Hey everyone, it’s Iso here. I’ll be sharing my experience at this year’s AFA in this post.
This is the 4th time I’m attending Anime Festival Asia (I missed last year’s as it was in the middle of my A level examinations) and I left the event feeling overwhelmed yet underwhelmed at the same time. Why the contradictory mix of emotions? Let me explain by presenting my thoughts about the event…
As the other authors have noted, this year’s AFA is held in Singapore EXPO instead of the past years’ venue Suntec City Convention Centre. As a result, the event space was much more spacious, and we didn’t need to squeeze to get around anywhere. But at what cost?
First, hosting the event at Singapore EXPO resulted in longer traveling times for most of us, since it’s in the extreme Eastern part of Singapore. If we wanted to reach there at opening time (9am), those of us who stay on the opposite side of Singapore have to wake up really early.
Second, the place was so big that there wasn’t any place where cosplayers actually hanged around, but rather they were all over the place. Some hung around the open area at the right end of Hall 7, some decided to stay outside, and some others were walking all over the place.
Third, it was very difficult for POSB/DBS bank account owners to withdraw money. I had to walk all the way to the other end of Singapore EXPO on the first day just to reach the only DBS ATM at the location. Given the size of Singapore EXPO, that means a 15-20 minute walk to and fro just to withdraw cash. To make matters worse, the ATMs for the entire area were down on the third day! I guess the lesson learnt here is to ensure you have enough money before heading to the event, but you’d have to be careful of losing your wallet and not succumb to your inner devils telling you to spend all your money.
Last, there was almost absolutely no reception inside halls 7 and 8, making it difficult for those who wanted to use the internet or contact others. I had quite a bit of trouble meeting up with people because of this.
All in all, I do applaud the move to a bigger venue, but I had some problems adjusting to this venue from Suntec.
The Floor Plan
This is the floor plan presented on the AFA site…
While this is pretty much the actual floor plan for the day itself…
As can be seen, there was actually quite a bit of space to the right of Hall 7. At the same time, the exit point that was supposed to be on the right side of the hall was missing, while exiting was not allowing at the entrance. That meant that you had to go all the way to the other side of the hall if you wanted to leave.
Also, it turns out that they only used half of hall 8 as the stage area. The other half behind the stage was left vacant and entry was prohibited. Honestly, I think that that’s a waste of space.
As for the cosplayer location problem I mentioned in previous section, Xharky from SGCafe and I were discussing possible solutions on IRC and we agreed that having a designated cosplayer point like they do in Comiket would be good. In the case of EXPO, the space at the right side of the hall would be great. The section could be labelled and hence photographers would know where to go to take pictures. As a form of service for the cosplayers, free drinks and light refreshments could be offered at that section. This should be rather possible since we already had Nescafe offering free drinks here this year.
The Stage Events
Unfortunately, I didn’t get stage tickets this year, and I instead opted for just normal festival ground access tickets; it just so happened that none of the stage events interested me.
But enough of negative stuff, let me move on to the happy things!
The Madoka Movies
I really enjoyed watching the Madoka movies, so naturally they contributed a big part to making this year’s AFA great for me. At the same time, they were also the reason I spent quite a bit of money on Madoka loot (as you will see later on in this post). I guess the epicness of the movie hit me so hard that I was induced to purchase goods. Lesson learnt? Be prepared to spend money if you’re watching a movie during AFA.
If you haven’t read it already, I talked about the Madoka movie experience in a previous post, so you can read more about it there. Don’t worry, it’s spoiler free.
I managed to meet up with quite a number of people over the weekend, which included:
- Most of the other bloggers and ex-bloggers who write/used to write for this blog including Hiromi, Rakkyo, Accelerator (and his large group of friends), Furreto and Fuyuhi
- Ekuseru from WS@NKDS
- The authors from Vocal Mimi
- Miyu from Metanorn and her friends (I got to hear her sing too!)
- Some old friends
And unfortunately, due to my lack of stage access tickets, I was unable to meet up with Cybersteel, Jason and the guys from Otaku Panorama, while Valence was unable to make it for the event. Hope I’ll be able to meet them at the next event.
Before I start, let me mention that the queues for the merchandise booths was really insane on the first day. The Sword Art Online booth had the longest queues; referring to the floor plan above, the queue started from the side of the booth nearest to the entrance, went one round around the ODEX, and snaked to the entrance itself. Thank goodness there was a barricade at the entrance so we could still enter without getting blocked by those queuing.
I experienced the craziness of the queue myself when I helped my friends queue for a bit while they went off to the stage to see the fripside appearance as well as to get signatures. It took half an hour just for the queue to move one booth’s length. I ended up chatting with my friends, and by the time we got to the entrance of the booth I had already been in the queue for a good hour (and my friends were in the queue for a grand total of 4 hours – they had joined the booth almost as soon as the event started). I didn’t buy anything since I didn’t feel it was right doing so when I had just cut into the middle of the queue like that, but it’s not like there was anything much left.Yes, that’s right. They were totally sold out on the first day the event grounds opened, and they didn’t sell any merchandise on the second.
Instead of pictures of merchandise, here are some pictures from the booth:
Moving on to stuff that I actually did buy, this was probably my most expensive AFA thus far with me spending a grand total of around ~$250 SGD inclusive of tickets. I’m not putting up pictures of all my loot this time because well, there’s just too many of them.
First, what came along with my $45 early bird special Madoka Magica movie tickets was:
- A board with the seiyuus’ signatures on it (a replica, that is)
- An A2 poster with the official art for the movie in Singapore:
- An information booklet for the first movie
- An information booklet for the second movie
Next up, what I got at the KKnM booth:
- 4 Mousepads, featuring Mami, Homura, Sayaka and the protagonists of Rewrite
- I got a free K-On! A4 file
After which is, perhaps unsurprisingly, the booth I lost the most money to:
What I got here:
- 2 Madoka Magica clear file sets
- 1 Madoka Magica postcard set
- 1 Madokami tapestry
Moving on to the Muse booth:
- 1 Madoka Magica A4 file
- 2 OreImo A4 files
- 1 Homura card sticker
And last but not least, the Creator’s Hub:
- 4 badges, featuring Madokami, Mami, Kyoko and Sayaka (Do you see a trend here?)
- 4 A3 Posters, featuring Luka, Rin & Len, Pokemon Black and White 2 and Black Rock Shooter vs Shana
- The Darkness Note and a Rikka & Shinka cup from Collateral Damage Studios
See? I meant it when I said the epicness of the Madoka movies induced me to splurge on Madoka goods. I don’t regret it though, since this event is only held once-in-a-year.
This year’s AFA just felt different compared to the previous ones I’ve attended. Maybe it was because of the location change, maybe it’s because of the number of people I met, maybe it’s because of the fact that I bought more merchandise than ever before. Or maybe it’s an age thing that comes from having attended almost every single AFA since its inception?
Still, it was a great experience. Being able to see anisong stars and idols up close in the flesh and blood, seeing cosplayers walking around, hearing people talking about anime everywhere, meeting up with people of similar interests – that sure is something that doesn’t happen everyday.
A small suggestion I have for the organizers would be to play some anime music inside the event grounds. I believe it would help improve the atmosphere a lot. This is an anime event, after all.
And with that, I’ll bring this post to a close, and bid adieu to this year’s AFA.
(Oh, and much thanks to Kuumined for letting me use his pictures for this post)