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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.2


Moving on, could you tell us about your event, Cosplay Mania?

- Cosplay Mania was started in 2008 by a group of friends. It was conceptualized in 2004. We had an online forum called Filcosplay, which was an online community of cosplayers. After two years, we established the organization Cosplay.ph. We were just a group of friends who contributed money to start a website; back then, we really didn’t think about creating an event for the cosplayers. Since we were also volunteering for events, we thought “why not make an event for the cosplay community?” something that is different from other events, most of which were for profit.

 In 2008, we rented a small hall inside a shopping mall and held Cosplay Mania for the first time. It was then just a one-day event. We were very surprised by the reception. There were so many people that we ran out of the tickets we prepared ourselves so we had to buy those generic ones sold in stationery stores. It was so crowded that once you enter, you’ll be pushed outside. In 2009, Cosplay Mania was held for two days and this time in two halls, but it’s still the same. Once you go in, you’ll be pushed out by the crowd. Our host was so nervous because the stage was moving due to the crowd. We had competitions but there was no specific format.

 In 2010, we moved to a bigger venue, SMX Convention Center, which is the present venue of Cosplay Manila. We had Seven Eleven as a sponsor then and those who bought tickets are entitled to 10 cups of Slurpees (a frozen carbonated beverage). We had attendees complaining they had too many cups of Slurpees (laughs). It was also the first time we had cosplayer guests; we invited cosplayers from Singapore. In 2012, it was the first time we brought cosplayer guests from Japan. In 2014, we had our first Japanese anisong artists, Aya Ikeda and Loverin Tamburin as guests.

 By inviting Loverin Tamburin, we were invited to participate in Haneda International Anime Music Festival, held in the TIAT Hall at Haneda Airport. We sent a representative from the Philippines to showcase the Filipino talent in Japan.

 In 2015, we invited Ladybeard and he covered some anime songs. It was also the year we invited Pile from the Love Live! series. In the following years, as the event grew bigger, the guests also increased. In 2017, we rented the whole second floor, that’s five function halls, of the convention center just for Cosplay Mania. It was pretty big, but the problem we had with holding the event on the second floor is the floor moves when people jump during the anisong concert. The administration assured us that it was a safety feature, but when artists like kradness, encourage people to jump, we get nervous.

 The following year, for our 10th anniversary, we rented three halls on the first floor instead. It’s the same size as four function rooms on the second floor, but with higher ceilings, bigger stage, better lighting. We subcontract the best sounds and lighting people. We invited anisong artists fhána, Megumi Nakajima, Zwei and AiRI. We were also the first event to invite stage actors in Southeast Asia. The fanbase is growing in our country. A lot of people are following the 2.5D genre that’s big here in Japan. There are Filipino fans who fly all the way here to watch the 2.5 stage plays and musicals. Cosplay Mania is always open to covering different fanbases at our event; for example, when we invited Megumi Nakajima, the Macross fans attended the event. When we invited Cybird, an otome game company, fans of otome games attended the event and bought goods. Through this, our Japanese partners learn that there is a market in our country. We also had Lumica and they held the Cyalume Dance World Battle at their booth. We also had anisong DJs for the first time, and this, again opened up another avenue. We were surprised to see that people were receptive to DJ performances even if it was on a small stage. We are always open to trying new things at our event: new marketing stuff, new sponsors, new exhibitors, new Japanese contents for the Filipino fans to experience. Last year, we had a total of 40,000 attendees for two days.

Did you encounter difficulties in organizing events?

- Yes, the government. Just kidding (laughs). Well, it’s difficult to get permits because there’s a lot of things you need to get, like the permit to organize the event, the Mayor’s permit which the venue needs, the permit to use songs, and so on. In particular, when we started inviting anisong artists, there are three government agencies which you need to get permits from, and it’s very costly. We’re used to it now so it’s not much of a problem. Booking the venue, however, is difficult, because many organizers use the same venue. We need to book the venue in advance. At present, we’ve booked the venue until 2022, so the dates for Cosplay Mania 2020 have already been decided. It’s going to be on October 3-4, I think. We usually plan in advance so when you exit the venue of Cosplay Mania, you can already see the dates of Cosplay Mania for the following year on signages. We do this because most of our attendees save money for tickets first, when we announce them in June, then next for goods, or if they live far, they can book flights in advance. That’s how it is in our country. We need to release information in advance so that people can prepare.

