Manifest Report - Day 2 + Summaryby Jon Hayward,
As I'm sitting down to write this second day report a important fact has crossed my mind. One of the main indicators of a successful weekend is if you can remember what you have done and / or accomplished. But as I sit down to write this report I remember having a enjoyable weekend, but I cannot easily describe the weekend from memory alone. Manifest's third day was good, honest!
I started off the day by attending the AMV panel, the host was Mark Sombillo (aka Shinomatrix) who is well known to the Australian AMV crowd. He had organized several AMV creators to sit on the panel, however while he trying to find the last one his panel was shanghaied by Declan Vee from Adelaide. This lasted all of 20 seconds before Declan was placed back where he belonged and the panel was started. It was refreshing to see that Mark had done his homework and prepared his panel beforehand, with the panel structured to work from beginning AMVs to advanced issues all AMV creators need to be aware of, including the legal issues. It was definitely a good to get a general grounding in AMVs and it was refreshing to see that the panel wasn't just the host showing off the best AMVs he could find.
Fortunately, the panels room was directly above the Artist's Alley as it was in the basement of the Economics Building, right in front of the entrance to the main theater. There was estimated to be over 20 artists with their wares for sale in the alley, bookmarks, postcards, posters and MCAC was selling their Anime magazine. I will admit that the sheer quality of the artwork was great, I don't think there was a bad artist in the bunch. However, I will be quite honest and state that I had a hard time making out which artists belonged to which table and where one stall ended and another began. Also to my eye all the art blurred together with the Bleach fans being the only table that stood out. This could be attributed to the artist spending the weekend drawing sketches and plastering them to the table and any flat surface they could find. These quick and humorous drawings mostly involved mocking Bleach but it also pointed out something very important; when all the artists are of a high standard you need something to set yourself apart from everyone else. This was easily done by Oztaku, whose desk was covered with badges and copies of Oztaku 1.2 and they had organized a commission table for various artists over the weekend. In fact there was so many artists, I had trouble leaving the desk to get commissions drawn from elsewhere in the alley because there was always someone different there.
At midday I had to leave my commission collecting and visit the panels room for the Madman Panel, as per usual this was moderately well attended. For those people who have not attended a Australian convention, Madman Entertainment will run a panel at almost every convention they attend and with Madman being the primary source of Anime in Australia, this is one panel that is usually good to attend. I will have the complete writeup on line soon but the important news has already been posted, with Japanese Import OST's being the highlight. Of interest to Melbourne Anime fans is that Madman will be having a 10th birthday celebration, which will be a screening of "Fullmetal Alchemist: The Movie - Conqueror of Shambala" attended by Crispin Freeman and Vic Mignogna.
Now for something of great importance, the Traders Hall. This is the reason why many people attend Anime conventions and Manifest has the reputation of having one of the best Traders Halls in Australia. This was held in Wilson Hall and it was incredibly large, holding five rows each with two lines of tables in them. As I said yesterday there was 10 main traders and 3 single table traders. Of course you have Madman selling their wares, with Meatbag Manistore selling Tokyo Night Train DVD's among other things. But the main focus as far as I could see was on figurines and gashapon, there was a incredibly large number of models (Zoids and Gunpla) but you could not move an inch without seeing another figurine in any form. There was one trader who seemed to deal only in Manga (mostly Tokyopop titles) and Anime Anytime had a large selection of Chung Yi titles for less than $10, so finding any titles you wanted from Anime Anytime was difficult on Sunday, due to them selling many volumes on the Saturday. It was definitely the most impressive Anime traders hall I have visited, it was easy to get around due to the wide aisles which definitely helped people trying to avoid the large crowds.
Although the Trader's Hall was laid out well, the rest of Manifest was not well set out at all. The lack of signage was definitely made clear on the Sunday as I had made it my task to visit every single room in the convention and see what was going on. I completely failed at this task, I tried to methodically work my way from one end of the convention to the other but I still missed rooms. During the closing ceremony I looked at the map and realized I had not visited several rooms. Somehow I had managed to visit the Video Games room (twice) and the DDR room, but missed the Odds and Ends, Marathon and Alternative theaters along with the two aux theaters.
