As we finally entered the doors of the Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre, located in the Western end of the City-state, we really never expected what AFA 2014 would offer.
Sure, we have heard of stories about Anime Festival Asia, or more commonly known to us as AFA. We have heard of massive crowds, enthusiastic audiences, the top caliber guests from Japan and other places in Asia. Surely, we Filipinos could only dream of wanting to experience Asia’s biggest anime event.
Before, it was only a dream for us (and I guess, every Filipino fan) just to go to Singapore and experience it… and on a late afternoon in December, we boarded on an A330 en route to Changi. Our dream had finally came true.
On the first day of the event, we wanted to go there as early as 8 or 9 am just to see how the crowds behave, as opposed to what we always experience in events here in Manila… but due to the strange time pattern, we arrived at Suntec at around 11 or 12 in the afternoon.
As we were riding along Singapore’s famed SMRT service, one must notice the influx of young people who are either in costume, or a group of them huddling. By the time we alighted the station near Suntec, we could now see the influx of young people carrying paper bags with their items that were bought at AFA. It was a sign that we were in the right direction.
And as the saying goes, all roads did lead to Suntec for the biggest Anime Festival Asia ever held since they started in 2009.
You could see the magnitude of people converging in the third floor area of the convention center, but compared to the events that we normally experience, AFA attendees exercised the utmost discipline despite the crowds during the first day. And you can also see that they really lined up the ticket counters to buy the tickets, despite the fact that it is considerably more expensive than we normally pay for in Manila.
Finally entering the doors of Suntec’s humongous fourth floor, we simply gaped at what we saw, and suffice to say, my mind was racing and my hands were trembling. It is indeed Anime Festival Asia 2014, the mecca of all anime events in Asia.
12,000 Square Meters of Awesomeness
For most people, especially those who come over at AFA yearly, this is the only time they could buy the stuff they wanted to buy. This was evident in the people with paper bags filled with legitimate and official anime merchandise which were sold at bargain prices (in Singapore dollars, which slightly has a higher value than our Philippine Peso).
Of course, we couldn’t pass up on the opportunity also to buy some legit items that we don’t get in our shores. We may have bought items that would burn holes in our pockets, but in the end, we are happy that what we bought were the legitimate anime merchandise from the licensors themselves.
Speaking of licensors, AFA 2014 housed at least forty different licensors and content creators, each of them holding their own mini-events in the AFA exhibitors area. Some of them have carried guests for their mini-events, while others provided discounts and freebies.
There was also the AFA Creator’s Hub, where different independent artists converged to be with their established fans and sell their fan art or merchandise. One of the artists that we met is Evangeline Neo, best known for her Evacomics blog, where her caricatures of her life experiences and comparisons between Japan, Singapore and the US have been a hit with her fans not just in the red dot but elsewhere.
Our Editor, JM, being one of her fans, did not pass the chance to meet “Auntie” Eva in person, and bought her book “Eva, Kopi and Macha”, her first compilation of strips from her Facebook page.
Big Name Cosplayers, Big Name Guests, Big Name Networks
Also in attendance at the Anime Festival Asia exhibition stage is the Japanese video-sharing and streaming site Niconico, whose Niconico Kunikaigi Japanese Internet Culture Festival, where fans of their favorite Niconico stars get to meet them in person, alongside a superior covey of activities like an “Vertical Manuver Gear balance” ride from the hit anime series Attack on Titan, while those who would want to belt out their favorite anime songs tried out the Videoke booth, which was streamed live on, where else, on Niconico.
AFA 2014 also became a launchpad for the pan-regional networks to show their upcoming titles what would be released or that would air on their networks in 2015. ANIPLUS HD, for instance, used AFA 2014 as a vehicle to promote Psycho-Pass and their latest anime same-week acquisitions, the much-anticipated anime version of the game Kantai Collection and How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend.
Fans who went to the ANIPLUS HD booth had the chance to take pictures from the life-size Psycho-Pass character figures and view the character profiles on specially-designed viewing booths, as well as look at the life-size character displays from KanColle. They also invited three cosplayers, Judy, H, and Akatsuki Tsukasa, cosplaying as Psycho-Pass characters, to be with the fans and take pictures as well.
