Inside the 2016 Barcelona Manga Fair

by Manu G.,

The 22nd Barcelona Manga Fair (also known as Salón del Manga de Barcelona) took place this last weekend, which has been the largest event related to Japanese culture in Spain from its very first year. Every new edition of the fair brings refreshing activities and new guests from Japan, and it's not just about manga. The Barcelona Manga Fair celebrates Japanese culinary arts, pop culture, and even offers workshops for learning about the creation of anime and videogames. People seem to like the diversity of this convention: according to official data, 142,000 people attended this year's fair, setting a new record.

Before diving into the anime and manga, let's talk more about that non-otaku path of the Barcelona Manga Fair. Writers Banana Yoshimoto (Kitchen, Tsugumi) and Mitsuyo Kakuta (Woman on the Other Shore, The Eighth Day) attended the event, signing books and meeting with the fans. Takuya Taniguchi, owner of Usagi-ya, a Japanese confectionery manufacturer in the Ueno district that's been called the best place to go for dorayaki in Tokyo, offered several gastronomic workshops. Attendees were able to taste some awesome dorayaki and learn about the cultivation process from Taniguchi himself, a man so devoted to the tradition of his job that he asserts dorayaki must be eaten exclusively when it's fresh off the stove.

He wasn't the only guest to feature at the live cooking booth. Managed by the Japanese cuisine expert Roger Ortuño, the space was packed during all four days of the event. There were definitely a lot of people interested in the sake tasting sessions and the Japanese tapas cooking shows. Outside of cooking, the Barcelona Manga Fair offered many options for those interested in Japanese culture. There was a whole zone dedicated to stuff like kimonos, ancient Japanese games, literature, tea ceremony, ceramics with Chisato Kuroki, sumi-e (Japanese ink painting), and bonsai. There was also an amazing kaiju fighting ring with live shows.

This finally brings us to the manga and anime! Junji Ito (Black Paradox, Gyo, Uzumaki), Toshio Maeda (Urotsukidoji) and the Pokémon Adventures creators, Hidenori Kusaka and Satoshi Yamamoto, were all invited to the event. Animator Yoshimichi Tamura (Tarzan, Atlantis, Hercules) also joined the list along with the One Piece Film Gold staff: director Hiroaki Miyamoto, producer Hiroyuki Sakurada, and animator Masayuki Sato.

All of them had different types of activities on their schedules: signing sessions, fan meetings and workshops. During workshops, people got the rare opportunity to see their drawing techniques in person. For example, at the One Piece crew workshop, they showed some parts of the animation process, including character design, key animation, and storyboarding.

Of course, every Spanish manga and anime publisher was also at the convention, packed into one of the three main pavilions. The first pavilion was dedicated to Japanese cuisine, including the live cooking showcases and many pop-up Japanese restaurants offering food to attendees up until the close of the whole event. Another pavilion contains the hall for fan meetings with authors and special screenings; this year we were able to see productions like the beautiful Anthem of the Heart, the live-action version of I am a Hero, and the European premiere of Death Note Light up The New World. The publisher booths pavilion is the largest one, since companies build big structures at the event to promote their latest releases.

On Tuesday, the J-Rock group Band-Maid gave a concert for attendees. Even though it was the last day of the convention, this made me happy about attending the event for all four days. The Band-Maid concert was one of the most pleasant surprises of the whole fair! The girl group might not be as well-known as Babymetal, but they really put themselves out there with cool and energetic rock songs in a powerful and fun performance.

The concert took place at the Plaza Univers, a square connecting every pavilion with a great stage for concerts, karaoke, and cosplay. This year saw three different cosplay contests: Clara Cow's Cosplay Cup, European Cosplay Gathering, and World Cosplay Summit. There was also a cosplay contest for children themed around Yo-kai Watch.

The event was sponsored by the videogame developer Level-5, featuring posters everywhere with Akihiro Hino, president and CEO of Level-5, as one of the Barcelona Manga Fair main guests. Nintendo was the star of the gaming area, with Pokémon Sun and Moon demos and plenty of activities related to Yo-kai Watch.

From October 29th to November 1st, it was a great four days of amusement and new experiences. The Barcelona Manga Fair is a nice way to introduce yourself to Japanese life and pop culture, with many talented artists hosting a huge number of activities and expositions that will keep any attendee from getting bored over the four-day weekend.

The regular ticket for a day cost 9€ (around US$10) and 27€ for the whole convention (around US$30). More information can be found at the organizer's website.

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