Anime Festival Asia 2009

Anime Festival Asia 2009

The up-and-coming fest pulls out the stops for its second edition


Originally published on on November 2009

Courtesy of afa and sozo pte ltd.

Courtesy of afa and sozo pte ltd.

East Asia is in love with Japanese pop culture, but the feeling hasn’t always been mutual. Creators of anime and manga here often complain of piracy and copyright violations, with web-savvy South Korea in particular being a hotbed of illegal downloading. Helping to build bridges between Japan and its neighbors is Singapore, an emerging international hub that hosts Anime Festival Asia later this month.

AFA was founded last year to celebrate Japanese pop culture in Southeast Asia. Although Singapore has hosted similar events in the past—fan gatherings like EOY and Cosfest, and industry expos like the Singapore Toy, Games and Comic Convention—nothing has approached this scale.

© 2009 horipro

© 2009 horipro

Ahead of the inaugural event, organizers said they hoped to replicate the success of such large-scale conventions as the Tokyo International Anime Fair and southern California’s Anime Expo. Sponsors include Singapore’s top exhibition company, I-Promo, Japanese content developer SOZO and Dentsu Singapore, plus corporations like Bandai, Sanyo and Animax. With these companies on board, AFA was able last year to invite some of the industry’s big names, including legendary “King of Anisongs” Ichiro Mizuki and pop idol May’n (left), as well as speakers like Studio 4°C co-founder Koji Morimoto and Gundam mechanical designer Kunio Okawara. Exclusive products from Bandai, Kotobukiya and Medicom Toy were on display, and an entire section of the 5,000m2 Suntec International Convention and Exhibition Center was transformed into something called Planet Mech. An industry seminar was also held to forge closer ties and expand the fan base while curtailing online piracy.

At the very least, the Japanese companies couldn’t complain about their brisk business: some 46,000 fans were in attendance at AFA 2008.

“It was a defining moment in Southeast Asian otaku history,” says Derek Teo, 33, a well-known blogger from Singapore. “I’d say this event is something that we’ve all waited a long time for.”

This year’s edition promises to be even bigger. Themed areas will include Akiba Town, Gundam Zone and the newly formed Moe Moe Kyun Maid Café and Kids Land. Other highlights are the Regional Cosplay Championship and Bandai Action Kits Universal Cup. Mizuki and May’n will make return engagements, and they’ll be joined by singer Yoshiki Fukuyama and idoru-voice actress Shoko Nakagawa. Fans can also expect a visit from Danny Choo, the famed otaku blogger who parades around Tokyo in full Stormtrooper armor.

“I am honored to be given the opportunity to be involved with AFA,” says the 37-year-old Londoner. “I have many readers in the region and look forward to meeting them.”

Choo will be discussing the potential of online communities and consumer-generated media, as well as his new book, Otacool: Worldwide Otaku Rooms, a photo album comprised of images submitted by some of his estimated 2 million users.

That is just the sort of grassroots interaction that AFA’s organizers are hoping to inspire.

“AFA is geared towards bringing together the community to celebrate all the things they love,” says executive director Shawn Chin, “and to provide a platform that will allow the regional and local anime generation direct access to very exclusive content never before available in this part of the world.”

AFA takes place November 21-22. For more details, see