Archive for November, 2008


AFA08 Report Part 4

This part covers the cosplayers that turned up at AFA as well as the Cosplay Mania event.

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At any anime related event, it is inevitable that cosplayers will make an appearance. For AFA this was further encouraged by the incentive that cosplayers could enter the event free. However, as this was not a pure cosplay event like Cosfest or EOY, it is unsurprising the overall quality and quantity of the cosplay at AFa does not match up with these events, especially considering how close the upcoming EOY is, and that some cosplayers may be reserving their A-game for that.Nevertheless, it does not mean that AFA has nothing to offer cosplay wise. There is still a pretty good variety of anime being represented. How one judges a cosplay effort is entirely subjective (as recent Anime blog Dorama has so highlighted) I’ll just leave a few of the crappy pictures I took and let you make your own decision. Insetad I’ll just highlight some of the trends and more interesting sights of the event.


There were no huge swarms of Naruto/Bleach cosplayers that have so dominated the cosplay events of the previous years that they have become too commonplace, not to say there weren’t any. It seems that lately, more interest is being shifted towards their other Shounen Jump contemporaries such as Soul Eater and D.Gray Man. Similarly over the past year or two, Code Geass has firmly replaced Gundam Seed as the “popular Sunrise Anime” of choice among cosplayers.


Considering the popular shows of the year and the guest line-up for AFA, it comes as no surprise that the most popular anime to be cosplayed was Macross Frontier. Most of them came down in teams, and seeing so many Ranka, Sheryl and Alto clones, it is hard to keep track of how many of them were there. One team that, to me, stood out was a cross generational Macross team featuring Mylene Jenius from Macross 7 and Sharon Apple from Macross Plus in addition to a Sheryl/Ranka pair. There was also a rather…unique… Ranka carrot version cosplayer who I commend for his (I think) ingenuity.


The most standout cosplay was probably the Gundam Exia cosplayer, who previously appeared at this year’s Cosfest, attracting huge droves wherever he went. He even posed alongside his styrofoam double set up at the Bandai booth, but it was clear with his high level of detail and light up features, he was the superior Gundam. In another case, either reflecting on how bad the recession isor just a case of memetic emulation, there was a cardboard box “Gundam” cosplayer in attendance as well.


To me, the gems of cosplay events are those who cosplay characters from less common Anime series,and there were a fair deal of them at AFA. It is great to see characters from shows like Revolutionary Girl Utena, Darker than Black, Kino no Tabi, Trigun and Galaxy Angels amid those from the usual like Haruhi, Ouran and Vampire Knight. For me, the most memorable of these was a Hoihoi-san cosplayer, who came fully decked out in a mascot style costume to achieve the chibi proportions of the character, complete with a small arsenal of weapons to complement the costume. Impressive work there! It also seems the chaarcter mascots from the Vocaloid series of software (especially the famous Hatsune Miku) are becoming more popular with cosplayers, with no less than two teams turning up at the event. As usual, there were those who went with Tokusatsu stuff like Ultraman and Kamen Rider.

So in all, while not as impressive as other events, I felt that as part of an event focusing on quite a few aspects of anime subculture, it served as a good introduction to those casual fans who have not been exposed to the cosplay scene,  and for others, the cosplay at AFA was different enough to be slightly interesting for those who have had previous experience.

Cosplay Mania

On the second day of AFA, the cosplay competition Cosplay Mania was held by the Singapore’s Cosplay Club, the organisers of Cosfest. 9 teams of cosplayers went up on stage to show off their costumes and give a few short performnces. Series represented included, Code Geass, Kingdom Hearts, Trinity Blood, Final Fantasy, Ultraman, Hitman Reborn and even Vocaloids. The winners were chosen by a panel of judges from the Cosplay club, and special guest judge, Aniki himself, Ichiro Mizuki (who gave a mini-concert before the results was announced and wasd th primary reason I came early so as to get a good upfront view of.). I have a few pictures but no videos themsleves. If you wish to watch the performance yourself, a quick search on youtube would yield some results.


