With many rumors abound since last year and with the fans all wondering what would be installed for the premiere Japanese Pop Culture event to be held here in Singapore, it was with great anticipation that many camped the internet social media mediums like facebook and twitter for live updates as SOZO and Dentsu Singapore held its first of many press briefings for this year’s Anime Festival Asia.
AFA 11's Festival Director Mr Shawn Chin opened the session by giving everyone a quick look through AFA over the years from its humble beginnings in 2008 which saw 25,000 visitors and fans through its doors. 2009 saw an increase in programs and artist line ups with the unforgettable duet of both Yoshiki Fukuyama and May'n on stage during its highly popular I Love Anisong segment. 2010 saw the biggest increase not only in visitors but also floor space, programs and lineup. From the star studded cast of the ever popular anime series K-On to the full team of JAM Project gracing the stage of I Love Anisong, it was the biggest Japanese Pop Culture event this side of the region has ever seen.
And with high expectations, Anime Festival Asia will be back once again to the sunny shores of Singapore as Southeast Asia’s biggest and most anticipated showcase of the latest Japanese popular culture and anime content and stars. To be held once again at Suntec City Convention & Exhibition Hall from the 11-13 Nov, this year’s AFA looks to be even bigger and better.
Anime Festival Asia Goes Regional
Jointly organised by Dentsu Singapore and SOZO Pte Ltd, the home-grown AFA is today one of the region’s top entertainment convention and showcase platform. AFA saw visitor numbers grow from 46,000 to 71,000 last year over three days, with local and international fans mainly from the region. This year’s festival estimates that it will attract at least 85,000 visitors.
Organisers are in talks with Indonesia and Malaysia to hold overseas Anime Festivals. For a start Malaysia and Indonesia’s Anime Festivals are expected to be scheduled in 2012. The flagship event, AFA, will continue to be held in Singapore annually. While the Singapore event will see a congregation of the latest Japanese animation and popular culture content and host regional events such as the Regional Cosplay Championships, the overseas events will follow a similar format as AFA with the content adapted to the local communities’ interests.
"As AFA grows in popularity, having Anime Festivals in different countries is our next step to reaching out to more audiences in the region. Fans who are keen on animation and Japanese Pop Culture will have an added opportunity to have the content brought under one roof, right at their doorsteps," said Shawn Chin, AFA 11’s Festival Director.
Reaching out to Businesses – Cool Japan Forum returns as a networking and sharing platform from Japan’s Best
One of the key highlights of AFA 11, the Cool Japan Forum returns on 11 November to showcase several of Japan’s leaders in the music, animation and publishing industries. Mr Haruhiko Miyano, AFA 11’s Festival Director briefed eveyone on this year's Cool Japan Forum’s theme and that it focuses on methods to monetize content. Talks will include topics on how killer content can be built on the digital field, shared experiences from companies which have developed successful business models using anime content, and how content can be used to boost a company’s brand image. One of the speakers, Mr Keiichiro Hirano, a renowned novelist who won an Akutagawa prize (one of the most prestigious prizes for the industry) when he was a university student, will share his secrets behind developing engaging storylines.
After all, it was through last year's Cool Japan Forum that saw Mr Yasushi Akimoto down to give a talk ending with the first AKB48 concert held here in Singapore. Thanks to that, we now have our very own AKB48 shop, cafe and theater which see AKB48 and her sister groups coming down to perform.
I love Anisong – Rock Your Soul
I Love Anisong will see three evenings of concerts, with a rock theme this year. Visitors can expect Japanese anisong artistes who are behind some of today’s biggest anime titles, with energetic performances, live bands and more. Artistes include those who will perform in Singapore for the very first time, as well as AFA Festival favorites.
No stranger to the Japanese Pop Culture as well as fans here in the region is singing sensation May'n. Recently here in Singapore for her own concert plus gracing the red carpet at the first Screen Singapore event for the premiere of her movie, May'n will be here once again to trill audiences with her voice at I Love Anisong.
As one of the leading pioneers of anisong, Ichirou Mizuki is no stranger when it comes to such concerts. Having an impressive repertoire of over 1,200 anisongs, he is still the undisputed legend in this genre. Aniki, as he is more affectionately known as will be back as well as one of the original artist to perform at the first AFA back in 2008.
Having trilled fans earlier this year by making their first appearance here in Singapore, FLOW will be back once again to rock the house at I Love Anisong with their unique blend of music which saw them storming the Indie charts. With no less than 21 singles and six albums which includes "Colors", opening theme to the first season of Code Geass, and "GO!!" & "RE:member:, from the Naruto anime. All three singles have brought them success on the Oricon charts, with "Colors" maxing out at 2nd.
If there was one rising star in the Anisong genre to have caught the attention of fans, this 24 year old from the Gifu prefecture would surely be on the list. From her indie high school band days with CHUCKY to her present band, Love is Same All (or LiSA which is also her stage name in short form) and finally to being picked as the singing voice for the character Yui from the anime Angel Beats, she has definitely come a long way.
Regional Cosplay Championship
One thing ever present at any pop culture event are the cosplayers who add a colourful touch to the event, bringing to life characters from their favorite anime, manga or videogame series. And with the success of the Regional Cosplay Championship over the years, this year will see the bar being raised with an enhanced competition format.
Participants will now have to go through a live audition in each country, as opposed to submitting electronic entries in previous years. Winners of each country will have the prestigious opportunity to compete in the Regional Cosplay Championships in Singapore, and prove their worth before a panel of judges that include some of Japan’s top cosplayers. Calls for entry will start this Saturday with application details on the AFA website with prizes including a trip to Japan.
Experience Zones for Movie Screenings and Japanese Popular Culture Content
With an increased floor space as compared to last year, a new experience zone will be created for the ever popular AKB48. Fan favorites from last year like the Maid and Butler cafe, live dubbing sessions by popular seiyuus plus other popular experience zones will back once again. And for the collectors, Akiba Town will be bringing in top players direct from the toy and merchandising industries in Japan, including Bushiroad and Bandai.
And as a bonus with Bandai being one of the key supporters, fans of the highly popular Gundam series will be treated to a same day screening as Japan of the highly anticipated movie ‘Gundam Unicorn’.
A Good Start
While this might look like quite a lot of information to digest, it is actually a enhancement of a tried, tested and proven framework which has made the Anime Festival Asia the premiere Japanese popular culture event in this side of the region. With what looks to be 3 halls being used this year plus even more visitors expected to visit the 3 day event, it is understandable that expectations are also high with the social networking mediums bustling with activity with regards to the press briefing.
While it is not surprising that some have expressed their disappointment at the announced line up or have more questions than answers as the anticipation are definitely high after last year, do keep in mind that this is just the tip of the iceberg with more announcements to come from the team behind Anime Festival Asia 2011.
Their track record has proven that it keeps getting bigger and better each year and this year's Anime Festival Asia looks to be no different.
So watch out for more details as the AFA team slowly reveals more acts and surprises as we prepare for another great Anime Festival Asia event to remember!
Ichirou Mizuki – ©Ichirou Mizuki / yellow bird
LiSA – ©Aniplex ©Sony Music Artistes. Inc.
AFAX, AFA11 Logo & Cool Japan Forum Logo – ©Anime Festival Asia
May'n & AFAX RCC 1st Prize Winners – ©Kenneth Wong (POPCulture Online)
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