Meanwhile, Starchild had big-name cosplayers and previous Manila visitors Kaname, Reika and Yuegene Fay as their guests in their booth. Bushiroad, which is one of the producers of the hit Love Live! franchise, brought Suzuko Mimori and Sora Tokui, two of the voice actresses of the hit franchise, much to the delight of the guests and fans. During their Saturday stage appearance, the voice actresses gamely played the hit game app “Love Live School Idol Festival” with the audience cheering on the stage.
Aside from them, other notable Japanese artists like Revo, from Linked Horizon and Itowokashi, Seiyuus Asami Imai, Yumi Hara, Hisako Kanemoto, Satomi Arai and Yoshitsugu Matsuoka, who voiced Kirito in the hit anime series Sword Art Online, which is one of their featured anime series in the event, were also in attendance during the stage events, alongside the staff from their other featured anime titles Noragami and No Game, No Life.
There were also screenings of Fate/stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works, Gundam Build Fighters Try, Psycho-Pass 2, and Cardfight Vanguard! Movie.
On the cosplayers side, AFA included a bevy of top class cosplay superstars, like Angie, Aza Miyuko, Baozi and Hana, Kazumi Noomi, Mon, Richfield, Hyko, YingTze, Aya and Rastilin and Clive Lee. Alongside other cosplayers from ANIPLUS HD and Starchild, they judged the 2014 Asian Regional Cosplay Championships (ARCC), which was won by Team Kara Tempan of Indonesia who did a dazzling skit of Dragon Ball Z, to the audiences’ delight.
Our Team Kanor Cubes, led by Abraham Cruz and Louise Betita, came in second place, while Team Underkitties of Singapore grabbed third.
Into The Beat of J-Music
One of the most awaited events every AFA is the I Love Anisong music festival, and AFA 2014 pulled out all the stops for the biggest gathering of J-music acts ever assembled.
Thirteen different J-music artists spread over the three days, that is how AFA spaced them for everyone to be able to enjoy the very best of Japan’s Pop Culture.
Day One featured Yui Horie, angela, DJ Kazu and Eri Kitamura, while on the Second day, yanaginagi, LiSA, fripSide and Artistes from The [email protected] were on stage. GARNiDELiA, Eir Aoi, FLOW, Root Five and May’n capped off the concerts.
Aside from the main stage events, AFA also had their “Future Entertainment” stage, where supplementary events like cosplayer meet and greets, autograph sessions with the Anisong artists and the ARCC Solo Cosplay Championships were also held.
AFA also became the launchpad for the 2015 Lantis Festival Anisong World Tour, which will be held in Singapore on March. Takeshi Kitadani of JAM Project was onstage to invite everyone to the concert.
It was a tough job for the hosts of the event, which included popular J-culture blogger Danny Choo, to keep the audience on an even keel, but they managed to pull off and be a part of history.
90,000 Fans, One Passion
According to SOZO Pte. Ltd., the organizers of the highly-popular event, it was their biggest in terms of size and also in the people who attended. For three days, 90,000 people filled the entire Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Center to become one with being a part of “Japan Pop Culture Now!”, which is the theme for AFA 2014.
The 90,000 people who came did not only come from Singapore alone, but also from regional neighbors like Malaysia and Thailand (where we saw a previous Best of Anime guest Karael). There were also guests coming in from Japan, Australia, Europe and the US, and, of course, from the Philippines, whether OFW’s and Residents, or those who flew in from Manila and shelled out money just to experience first hand what Anime Festival Asia is.
Part of the 90,000 fans who attended are countless members of the media, including bloggers and online journalists who are covering all the festivities and also to interact with the guests and with fellow media from other parts of the globe, which included Anime News Network, NHK, and, of course, Anime Pilipinas.
A benchmark that only they can surpass.
In the three solid days that we covered Anime Festival Asia 2014, we really noticed on how AFA always manages the enormous crowds while maintaining the overall sense of enjoyment and security. It was also worthy to note that the people coming in to Suntec for AFA really had a purpose to come to the event, which is to meet with their friends, cosplay as their favorite character, or buy the things that they can only buy once a year.
Suffice to say, our AFA experience changed the way we looked at events, and with it, we will never look the same way at anime events again, because Anime Festival Asia, truly, was a benchmark that only itself can surpass.
And we just can’t wait to go back again in Singapore this November for AFA 2015… hopefully.
Red Mendoza is the Event Correspondent for Anime Pilipinas, and you may follow him on Twitter at @knightkira. More Pictures from Anime Festival Asia 2014 will be uploaded soon.