I will be honest in saying that the cosplay event itself , witht the exception of a few memorable moments,  was not very impressive, especially if I go by other similar events.  First off, the event did not start well, and for reasons not disclosed was delayed. As such, those who were anticipating the event had to wait around for more than half an hour before it began and it also affected events scheduled after Cosplay Mania.

Now for the performances themselves, I wouldn’t call them terrible for the most part, just completely run of the mill in the “ho-hum, I’ve seen it before” kind of way. Several tried for the Musical route, incorporating songs into their routine. These items would have left a better impression if not for the fact that so many teams tried this approach. Kudos however, to the Kingdom Hearts team that actually sang the songs (rather weill I may add) onstage rather than lipsynch to exisitng songs.

Those who went with skits benfitted froim the similairty between the musical groups and could stand out more. One thing I noticed for this event is the move towards using more prerecorded dialogue in skits rather than depending on the microphone, whther through using clips from the anime or their own scripted voicework (which I find more impressive).  This is a good move on thier part, as many a time have I seen a cosplay skit ruined by the microphone technical problems, or it being just downright obstructive to the performance. Of course this presents a few problems, such as the need to convincingly lipsynch and the loss of spontaniety. However, these problems mainly come into play for skits that require some audience participation, like the Vocaloid team, with their blatant and admitted shilling out for some of the vendors at AFA.

The skits that I find drew the most attention were those that involved extended action sequences, in particular, the Hitman Reborn and the Ultraman skit. Of the two, the Hitman Reborn skit had much more intense choreagraphy and was more convincingly brutal, but the Ultraman skit endured itself to the Audience more thanks to a few nice touches. The inclusion of small cardboard houses on stage during the skit for the monster (and the Ultraman too when he’s not too careful) to trample upon was pretty inspired. The Monster itself turned out to be more cute and cuddly than fearsome, which probably won him the best individual cosplayer award for the event.

Individual Award WinnerIndividual Award Winner

Another team that drew alot of response, though not through their skit itself was a Code Geass team, with one of the team members cosplaying as the Vincent Knightmare frame mecha from the show. All eyes were upon him as he, in his huge bulky costume, had a titanic struggle ascending up the stairs to the stage, at the same time trying to keep his increasingly damaged costume together with duct tape. While his actual performance was not as eventful, it was his determination and inflappable spirit (his V for victory sign after his battle with stairs and falling parts) that won over Aniki, and he was thus awarded the Ichiro Mizuki special award (though he refused to repeat the ordeal up the stairs during the prized giving ceremony to receive Aniki’s specially prepared gifts)

Ichiro Mizuki Special Award WinnerIchiro Mizuki Special Award Winner

Like most cosplay comeptitions, the judging criterion for the winner involves not just how good or faithful their costumes are, but how well their performance manages to capture the spirit of the anime/characters they are playing, at the same time keeping it interesting to watch. In keeping with this, I felt the winning team, yet another Code Geass one, was deserving of the award. Not only was their self scripted skit definitely reminiscent of the high school hijinks portions of the show, but the psuedo “magic” trick employed in their skit also gave it a unique twist.

Overall WinnerOverall Winners

Despite it all I still commend all the cosplayers who participated for having the guts to participate in such events, no matter the grade of their performance. Striking character poses in front of cameramen is one thing, but it is a much bigger ball game to actually act your character on stage in front of a much bigger crowd. After all, Cosplayers will tell you it is not enough to just dress up as their favourite characters, but becoming the character in actions and mannerisms is also a fundamental part of cosplay, and the performers, for the most part were keeping in the spirit of that.

Overall, not counting Aniki’s special performance in the middle, I thought cosplay mania felt like yet another unimpactful cosplay competition in a sea of so many other similar competitions in this small country of Singapore. I know AFA is trying to hit all bases in Anime subculture by including Cosplay Mania, but with so many other bigger and better cosplay competitions through the year, I’m wondering whether holding it borders on redundancy. Then again, it is a good opportunity to expose incoming Japanese guests like Aniki to the local cosplay scene rather than just the cream of the crop he meets at the World cosplay summit. Hearing his thoughts on the activity and learning from them, I think, would help raise the standards of cosplay here in Singapore.

