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AFAX Anime Festival Asia Day 1 Impressions

Full photo tour for the first day exhibition

14 November, 2010 by

Just got back from the first day of the Anime Festival Asia 2010 (AFA 2010/AFAX) in Singapore. MJ had covered the previous year’s event, but this time Wilson and I headed down to the Suntec Convention and Exhibition Centre to check out what was happening at Singapore’s largest anime convention. Impressions and lots of photos within.

The two of us were no strangers to such events. Personally I’ve attended the Tokyo Game Show, Tokyo Anime Fair and many other such fairs for both professional and public purposes.

Earlier this year, I wrote some less than favorable impressions of Cosfest. Everything I said back then, I take it back. As Anime Festival Asia takes the cake for being my most terrible convention experience in Singapore.

Queue to purchase tickets.

One week prior to the event, tickets were made available online. However, AFA chose to distribute the tickets through some completely unprofessional blogs. One of them was even some shabbily put together Live Journal page. I sure as hell wasn’t going to trust such a site with my credit card information.

It seemed like many people felt the same way, because everyone waited to the day itself to purchase their tickets. This resulted in a crazy queue for tickets at the entrance. The queue spanned across 3 exhibition halls and simply wasn’t moving.

Reports from Facebook in the afternoon had the queue length at about 1000, though a personal observation was more around 400 people. Fortunately, Wilson had gotten there early enough to beat the crowds. I pity those who had to queue for an hour or two only to be disappointed by the exhibitions within.

As expected.

I’ve already covered my first experience/horror with local photographer etiquette in the Cosfest 2010 post so I’m going to save some trouble and skip that. If you need a detailed explanation check that out.

Nobody cared if you didn't felt like posing. They'd snap you incognito anyways.

Between the queue and the crowd of cosplayers gathered in corridor, it was difficult just to enter the exhibition. I was wondering why all the cosplay was going on in the small space between the escalators and entrance. It turned out that there were no dedicated places for cosplayers this year (well except the invited ones). The adjacent hall was being used up by a Border’s Book Fair and the space downstairs was hosting a Biomed event.

I know providing a space to hold baggage, or providing dedicated changing rooms (see Yokohama Cosplay Event) was asking too much from the local organizers but seriously, no place to even cosplay?!

If you thought the crowds outside was bad. You ain't seen nothing yet.

Just normal Gashapon machines.

Some sort of Miku dancing video game.

Doodle board.

Snapping away.

I guess something was happening?

Fans could take a picture with Alodia.

As a reminder of how you'll never be as pretty.

No cosplay Q&A but Alodia attracted the attention of lots of creepy camera enthusiasts. Everyone else continued their thing.

Like Yugioh!

This section was clearing out dodgy 3rd party anime goods.

For sale.

More.

Anime pillows.

Resellers.

Some of the few stuff actually being sold.

Most of the center area of the hall was taken up by toy and figurine resellers. While there were some rare figures going for crazy prices, most of the shops were clearing stock. The Good Smile Company didn’t make an official appearance per say, instead the local shops here used their name. Good Smile did however provide some figures for an adjacent showcase.

Someone just discovered MS paint.

Good Smile reseller.

Good Smile Company display.

Black Rock Shooter printouts.

More.

Mad props if you can identify them.

K-On.

Super Saiyan Miku.

Closeup.

Lucky Star. Oh no. How do I even know this.

Some of the Black Rock Shooters we previously covered at Tokyo Anime Fair.

Looking out of place in the corner were a couple of vendors promoting their technologies such as a Japanese miniaturized take on electric standing scooters and 3d televisions which still needed polarized glasses.

Obviously they made a wasted trip since the hall was filled mostly by youngsters enamored by anime, manga and whatever else passes off as “Japanese” culture these days. AFAX was no trade fair. Just an opportunity to sell overpriced everything to gullible children.

Out of place.

3D.

Sad Karaoke contest. Only one small booth worth of space and no attention.

There was of course a maid as well as a butler cafe being featured at the hall. The AFA management gave lots of publicity to these two booths, more so than even the AKB48 performance.

What I don’t get is that while the maids cafes are empty throughout the year in Singapore, throwing in the fun of queuing seems to make it a brand new experience. As the Parfait Prince (who we would encounter later) mentioned, she ain’t paying $18 for a slice of cake.

