Presenting the best animanga event of Sydney: SMASH!
First off, I apologize for leaving Prisma Illya reviews to the winds just because I had to fly to Sydney but there have been upsides to my visit here. The foremost being SMASH! (Sydney Manga & Anime Show) convention coverage (#smashcon in short), on 10th August, 2013. The bus-ride to the city was non-eventful except for the L (Death Note) and Grell (Kuroshitsuji) cosplayers chatting each other up but while walking towards Darling Harbour, I feared there being less attendees because so few were out and about in the downtown. It was not even 9am and being a Saturday, I expected nothing less but reaching the convention center pulled my faith back on fandom enthusiasts because there was a huge crowd outside lining up to go in. For the first time readers, SMASH! is an event that was started by an artist seven years ago, who wanted to create a convention for artists and anime fans alike. Quoting from the official site:
SMASH! is run by SMASH Inc, a non-profit organisation created by fans for fans, aiming to create an open and affordable avenue that serves as a meeting point for fans and encourages art, creativity and community involvement.
I forgot to photograph a game poster by Mindscape, which came along the entry-kit but you can clearly see, it was a packed schedule
While chatting up Susan Ma, PR Coordinator for SMASH!, who graciously arranged a media pass for Metanorn, even when I applied just two days before the event! I found out that SMASH! has expanded on yearly basis and on its seventh year, it easily boasted around eight thousand (7800+) attendees. It’s no surprise that more people visited with a stellar guest line-up. “Our goal is to inspire excitement about Japanese pop culture and thus making SMASH! an experience for animanga fans. We are improving and expanding every year and with new alliances, expect more every year.”
And I would definitely expect more if I’m around for the next year because they are moving from the scenic Darling Harbour’s Convention Centre to Rosehill Gardens for a two day event in 2014. I can see why Susan stressed on bigger place with more attendees and an expanded guest line-up. I definitely felt one day was not enough as I couldn’t experience everything I wanted to but more on that later. Let me start from the beginning of getting the entry-kit and later shenanigans.
// Vendor Hall - With the help of media pass, I had an early access to all areas but the first place I landed up on was the huge Vendor Hall. Stalls till your eyes can see with animanga paraphernalia literally goading you to take them home; from cute little plushies to elaborate costumes, T-shirts, posters and figures to make you drool buckets. My first trek around was with wonder, awe and the wish to TAKE HOME EVERYTHING! I liked the arrangement of the Vendor hall with the main shops in the middle, while artists and smaller booths around them in a circle (check the map here). I found merchandise on almost all the major titles including the recent rave of Free!, Shingeki no Kyojin, Monogatari with old favourites like Madoka Magica, K-On!, Kuroko no Basuke and the usual shounen suspects.
Vendor Hall also housed the Gunpla stall and workshop. What is a convention without Gundam? So, they definitely had a center-stage on activities along with a gaming arena near the entrance. As expected from most convention, the merchandise was over-priced but for people who do not want to go hunting in niche markets, this was the right place to get their hands on fandom goodies. My only let-down was not finding anything Steins;Gate to get it signed by Feyris-nyaan.
My lining up time paid off well :3 (Top two showcase the Morita signed Bakuman, while bottom left has Momoi and Hidenori autographs)
// Signing Room - It seems, half of my convention time was spent lining up to get autographs from the special guests. The signings were arranged pretty nicely with advance tickets to be collected from the SMASH! staff and then lining up on scheduled times for it. There was no specific signing from Loverin Tamburin, but I lined up fair and square for shaking hands with Morita, who was pretty happy to see my Bakuman Vol.12 featuring Hiramaru, Momoi’s Feyris-nyaanism and Hidenori’s serious hello. Some fan reactions were pretty hilarious but I got most chuckles by reading the printed dialogues on placard signs, while we walked towards the celebrities, either put up by SMASH! or Japan Foundation Staff but the gist was a mix of: Konnichiwa! Kakkoi! Sugoi! Suki desu! Fan desu! Yume mitaiii!, etc. It was fun to be prepared and some Japanese speaking people had a kick out of it.
// Main Stage - This place was booked for AMV Screening (there was a competition and participants even won awards later), Momoi and Tamburin concert, Morita panel, Charity Auction and the Madman Cosplay Competition, which I completely missed. Out of these events, I was able to see Momoi perform and let me tell you, she definitely has a lot of energy and gathered a crowd around the stage while performing. Some guys found a light saber and neon-lights to dance along with her. She performed some songs from her latest single and a special service song from Steins;Gate. She mostly spoke to the audience with her Feyris-tan voice, which was kawaiiii for real!
// Morita Panel - I skipped the Tamburin concert but could never miss the Morita panel. He live-dubbed two scenes from Bleach (Rukia entering Ichigo’s room for the first time and him being beaten around by Ururu for training), and Tiger & Bunny (Christmas present for Bunny-chan and princess-carrying Tiger) each, while a bonus from Baccanno! with the Felix proposing scene. He was randomly asked some questions by the anchor but it was sad to see no questions were taken from the audience.