Next, the penultimate part of the AFA coverage, the Guest singers of AFA! Stay tuned.


AFA08 Report Part 3

In this part, we shall be covering the convention’s esteemed guest speakers, namely Mechanical Designer Kunio Okawara and Director Koji Morimoto.

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Kunio Okawara

To the multitude of Gundam fans, Mr Okawara needs no introduction. The man has a long history at Sunrise as the mechanical designer behind some of the most iconic Gundam designs in anime history, including the original RX-78 Gundam and Zakus, essentially laying down the groundwork aesthetics for other real robot animes to follow. He is also known for his versatility, designing mecha on the other end of the spectrum such as the Super Robots of the Yuusha series.  It is thus not hard to see why the man is a legend among mecha fans, who rejoiced thrice over when he was announced as a guest at AFA.

Kunio Okawara Special Prize WinnerKunio Okawara Special Prize Winner

Mr Okawara made his appearance on the first day of the convention, first up, playing guest judge at the Bakuc modeling competition where he handed out the Kunio Okawara special prize to one personally handpicked entry seen below. He cited the reasons for his choice being nice cusomization and strong composition with a good balance between foreground and background in the piece. He also quipped that he wanted to bring it back and put it in his living room. What an honour it must be for the winner to hear that from the main man himself!

Mr Okawara took to the stage later in the day for his main event, a talk on his experience as a mechanical designer in the industry. He started off by showing the intro clips to some of the Gundam shows he worked on from the past to the present, to show the progression in design for the franchise. As he moved towards the more recent shows like Seed and 00, the applause and cheers from the audience after each clip became more and more pronounced (sadly no one even clapped whent he original Mobile Suit Gundam opening was played)


Going into his lecture proper, (conducted in Japanese with the aid of a translator. Due to lack of any proficiency in Japanese, everything I write here will be based on what the translator said), he went on to give a brief description of the design process in the Japanese animation industry. In an anime production, often it is the story concept work that comes first, which usually includes a description of what is needed design-wise for the anime. the story concept is then passed down to the three main design groups, character design, mechanical design, and set design to translate what is written in the concept into a visual form to be used as reference for the actual animation.

Mr Okawara noted that as a mechanical designer,it is extrememly important to be mindful that the animators have to work with your design and make it work in animation, hence it cannot be too overly complex in shape or detail. He demonstrated how different shapes are more difficult to animate  and that designers have to keep that in mind in their designwork. He did this while going through one of his designs from Gundam 00, showing the progression in stages from sketch to final design.  He later commented on how when asked to do designs for video games, he has more leeway to do more detailed designs as video game productions are either on a less hectic schedule than a TV anime or the more extensive use of 3D animation in games.

Mr Okawara demonstrated how he tries to build his mechanical designs around what is needed for the story. Citing that it was the year of the rat, he used rats as the basis for the mechanical designs in his presentation. He demonstrated how subtle design changes can make a difference in the portrayal of the mechanical design (eg. rounded design for “good” guys, angular and sharper for “bad” guys) and also how the story genre affects the design he comes up with.

Good vs Evil Mecha-RatGood vs Evil Mecha-Rat

After this he ran through a gauntlet of designs he’s done over the years, from stuff on kid’s anime like Yattaman and his works for areas outside of anime. He rounded off his slides by mentioning in his spare time he likes to design and build custom trinkets and knickknacks (Votoms scopedog glasses!) in his own workshop.

Like any other talk, they ended off witha question and answer session, except that the questions were already preselected from a bunch e-mailed in before the event. The pool of questions came from all over the world, with contributers writing in under aliases such as “A Char”, “Quattro Bajeena” and “ladiesman217” (props if you catch all those references!) I cannot remember all of the questions or answers, but I’ll cover those that I can remember.

