Supanova Melbourne 2011

by Mark Sombillo, Apr 12th 2011

Supanova, the first major convention of the year for Melbourne kicked off this weekend in a torrid of excitement, heat, rain and blistery circumstances the way only Melbourne's energized weather patterns can dish out. The fans were unperturbed by these conditions as thousands flocked to the Royal Melbourne Showgrounds for the fourth year running and we at ANN|AU plunged ourselves once again through the thick of things to let you know why it is that Supanova Melbourne continues to be a success.

Saturday

Sadly, this day started on a negative note. Driving into the showgrounds we were faced with traffic which took people almost three-quarters of an hour to traverse. Worse still, the gate that everyone was herded into was just about as far as away as we could possibly be from the convention entrance and on top of this we were forced to go around the showgrounds and not through it to get there. And then the icing on the cake, massive lines had formed to the registration tables which by my reckoning took almost until well past midday to clear up. This really did surprise me as in the past, entry and registration into the convention have always been something that was well handled and I stammered to come up with a reason why it was this way.

One guess I'd make is that there were just a lot more people this year and after entering the big trader's hall, I could only conclude that my guess was right. From this entrance view it was truly staggering to see just how many people crowded the alleys around the traders and exhibitors. We waded our way through the crowd just to quickly assess what was on. The Duke Nukem pre-release booth held a line that never disappeared throughout the entire weekend and the line to the ATM also only dissipated after it ran out of money. Then out in the back there were again plenty of people lining up to get autographs from their pop culture idols; top of the list was Tom Felton from the Harry Potter movies. Just as we had decided we'd make our way out of the trader's hall, we were faced with a surge of people coming from the opposite direction all in a mad hurry to get to the queue where Nick Frost and Simon Pegg were signing autographs. In short, it was certainly a timely decision that Supanova's now more massive repertoire of guests, exhibitors, traders and other facilities has been moved from the cosy Boulevard Pavilion to the gigantic Exhibition Pavilion.

We eventually made it out to the outside grounds after which we headed to the main stage arena to catch the last of the Yuko Miyamura and Tiffany Grant panel. It was certainly interesting to listen to the two kinds of voice acting in this industry; one where the voice work had to be tailored in conjunction with the rest of the animation and one where you had to adapt your voice styling to an already finished product. As always, I found it a remarkable experience to put faces to voices and there's a little spark of glee whenever they uttered familiar words or phrases and somehow, it feels as if the characters themselves were there.

The Siren Visual panel was next on our itinerary where the news of a joint online screening with Anime News Network of titles such as C for Control and Tiger & Bunny was quite well received. The simulcast will occur at the same time that they are broadcast in Japan and a couple of subscription plans are going to be employed (standard will be free and ad supported and premium will be in high definition with no ads, plus access to other Siren Visual material). This is similar to such streaming services like Crunchyroll, but this will be more tailored to local markets with reasonable rates.

We hurried over to the Madman National Cosplay Championships as the best of the best in cosplaying was about to produce the Melbourne representative for the finals at the end of the year. Four contestants presented their preeminent performances to try to win the spot, two of them marking this as their debut in the nationwide competition. Giorgia, was the eventual winner and we here in the City by the Bay can only be proud of her.

After this was the cosplay panel hosted by Siera. Then we had the normal cosplay competition which had quite a number of entrants. This is definitely now a proper contest in its own right; very different from how it began back in 2008. Some of the performances were indeed at a level that could have even easily done well in the MNCC.

Finally, we managed to head back to the trader's hall as the heavens opened up and drenched the crowd as they were preparing to head home. I'm very thankful that none of this bad weather was overly present earlier in the day when people were still lining up outside. This however ensured that the one kilometre long journey back to the car park had become quite dangerous in the dark. So we ended our day rather ominously but one thing's for sure, it's been a very long time since a convention has worn me out with all the activities on offer in just the one day.

Sunday

The first order of business for the day was a visit to the Madman panel where the big announcement was acquisition of Blue Exorcist for viewing on the Madman Screening Room as well as talks that could lead to theatrical release to the new Fullmetal Alchemist movie coming out in July. Much of the hubbub these days is still in the release of the second instalment to the Evangelion movies and there was definitely no shortage of Madman making sure people knew about it (hence the reason for the voice actor guests).

Sundays have traditionally been the more relaxed days in conventions and this was no exception. Even after arriving earlier than the day before the registration line was virtually non-existent. Furthermore, the main gate that people used to enter the showgrounds in previous years was once again open and the attendees were spared the agony of the long walk through rain and wind. You could be forgiven for thinking that there weren't as many people attending today, but one look at the writhing mass of people inside the trader's hall and you realise soon where they were all hiding.

In the past, I've noted that there seemed to be less and less merchandising going on and more exhibitions instead in Supanova. Now with this increased capacity, it seems that they were once again on par with each other with a few stalls popping up that I've never heard of before. Sci-fi, anime, fantasy; you're looking for your pop culture fix in goods, you'll find it here in abundance.

After some photo shoots in the grounds with some eager cosplayers, we headed to the Tom Felton panel where droves of screaming fans all but stormed the stage sometimes just to share a bro-fist with the Harry Potter villain. Soon after that in the same theatre was the third cosplay competition of the weekend. Once again the quality of the entrants was outstanding, with one particular group cosplaying from Durarara!! being noteworthy for building an actual vending machine as a prop. Last show of the day was the karaoke competition which I always found to be a very fitting event as it closes the convention in a relaxed and cheery mood.

Summary

Not including the days of being a con organiser myself, it's been a long time since a convention has worn me out the way that Supanova Melbourne has done this year. Ending the weekend being barely able to sit up and eat your dinner to me means one thing; the convention was chockfull of things to do. Indeed on the Saturday we barely managed to find a few minutes with which to grab a bite for lunch as the scheduling just kept on going with one quality show after another. Even the weather seemed to not faze the fans as they just went about their business of exploring everything on offer.

I do hope that in the future the parking situation and possibly the registration issues faced this year are not repeated; I honestly felt a sense of danger as we were one of the last to leave the convention on Saturday evening and the roads to the parking was wet and not particularly well lit. On a positive note however in terms of the venue, the use of the Exhibition Pavilion has somehow changed the dynamics of the expo all over again and has prevented it from becoming stale for yet another few years.

Without a doubt, fans no longer just feel that Supanova Melbourne is an invading convention that is more keen on expanding than actually catering for the wants of the local crowd. This Supanova is uniquely Melbourne's Supanova and if you haven't been before, you've been missing out!

So… can we move to the Melbourne Exhibition and Convention Centre yet?

Supanova Melbourne 2011 Gallery

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