Scoring Fs at AFCC 2016

Event, Singapore – Down for my first AFCC ever, I noticed a few Fs along the way. Here’s a quick run through!

IMG_20160703_000104Festival – Truly a festival of children’s content with books, music, songs and games for children, and those wannabe grown-up ones like me.

Focused – Japan was the Country of Focus in SJ50 year, which brings me to…

Fortunate – How else could I have had a look in? (Well, it was very much thanks to SCBWI Japan.)

Fun-filled – Totally enjoyed every bit, from tending the Japan Booth, helping the rehearsals for Japan Night in a dimly lit SEA Aquarium, keeping time for a marathon storytelling hour, to attending some very insightful sessions.

Fascinating – Very often so, as I was captivated by the performances and range of stories that were on display.

Flashy – How else to describe an underwater launch of bilingual picture books? Maybe splashy?

Favourite – An oft heard question, but I just couldn’t find a Japanese picture book or illustrator that I could pin down as a favourite. I found that I like many of them for their different stories, styles and colours!

Fruitful – Learned much about presenting, displaying, sharing, reading and creating content for children.

Frank – A brief, serious mention that kamishibai, picture card storytelling theatre, was once used for war propaganda. Frankly and plainly put, well-received with appreciative nods.

and finally,

Forward-looking – Covering recent trends in YA literature in Japan, the closing session of the event also looked to a future that promises to welcome greater colour, depth and diversity in Japanese content.

So a quick tally makes it 10 Fs in all, and there’s room for probably a few more.

Strong shift in force @Roppongi to Hokkaido and 18 December

Tokyo, 28 June – Darth Vader and the storm troopers at the Star Wars Visions will be packing up their set up at Roppongi Hills later today to quell cooler climes in Hokkaido. I managed to catch up with them a fortnight ago.

Making the quick trek up the spiral staircase past a queue for a rival exhibit (Naruto), I noticed that the lines were marked clearly with yellow masking tape. The Empire awaited along the middle path, before which a darkened indoor ticketing hall took in credits for entry. The steady stream of expectant fans were greeted by welcome signage overhead and a peek of the Death Star model and storm troopers taking aim at would-be trespassers.

Walking around the wall, I was greeted by who else but Vader himself in his meditation chamber. Standing silently, masked and plotting his next move as the soon-to-be-completed Death Star witnessed X-Wing duelling a smattering of the Empire’s fleet in a delay raid. New entrants were forced to bear with his theme song echoing across the hall, but the illusion of the enormity of facing an entire trooper platoon vanished at the mere sight of their posters adorning the glass panels above.

Eager ones lined up to pose with the protagonist, who stayed behind his iconic mask, while others shuffled along through the next portal to meet beings from other worlds. The visions were split into 6 sections – the original vision, the force, battles, sagas, the galaxy and droids. Inspirations for the saga led to the realization of the existence of the force, and then its two sides.

Fan art was coupled by a cast of retired weapons and bodies from the entire galaxy far, far away. Bubba Fett’s blaster, Jedi and Sith light sabres, mini models of the Jedi Council building and memorable battle scenes treated new and learned fans alike. Techie wannabes would have enjoyed the specs on the X-Wing, A-Wing and other vessels on display, while hitchikers could let their mind wonder across the worlds in a map of the entire galaxy.

Master Yoda stood quietly beside Amidala’s flowing white cloak, while the wirings of Vader’s mask lay open for all to see. Jabba the Hutt was there, the blue female alien dancer too, plus Ewoks and the bust of Chewbacca. The most impressive centerpiece was Hans Solo in cryogenic freeze. The stellar cast included the all-important droids, eventually the turning points in the saga, and a brilliantly gold C-3PO standing by to wave goodbye to a queue treated to tidbits from edited saga footage as they shuffled toward the store.

Of course, the chance to battle the man himself at the top of Roppongi Hills for just 500 yen and an image to last many lifetimes is surely the curtain-call poser. That is, before we say hello again to the galaxy come December 18 when the force awakens worldwide.

Star Wars Visions at Roppongi Tokyo City View

AnimeJapan 2015

The crowd awaits

Where’s the crowd?