One question asked what inspires him to create his designs, to which Mr Okawara readily admitted that most of his desings are not so much inspired but rather based on what is dictated from the story concept description or the director himself. Another asked how Gundam designs have changed so much compared to the original designs in Mobile Suit Gundam, which Mr Okawara has attributed to the success of the Bandai’s Gundam model kit line. The original Gundam was primarily conceived as an Anime, sohe went with more simple and “Anime-ish” designs. However, when Bandai’s Gundam model kit line really took off, he had to keep in mind that his designs were going to be translated into a 3 dimensional form to be built and assembled by model hobbyists and collectors, hence his designs became more complex and detailed to make them more realistic. The last question i can remember fully was on whether how one can go about becoming a mechanical designer and whther he needs any educational qualifications. Mr okawara said that there is no set path or set of qualifications required to become a mechanical designer, all is needed is practice and needing to get your work out there and seen. If I recall, there was another question asking him  how he would go about designing a Singaporean mecha, the answer had something to do with durians I think.

After his talk, he capped off the day with an Autograph session at the Seminar room, where his fans queued up for their legend to put his signature on their books or Gundam model kits (including, embarassingly, some not even designed by him!). This marked his final official appearance for the two day event.

Koji Morimoto

Mr Koji Morimoto may not have as big a fan following as Mr Okawara, but judging from those who turned up at his AFA talks, they are no less devoted. A veteran of the industry, he worked his way up from animator, to animation director, to director, eventually becoming one of the founders of Animation company Studio 4°C. He has contributed many short works to collaborative projects like Robot Carnival, the Animatrix, Memories and his own Genius Party Beyond. His work, with heavy influence from the Superflat art movement has a style that is entirely his own. To his fans, his coming down to AFA would be a big chance to learn more about the man behind the art.

Mr Morimoto on the left, 0ne on the right Mr Morimoto on the left, 0ne on the right

The dialogue session was held on the 2nd day of AFA and was hosted by 0ne from The FØØL’s Progress. Unfortunately it did not run very long due to the previous event (Cosplay Mania) starting late and running overtime. Hopefully, his fans found his session engaging and interesting enough.

The session began with a screening of Mr Morimoto’s segment of his new collaborative project Genius Party Beyond, named “Dimension Bomb”. I’d give a brief description of the story but due the nature of the short with its lack of any clear linear narrative within the short, intentional on Mr Morimoto’s part, I was left entirely befuddled after that first time viewing. Nevertheless , despite my confusion, I can definitely say it was an impressive and eye-opening animation piece.

Through the dialogue session, Mr Morimoto revealed what went into the production of Dimension Bomb. He first mentioned that while famed music composer Yoko Kanno helped provide some voicework for the short, she was not involved in the music production. Instead, the music was supplied by a British band he previously worked with on the Animatrix, and that the music actually came first before the Animation work. In fact he built “Dimension Bomb” around what he gleamed from the music, which he listened to repeatedly on his Ipod to inspire him, approaching the project in a similar way to how he does music videos.

0ne questioned him on whether the short symbolised a coming of age story, and Mr Morimoto replied that it is up to each individual to come up with their own intepretation, as it was his intention that everyone will take away something different from their viewing of the short. Through his unique visual and narrative style, his main purpose was to convey the feeling that time is non-linear and that any given moment can be seen from the myriad of wildly different perspectives giving rise to different layers or dimensions of reality, hence the name “Dimension Bomb”.

At the end of the session, the dialogue was open to questions from the audience, who asked mainly about his experience on his previous work such as Macross Plus and what work he is working on next (he kept mom on that). One memorable question asked about the recurring motif of weightlessness in Mr Morimoto’s work. After some deliberation Mr Morimoto replied that he believed everyone is one way or another “weighed” down by many obligations in life, hence he uses the concept of weightlessness to represent the general idea of freedom.

For the final question, 0ne asked Mr Morimoto about what he thought of Singapore and how he would use it in an Anime. Mr Morimoto said he was most impressed with the multicultural society of Singapore, and that if he were to ever do an anime on Singapore, his main theme would be cross-cultural communication. Ending off the session, 0ne presented Mr Morimoto with a signed copy of Imaginary Friends Studio’s latest book, The Pepper Project, and thanked him for his time. My Morimoto later adjorned to the Genius Party booth where he held a signing session for his fans.

While Mr Okawara mainted an air of professionalism about him, in contrast Mr Morimoto in all his appearances felt alot more approachable. He was sighted walking freely around the convention on his own without any staff escort, for the most part successfully maintaining his anonymity. He reportedly also gleefully attended Aniki’s performance. It’s good to see that he actually enjoyed the convention and hopefully he (and Mr Okawara) find his trip here to Singapore worthwhile.


