Anime Festival Asia, or AFA, is the biggest anime convention in Southeast Asia, held annually at Suntec City Convention Centre since its debut in 2008. Hosted by Danny Choo, arguably one of the most popular bloggers of Japanese pop culture in the world, the event returned once again to Suntec City this year, bringing what all anime fans eagerly anticipate: anime, anime and more anime (and perhaps a maid café or two).
Illustrator and character designer Haruhiko Mikimoto (right) during a talkshow at AFA’s main stage, hosted by Japanese pop culture blogger Danny Choo.
With an entire line-up of guest speakers and performers flying in from Japan just for the 3-day event from 11 to 13 November this year, fans were once again treated to a whole array of performances, exhibitions and merchandise catered to suit their different interests.
For Ethan Tiong, 18, a first-year student from the Diploma in Applied Food Science & Nutrition in Temasek Polytechnic, it was his first time attending the festival. Despite that, he did not hold back his spending, purchasing the 3-Day Concert VIP Package for the I Love Anisong concert, which cost him $366.
‘It was all worth it. Hatsune Miku (a hologram performer) was actually my first concert. I was so excited, it felt like there were popcorn kernels popping inside of me.’
A Hatsune Miku figurine for sale at Anime Festival Asia.
Apart from the concert, he also spent close to $400 on figurines and merchandise.
‘Although this is my first time here, AFA gives me a sense of belonging because I get to meet so many others who love anime like me.’
For Muhd Azlan, 17, also from Temasek Polytechnic, it was his second time at AFA. He felt that this year’s festival was a lot better advertised than the previous year’s, and cheekily added that he ‘came down for the three days just to collect photos of cosplayers’ using his iPhone.
A cosplayer cosplaying as Ichigo Kurosaki from Bleach.
Photo: S Shiva
Azlan had definitely come to the right place. Cosplayers young and young at heart came to showcase their best costumes according to different characters from anime, manga and even games. For some, these costumes had been painstakingly handmade and hand-sewn, in order to stick as close as possible to the details on the original character. These cosplayers were taking part in the Regional Cosplay Championship which was held on AFA’s third day, with its enticing grand prize of a trip to Tokyo for two.
For those who were not in costume, they were happy enough to just revel in the liveliness that was Anime Festival Asia. Long queues snaked out and around the Moe Moe Kyun Maid Café, which oddly enough consisted of girls too. The Wonderland Atelier Royale, with its trained butlers, was a close competition, with many young girls outside the café craning their necks to see how the ‘butler service’ was being carried out for customers.
The Moe Moe Kyun Maid Cafe and Atelier Royale Wonderland butler cafe.
Photo: S Shiva
For those who were there for the merchandise and the movies, they were not at all disappointed. Akiba Town, the company which brings in toys and merchandise from Japan’s top brands and anime titles, did not fail to deliver with its largest selection of products as it returned for its fourth year to AFA.
Movie screenings were also available, including popular titles like Naruto, Full Metal Alchemist and Detective Conan at the Anime Theater. In addition to that, fans of the highly-popular anime Mobile Suit Gundam were given an exclusive screening of Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn Episode 4-At the Bottom of the Gravity Well on Nov 12, which was screened simultaneously with cinemas all over Japan.
Chiwa Saito, who is the voice actress, or seiyuu, of Louise Halevy in Mobile Suit Gundam 00, among many other popular anime characters, was also present for a ‘live’ dubbing session. The full-house crowd erupted into wild applause as she acted out the script of Madoka Magica for the role of Homura Akemi. It was the first time that she was doing such a ‘performance’, which had not even been done in Japan. The audience also got her to say her favourite phrase from any script she had done throughout her career, and one could not help but be amazed at how professional Chiwa was as a voice actor; being able to convey so much emotion on the spot, in front of a live audience, using only her voice.
It sure does not look like AFA is going anywhere else next year. Singaporean fans of Japanese pop culture are a lucky bunch to be able to experience absolutely everything under one roof and so close to home.
A card-trading session at AFA XI.