With anime conventions now a regular part of the teen scene in Manila in recent years, I went with Alex and Ik to one to see for myself what all the fuss was all about.
This con was held today at the Megatrade Hall of SM Megamall, Ortigas, Pasig City. Entering the mall at ground level, one sees groups or pairs of teenagers dressed in otherwordly costumes familiar to TV viewers and manga readers, flaunting outlandish makeup, prancing around in killer shoes. It’s called “cosplay” or “costume play”. While they might have attracted gawkers following them around before, now only the strangest costumes turn heads.
The event venue is located at the top floor of the mall. Up there, the place was packed with dressed-up teens and the occasional parent. All were well-behaved; chattering was kept to comfortable noise levels, and there was no pushing or shoving to get in.
The Megatrade Hall at SM Megamall was packed with cosplayers, events people, vendors, and performers.
Cosplayers as Anakin Skywalker and a Stormtrooper
Toys abounded, from these huge and expensive action figures protected inside lucite cases…
…to these teeny ones on bases that allowed them to be displayed…
…to these colorful stuffed cuties.
Cosplayers and fashionistas, including Ik, cram into the tiny stall of Baby Moon Lifestyle, purveyor of Goth, anime, and Lolita clothes and accessories. (babymoonlifestyle.multiply.com)
Ik tries on a Baby Moon mini-top hat…
…but ended up buying these polymer clay cupcake earrings from Mush Pomato.
I call this stall “The Wiggery”. I rather fancy the light pink one with ponytails.
The space in front of the stage was packed.
The cosplayers are the most interesting feature of cons. They love to have their picture taken. Just tap them on the shoulder and they will promptly pose, like this group of accommodating elves.
Costumes are usually homemade or “patahi” at friendly neighborhood mananahis and sastres.
A lot of resources, ingenuity, and planning goes into making these costumes.
Makeup and accessories play an important part in recreating a particular anime character.
Interesting staff. Weapon, or magical item?
“The Mask” comes to life. The dapper suit was mostly likely custom-created by a tailor. The mask is cleverly and painstakingly constructed from sponge foam material. This cosplayer kept patting it before being photographed to make sure all the different bits were still in place.
As performers of a sort, cosplayers are treated rather like celebrities, and fans like Alex here love to have their picture taken with them.
One of the more interesting activities at the con was the impromptu “on-the-spot costume making” contest. This gave participants a chance to show off their wicked creative skills.
This con’s a certified success! With the price of an admission ticket at one hundred pesos, anime cons are big business in Manila.
Being a Gen-Xer, I can say from experience that the anime wave swept Manila during my generation. It was in 1979 that my stepfather, Joseph Sellner, a broadcast blocktimer, brought in “Voltes V” and “Daimos” from Japan. He loved cartoons, and when he went to Tokyo to view these, he was smitten. He aired them on GMA-7 and launched the “robot shows” craze in the country.
I was in fifth grade at the time, and I remember being asked to watch each show to log the commercials and the gaps during which they aired. Not that I had to be forced; they were my favorite shows, along with the other shows Uncle Joe brought in later.
Let’s see – Mondays was “Mekanda”, Tuesdays “Daimos”, Wednesdays “Mazinger-Z”, Thursdays “Grendaizer”, and Fridays “Voltes V”. Filipino voice actors dubbed the shows in English. This was the age of “mecha”, and its unexpected popularity spurred other blocktimers to bring in Balatack, Danguard Ace, and other forerunners of modern anime.
But then-president Ferdinand Marcos saw a good thing and found he wasn’t in it. So he banned these shows, claiming that they were “violent” and a bad example for children. Today, the children who grew up brandishing laser swords and trading rocket punches in their games are now leaders like Francis Pangilinan (senator) and Chiz Escudero (congressman). They turned out okay, didn’t they?
Back then, we didn’t cosplay, but we did wear the shirts and buy the vinyl LPs of the soundtrack, singing along without understanding the lyrics, but having a fine time anyway.
The ban on robot shows disappointed Uncle Joe, but he rebounded. He returned to Japan and came back with “Candy Candy” and “Paul in Fantasyland”, also animes but in different genres. They also became hits, but never reached the height of popularity of Voltes V. “Knight Rider” was also his import, but that one he got from Hollywood.
Today’s generation has brought up the game several notches with the advances in technology and the changes in cultural taste. Yet when I see these cosplayers and anime fans, I see the reflections of myself and my classmates. Through the years, the shows may be different yet the enjoyment remains the same.