AFA08 Report Part 2

Here’s Part 2 of our ongoing AFA report! Covering the stage events of the day (with the exception of the concerts)!

Click here to return to our coverage contents page.

Stage Events

Within less than a day, it is possible to walk one complete round around the grounds and visit almost every areaseveral times over. If you had planned to make the convention a full day affair, there are better things to do than to visit booth X for the upteenth time in  a day.

Fortunately the organisers made use of the convention’s enormous stage, with stage events for the most part of the day, though the interest level of these events vary.

Leading most of these events were a pair of male and female MCs. Both of them were billingual, seemingly fluent in both Japanese and English with most of the conversations switching back and forth between the two languages, useful considering the number of Japanese guests at the convention. I can’t recall the male MC’s name as there was nothing interesting about him other than that he seemed a little bit “fish outta water” and his penchance for pronouncing “Code Geese”. The female MC Reiko was more memorable as it was often her whointeracted with the guests onstage. she also participated in singing during Aniki’s concert on the first day and as a result had somewhat of a sore throat the second day. In all, both were pretty professional, as expected of an event of this level.

Power Rangers with SOS-dan cosplayers

Power Rangers with SOS-dan cosplayers

Anticipating a healthy share of younger convention goers, some event line up were geared more for children. This included a few repeated Tamagotchi and Power Rangers live shows which included phototaking sessions with hired help dressed in full mascot gear or appropriate costume.  Probably great fun for the kids I guess. Also a quick preview of Bandai’s Sangoku Den Gundam model kit line, whose chibiesque designs leave no doubt as to their target audience.  There was also the ineractive game 5 second stadium starring 5 second man, in a display of Japanese milking power ingenuity making a game out of making people accurately time 5 seconds (“with their heart!”).

Bakuc Champion - Perfect Zeong Bakuc Champion – Perfect Zeong

Several Competitions also conducted their prize presentation ceremonies at AFA.  Bakuc the gundam modeling competition whose finalist entries were on display on site presented the awards to top winners in the different categories, including a special prize from Kunio Okawara, the visiting mechanical designer behind many legendary Gundam designs among tothers. Competing art competitions Mangaka and Graphite (organised by NUS Comics and Animation Society) also held their prize ceremonies on the two seperate days. And of course there was the cosplay competition which will be covered in the cosplay section later in this report.

Graphite Competition Prize CeremonyGraphite Competition Prize Ceremony

There were also a few screenings at the stage. Most dominant of them was the screening of the Gundam 3D animation OVA “MS IGLOO” of 6 episodes screened seperately, presumably supplied by collaborator Odex. Screened dubbed in English, the dub itself was pretty good, but the 3d charaqcter models were contorting their faces in ways that did not really match the words. Good effort nevertheless.

There was plans to have a full screening of Genius Party Beyond, put that was cut short as the preceding event ran overtime. Fortunately visitng director Koji Morimoto  managed to reach a satisfying compromise. This is detailed in our next part on the visiting guest speakers.


“The Sky Crawlers” Opens this week!


This award winning anime movie opens this week on Thursday 27th November (The day exams are over for me at least. Aha!).  Check out your nearest theatre for it!

For more info, check our previous post on it.


AFA08 Report Part 1

Click here to return to our coverage contents page.

Entering the Hall

Having been present at the convention from event start to close on both days, I’ve had the priviledge of being part of the long snaking queues waiting outside the hall to enter before opening time. Long queues really can’t be helped, Singaporeans just love their queues, so there was nothing the organisers could do to prevent that. It was a bit disorganized though with confusion on which line is which, but since it’s a first time event, I’m givin them a little leeway. At least when ticketing opened, they managed to clear the preregistrants faster than STCC did. And when the gates finally opened, we didn;t have to wait longer than we needed to. However, according to a friend who entered later in the middle of the day, he spent more than half an hour queuing up for tickets to enter the hall. Looks like there’s still room for improvement there.