Maid Cafe.

Approximately 1/4 of the queue is pictured.

Of course AFA had their own shop in the hall. Here they sold the untouched light sticks from yesterday as well as some DIY merchandise for Scandal and the other anime artists performing.

Some AFA designed Scandal merchandise.

Overpriced light sticks.

Chinese versions.

On closer inspection, they were selling the Chinese versions. You can get the same stuff online, for the same price and still have it delivered to your doorstep.

There was also a display of the previously advertised Anime Festival Asia X exclusive photo book, which featured exclusive shots of the performing artists photographed by B.L.T. (yes the same B.L.T. that handles all of AKB48’s photos). No pictures of AKB48 though. I wouldn’t exactly call it a book. $15 per pamphlet.

The previously advertised AFA photo book.

Back outside, Wilson collected his tickets for tomorrow’s Scandal concert. All anisong tickets came with a pack of glow sticks and one of the $15 booklets.

Swag.

My guess that there reason that there was no such thing for the AKB48 concert, was because the tickets barely covered the cost of bringing the girls over. Still would had been nice to have everyone with glow sticks cheering for AKB48, who are currently Japan’s Number One artists, as opposed to a bunch of anisong singers who spend their entire year going from one overseas convention to another.

Peek at the $15 pamphlet.

Finally, in the late afternoon, one of the halls were opened for Cosplay. Suntec City’s management was probably tired of having everyone crowded in their corridors. But by then most of the cosplayers had left. Not really keen on taking photographs either due to the same reasons as Cosfest but I’ll throw in a couple. The dark hall didn’t make the best place for photography either.

Cosplay hall.

Bleach.

Random people jumping in to take photos equals confused cosplayers.

Back outside we met up with le Parfait Prince Geraldine and her group of Vocaloid characters. They had the most impressive costumes today but were stuck in a dimly lit corner outside of the book fair. Immobile dresses and mad crowds do not mix. Not going to post more than one picture, since my amateur photography can hardly do them any justice. Wilson will be uploading some better photos soon.

Geraldine and her group.

Some complaints straight from a cosplayer herself. The most pressing matter being the lack of any proper place for the cosplayers, despite being touted as an anime and cosplay event. We’re not just asking for a physical space but somewhere conducive to talking photography would be nice. At least Cosfest’s venue had natural sunlight and it was entirely possible to use the surrounding resort (if not for the rain).

Also last year, paper tags were used to identify visitors leaving the hall who wished to re-enter. It’s a norm for conventions since there’s always the possibility of passing your ticket to someone else after leaving. This year, everyone visiting the Anime Festival Asia was stamped with red ink instead. You can only imagine what that meant to those in costume.

-_-''

Custom cosplay outfits cost no small sum mind you. They also take a hell lot of effort to make. One can only hope the stain washes out. The least AFA could had done was to use UV stamps instead. You’d excuse them if this was their first time organizing such an event. But this is already Anime Festival Asia’s 3rd year running.

But alas I don’t even know why they even bothered as security was as lax as ever. The staff outside didn’t even tear my ticket upon entry and I was marked on the way out. That meant I had an extra ticket to give away.

In fact, they didn’t even bother to check your stamp on the way back in. All you had to do was flash your ticket and they’d let you in even if it was already torn off.

See you too.

While I was looking forward to heading over for Day 2 to see some of the Cosplay events on stage, I’ve decided to give it a miss. Wilson will still be going though so you can wait for his impressions sometime.

I’m not even going to bother summarizing the whole mess. CNNGo, probably the only other no nonsense blog styled editorial in Singapore (other than us of course) summarized it nicely enough when they called Anime Festival Asia a cash cow.



Chad

Supermerlion's Webmaster and Editor-in-Chief. Singaporean Nikkeijin with over 12 years of experience in the media industry. Producer at a Japanese entertainment company. Former Web Developer, Graphic Designer, Multimedia Programmer, Manager and Consultant. Shoots with a Canon 5Dmk2 and Sony RX100-2.
  • rndm

    Wah, after reading your post, I can definitely notice the flaws. Then again, I had to wait in that long line for almost an hour and a half! I wonder if you saw me since I can be easily noticed playing a pink DS while in line. ^^;

    This was my second anime convention and was the better one since my previous one was Daicon at KL last year. I actually wanted to get my ticket online since my friend who went to the Anisong concert could since it was bundled together… but I could not. So I had to wait in line. I don't really know what's a "good" convention/festival so I just thought this was rather good since I only had one comparison to go with.

