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[Anime Key Player Interview #12]
Jewel Wong, Guest Relations Director and one of the Founders of Cosplay Mania, an anime and cosplay-centered convention in the Philippines Part.1

2019.12.09



Japan Anime Music Lab. had time to sit and talk with Ms. Jewel Wong, one of the Founders and Guest Relations Director about Cosplay Mania, the largest Japanese contents convention in the Philippines. Cosplay Mania is an annual anime and cosplay-centered convention which features various activities such as cosplay competition, exhibition, and concerts. In this interview, Ms. Wong will tell us about the convention and herself.


It’s nice to meet you, Jewel. First, could you please tell us about yourself.

- I’m 100% Filipino, born and raised in Luzon island, where Manila is, in the Philippines. I have a husband but we don’t have any kids. We just spent our 10th anniversary in February.


Congratulations!

- Thank you! I have one older sister. She’s the same age as my husband. We’re old~ (laughs).


Tell us about your childhood and career.

- I was in an all-girls Catholic school from grade school until college. As you may know, the Philippines is 80-90% Catholic so we have a lot of churches. For my career, I started organizing events in 2006 as a hobby. Cosplay Mania itself was first held in 2008. I used to be a software quality tester. I was a manager for testers for an Australian bank, so I was in a totally different industry. I also bake; I have a baking business, and I resell Japanese anime merchandise from Japan, because there are no local distributors in the Philippines.


So you chose this industry because of your hobby?

- Yes, I’ve been watching anime since I was in sixth grade, about 12 years old. The first anime I’ve seen is Sailor Moon. It holds a special place in my heart. I also learned how to draw because of Sailor Moon. Actually, my friends and I just stumbled upon the organizing part. We wanted to create an event for the cosplayers by the cosplayers, because most of us were cosplayers back then. We don’t cosplay now because we are more focused on organizing events. Because there are things that event organizers then did not appreciate or understand about cosplayers, their needs and such, so that’s what we do: we give more for the cosplay community to grow.


When did you start getting interested in Japanese anime?

- Sailor Moon was the real catalyst. I sang the songs. I started memorizing hiragana and katakana so I’m okay with those but not kanji (laughs). I love the culture, the places, the efficient transport system, because there is no such thing in our country. My love for Japan went full blown when I first came to Japan a few years ago. We don’t usually travel, but when my husband and I came here for the first time, we fell in love with everything: the cherry blossoms and the culture. It’s bit sad for my country because there’s not much to see except for the beaches and the food but Japan has something different, so my husband and I want to come back every year, hopefully and visit a lot of places. I’ve been to a lot already: Nagasaki, Hiroshima, Nagoya, Kyoto, Nara, Osaka, Nikko in Tochigi. I’ve been everywhere. I haven’t been to Sapporo in Hokkaido nor Okinawa, though.
 


That’s a lot of places!

- Yes, my friend and I are trying to visit all prefectures in Japan. She’s been to more places than me. I’m doing it one at a time.


So you first encountered anime when you were in primary school?

- Yes, I was 12. After Sailor Moon, I started watching Yu Yu Hakusho, Time Quest (Time Travel Tondekeman), Magic Knight Rayearth, Tosho Daimos, and Chodenji Machine Voltes V, also Super Boink (Tonde Burin).


I can see you’re really an anime fan.

- Yes, we could watch a lot of anime in the Philippines, like Ranma 1/2, Hunter x Hunter. They used to be dubbed in Filipino and shown on local TV channels, but nowadays they’re shown subtitled on cable TV. A lot of fans prefer to see subtitled versions because sometimes dubbed versions can’t really capture the essence of the characters. With Sailor Moon and Magic Knight Rayearth, they localized the opening songs, so when my friends and I go to karaoke, we sing both the Filipino and Japanese versions. Karaoke places with Japanese songs are not so common in the Philippines. Going back to the topic, they also showed Slam Dunk, so we sing the songs.


Are there a lot of karaoke places in the Philippines?

- With Japanese songs, no. I only know one, but the song database isn’t even updated. There’s one place we used to frequent but it already closed down.


What other songs do you like?

- Since I love anime, I used to record the opening and ending songs of the anime I watch and sing along to them when I did household chores and my mother would scold me for being so loud (laughs).

After anisong, I delved into J-pop. The first J-pop music video I saw was Ayumi Hamasaki’s Voyage. I’m a very big Ayumi Hamasaki fan while my husband is a Hikaru Utada fan. From there I got into Visual Kei: L'Arc-en-Ciel, Dir En Grey, Malice Mizer, Nightmare, and so on. I also listen to Shiina Ringo, to Tokyo Jihen before she went back to doing solo work. What else? Luna Sea and X Japan! Yoshiki, Gackt… I have DVDs of Gackt at home.


What are you most into?

- I love Sailor Neptune and Sailor Uranus so I have one whole cabinet of goods of them. My husband and I are also fans of Evangelion, so we have another cabinet for Rei Ayanami goods. Recently, I’m into Haikyu!!, and I’m excited for the new season. I also love yaoi (also known as boys’ love that features homoerotic relationships between male characters), the first yaoi I’ve seen is Gravitation. I’ve seen Ai no Kusabi, Sekai-ichi Hatsukoi, Junjo Romantica: Pure Romance, and so on.


How are the fans in the Philippines?

- The fans are very vocal and loud. Last year, we invited voice actors Chiharu Sawashiro and Shunsuke Takeuchi and the fans were screaming so loud. We also had Hiroto Kuramasu from Cybird, an otome game company, and whenever he did kabedon, everyone would melt on the spot. I warned the exhibitors near the area that they need to plug their ears because of the screaming.


You know a lot about Japanese contents!

- Yes, I’m also a gamer. My favorite game is the Shin Megami Tensei series so I’ve played Persona 3 to 5. I even borrowed my former colleague’s PSP just to play Persona 3 and I completed it twice in two weeks because I wanted to see the special ending. I’ve completed Persona 5 three times since I really like the gameplay and the themes are very mature; it revolves around adultery, abortion, premarital relations and so on. I also like Harvest Moon, the farming simulation game. My very first game was Super Mario Bros. on the Nintendo Family Computer. I’ve played a lot of games. If the story is good, I play the game regardless of whether they’re Western, Japanese or wherever it is from.


How about mobile games?

- On my phone I play Haikyu!! and Bungo Stray Dogs. Cells at Work! is coming out so I might download that. I play Pokemon Go whenever I’m in Japan, because you can walk around. It’s hard to do that in my country. I also have Ragnarok and Onmyoji on my phone. I’m not really into the idol, rhythm game genre.


What other items of Japanese contents do you have? 

- I collect artbooks of Sailor Moon, books of Gackt, Ayumi Hamasaki, and L'Arc-en-Ciel.


What type of anisong are you personally interested in?

- Alternative rock, that’s why I listen to L'Arc-en-Ciel. I really like bands. I also listen to pop. I’ve been listening to BRADIO a lot lately, because it’s disco pop and reminds me of the 80’s. I also went to see The Oral Cigarettes. I’m quite open to various genres of music, if it sounds interesting to me. Shiina Ringo, for instance, is more on the jazz genre; she has saxophones and xylophones in her concerts. I have one of her CDs. For anisong artists at our event, we usually invite those who have not been in our country and those who sang songs for anime that has been shown in the Philippines. I listen to their songs and when I think they’re good, I start listening to their music on Spotify.


Next : Jewel Wong Interview Part.2 will be published on 17 December, 2019!

 

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