The Event Grounds

Occupying two whole halls, putting it on par with STCC in terms of size, however in comparison there are alot fewer individual booths. Not surpising considering that STCC was trying to cover alot of areas of interest at one go and that AFA has to allocate space to accomodate VIPs and and other important guests. Anyway, fewer booths also equates to more walking space. Even at peak crowd, AFA did not reach the near claustrophobic levels of STCC.


Also to make the experience more diverse there were different “experience zones” bringing different things to the table, with the zones ranging from meh (now an official english word!), to pretty informative.

Zones like the Shounen Jump exhibition were pretty plain and small. On the other hand “Anime Blockbuster” area took up alot of space for a place just to screen trailers of series appearing on local TV ad inifinitum, ad nauseum. Admittedly the displays were pretty nice, good for photo backdrops.

Being a big sponsor of the event, naturally Bandai got a big chunk of ground for their own use. The finalist entries in the BAKUC modeling competition were displayed in their Planet Mech section featuring top Gundam creations from the region. They also had an area showcasing their product lineup from chogokins to Ben 10 action figures, where those who attended STCC might experience Deja Vu.  Bandai also had small area for kids to try their hand out at Gundam modeling.

Contrary to what we initially believed, Japanese brands like Kotobukiya , Alter, Max Factory so on and so forth were not actually present at the event. Instead, local figure vendor Toy N Toys put up a display featuring some of the prominent products of these companies. You can pretty much have the same experience talking one walk around China Square Central. A little disappoiting in that regards.

Speaking of which, other than Toy N Toys, there were a few other vendors present at the event, small in number, but covering most bases. Other than the big players like Chuangyi and Takashimaya, venerable collector specialty shops like The Falcon’s Hangar, Vincent’s Toy Collection, Rapid Culture and La Tendo were also around. Of course the most popular booth was KKnM, with otakus all queuing up to get their pick of Anime merchandise. Members from the local industry were around as well. Imaginary Friends Studios promoting their latest book the Pepper Project. Odex selling their new reange of DVDs at pretty reasonable prices. Others represented include Encore Films, Granditech, Passion marketing, all promoting their indivdual businesses.


A few of our local doujin groups taking up residence in the Artists Alley section and selling their doujin merchandise. These include Ctrl+Z, pcmaniac, KAMCAO and the ever popular Collateral Damage Studios whose AFA line up I hear kept selling out. Proudly displayed at their booth is a May’N signed Sheryl Nome of Macross Frontier banner of their own design (Not for sale of course!) with the accompanying Ranka Lee going up for sale during the event (Not sure if there were any takers at the end)

If you’re not there for the shopping however, there are a few other things to do. Japanese Studio 4 degrees had a booth showcasing a few behind the scenes info on their old and current projects Genius Party and Genius Party Beyond. Encore Films had an area dedicated to the upcoming movie the :”Sky Crawlers (see out post here). Animax also had an area to promote their upcoming “Anime” project LaMB (find out more here). Thw two local drawing competitions Mangaka and Graphite (organised by our friends at the NUS Comics and Animation Society) had areas showing off the winning entries of the competitions as well as other artwork including a few featured during Kaleidoscope.

If you’re the Arcade gaming type, an area called the Arena was set aside for players to test their mettle against each other in games like Initial D, Tekken 6 and Street Fighter 4. Tekken 6 was particularly popular with fights being broadcasted drawing quite sizeable crowds.

If you’re really interested in the industry , the Seminar area was used for numerous talks, lectures and panels. They were mostly of the dryer variety and really geared more for people in the business, as such this writer did not stick around much for them.

opening ceremony at the stageOpening ceremony at the stage

Last but not least, the huge Stage area. Naturally alot of space was given in preparation for the concerts being held there (and even then when the time came there was barely enough space!). The area also made a good place to take snapshots of attending cosplayers (More on that later)  . For most of the day, there were seats for people to rest theri feet and enjoy the perofrmances. Each day, the seats would be cleared to make way for concert standing space, and sectioned off for the different paying tiers. I have a few gripes about the stage design, but more on that later. There is always something going on at the stage at any point of the day, that will be covered in our next part!

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November 2008
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