    Nonetheless, I enjoyed my trip Singapore (came from Malaysia) even though my happiness was mostly attributed to being able to watch the 00 Movie and some of my nice loots. XP

  • xedoo

    you will be interested to know that the section you described as the 'dodgy anime goods' area is non other than the official license holder and merchandise distributor for almost all anime titles in Singapore and SEA… if you need more hints, take a look at the AFA map and see what it says there!

    • Sho

      A hint is not necessary as I have friends working at this company that prefers to be anonymous. I don't have anything against them so they shall remain anonymous 🙂

      But as in the caption, the goods are pretty dodgy (i.e. lacking in quality) for a 3rd party publisher. It'll be sad if people were really willing to pay so much more for having Haruhi slapped on a notepad.

      Anyways, I understand their plight considering their previous setbacks, which is why so little said in that section of the post. It will take them a while to recover, and hopefully improve on their merchandising.

  • insanejake

    'One week prior to the event, tickets were made available online. However, AFA chose to distribute the tickets through some completely unprofessional blogs. One of them was even some shabbily put together Live Journal page. I sure as hell wasn’t going to trust such a site with my credit card information.'

    Singapore isn't well-known for it's webpage designers. Most of these sites were for real brick-and-mortar stores to update their latest goods and I presume the "shabbily put together LiveJournal page" refers to locally well-known anime goods shop Rapid Culture. As far as the actual stores are concerned they are almost household names in the local otaku community and I could see why AFA chose to distribute them in this way. It was only unfortunate then that the writer seemed unfamiliar with these "blogs".

    Other than that I think the criticism of the management is pretty much valid. There has been little improvement over the years.

  • Victor

    I went on the second day, less crowded then what is shown here…smsing with friends who went on the first day, for us no line to get tickets *drops jaw*. I think the cosplayers were admirable, considering the hoard of ppl that were taking random shots. I managed to ask some if it was alright to take a picture (felt rather uncomfortable to just walk up and photograph strangers^^), mostly being pushed aside before I even got a chance to takes picture. I was very impressed by the patience of the cosplayers to keep standing there and completely freak out by the disorganized mob. Althogether, organization was rather poor, the exhibition was meager as well as the merchandize. The organizers should be grateful to those who were willing to cosplay for the both days since they were definitely the ones who kept this event from completely failing.

    Sorry for the harsh comment but I think those who visited will probably agree.

    • victor

      meh…must be tired…of course I meant the cosplayers didn't freak out at all (although some seem to be exhausted later on the second day).

      Oh, went to the stage for the cosplay competition…unfortunately the sound was horrible and stopped at random moments sort of ruining it for the artists. Still they all put up a good show and I really enjoyed that part.

  • Aoshi_88

    I remember the first year of AFA when I made snide comments and got an email in return from the media organizers wanting to know why and what I was complaining about.

    It seems that this year the PR/Media companies in use to promote AFA have changed and thus have their methodologies in ticketing, venue etc. This is according to a friend of mine.

    It bears me no surprise that there are still comments being made on how rude a certain group of people can be. I've on occasion come across such behaviour, most recent in Singapore being Cosfest IX – Let's Make LEDs. Time and again, there will always be comments on crowd space, photographer behaviour and whatnot and this is not an exception to the rule.

    And then there's the issue of relevance. What is relevant to anime and/or manga and what isn't? While the inner nerds and geeks in us may know what's left or right, huge companies with set budgets and targets to meet, to say the least of bosses to please will struggle to include anything that remotely has to do with anime and manga. Or cosplay.

    The comment you made on "Whatever passes off as Japanese culture" hits the nail on the head. I've seen some so desperate that they'll do anything to sell something that passes off for Japanese culture. Throw in some 'fan' or some gullible idiot who is totally crazy over anything Japanese to the point of being Japanese but not on the account of either skin colour or language and they'll just lap it up.