Could you tell us more about the attendees?

- The age range of our attendees is between 14 to 40 years old. We also have attendees flying in from all over Southeast Asia, because as I mentioned before, we were the first to bring stage actors in Southeast Asia, so we had attendees from Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore. There are also fans who flew from Japan because it’s easier for them to join the event since there is no lottery for the tickets.

How much percentage are Filipino among the attendees? 

- I think it’s still 90%, but we are trying our best to make it an international event, to encourage foreigners to come to our event, to our country. We are trying to get the Department of Tourism to help us attract more foreigners. The farthest country I know where a fan flew all the way from is Canada. Because we announced the guest in advance and the person was a big fan, she purchased a ticket to the event online, and she was able to get into the venue earlier. That’s one of the perks of buying tickets in advance; you don’t have to queue to get tickets on-site.

Cosplay Mania has a lot of contents like cosplay, music, exhibitions, merchandise. Which content do you think is the most popular?

- I think it’s the guests but this is probably just my personal opinion because I am the Head for Guest Relations as well as Sales. If a sponsor or an exhibitor has an activity, it becomes popular. Some attendees aren’t there for the guests but for the experience. Yoshinoya, for example, has a gyudon (Japanese beef bowl) eating contest. Nissin Cup Noodles also holds games for attendees and gives away prizes. Animax distributes goodies for attendees who filled out forms. We used to have auctions of anime merchandise. Cosplay is also popular because you can cosplay without being bothered and just have fun with your friends. It’s something unique to Cosplay Mania because it’s a venue where people can meet up, reunite with old friends. People go there, have fun with their friends, explore the event, and enjoy the activities.

We’d love to go and experience Cosplay Mania!

- Yes, you should, but stay away from the fangirls. You’ll turn deaf from all the screaming (laughs). I think that’s what the Japanese guests love about our audience; they’re very expressive, which is very different from Japanese fans who are silent, prim and proper.

What kind of contents do you think Filipinos prefer?

- I think it’s anime because anime has been in our country for a long time. From there, people delve into Japanese music because of the songs in the anime. Games come next. People start liking music from the games they play.

Which genre is popular?

- Pop. If it’s from an anime, people will like it, but idol groups have recently been gaining popularity in our country. There recently has been one event with local idol groups as performers only. I think the formation of MNL48 made a huge contribution to this phenomenon. There are groups who imitate AKB48, fan groups for Love Live!, Bang Dream!, Uta no Prince-sama (UtaPri), Tsukiuta and other idol groups. I think the most popular for male fans is still Love Live! while for the female fans, it’s UtaPri. Hypnosis Mic: Division Rap Battle (HypMic) is also growing in popularity in our country. King Records was really surprised about the reception of HypMic overseas. I told them some fans even import CDs of the series so that they can vote their favorite Division. They listen to the music, of course, and even to the drama tracks.

They listen to the drama tracks in Japanese?

- Yes. Some fans start learning to study Japanese just so they can listen and understand drama CDs. Yaoi fans want to listen to drama CDs, too (laughs).

It seems like the popularity in the Philippines is almost the same as in Japan.

- Yes, we’re in sync. They know about The Promised Neverland, which just finished airing in Japan. They also know about Cells at Work!… they subscribe to Anime News Network. They follow the official Twitter accounts as well, to get the latest information on merchandise, for example. There is a fanbase for Love Live!, Bungo Stray Dogs, because the movies were shown in the Philippines. There were also delayed broadcasts of live concerts. It’s gaining momentum in our country because there is a demand. The only limitation is when they don’t have the money, but as much as possible they buy the official merchandise to support the industry.

Next : Jewel Wong Interview Part.2 will be published on 24 December, 2019!


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