Morita explained how Tiger and Bunny was conceptualized with a target market of salary men in their thirties and fourties with a touch of American superhero comic feel. It was to cheer on these men who work hard, but who would have thought that this series would capture a dedicated female crowd who are mostly filled with fujoshis, drooling after the fried rice that Kotetsu cooked for Barnaby, pun intended… He even enacted how he would talk to a guy and girl separately (a lucky girl was picked from the audience for this), and let me tell you, this ikemen knows some real moves and you can’t expect less from him being a very popular seiyuu after all. He ended the panel by making everyone in the audience stand up and scream BANKAI. He played the crowd pretty well.
// Hidenori and Hanabee Panel - After Morita panel, I could only attend two panels; one from Hidenori, while the second one from the Academic Panelists on Evolution of Cats in Japanese Imagery. I wasn’t present the entire length of Hidenori panel but I got in the middle of him talking about highlights of his animation career, both Evangelion productions, Ah! My Goddess, Steamboy and even Gankutsuou. He drew a quick Evangelion animation sequence on his notepad, of Asuka punching Shiji. So appropriate is all I have to say.
On my trek to the Hanabee panel room between signings and buying more goodies, I wasn’t surprised to see Nyanko-sensei from Natsume Yuujinchou depicted during the Cats Imagery discussion. The panelists started with the cute side of things from nekomimi then transitioning to the scary version of their demon/cursed forms from old lore. Interesting to note, Natsume Sōseki, the renowned novelist from Meiji era (you might better know him as the write of Kokoro in Aoi no Bungaku), wrote a witty book on cats, “I am a cat, but I have no name”. Though, no reference of Nekomonogatari came, which was surprising when they even covered bake-neko. Most probably due to the PG-rating no sexual references were made so the favourite topic of yaoi-lovers in terms of who’ll be the bottom/neko/uke was not even touched upon.
// Other Events - Of course, it’s not humanely possible to attend everything. I couldn’t even glimpse the Screening theater and multiple hobby and cosplay workshops on card games, doll making and a dedicated Arts room for doodle submissions. There was a Gaming arena, Karaoke room and a Maid Café as well. But alas, the time just flew by and I couldn’t kage bunshin myself at multiple places. As I had to leave a bit early, I completely missed the Cosplay competition, the main stage area was jam packed due to it but at least I have some photos thanks to Yvonne who attended it.
// My SMASH! 2013 Stash
From top right, along with the HHHNNNGGG beautiful Shiki figure and autographs, I got my hands on Gilgamesh chibi from Fate/Zero, Izaya, Asuka and Kaworu badges, a Barnaby tsundere mini-figure, GARcher from Fate/stay night figure, Bakuman vol.12, FMA last volume and Ginko, Tiger, Levi and Kuroko bookmarks.
On my multiple treks to Vendor Hall, I shelled out most of my available cash (around$200) on random merchandise along with manga, chibi to mid-sized figures, including my most prized possession of this convention, the Ryougi Shiki figure in a beautifully traditional kimono, wielding Kanesada Kuji (the katana you glimpsed in movie five, Paradox Spiral). The latter I purchased after much thought, the responsibility of which lies with some of my twitter pals.
// Final Thoughts - For a first convention experience, this was pretty smashing for the lack of a better word. I was literally on my feet for more than eight hours but there was no tiredness or fatigue. Hours zoomed by without even knowing and it was already 5pm and I had to run. One thing I would like to highlight is the friendly staff, who really did a job well done. The only turn-off was no photography of celebrities so I can’t boast to people while posing beside Masakazu Morita that I met him. ;__;
I was glad to get a partner in crime, Elleran, who I hung out with throughout the con. She’s a budding artist and the Shingeki no Kyojin doodle of Mikasa and Eren she submitted was pretty rad! A big shoutout to her as I’m using two of her images, along with Yvoon (who I couldn’t sadly meet). I also met an aniblogger friend Raph, who is pretty cool. We plan on talking about seiyuuism to no end very soon.
I caught up to Susan before leaving the convention and she has the below message for Australian enthusiasts:
“I see the potential of fandom on rise with most of the attendees being kids of 90s, starting off anime experience with Dragon Ball Z, then slowly learning about anime and deciding to check out more material. The transition to dressing up as your favourite character to hanging out with likeminded people, fandom culture has definitely expanded and the reason, every year the attendees are increasing. So, if you are in Australia and haven’t attended SMASH yet, I definitely recommend doing so. SMASH is the epitome of fandom with arts & crafts, games, merchandise and cosplay. It’s not every day that you attend such an event so come on down next year and celebrate the amazing culture with us.”
Overall, I had fun, even with my pockets empty I HAVE NO REGRETS! And hopefully will attend next year too. For an ending note, do share your first time convention experience and in case you have a story to tell as we are all friends here. And now to the cosplay images and videos you guys are dying to see. Do look beyond the spoiler tag as there’s more. For additional convention images, check out our Facebook album.
// Bonus Vidoes //
SMASH! Cosplay Part 1
SMASH! Cosplay Part 2
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// Bonus Cosplay Images //
Madoka party going strong
Red Saber not so canon but at least there was Kiritsugu and Gilgamesh
Some Free! love
Oh hi there, megane-kun~
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- Videos: deerstalkerpictures (for cosplay part 1&2) & Ip Samuel (for Love Live! performance)
- Images: Yvoon (for Free!, Magi and Cosplay stage image), Elleran (for live dub image), and Capsule Computers (for Fate/Zero cosplay image)
- All other images are copyright Metanorn. Ask for permission before using! As I can’t add all images here, check our Facebook album for more images.