Day One of Anime Festival Asia 2011 dawned bright and early for us next door at the Marina Mandarin — which was home to a large contingent of Filipino cosplayers and event organizers over the course of the weekend. After a big breakfast and some heavy lifting (two sets of Zaku armour for our room mates Robert and Jewel Wong — Sieg Zeon!) we managed to crawl past the long lines of attendees and cosplayers at the AFA gates.
Inside the con is a veritable treasure trove of figures, merchandise, and cosplay gear. The official Good Smile booth was selling Figma and Nendroid figures at huge discounts, undercutting some of the other discount booths in the hall by as much as SGD 5. The Bandai booth — with their six-foot statue of Gundam Unicorn, were selling kits, Gunpla tools, and kit support and display items (loved these — we bought three different sets!).
The Aniplex, Nitro +, and Cospa booths were selling CDs and apparel from straight from their Japan catalogs. Some of their best sellers include the Madoka Magica shirts featuring Kyuubei (“Trust me!”, he says :|) and the Sanrio X Hatsune Miku shirts featuring Hello Kitty in Miku cosplay — my brain kind of exploded and I was reaching for my wallet to pay for my purchase by the time I came back to my senses.
Plenty of figures — both regular release and limited edition were on display. Figure fans and photogs crowded the GSC and Bandai booths, as well as the Kotobukiya booth which had virtually the entire DC and Marvel Bishoujo line on display (Wonder Woman and White Queen unf unf). There were two different sets of itasha on display — a BMW with Culture Japan’s Suenaga Mirai over at Danny Choo’s booth, and two Toyota Vios’ featuring their new worldwide spokesmodel Hatsune Miku at the AFA-Toyota area.
Nico Nico Douga was streaming live over the internet at their booth, where they were inviting promenading cosplayers to drop by and say “Hi!” to viewers in Japan and from all over the world. The Nico Nico people zeroed in on our two Zaku friends asked them in for a quick shoot. When the host and the other viewers discovered that it was not two guys on a dare but an honest-to-goodness married couple, the marquee comments exploded with exclamations of glee and proposals of marriage to Jewel from Japanese Gundam fans.
Lines snaked out in front of the Moe Moe Kyun and Atelier Royale event cafes, as well as in front of the Canon booth were they were giving away free photos. The prints were especially nice since you could stand in front of a painted backdrop to simulate an animation cell, but with you as the main focus instead of your favorite anime character. The Animax booth was running the same gimmick, but instead of backdrops you get to pose next to a giant Baby Beel mascot from the animation Beelzebub.
Since I haven’t signed up for any artiste interviews unlike the past few cons, this year’s AFA was a welcome breather: I could roam the halls to my hearts content, instead of being stuck in a green room (albeit a very nice green room :D) waiting for my interview schedule. I could also pare down to the barest minimum — P&S camera, iPad, and wallet — to get the best out of the dealers hall, and not have to lug a laptop and an SLR around as is expected of media partners. I think the last time I enjoyed AFA this much was way back in the very first one in 2008~ ah memories ❤
The evening was capped off by the second of the I Love Anisong concerts, headlined by Japanese rockers FLOW, Anisong Legend Mizuki Ichirou, and Girls Dead Monster’s Yui — LiSA. The crowd was definitely rocking as FLOW launched into hit after hit from their line-up of shounen themes, including Naruto, Naruto Shippuden, Code Geass, and Eurika Seven. ANIKI brings his legendary Anisong poweres to the stage, and new girl LiSA stands out with her Girls Dead Monster tracks from the animation “Angel Beats!”.
Now, for my sole point of contention: there really needs to be a better ticketing and queue system for the event. Very little information was available at the Ground Floor Main Ticketing Area, resulting in some confusion and several sets of twice-bought tickets for some overseas attendees. SISTIC opened ninety minutes past their announced opening times, which wreaked hell on many people’s timetables. And the queue for the I Love Anisong gates? Virtually nonexistent for the Miku and Flow playdates.
Thank you very much to Sozo and the Anime Festival Asia 11 Staff for my Media Pass.