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C3AFA 2018 Day 2

Every year I attend the Singapore edition of C3AFA - more commonly known as Anime Festival Asia - I'm reminded of how much the exhibition has grown since its first run in 2008, where the attendance was barely a third of what it is in recent years. This year's convention pulled out all the stops before anyone even entered the halls, not surprising considering that this is its 10th anniversary. The talent lineup for the I ♥ Anisong concert and Day Stage activities would've sealed the deal for many visitors, myself included. Think Kawasumi Ayako; the voice actress for Fate/Stay Night's Saber and her many variations, Mimori Suzuko of Love Live! and Tantei Opera Milky Holmes fame and Takahashi Rie; voice actress of Megumin from Konosuba and Emilia from Re:Zero. Personally, the exhibitors, Creator's Hub and Akiba Stage activities were a bonus, seeing how much focus was placed on the Day Stage activities.

It's been more than a week since C3AFA has concluded its three-day long run and I think its a good time to take stock before next year's edition. Unfortunately, or otherwise for the organisers, I feel that the event is experiencing some growing pains and scaling issues. But there's definitely much praise to be given to this year's C3AFA.

The Good
Like I said, the talent lineup was amazing, especially on the 2nd day's Day Stage which featured Fate/Grand Order, Sword Art Online: Alicization, Love Live! Sunshine!! and A Certain Magical Index III. Visitors were queuing way before the section's doors opened just to get front row seats and I'm willing to bet more than a few of them didn't even leave because they were fans of all the franchises that were featured. I could barely sneak in a lunch break between the Fate/Grand Order and Love Live! Sunshine!! slots. That being said, standing and seating room was abundant because the Day Stage area would serve as the venue for the I ♥ Anisong concert later in the evening. The icing on the cake would be the emcees for the two activities enhancing the overall experience, kudos to them.

Although portions of the artiste appearances were obviously scripted and certain guidelines and formalities had to be followed, it was hardly a snoozefest, with fans getting more than their money's worth. Perhaps the most memorable moment would be the Fate/Grand Order panel being genuinely surprised to find out that almost every member of the audience played the Japanese version of the game instead of the English one and were up to date with it, to boot. It made the experience a lot more casual. Likewise for the Love Live! Sunshine!! panel, where the audience understood enough Japanese to perform the call and responses with Saitou Shuka and Furihata Ai without the need for the emcee translating, amongst other moments.

For the main exhibition, the booths were much bigger and grander than previous editions, especially the Fate/Grand Order and Bandai Namco ones. Heck, there were even two gigantic posters promoting the English version of Fate/Grand Order, with each one being one to two storeys tall. The other booths were no slouches either, being a lot more immersive and well-designed than the spartan booths of years past. I sincerely hope that the scale and design of C3AFA's exhibiton hall reaches the level of Japan's Wonder Festival or even FGO Fes in recent years.

Even Akiba Stage was packed with appearances and entertaining performances. Judging by the crowd and how enthusiastic the artistes were, one could hardly tell that it was the fringe lineup that was being featured. There was definitely something for everyone in this year's C3AFA, be it the hardcore merchandise collector or casual anime fan. I swear the Creator's Hub was a lot bigger than I remember it to be as well, which brings me to my next point...

The Bad
Unfortunately, as talented as the artists were and as much as I wanted to snap up a few fanmade stickers of my own, the Creator's Hub was a chore to navigate, especially with dual entrance and exit points. The crowd was relentless and it seemed as if every lane was packed at any given moment. I was fortunate to get the attention of the stallowners quickly and bought whatever I needed, with a free Nero Claudius sticker to boot. However, I did not enjoy pushing my way through the crowd and I didn't even consider entering the hub a second time.

The problem with crowd management seemed to be an issue through the whole exhibition as well and not just for the Creator's Hub, especially as booths held their own games and activities that attracted more than a few people. The organisers could've improved the layout of the booths or expand the exhibition hall itself while shifting the I ♥ Anisong concert and Day Stage activities to another area but that in itself is a hassle. I'm looking forward to next year's edition to see how this problem is dealt with. On the flip side, it does mean that C3AFA today is far from a niche convention and having a packed hall is definitely better than an empty one, especially with the entire floor being dedicated to this one event.

What's Next?
All in all, I definitely enjoyed C3AFA this year despite how packed it was on Day 2 and even though I spent a good amount of time in the Day Stage area rather than the main exhibition. Heck, I didn't even have time to take a look at the Food Street. The event is experiencing some growing pains of its own but that's to be expected, considering it's the biggest anime convention outside of Japan. Although I'm more interested to know whether the organisers behind popular conventions in Japan are keen on porting their own events to our little red dot, seeing how big the market is for anime and Japanese pop culture in general. In the meantime, one can hope.

Here are some of the event highlights...

That's all for me. For the sentimental ones, you may like to read Nana's coverage on AFA 2016.

Written by ET

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