Anime fest gets bigger, better

For the past three years, 17-year-old Leong Yong Yu has bonded with her 54-year-old father by hand-making her cosplay costume parts and props for the Anime Festival Asia (AFA) together.

Says Yong Yu, who graduated from Junyuan Secondary School this year and is currently waiting to start an arts and theatre management course at Republic Polytechnic: "When the props were complicated, my father would be scratching his head. But other than that, we both think it's fun and we enjoy it very much."

Yong Yu says her father, a transport worker, fully supports her cosplay hobby as it teaches her to persevere and learn how to manage her budget to buy costly materials.

This year, father and daughter spent 10 months and about $350 crafting two different costumes for Yong Yu to wear on the second and third days of one of the festivals.

She will dress up as Mordred from mobile card game Million Arthur first and then as Lupus Wilde from online multi-player game GrandChase the following day.

One of the most established festivals for Japanese pop culture in the region - featuring anime producers, screenwriters and voice artists - the three-day AFA opens today at the Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Now in its seventh year, it is occupying the most space in its history: more than 12,000 sq m over all six halls on the exhibition centre's fourth floor - 11/2 times bigger than last year's edition.

Festivalgoers are glad for the extra space.

"Last year, it was very crowded and I could barely make it through the crowd," says student Tina Wong, 21, who will be going to the festival for her sixth time.

This year, the festival will also host the largest gathering of cosplay guests from Asia.

The most popular cosplayers appearing are those who go by the nicknames Reika and Kaname from Japan, and Yuegene Fay from Thailand.

It will also see the first Nico Nico Kunikagi event, which allows AFA attendees to cosplay, dance, sing and play games in person, while online viewers worldwide comment in real time. This is a spin-off from Japanese video community site Nico Nico.

This year, a new feature is the Asia Anisong Audition, introduced to search for a rising J-pop singer.

The finals will be held on Sunday, the last day of the convention. The winner will walk away with a contract with Sony Music Japan and the chance to perform around the world.

"We are always bringing in Japanese stars, so we are now looking to take talents to Japan," says Mr Shawn Chin, artistic director of home-grown media company Sozo, who founded the festival.

The anime convention started in 2008 and was attended by 29,000 then. Last year, 85,000 people attended.

"Back then," says Mr Chin of the event's beginnings, "there were only national anime events in some countries such as Hong Kong, but no regional events."

Seeing the opportunity to create a regional platform, "as there are a lot of anime fans in Singapore and in the region", he organised the AFA with a budget of under $500,000, with main sponsor Bandai Namco Games.

Today, the budget has risen to close to $2.5 million, with three main sponsors and various supporting brands and companies.

The festival now boasts one of the largest attendance figures in Asia for anime conventions outside of Japan.

The biggest anime convention in the world is the annual Tokyo International Anime Fair, which saw 105,855 participants last year.

Two years ago, Mr Chin branched out into holding AFA sister conventions in Malaysia and Indonesia, with more than 40,000 attendees for each event.

There are also plans to start a convention in Thailand next year.

Says Mr Chin: "We hope to cover all of Southeast Asia and maybe even Australia in the future."

Book it


When: Today to Sunday

Where: Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre, Level 4

Admission: Tickets from $13 to $428, depending on the number of days and access to areas, available from

This article was first published on December 5, 2014. Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to for more stories.