SMASH! 2009by Ryan Blackmore,
The Sydney Manga and Anime Show was the first interstate anime convention I've attended, so I had no idea what to expect going in. But going out I can say I thoroughly enjoyed myself. SMASH! took place at the Roundhouse at the University of New South Wales and the layout was fairly good for most of the time. What was good was that they had the Main stage in the centre of the building and all the vendors, panel rooms, artist alley and maid cafe all within earshot. What was bad was the inverse, where any sort of commotion at the vendors or people in the foyer yelling at and glomping each other was easily heard from the main stage. But that was only an occasional issue.
The vendors were a mix of anime merch, sci-fi, professional art supplies and comic book stalls plus the local anime clubs and some of the other anime/scifi conventions. However what SMASH! did differently than most of the other conventions I've attended is that they had awesome catering. The had a fairly high quality french patisserie, a sushi stall and a takoyaki stall. The takoyaki stall was a big hit with attendees with all the fresh batches of takoyaki being immediately bought up. It took me until the late afternoon on Sunday before I was able to get some.
SMASH! had a good selection of professional industry-based panels, that were all well attended. The artist alley had wide selection of artists with nothing too risque for the family-friendly convention. BJD fans were catered for with their own dedicated area which was almost always swarmed with people comparing their dolls and helping out people starting out with ball joint dolls. Popular with both girls and guys was the Maid Cafe which this year had the addition of Hosts to cater for the female customers and thanks to several performances of both maids and hosts on the main stage, the maid cafe soon had long lines of people wanting to get in.
Cosplayers were out in force with a reasonable number entered into the Madman Cosplay Competitions, but there were even more attendees in cosplay out of the competition. From what I can tell Death Note and Macross Frontier were the most costumes as you had several L's and Ranka Lee's circulating the convention at any given time. MCing the Cosplay and the Main Stage in general were the AVCon crew and they did a fairly good job working the crowd.
My main let down was the lighting and soundsystem of the Main Stage. The spotlights were quite weak which makes taking good photos a bit difficult, but what was more frustrating is that the anyone on stage was backlit from lights on the rear of the stage and that's just terrible when it comes to having to take photos. The soundsystem they used was more suited to big rock concerts than to a 500 person audience but even then they ruined the sound by placing the speakers on the ground, which means the sound is not carried over to the back of the audience and is instead muffled by the front of the audience.
All in all SMASH! was a fairly good convention that was only slightly let down by a poorly set up main stage.