Sunday, November 23, 2008

[Anime Festival Asia 2008] Day Two

Anime Festival Asia 2008 concludes today, and the crowd just swelled because I guess you could find the latest bargains by this evening (noticed some toys at slashed prices), as well as coming to support the Cosplayers in their battle to gain supremacy on stage. Not to mention the appearances of Aniki Ichirou Mizuki, Studio 4C founder Koji Morimoto, as well as culminating in a concert performance by May'N, which is her first outside of Japan. Anime fans won't miss it for the world!

Waiting for May'N's appearance

But before that, here's a snapshot of what transpired, which was a lot more than what I was interested in of course:

Cosplayers Seen
Any anime festival will be incomplete without its fair share of Cosplayers walking its grounds. Given the plenty of open space within the halls, it was easy peasy for the Cosplayers to find room to get into character, and the plenty of fans finding glee in identifying with their heroes, take pictures, and of course, to strike a pose with them.

Does He Bite?

Think This One's Safer

Plenty of Death Around

Told You So

You can view more from the slideshow here:

COSPLAY Mania Competition
The highlight of the day, with throngs of supporters gathering around the stage area to cheer their favourites. And for the uninitiated (like myself), this event involves a lot more than just looking the part. You have to act the part out in short skits too, and be judged on that performance and the quality of the skit too. But looking at the way it goes, it's little wonder that those which draw the loudest laughter, walked away as winners. And while some were plain cheesy and fun, there were others which was a little schizophrenic, and I wondered if they'd had caught themselves in a genre warp as well, with a couple of teams belting out or dancing to quite-out-of-place pop songs? Lip synching is perfectly OK too! Hmm... take a look for yourself, and see which ones turn out to be your favourite!

Here's some pictures and videos of EVERY competitive group performance:

Team 1

I can't quite make out this trio's act, but of course that's not stopping them from prancing around the stage...

Team 2

Watch out for that illusion! Team 2 has up the ante with that trick in its skit performance. And what's with Pizza Hut?!

Team 3

Everyone loves Ultraman, and having do battle with a monster that had shown its ruthless streak by stomping on helpless cardboard buildings? Priceless! The concept's there, but I thought that the folks should have really worked on their choreography (like Team 8's) which will really blow the house down, if not only for its cheesy antics!

Team 4

For mouthing off the names of a few companies, I hope they really get reimbursed, since those statements really stood out (like a sore thumb variety) to mar their skit performance. Showing off the latest toys may have helped to reinforced the notion that they are Cosplayers with deep pockets though.

Team 5

While this group boasted a robot, its performance was somewhat very limited to a lip synch singing, and nothing much to showcase actually. Have a look:

But I guess what made everyone take note, is how this dude manage to turn Murphy's Law into an advantage, by hamming it up for the audience. Little things like these to engage the crowd, go a long way really! *V* as it's very easy to get all riled up when things don't go your way and your creation begins to unravel itself in front of hundreds!

Take a look!

Team 6

Errr... too many songs, and Disney's??

Team 7

I thought this duo had the most gorgeous and intricately designed costumes of the lot, and an OK performance tool. In case you do not know, they are both females, and the crowd just go wild when they start to get closer and closer to embrace...

Team 8

Seriously these guys can't wait to whup each other's ass to kingdom come, and they actually stayed in character all the way until after the interview segment at the end of their performance. Should have thought Team 3 a thing or two about fight choreography!

Team 9

I'd like to tell Team 9 that it's a job well done, but seriously, more variety would make it stand a better chance against the rest, other than repeated song and dance routines.

So who emerged the winners? There were personal favorites of Aniki Ichirou Mizuki, and those were awarded special prizes from the man himself!

For starters, he liked the robot from Team 5, which unfortunately was a little bit broken, and despite Aniki's goading to come on stage, the big dude just couldn't!

And the monster from Team 3 also took home an award for his kawaii antics - I guess the stomping of model houses was too much of a hoot not to award this dude something! And you can see that Aniki really likes this monster's costume design, and also the cherubic face of its wearer beneath its mask!

One for the Album

And the winning ensemble for the COSPLAY Mania came from Team 2, and I guess their mini magic show won the judges over for its ingenuity in the skit. Can't allow them to go empty handed, could you?

All in all, excellent effort to all the participants in bringing their favourite anime characters to life, and entertaining the crowd at the same time. It takes a lot of work to make those costumes, think of some skits, and a whole lot of courage to perform it in front of a live audience!

The Participants!

Ichirou Mizuki aka Aniki Performs 3 Songs For The Crowd!
For fans of Aniki, besides presiding as judge for the Cosplay Mania competition, he also belted out 1+2 songs (I guess given the positive reaction of all the fans present), and the crowd just went wild!

