It’s that time of the year again – Anime Festival Asia 2014. The biggest South-East Asian anime-related event of the year. This is the time where anime fans, cosplayers, gamers and industry players converge and enjoy the spectacles, mingle with one another, share and shuffle through official merchandise on offer, admire and purchase the very best local artists’ works at the doujin booths, browse through artiste booths with sign sessions and limited edition goods on offer, enjoy the sights and colours via the multitude of cosplayers, and of course, the main event – the I Love Anisong concerts.

For those of you were there, you would have known that there were so many activities going on at the same time that it was impossible to be everywhere at once. So our team managed to plow through most of the events happening and for the purposes of this review, we will break down the various areas that caught our eye into segments so its easier for you to follow.

Official Merchandise Booths

The first thing that greets visitors upon entering is the beautiful setup of the Idolm@ster booth. Life-sized standees of all the Idolm@ster girls positioned neatly on a tiered stage. Flanking the standees is a mini-exhibition showing off the entire history of the Idolm@ster franchise, from the first game that was released on the Microsoft Xbox up to the most recent release of “The Idolm@ster One For All” for the Sony PlayStation 3, to the animated series that culminated with the release of the Blu-Ray box of The Idolm@ster: Beyond the Brilliant Future movie.

There was even a display stand of the various costumes worn by the seiyuu during their recent live performances this year, as well as a video wall that introduced the Idolm@ster to those who were new to the franchise, as well as introducing the spin-off series “The Idolm@ster Cinderella Girls” that will begin airing from January 2015. Not only was it a mini-exhibition, but there was also a lucky draw that came along with the purchase of goods which gave customers the chance to win a signboard with the personal autographs of the three main seiyuus that graced this event.

On either side of the Idolm@ster booth was the Sword Art Online II and the Love Live! School Idol Project booths. Long snaking queues could be seen as attendees rushed to be the first few to purchase goods as to get their chance to come up close and personal with the invited seiyuus for limited-numbers autograph sessions on each day.

As per previous years, you could take photographs with standees of the Sword Art Online characters, or even enjoy a pose or two with the giant wall depicting the Love Live girls. To add on to the fun, there was even a trial station for people to enjoy the hugely popular Love Live! School Idol Festival mobile game, which has, to date, recorded over 10 million downloads worldwide.

Exhibits such as Muse, Latendo and Bushiroad (just to name a few) are choke full of merchandise. On the first day itself, there were many attendees rushing for limited edition or limited time merchandise at the various booths. Even the smaller ones like Horipro, Starchild were not spared. The hype and rush seemed to last for a long time. In some booths, queues snaked all the way to the main gates, and the queues seemed to have no sign of clearing up for the entire duration of the day.

You really have to give it to these con attendees. Whether you were there just to get some merchandise, or are doing some retail therapy to kill time before the Anisong concert started, you have to admit that there was this sense of anticipation that con attendees had when they were in the queues. “Will the item be sold out?” “How many items can I get?” We could have sworn we caught a few smiles here and there at the exits of the exhibits. Needless to say, they had their hands full with merchandise.

AFA Future Entertainment Stage

The AFA Future Entertainment Stage and nico nico KUNIKAIGI exhibits both had their own mini stages and events happening.

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Throughout the duration of the event, you can see the stage is always filled with activities from the Manga Battle, Cosplay competition to performance from Horipro featuring artiste like May’n, Azusa Tadokoro, Ayaka, Ohashi Hyato Kakizawa, Tomomi Kasai at the same time holding their autograph meet and greet session. Not to forget the full line up of the all star cosplay guests where fans can come up close and personal with them.

Cannon Booths

And if you are a cosplayer, or just with a group of friends who wants to take a group photo, the various photo booths at Canon should provide you with what you need. There are various backdrops where cosplayers and con attendees alike can pose in and have a picture taken. As we were making our rounds, we noticed there was never short of people using the photo booths.

Nico nico KUNIKAIGI Stage

This is the first time “Nico nico KUNIKAIGI” was ever here in Singapore. Taking up a huge amount of space the stage at niconico KUNIKAIGI exhibit was larger, and the content they have bought with them was too much to keep us our feet.

With the awesome line up of performers from nico nico performing on it’s almost like it’s a mini pre I love ani-song concert stage. crowd can be seen cheering and dancing (wotage) in front of the stage.

They also had other activities going on such as live game streaming (Dengenki Bunko Fighting Climax) , Attack on Titan Hands-on Trainee Solider Try-outs, Sword Art Online Nerve Gear Try-ons and a karaoke booth which was streaming live in NicoNico.

Mini Stages

When you visited these stage exhibits, there was one thing in common – fun. The atmosphere was infectious. Walking past them seems to have an effect where you would be attracted to join the crowd and take part in the fun. So we had to resist the urge to jump right in.

Creator’s Hub

Another mainstay of anime conventions. They go by different names but essentially are the same thing. Small booths being run by individuals or groups selling fan made art, goods, merchandise. You could find goods and fan made works being sold here. Usually, people visit these booths to support their friends in the business or because they spotted art and fan works that catches their fancy.

And the thing about these doujin or fan works booths is that they are not really limited to just making fan works. They were also free to express their creativity by coming up with original works and selling to the community. It’s basically a doujin artist’s best place to promote their works and art. Walking around, you can see people having small the small talk and exchanges here and there with the booth owners, or are perhaps waiting for a commissioned art piece. Its practically like a small community. But a tight knit one. And to top it up, it carried with it the “marketplace” feel. Teeming with activity, but with more color and sights to see. It was amazing!

The Cosplay

Throughout the entire event, you get to see cosplay everywhere. Over at Suntec Convention Center, it’s normal to see a spillover of cosplayers from the exhibition grounds into the lower levels where the ticketing counters are usually located. The one thing that caught our eye was the fact that there were so many photobooths and camera equipment being set up to get better photos.

If anything, we call that dedication. Its people who cosplay and photographers who make the whole scene alive. It comes hand in hand. Without this symbiotic relationship, we would not be able to see the cosplayers who attended the event.

As for the costumes, all we can say is that it’s very vibrant. Sure some of them would go as far as to be in character, but it’s not whether the portrayal was perfect or not, but the flawed human element of cosplay that makes it so much closer as a legitimate art form.

The I Love Ani-song Concert

AFA14-Concert Crowd -w

This is the main highlight of the Anime Festival Asia that all ani-song fans been looking forward to yearly. The audience were given the best entertainment that AFA could offer from top-notch Ani-song artistes bringing here theme songs of the region’s latest and hottest anime titles. 3 nights of adrenalin-pumping of non-stop I love ani-song concert to keep the audience on their feet.

Looking at them waving their light sticks along with the songs rytheme, jumping along with the artistes on stage. shouting out slogans. And finally, watching them with a happy smile on their faces despite been exhausted from all the adrenalin rush from the ani-songs for 3 nights. We knew that to them this year Anime Festival Asia was a blast.

Photo Credits : JT, QX

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