    A good, well-written article. This beats the stuff I wrote about the London MCM Expo which got more than one person's feather rankled(and two of them were Singaporean girls baying I was being unfair and judgemental) to the point where I caved in and removed the post, which I shouldn't have done and should've stood my ground.

    • Sho

      I wouldn't call such comments snide, since that suggests that it isn't true.

      Checked out your blog's Cosfest post and I can't help but agree. I must admit I might had a bit harsh on Cosfest now that I've experienced AFA.

      As stated previously in the Cosfest post, the only problem which within the management's control was the venue's lack of proper changing facilities. Cosfest lacked the budget and big names supporting them and all of its shortcomings were mostly a result of its unruly visitors. All things considered, they were even running the fair at pretty much no profit. So you could consider it a success for the sake of the community.

      That's not saying that AFA wasn't a success. It completely fulfilled its primary purpose and that is making more money.

      I just hope, the management doesn't continue the usual by sweeping its problems under the carpet, because the solutions are really simple if they can bring themselves to admit the problems. But considering this is Singapore, I don't really have my hopes up.

      As it is, we'd probably see police or security involved next year.

      BTW: Big thanks for the promo on forums.

    • Aoshi_88

      You're welcome. I quite like it when someone says the opposite of what everyone else is saying. Gotta love criticism. More so when people go red in the face and try to run away or avoid the issue. Asians(in Asia) as a whole don't take too kindly to criticisms of their person.

      Well… maybe my use of the word snide was wrong but I did get an email asking why I said what I said(I was writing as an official media representative at the time) and I gave as good as I received.

      How well AFA performs depends on the point-of-view, which is subjective. Extremely so when everyone goes there for something that THEY want, not what YOU want.

      i know I accidentally ran into someone's camera frame and messed up their photo. I actually turned around to give an apology but what he said turned me away… totally rude. I was willing to apologize and the comment he made as if he owned the space that I was threading through utterly made me mad. Couldn't help it when the weather was wet/rainy either.

    • astrobunny

      Asians are not the only ones who don't take criticism well. Westerners are the same. This is too much of a generalization though. People who take criticism well and those that don't I think are spread evenly amongst the races.

      That being said, nice article. Don't be afraid to voice out what you think if you believe its honest. What people say in response don't really mean anything.

      That said, it really was done to make money anyway. So unprofessional or not, people still pay to come and the organizers still make money.

  • KAZ

    Constructive feedback? I'm not capable of that, I'm new to commenting and still have lots to learn. But I'm glad that you did not take what I said to be offensive and start dissing me with all your might, and that you too took the time to read my messy comment and replied with an even longer comment.

    Your reply and choice of words couldn't have been better. That is something many Singaporeans lack, the calm to reply to what they might think to be a negative comment. And reading through your post and comment was rather enjoyable as it is fluid and didn't include the ''las,lehs,hors,mehs'' which would make a post look like it was posted by someone who is half-assed. For example, looking at the AFA facebook comments will just hurt your brain, where unneeded and random comments just pop out. With half of the people not reading anything before they comment.

    And I do agree with you about how Singapore just put anything Japan related under Japan culture. But ''they'' are just doing it for the money. And majority of the fans don't care too. Most people who claim to be fans of Miku doesn't even know what append is. Singapore needs time to sort this out.

    Your thoughts on the cosplayers were new for me. I never knew how cosplayers felt and had to go through, and what they did helped increase the income of events for free.

    I will continue to follow this site, the way you think is quite similar to mine except I lack the depth that you have. And I feel that this site deserves more than it has now, the posts are thought provoking. I certainly want everyone who went to AFA to see this, so they can be a little less lost. I'm looking forward to Day 2 impressions, it is quite a pity that you did not turn up for the 2nd day. It is afterall a 2 day event.

    I hope this site will create a voice big enough to change how people act in future events.

  • Sho

    BTW, missed out one thing that I was supposed to say that the Parfait Prince covered in her blog and that is the ticketing prices could had possibly been more favorable too.

    If free entry is impossible, cosplayers for all their hard work, ought to receive some sort of subsidy. Even if they aren't big names every normal cosplayer attending is basically attracting customers to the exhibition for free, at their own expense. In return, all they ask for is a venue.

