It has been many years since I stepped back into the halls of Suntec that houses the biggest Japanese Popular Culture event both in Singapore and the Region, Anime Festival Asia Singapore (AFASG) 2015. This is the biggest event when it comes to Japanese Popular Culture that ranges from anime to manga to even cosplay. With more and more teens to young adults consuming these content on a daily basis, one can only expect the huge turnout that will go through the doors of Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Centre level 4 halls.
My guess was right as the first thing I noticed upon reaching the AFASG2015 is the amount of people that as they say, “People Mountain People Sea”. From the free zone at level 3 to the even the back lanes in the festival grounds itself, you find visitors happily chatting among themselves about the latest anime, the merchandise they queued up for or even swooning over the handsome or pretty cosplayer that walked pass. Yes, this is Japanese Popular Culture heaven to these fans who are part of the growing trend that looks to Japan for the latest popular culture contents.
Perhaps it is this hunger that has sort of changed the festival landscape of Anime Festival Asia from one of content orientated to one that I remembered to a merchandise orientated one this year. Of course your big names in the industry like Bandai Namco Group, Aniplex and Animax are still around but the booths selling merchandise seems to be majority this year. Not that it is a bad thing looking around at the long queues and happy faces after purchasing that limited edition figure and other merchandise such as folders, tee shirts, stickers, badges, etc.
One group that definitely benefits from this are the local content creators as AFASG 2015 sees an increase in size for the Creator’s Hub section. With 100 booths of fan-made merchandise from bookmarks to fan art, the hub is a silent testimony that the local scene is slowly and surely growing and something that future event organisers should take note of.
Another interesting take on Japanese Popular Culture is the food section that sees familiar names like Monster Curry, Ramen Keisuke and WAttention Food Street bring to visitors popular Japanese food. From tasty Japanese fried chicken (karaage) to Japanese ice-cream and even anime-themed food like a refreshing Love Life! Parfait, visitors don’t have to worry about their stomachs as there is even a rest area with tables to eat at.
Cosplay fans also have something to cheer about as AFASG 2015 continues the trend of dedicating part of the event towards cosplay with celebrity cosplayers such as crowd favourite KANAME☆ and AFASG 2015 new faces Otogi Nekomu and Siutao gracing the event. Official Imaging Partner Canon also continues to lend their support with photography booths both in the festival grounds on level 4 and in the free zone on level 3 for cosplayers to take home nice photo memorables.
Not forgetting the photographers who now make up the bulk of the visitos to AFASG, looking to take home good shots of the event and the cosplayers. From simple compact cameras to photographic gear that makes one wonder if Singapore does indeed have a technical recession, finding that good sport for the shot has turned from “Wall of Photogs” to “War of Photogs” as some joked. Thankfully no major incident has been mentioned or reported in social media space so far and hopefully AFASG 2015 will be a incident free one.
Another crowd drawer to the Anime Festival Asia every year is the I Love Anisong concert. From a single day single artist when it first started, I Love Anisong now sees artistes performing each night for all 3 days of the event. With an interesting direction this year to reboot the concert, the aptly titled I Love Anisong Reboot sees new names such as BACK-ON, Michi, Lia and nano take to the stage, performing hit songs from anime opening and closing. Veteran I Love Anisong artiste May’n also continues the tradition of performing at this year’s concert.
One interesting thing to note this year is the Free Zone at level 3. While usually the unofficial place for photographers and cosplayers to hang out, setup the mobile studios for photos or just for catching up, the whole stretch has now become part of AFASG 2015. From little make shift studios complete with backdrops to a mini stage for demonstration and booths selling cosmetics by BCL, this also added to the festival feel.
Overall AFASG 2015 continues to hold onto the title of the biggest Japanese Popular Culture event here in Singapore and the size, crowd and big names are a testimony of how much it has grown. Sure it feels different from what I remembered, walking through the first ever Anime Festival Asia which was more content focused but times and trends have changed and looking at the crowd that walks through the doors of AFASG 2015, it looks like the team at Sozo has gotten it right.
Photos by Ken Koh
By Kenneth Wong
© POPCulture Online 2015