Now yet again I could not attend cosplay, it was just too packed and really difficult to get into. It is important to note that the entrance and stairwell leading to the theater could have proved hazardous if someone was pushed over. I will admit the standard on the Sunday was higher with some incredible costumes that I did not manage to get pictures of. The competition had some issues with a Judge withdrawing on the day and a complex scoring system that was fundamentally flawed. Dispite this, the cosplay organizer did a large amount of preparation and from all reports ran a good cosplay competition. For the regular attendee, the Cosplay competiton was solid entertainment.
The next event to attend was the Iron Chef AMV competition. The premise is simple, all competitors are given three episodes of several series as source material and one "secret ingredient" episode that must be included in their AMV. They have until 4pm on the Sunday to complete a AMV in order to compete in the competition and everything else from music to subject is left up to the individual creators. No-one watches the finished product until the competition and they are all judged on the spot in front of the audience. This event was pleasantly surprising as it was presented in the form of Iron Chef, complete with dodgy graphics and capsicum chomping chairman. The theater was moderately full and everyone seemed to be entertained as the "secret ingredient" was Ouran High Host Club leading several creators to make comedy AMVs. The judging was shown on the projector with the five judges making humorous comments. However, in the end Blue Train won the competition with a serious three course meal.
I did attend the closing ceremony, and due to it's inherent nature it did drag on. But seeing as it was to thank everyone who helped out and for the clubs to say their piece I cannot hold the length against them. I personally made a announcement about Wai-Con (9-10 of Dec) and just to make a correction, to fly over from Melbourne will cost approximately $400. I also must personally say that if you do not want to be surprised when someone from Ann.au turns up at your convention to write reports, make sure your PR person does their job ;) I also must add that the closing credits were a nice touch and should be encouraged, but please find better quality music. (A quick note, during the screening of this video, many of us believed that the poor sound quality was due to the speakers, not the source.)
From the attendee perspective, the main issues that annoyed most of the people over the course of the weekend was the complete and utter lack of scheduling and the signage. I spent a large amount of time over the weekend just talking to people and when I asked "What do you think of scheduling?" The reply almost always could be summed up as "What scheduling?". This must be said, every attendee did enjoy themselves, they come with a purpose and had walked away satisfied to different degrees of success. However, the other point that has continued to come up even after the convention was that something was missing.
This point is important, if you have run for six years and all of a sudden many people find something is missing it stands out. I personally do not know as this was my first Manifest, but after some discussion with manifest attendees all signs point towards the social aspect. Now, socializing can be found in the drawing rooms and the Zoids workshop, and with some effort can be found by just talking to random people... but no great effort was made to encourage attendees to interact. What is surprising is that the lack of socialization could be due to the conventions' forums. The manifest forums are locked down tightly following some forum control issues the MOC was having earlier in the year. This left no place for manifest attendees to organize themselves prior or after the event that was directly related with the Manifest website. But considering this is only the first year that the convention has not run with the overactive forum there is no supporting evidence or similar example to compare to and is only the theory of several attendees.
Looking back over the weekend (barring the Friday) I did enjoy myself; Manifest has solid entertainment and plenty of things to do and events to attend. The traders hall had a wide selection of quality goods which I can see many fans just attending Manifest for. Cosplay was definitely everywhere with examples of the best and worst of cosplay but there was a large number of duplicate cosplayers, Final Fantasy:AC being the standout for dupes. Please note, I cannot say what I thought was the best or the worst so please do not take the accompanying photos on this report as any indication, I am not a great photographer by any standard. Manifest definitely had the largest cosplay turnout I have seen at any convention. I was disappointed by the Japanese cultural aspect, I wished to see more of this unique feature of the convention but it was never easy to see or find.
Manifest is a good convention, it definately satisfies and the sheer size and learning curve is a challenge. However Manifest is not a great convention, if the MCB focuses it's attention on some of the smaller things then it will definately improve and be more enjoyable for attendees. Will I come back next year? Most likely. Will I recommend this convention to people? Definitely.