We visit the new and improved AFA16 November, 2012 by Mus
Another AFA weekend has come and gone, as crowds thronged the Singapore EXPO in search of anime merchandise, and festivities lasted into the night fueled by Japanese pop music. Of course, Supermerlion was there as witness to it all. As the festival made its move from the familiar Suntec to new (bigger) venue, what improved and what didn’t?
Reaching the venue at noon on Saturday proved to be a miscalculation. We were under the impression that was a decent time to start, since the crowd might have started to taper off, but we were wrong. The crowd was at full force, with queues snaking around the outside of hall 7 for the entry tickets and queues everywhere even as you got in. It wasn’t very pleasant to enter at this time; half the crowd was moving and the other half standing to queue.
Booth-wise, AFA2012 was definitely an improvement over the previous years. With an expanded artists’ section called the Creators Hub and the Japan Future Entertainment Zone hosting major entertainment companies like Amuse and Horipro, there was room for big and small players. These were also where a lot of the signings were held, including one we participated in, the BABYMETAL signature event.
The small booth sizes were really apparent once the signing events were under way. Queues snaked around the booths, blocking the merchandizing counters and crowds swelled to overwhelming numbers once the actual celebrities were in attendance. While this would not usually be a problem, the booth and everything around it came to a standstill because no one could get anywhere. Hopefully there’s a solution on the horizon to remedy this.
The Canon stage was a mini-exhibition of shots taken using Canon DSLR systems, and doubled as a stage to hype up some of the guests with sporadic appearances. There was also a display of the new Canon EOS M systems for anyone so inclined to test it out. Not a bad idea on Canon’s part, seeing as so many photography hobbyists were in attendance.
One of the low points of AFA2012 was the lack of information at the actual venue. Individual booths in the Entertainment Zone had their own events with artist appearances and talk segments, but the given brochure for AFA only really listed the ‘bigger’ events.
Much of this information was on the Internet, but the ridiculously huge crowd made it impossible to access any of that information on a mobile Internet connection. While you could get brochures detailing this information at each booth itself, having it only available at the booths seems a little counterproductive to any sort of pre-planning.
We had trouble finding the area to collect our signed posters as well, and again, there was no way to check while at the actual event. This was highly frustrating, especially when we realized that the posters were given out by the acts themselves, and that meant we nearly missed the artists. Thankfully, we were helped by a kind soul who pointed us in the right direction just in the nick of time.
Despite AFA giving out literally hundreds of signed posters and posters being sold at various shops, there was nowhere to obtain poster tubes in the whole of the convention; we had to hunt for a stationery shop at a mall to obtain one.
Most never brought a tube, due to simply assuming that there would be some sold in the convention, if not being given with the posters (which were won by a raffle from tickets costing over a hundred dollars). This was an oversight that marred our first day in the festival, since a significant amount of time was spent dodging collisions while looking for a tube.
Similar to previous years, there was another hall that was prepared to host the introductions for different artists. This proved to be a decent move, as it helped to thin the crowds and provided an air-conditioned rest area for those who bought the tickets.
The added space afforded to the convention by being hosted at EXPO is a nice addition. Many cosplayers were seen taking photos outside the venue, where there was plenty of greenery and general space to take a break. Of course, the only caveat was that it was an open space, which meant the killer Singapore heat. But it did help to alleviate the issue of human density commonly seen in Suntec; everyone had a tendency to stay indoors because there was nowhere else to go.
Overall, the event was a pleasure to go to, and definitely was an improvement over previous years. A little bit of improvement would go a long way, and we look forward to seeing an even bigger and better AFA next year in 2013. Meanwhile, enjoy the rest of our photos from touring AFA2012.