    For the sake of the management, I'm going to explain it in simple terms. Let the cosplayers in free, if that is too much to ask, give them a discount. To counter the cost, charge all the photography enthusiasts more to cover the difference. If they can afford all the latest DSLR equipment, you can be damn sure they can spare a few dollars change. Take it as karma and your way of giving back to the cosplay community after getting to take all your lovely photos.

    Anyways sorry not the best photos myself. I'm no photographer. Just someone with a camera, who blogs (but I'll gladly pay more to enter). It was my first time trying to shoot with Yan's manual focus 100mm prime lens. My respect for analog users plus plus.

  • KAZ

    Few things I want to comment on:
    Firstly, AFA X really was a disappointment and you did a great job at pointing out the flaws the event, I couldn't agree more with your thoughts. The security was lax and the ink stamps were use as useless as they were irritating.Making one assume that no management/planning was done by the AFA officials at all.
    Secondly, Please do more research and make effort to replace those random captions you had for those few pictures that you had. For example, ''Like Yugioh!'' and ''Unknown figures. Mad props if you can identify them.'' it certainly lacks respect for the characters and their fans/''husbands''. Their names are not that far from the figurines themselves. Please include their names in the pictures or have descriptions that state their names down. The management is at fault, the figurines are innocent.(But if you are doing it for the laughs, you can ignore this.)
    Last of all, the SCANDAL CDs were albums, not singles. Which meant that they would cost around $40~$50(Straight from Japan), without shipping charges, which can amount to quite a sum if you were to have it delivered to your doorstep. It definitely isn't ''the authentic stuff online, for the same price (if not cheaper) and still have it delivered to your doorstep.''
    *This comment is not aimed at any individual/party(except AFA), please do tell me if I have any misconceptions in any parts of my comment. Thank you.

    • Sho

      No need for the disclaimer, as I'm not offended by the comment at all.

      In fact, I was always wishing for more constructive feedback like yours. Sometimes what I think I'm writing doesn't always read from the viewer's point in the same way, feedback from readers really do help point out stuff that I miss, or words that could be phrased better. It shows in your comment that you know your stuff and actually took the time to read the entire post. What's more, you even took the time to write that lengthy comment. I appreciate that.

      For one thing, I don't believe in censoring the social internet unnecessarily. Unlike AFA, who deleted my comments whenever I posed a valid question on their Facebook page (like the mislabeled ticket categories), often without resolving the issue (still lots of misspellings throughout their site). Not unless of course you send me a jumbled mess of vulgarities, you'd be surprise how often I get those.

      To answer your questions:

      The "Like Yugioh!" caption was as you have expected, for laughs. It ties in with the previous written paragraph. It was amusing that everyone else continued their thing while a select group were camping Alodia.

      Whereas for the "Mad props if you can identify them" caption, it was kind of my intent to encourage discussion from readers. As it is hardly any comments going on and as I have mentioned, I do need the feedback to improve my posts. Also, there's another lot of people who'd point out that I'm getting lazy for simply using whatever it's in the picture as the caption. I understand the "Unknown figures" part didn't sound too good so I'll omit that.

      I have the utmost respect for topics covered in this post. Many of my friends are avid figure collectors too. I just don't like the idea of how Singapore and such events promote Manga, Anime and Figurines as Japanese culture. It's an insult to both Japanese culture and to Manga, Anime and Figurines (cosplay too). Firstly, Japan has so much more to offer. And Manga/Anime/Figurine culture have long transcended beyond its country of origin. The otaku population in France and SEA being possibly even more impressive than in Japan itself. It is now equally part of many other countries.

      As for the SCANDAL CDs, this one was really my bad. And I thank you for pointing it out to save me further embarrassment. I saw the overpriced Aniki CD beside it and assumed that that was the price for an album. It will now be changed to, "you can get the same stuff online, for the same price".

      Thanks for reading. I hope you continue to support this site.

    • Sho

      PS: For those don't want the interaction, the figures are Takamachi Nanoha and Fate Testarossa.

  • Sho

    Don't think it was planned. There was no announcement or details about it and it certainly wasn't open earlier in the afternoon.

  • Valence

    OH CRUD THERE WAS A COSPLAY HALL? I had no idea…I should have looked around. Didn't seem like they opened any : it was so crowded!

    Never mind, will definitely be going again next year!