This edition of POP-con visits the anime pop culture scene on our local shores. AniManGaki took place at the end of August over a two-day weekend at Bandar Sunway, Subang Jaya. This animation, comics and games (ACG) convention takes place annually and owes its origin to the Sun-U Anime Club (SUAC) of Sunway University College. AniManGaki, or AMG for short, made its debut in 2009 hosting 1,000 attendees at the university grounds.

It has since outgrown the campus facilities migrating to the Sunway Pyramid Convention Centre since 2012, and achieved a record 16,000 attendees this year. The convention is now organised by a dedicated AniManGaki Organising Committee.

AniManGaki is an amalgamation of words reflecting the convention: anime, manga, games and gaki, which is Japanese for “brat”. Anime refers to Japanese animation while manga refers to Japanese comics. Fervent followers comprise Malaysian youth of both genders and all races, plus some mature adults who grew up in the 1980s when such content was first introduced here. AMG maintains that it is organised by fans for fans. This year’s 8th Anniversary theme was “Pixels”, paying homage to the early-days of 8-bit pixel graphics.

Photographer Micho Teh showcasing her cosplay photo book Shoujo X Type 5 at the AniManGaki creative art stalls.

Photographer Micho Teh showcasing her cosplay photo book Shoujo X Type 5 at the AniManGaki creative art stalls.

AMG took place over two levels at the Sunway Pyramid Convention Centre. The lower entry level comprises 3,000sq m of the main hall hosting the convention stage, exhibitors and creative art stalls, otherwise known as Doujin booths. Artists at these 120 booths offered fan art of popular anime, manga, games and even western comics in the form of prints, badges, charms, plushies and other homemade memorabilia. Some artists also sold original self-published content like food art by Le Delicatessen.

Long-time doujin artist Lowies Chew was unable to secure a stall this year at AMG. But this allowed her to experience AMG as an attendee and she managed to visit every booth at the convention. Observing the doujin scene, she said: “This year many more new artists setup doujin booths. Some even came all the way from Bangkok.”

The foyer area immediately outside of the main hall hosted the game portion of the convention with booths for tabletop card games, carnival-style games and video games including tournaments. The window walls overlooking the Sunway Lagoon theme park also provided excellent lighting for photographing cosplayers.

Interior designer Abdullah Othman (right) and multimedia designer Nick Ho each spent RM1,000 on their costumes to cosplay as The Flash and Reverse Flash of the DC comics universe.

Interior designer Abdullah Othman (right) and multimedia designer Nick Ho each spent RM1,000 on their costumes to cosplay as The Flash and Reverse Flash of the DC comics universe.

And the number of cosplayers has grown significantly. Costume tailor Venus Lim of Costurera Haberdashery observed that this year’s trend for anime cosplay favoured Love Live and Macross Delta, especially for younger cosplayers who enjoy forming idol groups. “Western genre cosplay leaned towards recent superhero movies like Captain America Civil War and Suicide Squad,” she added.

The upper level featured a Collector’s Dungeon where fan communities showcased their treasured collectibles.

Representative of Hobby & Collectibles Community (HCC) Darren Lee Kar Hoe said this year’s display leaned more towards retro-styled construction toys in tune with the convention theme of Pixels. He said: “There were more custom Lego creations by fan clubs like Asia Brick as well as a Nanoblock Art Exhibition by renowned artist Chris Tan.”

The award-winning Nanoblock brick artist also created a mini-figurine of Kei-chan, the official mascot for AniManGaki, as a special edition convention collectible. Other displays comprised models and figurines from anime, manga and also western pop culture contributed from fan communities like Star Wars Malaysia Fan Club, TransMY, and Macross Fans Malaysia.

Adjacent to the Collector’s Dungeon was the Anime Screening room with legal programming provided by streaming video service Crunchyroll. Best-rated titles screened include Re: Zero, Kiznaiver, Joker Game, GATE 2 and Myriad Colors Phantom World, reflecting multiple genres of fantasy, comedy, sci-fi, mystery, drama and supernatural.

Cosplay special guest Wirru from Australia sharing how he got into cosplay; he also conducted a costume and prop-making workshop.

Cosplay special guest Wirru from Australia sharing how he got into cosplay; he also conducted a costume and prop-making workshop.

AMG’s Special cosplay guest this year was A.K. Wirru from Australia. The 27-year-old cosplayer from Sydney has won several cosplay championships and also represented his country in the World Cosplay Summit in 2012. He has been making his own costumes and props for the last 10 years and provides cosplay tutorials on YouTube and his online store.

At AMG, Wirru was given his own booth to meet with fans and also conduct a cosplay workshop sharing his methodology of making costumes and props. During his stage panel session, Wirru shared that he first got into cosplay because it looked weird and he wanted attention, but then later found he really enjoyed crafting costumes and props. His current favourite costume is Spark the leader of Team Instinct from Pokemon Go, which he wore at the convention.

His favourite costume to craft so far has been Odin of Final Fantasy XIII, which won him first place at the Madman National Cosplay Championship two years ago. Wirru’s panel session concluded by inviting all cosplayers of Pokemon Go Team Instinct onto stage for a group photo shoot.

TAM and Akai Ryuusei were other special guests flown in from Japan. TAM is a violinist specialising in anime and game music. Together with Ryuusei on keyboard they performed music from popular anime songs, or anisongs, garbed in Japanese kimonos. Cosplay guest Wirru even surprised the audience jumping in to provide vocals for a couple of numbers. They concluded the 90-minute live performance to thunderous applause.

Music at AMG was also fulfilled by local artists rocking the stage singing popular anime songs and J-pop, Japanese pop music. A signature of AMG events is the idol theme performance in anime cosplay. This year, five girls formed Deltarhythm to cosplay the singers of Walkure from Macross Delta and set the audience roaring by performing hit songs from the new anime series. Capping off the convention was dance team Yume whose nine members cosplayed school idol group Muse from Love Live!

No convention would be complete without a cosplay competition and AMG’s Cosplay PX gave out over RM9,000 worth of prizes. Seven shortlisted teams presented an assortment of skits inspired from Minecraft, Ragnarok Online, Cardcaptor Sakura and more. As costume craftsmanship only contributed to 30% of the judging criteria, contestants put much effort into their script and performance. While all teams were entertaining, there could only be one winner and that went to Team Mamak whose skit inspired from D.Gray-man delighted the judges and audience.

Prize winners of the AniManGaki’s annual cosplay competition together with guest judges.

Prize winners of the AniManGaki’s annual cosplay competition together with guest judges.

Other activity highlights at AMG comprised the AniManGaki Idol singing contest, a secondary “Gijinka” Cosplay Competition, art competition, and various game tournaments. Check out AMG’s website at www.animangaki.com for more information and follow their Facebook Page Animangaki (www.facebook.com/animangaki) for updates. With so much to do and see, AniManGaki is certainly one of the annual ACG conventions in Malaysia not to be missed. See you there next year!