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Anime Festival Asia grows more than three times larger than when it launched in 2008

Highlights of this year's Japanese pop-culture extravaganza Anime Festival Asia Singapore include the singer of the Pen-Pineapple- Apple-Pen song and celebrity cosplayers

The singer of the ridiculously addictive earworm Pen-Pineapple-Apple-Pen is coming to Singapore.

Yes, Piko-Taro will be singing the song about squishing imaginary objects together live at Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Centre on Sunday.

Piko-Taro is the alter ego of comedian and DJ Daimaou Kosaka and he is one of the highlights at Anime Festival Asia Singapore, opening today.

An annual extravaganza of Japanese pop culture, the three-day event is expected to draw about 100,000 anime fans, cosplayers, hobbyist photographers and gawkers from here and around the region.

Time to bust out your most colourful Nippon outfits and put on your most kawaii face. There are more than 200 exhibitor booths and more than 200 guest stars such as celebrity cosplayers Reika from Japan and Baozi and Hana from China.

This is a chance for fans of popular animes to get up close with the voices behind the characters and theme songs. Tomorrow, there will be a meet-and-greet with voice actor Nobuhiko Okamoto, who is behind the troublemaker student character Karma Akabane in anime Assassination Classroom.

At one of the I Love Anisong concerts taking place on all three days, anime music group Jam Project will perform the theme song The Hero!! of the anime One Punch Man.

  • BOOK IT / ANIME FESTIVAL ASIA SINGAPORE 2016

    WHERE: Level 4 Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Centre

    WHEN: 9.30am to 8pm (today and tomorrow), 9.30am to 7pm (Sunday)

    ADMISSION: From $13 for an exhibition ticket to $428 for a three-day VIP package. Buy tickets at the booth on Level 3

    For more information, go to www.animefestival.asia

In its ninth year, the event cost close to $2 million to organise this year and is the largest edition yet.

The festival's first edition in 2008 drew 27,000 visitors. Last year, the event had 90,600 attendees.

The mega festival has also gone regional. This year, it kicked off in Thailand in August, went on to Indonesia in September and is back on homeground this month.

Mr Shawn Chin, founder and managing director of local events and entertainment company Sozo, which organises the festival, says the event "brings a slice of every key component of Japanese culture to one place".

He adds: "In Japan, there are dedicated events for each genre - cosplay, music and anime - held at different times of the year. But we have condensed them all into three days."

He hopes to expand to Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Hong Kong and China.

The festival taps the small but dedicated Japanophile community in Singapore, which is up to date with the various sub-cultures and trends in Japan.

The Straits Times profiles three interest groups. The first is Singaporean girl group Tokimeki Jump, whose hobby was dressing up as Japanese maids at pop-up cafes and now are trying their hand at being singer- dancers. They are performing their debut show, a programme of anime songs and pop hits, at the event on Sunday evening.

The second is wotagei enthusiasts, that is, people who perform a super-synchronised dance with lightsticks while watching concerts and attending anime- related events. And lastly, The Straits Times features two new dedicated cosplay photo studios that have beautiful backdrops for the perfect anime-inspired photo series.

Fans show love through dance


Youth subculture Wotagei, where youths dance to their Japanese idol's songs using light-sticks, usually in concerts and anime-related events. ST PHOTO: ASHLEIGH SIM

At the I Love Anisong concert during the Anime Festival Asia Singapore, Godwin Choo and his friends will be enjoying the show performed by anime voice actors and singers by bursting into a synchronised dance of their own.

Their choreographed routine involves vigorous arm movements with light =sticks, interspersed with cheers such as "Hai!".

What they are doing is "wotagei", which is often practised at concerts and anime-related events.

READ MORE HERE

Studios set the scene for cosplay


Luminos owner Kwong Wai Keat, 26, in his studio at Primz Bizhub on Oct 28, 2016. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Being a veteran cosplayer, Ms Alice Goh understands the difficulties of her hobby in tropical Singapore.

After putting on elaborate make- up, wigs and costumes, most cosplayers - understandably - want to immortalise their looks in photographs - and often in evocative outdoor settings. But the problem is surviving the heat.

"We used to go to places such as the Chinese Garden for our shoots and it got really hot wearing our costumes under the sun," says the 31-year-old, who loves dressing up as student idol singer Minami Kotori from high school anime Love Live!.

READ MORE HERE

Maid cafe servers turn girl band


Local girl group Tokimeki JUMP, whose members started out as waitresses at a roving Japanese maid cafe. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN  

This six-member girl group used to be waitresses, but not just any regular service staff - for the past three years, they having been dressing up as Japanese maids and working at their own pop-up cafes at various places like anime events, existing cafes or community centres.

Singing, dancing and looking kawaii, these women used to be called Pika Pika Meido Cafe.

But now they are relinquishing their roles as "meido", or maid in Japanese, and making a real show-business debut as a girl band called Tokimeki Jump.

READ MORE HERE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 25, 2016, with the headline 'A yen for J-pop'. Print Edition | Subscribe