Genius Party Beyond and Koji Morimoto Appearance

Founder of Studio 4°C, Koji Morimoto was present to showcase his very own Dimension Bomb segment from the Genius Party Beyond omnibus, as well as to partake in a short Q&A after the screening. It was something that almost never happened given the shortage of time (The Cosplay Mania event overran the schedule), but the collective jeers of the fanboys made it known to the organizers that they would have none of that, and so everyone did manage to catch Dimension Bomb after all!

No, I don't have clips of the short, although there were a number of cellphone users out there who were recording the entire film. What gives? But anyhow, Dimension Bomb was classic Morimoto, and even though it came without subtitles, the animation itself spoke volumes, and you can't help but to gawk at its quality. I'm already more than psyched to watch Genius Party Beyond, though I suspect we might have to wait if any local festival would pick it up for mass screening here. Watching it on a dinghy television set, does the movie (and this short) no justice.

Speaking through an interpreter during the Q&A session, Morimoto-san shared that the inspiration for Dimension Bomb came from a drawing, which was a set piece that he did, and revealed that he gets inspired by music a lot, whereby he will usually match what he sees on the streets, to the music currently playing in his iPod. The first version of Dimension Bomb was conceived as a music video. When asked what reactions he would expect from an audience after watching this short, he believed that we should not limit our imagination, and through animation, we are able to suspend logic. He drew an analogy just like how a group of people were to touch an elephant in the dark, with each touching a different part, everyone would have different feedback and reactions to his film.

He also explained about the concept of zero-gravity motifs in his works, which was akin to the sense of futile helplessness in fighting against an established system. When asked about the themes of time and dimension, he talked about how he wanted to explicitly represent time and movement in the sense that we're living on a moving planet, and yet we don't feel its movement, and of dimension, that perhaps, without any religious connotations, that there may be someone else in a different space who are controlling our lives here.

And to wrap up, while he was coy about sharing more details about his upcoming works, he did reveal that it would be a story set some 3000 years in the future, which is about daily life on earth. And if he were to make an anime set in Singapore, he would take advantage of our unique race and cultural mix to dwell upon the theme of communication. Needless to say all the local fans went wild and hoped that sometime in the future, that this would somehow come true. Or perhaps, in another dimension!

Educational Industry Seminar with Marimi Sakurai, Studio 4°C
Left: Translator, Right: Marimi Sakurai

Marimi Sakurai is currently a Project Manager with Studio 4°C, and in this afternoon's seminar, she had showcased a slew of Studio 4°C's past, present and future projects, and talked a bit on the anime industry and Studio 4°C in general. Did you know that 80% of the anime studios located in Japan are in the Kanto/Tokyo area? At any one time, Studio 4°C typically has about 50-60 staff members in 3 departments - Production, CG and Drawing. And I guess everyone would know by now about its diverse styles adopted in its projects.

With each new project, the director will work with the main staff of the Studio, and build up a team from there. Depending on the project size, sometimes the headcount would increase to some 80-100 staff in total. Usually, their new projects would generate some buzz in the community, and people would get interested to work on them, hopping on board the team. Originally, Studio 4°C had started off with a group of 5, and gradually after projects, there would be those who decide that Studio 4°C would be the place they want to further their careers. She also revealed the "genetic makeup" of the animators in the company, who are mostly in their early 30s i a young company, and they do hire fresh graduates as well.

To survive and work in the anime industry, she highlighted 3 key traits that one should preferably possess - 1. the love for animation, since you're going to spend long hours on it, 2. good personal discipline especially in time management, and 3. communication skills with others as teamwork is crucial in understand what your team, and the director, want.

Speaking through an interpreter, she jokingly shared that as a studio, they have no sense of doing business! This was in response to a question about how they managed to find balance between doing animation work for others, and doing the same for their own. She explained that the studio only knows that they want to do the best in their work, even though without budget at times, and to push their constraints to the extreme, and that's why perhaps they have so far remained small.

When asked about whether it was difficult in managing the output of rookies versus an experienced animator's, she explained that it was easy to get new blood to come on board and learn, and it takes about 3 months before the fresh animator will be able to work independently on a commercial project.

And I thought she signed off with a peculiar remark, which was true nonetheless, that Animation is timeless and one can go to any work without restriction. The sky's truly the limit (or for mecha fans, that ceiling would of course extend to outer space)!

May'N Concert

May'N's concert wrapped up what was two days of festivities, and too bad since the event is a no-photography/videography one, you won't find any pictures or videos of May'N's performance. But of course I can't vouch for the other blogs out there...

All in all, I thought Anime Festival Asia was a tremendous effort that was pulled off, and looking at the happy faces everywhere around me, I believe it was staged to success, especially when you have some of the big guns of the industry in town and participating in activities these two days in every capacity from seminars, talk shows, games and all things anime. If there's a second edition next year, you can bet I'd surely would very much like to pay a visit again!

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