Tokyo, 22 March – Sun shining, temperatures poised to hit the twenties, and the occasional cloud in the sky set the stage for a perfect day out. Japan’s largest anime exhibition, AnimeJapan 2015, beckoned at Tokyo Big Sight at Ariake in the Tokyo bay area. The crowd streamed steadily from Kokusaitenjijo seimon mae station toward the iconic exhibition hall. Greeted by a poster signboard that directed the stream off to the walkway that seemed to wrap round the building, regular visitors were taken to a parking lot behind, while some privileged few, probably press or event sponsors, passed through open covered transparent walkways. The crowd seemed happy to create a line, with only a few voices to guide them at random intervals. All the way, there was excited chatter about characters, stories and upcoming titles that were supposedly unveiled a few days earlier.

That's some costume

That’s some costume

This was the anime crowd – a mixed bag of mid-20s to 40s, maybe even 50s, presumably either studying or employed. Some brought along family and were allowed in through a separate side route that took the kids away from the main crowd. They sauntered unhindered past the larger part of the anime following that quickly filled 2 separate parking lots, which together easily spanned a football pitch. The waiting areas were fenced in and dissected by a road, yet the crowd did not feel the least penned in or dampened. The cool weather and light breeze made the 20-minute walk and subsequent 40-minute wait a time to quickly catch up on topics and highlights for the day. Who would have thought that the cosplayer’s area would be within literally touching distance as we moved closer to the entrance to the exhibition hall? Press and excited fans busily worked their shutters, training their devices on others dressed in full costume. While others seemed adamant to revel in their skin, one did not leave any exposed. Such was the dedication to detail, an expression of extreme affinity comprehensible only as fandom. Not a cloud in the sky, there was no reason to stay outside when everyone else was raring to catch whatever awaited within.

The well-trained approach shot

The shutterbug’s approach shot

Two large halls split exhibitors, which were production studios, publishers, gaming companies and anime schools. Broadly familiar characters like Detective Conan and Pikachu floated above the booths below, echoing their elevated status in the industry. The floor was littered with dressed up girls, often the target of eager shutterbugs, dealing out freebies and pamphlets while similarly costumed fans strolled purposefully past to their mecca.

All too familiar faces galore

All too familiar faces galore

Besides the icons overhead, the uninitiated would find little difficulty in recognizing some familiar faces. Doraemon is celebrating its 35th year, while Dragon Ball had Frieza and Goku posing with fans for a new movie and Sailor Moon sat quietly in the same section of the hall. Cowboy Beebop placards peered over passerbys and Gundam teased fans with a three screen 270 degree enclosure of the upcoming movie trailer.

A stunning rendition of the entrance building

A stunning rendition of the entrance building

The Yoyogi Animation Gakuin booth left a largely different impression. Two artisans were at work that day, one sculpting clay figurines and the other painting. Both performers were screened in their mini live studios in monitors above as onlookers stayed peeled on the creative work in action. The brushwork piece from the day before was a stunning rendition of the iconic entrance building overcome by nature. Next door was the charity auction area where visitors could choose to donate and bid for the right to be drawn next to their favourite character or purchase limited edition memorabilia.

Soft clay mashables

Soft clay mashables

The subdued side of things

Enter the subdued family side of things

In contrast to the frenzy and excitement was an unusually subdued section across the hall. The view from this side into the family exhibit area left me confounded. Kids were usually the most easily heard by miles, yet the atmosphere in that section was non-existent to say the least. Booths were sparsely spaced, the few participant families littering the booths made the area even seem distinctly more vast. Primary school children and below were non-paying fans, but the contrast that day was embarrassingly obvious. The tables were turned, the targeted segment was clear.

Moving on to the next hall, the Japan Animators Exhibition showcased projects that attempted to push the limits of anime as a storytelling genre. Eyes were glued to a frantic man and bug story unfolding in an apartment interweaved with the bug taking on the form of screaming girl. Bizarre but wildly entertaining. It summed up the event for the uninitiated, with a few question marks hanging over using the event to cultivate the next generation of anime fans and would-be creators and storytellers. For that, the industry is well-equipped with other channels.