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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.3

2019.12.24


Present and Future of Cosplay Mania

Tell us about last year’s Cosplay Mania.

- As I mentioned earlier, we invited Zwei, AiRI, fhána and Megumi Nakajima. It was the first time we invited high-caliber artists. The reception was great because one, the Macross fans were there, and two, the fans know Megumi Nakajima is half-Filipino, and Filipino fans always support fellow Filipinos. Another thing that we do in Cosplay Mania is we try not to invite the same performers as the previous years, because the Filipino mentality is once they know the performer will come back, they won’t attend this year. It’s a challenge for us to encourage them to buy the merchandise telling them the artists might not come back next year. Of course, the artist management is happy when they see that the merchandise they brought gets sold out. In the past, we’ve invited Konomi Suzuki, Shiena Nishizawa and they’re surprised by the reception. I think one important factor is that we don’t have an official distributor of Japanese CDs in the Philippines. There used to be a Tower Records in the country but they already closed down. There are no stores that import CDs of Japanese artists.


Was the concert production last year difficult?

- It was difficult since it was our first time to hold the concert on the first floor. Budget-wise, it was much more expensive to hold it on the first floor, so we had to be really more careful on spending. Our stage director is also the one who designed the stage, so he did most of the negotiations for the lights, video walls, etc. With artist requirements, we usually talk about them in advance so if we have the technical riders and other technical requirements, we can prepare and not cram. We usually discuss via e-mail but we are open to video conferences with them, if necessary. For the exhibitors, it was easier to bring their merchandise in because it’s on the first floor.
 




Was it difficult to invite artists?

- It wasn’t so difficult because we already have the connections. We tried to invite Megumi Nakajima through JAM Lab., but because we already had conversations with FlyingDog by inviting Shiena Nishizawa in the past, it was easier to start negotiations. With the website, it’s easier to start dialogues instead of the traditional way of setting up face-to-face meetings, and so on. We also try to start things in advance, for example I joined TIMM (Tokyo International Music Market) last year and already started booking artists for this year. We do this because we know negotiations with the Japanese take a lot of time with the bureaucracy, the legal aspect such as the signing of the contract and so on. We try to have a buffer time. This year, we’re already trying to book artists as early as now for 2020 because of the Olympics. It might be difficult to book them if we wait until TIMM in October later this year. Actually we have already announced our cosplayer guests for Cosplay Mania 2019 at our event in the end of March so that fans know that they’re coming and can start saving money.


Do you have any specific reasons for organizing anisong concerts?

- It was actually a fortunate accident. We were trying to focus on the Japanese contents, not more on the concert because Cosplay Mania was a cosplay-centered event. When Aya Ikeda introduced herself, we decided to try and invited her to perform. Loverin Tamburin, on the other hand, was on a World Tour for the Haneda International Anime Music Festival, so we formed a partnership. When we saw the positive reception, we thought it was a good move because we were accepting new aspects of Japanese pop culture, not just cosplay alone. We try to get everyone have that Japanese content experience.


Have the concerts contributed to your business?

]- Yes. There are more attendees. Last year, our VIP tickets for Day Two sold out. It’s the first time our tickets got sold out. That’s 300 seats. The standing area was packed as well. They’re like the Japanese audience, waving their light sticks and changing the colors depending on the songs. Some fans also distributed call books, and some fans had flower stands custom-made for the artists. The Filipino fans are trying to emulate the Japanese fans. As I said before our audience is quite young, so not everyone can fly to Japan to watch concerts. Filipinos usually don’t have that luxury. Although it is a Filipino-organized convention, we still try to let them have that Japanese concert experience. Some fans even buy boxes of ultra orange light sticks (which Japanese fans might use when they would like to express their love for the song), and use them in every song (laughs).


Age-wise, the Filipino audience seems older than that audience of other Southeast Asia conventions, who are mostly teenagers.

- Yes, there is even a Filipino cosplayer who’s in his fifties but is still winning awards in contests. Anime has been in our country since the ‘80s, so when old fans hear a singer perform a song from an old anime, they feel nostalgia. Families also attend our event. On Sunday, since there is a church near the venue, they go to Mass first then attend our event with their kids.


There’s a lot of potential when it comes to Japanese contents in the Philippines.

- Yes, we’re still in the early stages, but we’re trying to push for more Japanese content. The fanbase is steadily growing. Two years ago, the number of our attendees hit 36,000. Last year we had 40,000 attendees. We’re trying to appeal to the international audience that we are also an international event, but a lot cheaper.


How do you choose the performers?

- They should have sung a song from an anime that is popular in our country. We also consider whether they’ve been in the country before, even if it is at another event. We always look for new content, new performers for the concert to have that feel of exclusivity.


What is your future vision for Cosplay Mania?

- Invite more artists. At present, we only have two artists per night due to venue restrictions. We can only hold the concert until 9PM and cannot rent the venue overnight. Our target audience is also young. They cannot stay out too late. We’re looking at other options such as holding a concert on Friday night or extending the concert until 10PM so that we can have three performers per night. Those are only some of the things we’re thinking of doing in the future…as long as the budget allows (laughs).


Any future vision for the anisong concert at Cosplay Mania?

- We’d like to explore the DJ part of anisong. Most of the DJs compose the songs for anisong artists, so Cosplay Mania would be a good venue for them to perform the songs they composed. A lot of new artists are also performing songs for anime titles recently so we’re looking at the potential of their popularity in the Philippines growing by performing at our event.
 


What are the important points that Japanese artists must keep in mind when they perform at Cosplay Mania? What is the difference between Filipino and Japanese fans?

- In the Philippines, fans have a chance to interact with the artists, unlike in Japan where tickets to the concerts are raffled off, and there is no meet and greet after the concert. Filipino fans are also lively. They scream a lot. Even if the guests are speaking in Japanese, they still scream. Filipino fans are very passionate and very expressive. Japanese artists don’t really have to mind which songs to perform because the fans are open to anything. It doesn’t matter if it’s an anisong or another song in their album. This is why we keep our Official Shop open even after the concert, so that after watching the concert, the fans can take home a remembrance from the concert by buying their singles, albums and other goods. Some attendees even turn into fans after watching the performances of an artist they first didn’t know about.


Should Japanese artists speak in English?

- I don’t think it’s a requirement. It’s also okay if they can speak a few words in Filipino, but Japanese, in general is okay. Surprisingly, there are a lot of Filipinos who can understand Japanese. They appreciate when the artists try to speak in English because they feel that the artists are trying to communicate with them.


Do you have any supporting message for Japan Anime Music Lab.?

- Keep doing what you do. It makes it easier for event organizers abroad to contact artists and it’s in English, too. It’s a great avenue in bringing Japanese music outside the country.


How do you express “anisong” as a person?

-  My hair. I usually color my hair, like the anisong artists. When I color my hair it reminds me that I want to sing anisong in karaoke, and that I want to visit Japan again.


Thank you for your time, Jewel. Good luck with your event!

- Thank you, too!




Written by Gladys Angala

 

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