Madman Anime Festival 2016

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I recently attended the inaugural Madman Anime Festival, held at the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Melbourne at the start of September. While the grey Melbourne weather wasn’t the most accommodating, the attitude of festival attendees couldn’t be brighter.

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As with any convention, the Anime festival was crammed full of booths to purchase goodies – retails stores in the “Akiba Shopping Zone” and handmade handicrafts within the “Creator Zone”. The former is what you’d expect to see: Funko pop figures, optical media, collectibles. The latter consisted of mainly fan-art posters with with odd smattering of knitted & crochet nick-knacks. This was a pleasant surprise and while some artworks weren’t up to the same quality as others, I couldn’t help but admire their gumption. It isn’t easy to lay out one’s art for public criticism, let alone sell it.

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The “One Punch Man” experience was a large corralled area with an arcade strength tester (those games that test the strength of your punch) and an open space for photo’s. Not really an “experience” if you asked me – a mediocre effort at best. Quite disappointing as I’m a big One Punch fan.

There was also a Maid Cafe which sounded interesting but unless you were prepared to wait in a very long line, you weren’t going to know what it was like – the entire cafe was walled off from prying eyes. I did manage a glimpse of a very sparse room with a couple being waited on though. Intrigued, but not enough to warrant standing still for long periods at a time. Maybe next year…

Fans of Tokyo Ghoul would have been pleased to know that there was a decent exhibition, showing off concept art and stills from the anime. Not only that, there were also progress shots and “before / after” comparisons from various scenes. This was my pick of the show – I’ve a soft spot for concept art. I wish that there had been more of this stuff though, perhaps from a couple of other popular anime’s or games. I’m sure space was at a premium and to be honest, unless another expo shed is hired / opened, there probably isn’t going to be much room for anything else in next years’ showing.

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Another disappointment was the Japanese Street Food corner which was a small stall with a very limited selection of items available on the menu, coupled with a very long line. For something that was advertised as a feature, it was very underwhelming. I would have expected a row or stalls covering different cuisines, not just the paltry display that was on offer.

It doesn’t help that there wasn’t much choice in the way of food – either the “street food corner”, the maid cafe (pfft, wait in line for lunch to get in for dinner) or vending machines. I ended up ducking out to the Crown Casino food court, across the road from the expo centre.

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A small contingent of video games were present, mainly from Namco-Bandai and the most notable titles available to play being Tekken 7 and Final Fantasy 15. Some older games were also on show, but nothing  that you haven’t seen or probably already have in your own collection. I would have liked to give Final 15 a go, but again, lines and wait times were a major detractor. RPG’s probably aren’t the best to demo when given limited time and a high number of patrons.

Rounding up the main expo hall was the cosplay stage and photo booths, which were a pretty nifty idea. There was a range of photo booths with different backgrounds suitable for most genres of cosplay, all well lit. Directly opposite that was the stage where various guest performed live podcasts and presentations as well as where the cosplay competition was held (well, one of the cosplay competitions).

Across the road from the main hall within the Plenary was the Animelab theatre running episodes of anime as well as the Bushiroad card comp. The Plenary also housed on-stage discussions with special international guests consisting of voice actors, anime directors and the National Cosplay Championship (which I missed sadly) to name a few.

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In between both, braving the Melbourne outdoors, was a wealth of convention goers posing for photos in cosplay getup, performing choreographed dances in groups and the usual small congregations of patrons (no doubt taking a breather from the crushing mass of people inside the expo hall).

While the festival covered both buildings of the exhibition centre, the whole thing seemed quite small, relatively speaking. The expo hall was packed which was great for the festival, but as you had to be mindful of the cosplayers’ often over-sized and delicate outfits, it made the little available room to move even smaller.

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So Madman’s first anime outing; not bad for their first attempt. While there were a lot of great things about this expo, there is certainly room to improve. I’m sure next year’s shindig will be one you don’t want to miss.

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