Ozine Fest 2016

Last 16 April, I headed out to SMX in Pasay City for Ozine Fest 2016 – the largest anime convention in the Philippines. Ever since I started attending otaku events in 2012, I have never missed a single Ozine Fest. I was especially looking forward to this year’s Ozine Fest since Ozine arguably gained reputation in how well they have been handling their events last year, especially with Ozine Fest 2015 getting both people’s choice and editor’s choice for the best otaku event award in the Golden Ticket Awards 2015.

So, mixing how well Ozine handled their 2015 events and how the event would be going back to SMX for the second time (despite Ozine Fest 2014 not going so well) should mean that the event would become one of the best (if not the best) events of the year, right?

Well, not exactly.

So, everything started when Ozine finally announced the event following Otaku Expo 2016 last January. Everything seems to be going well, with Ozine creating hype by bringing in FLOW for a live performance and with what seems to be an increased promotional campaign with a new Twitter account and a new website for the event. Though, problems did start to appear especially with the inefficient ticketing system is for the FLOW performance, which Ozine is handling on its own rather than having another service do it for them in order to lower the ticket prices for the performance. Things turned for the worse as Ozine Fest 2016 was only a mere three days away when it was only then where the PHP 300 (around USD 6) ticket price for the event was announced. Then, a mere day before the event was intended to start, people were surprised to find out that Ozine Fest 2016 was just going to become a two-day event instead of the usual three in order to make way for ingress in what was supposed to be Day 1 of the event (which is Friday, 15 April). Add salt to injury were the facts that details such as ticket prices and schedule changes were announced as details for the FLOW performance, the meet and greet and the different contests were already fully announced and that Ozine seems to not have maximized their use of their mediums for communication with potential congoers (especially their new Twitter account and their new website), especially when it came to announcing the schedule changes where people got to know if first through word of mouth from the event exhibitors instead of from Ozine themselves.

So, it’s now 16 April, Ozine Fest 2016 is finally here. Despite the summer heat, despite my hectic schedule, I decided to head out for SMX in the hopes that this year’s Ozine Fest would turn out to be a great event (and that my PHP 300 would be well worth it).

Well, it didn’t go that way.

The first thing I saw was a long queue in an unused hall in SMX that was converted into a holding area. There I found out that it was a queue for people buying tickets to the event and that it earlier reached outside and around SMX. People had to reportedly endure being in the summer heat for hours just to get into SMX only to find out that they have to line-up again in that queue in the holding area before reaching the only two ticketing booths that were meant to handle the large turnout of congoers for Ozine Fest 2016. Luckily, I did not have to experience that as I had a comrade buy a ticket for me. (Thanks, comrade. You know who you are.)

So, after finally being able to enter the event venue, I noticed that Ozine staff were only concentrated in some areas of the venue, such as the entrance to the event hall, the stage area, the meet and greet area and the FLOW concert area. So, the people that are really bearing the brunt of the event are not necessarily the Ozine staff but actually the SMX management. I actually saw a lot of them managing the lines and walking around the venue in order to make sure that everything is fine. The size of Ozine staff might still work in the Megatrade Hall but it’s definitely not enough to handle an event in SMX. This was really noticeable as the FLOW performance began as almost no Ozine staff was in sight inside the event area (as it seems that they have moved to the FLOW concert hall).

Finally, the FLOW performance. I’m not exactly in the position to talk about what had happened since I didn’t go to Ozine Fest for FLOW but I heard that it wasn’t exactly smooth sailing for the people who did. While they did enjoy the performance without a doubt, they said that they weren’t exactly satisfied with how Ozine handled the live performance. A complaint during the performance was that Ozine did not follow the intended schedule of starting at 8 pm. According to Ozine, it was all due to a misunderstanding with the people that were supposed to provide the technical stuff for the concert. While this could have been understood by the people who are looking forward to FLOW, it seems that the way Ozine handled the situation did not result to that. People complained that Ozine were unprofessional in dealing with the inquiries about the performance delay to the point that it had to take SMX to pressure Ozine to make a statement about what was going on. Even so, Ozine’s statement did not really made the people feel reassured that the FLOW performance would still continue. Also, despite Ozine being the one that should bear responsibility for what had happen, people reported that FLOW had to apologize to them for what had happened.

So, some thoughts on Ozine Fest 2016…

Well, I did enjoy the event not because Ozine made it an enjoyable event for me, but I enjoyed it because of what I did as a congoer. I got to meet-up with the Supreme Leader (Jello Custodio) yet again for our North Korea cosplay. We both shared the same sentiment that Ozine Fest 2016 was far from what was promoted and it did left us feeling disappointed (and even pissed off, as what Jello said). However, it still ended up being a fun Day 1 for us because of the people that took pics with us, the people we met (special credits to that guy who has access to the North Korean state television via satellite) and the random stuff we did inside the event i.e. take over the meet and greet area as people were at the FLOW concert. (Jello would go on to have a fun Day 2 with his PSY cosplay debut.)

Despite us having fun during the event, the way Ozine handled their flagship event for this year was really inexcusable. To be honest, I’m actually someone who would defend the shortcomings of Ozine’s previous events by saying that whatever those shortcomings were things that were just outside their control (such as high attendance, limited venue space and congoers’ behavior) or that it is really difficult to arrange events like those Ozine organizes and people are not in the position to complain. However, this time, there is nothing that I could find that would merit as an excuse in defending Ozine Fest 2016 from the criticisms it has been getting. For me, it was definitely not an Ozine event and it was definitely not worth the PHP 300.

Also, I have started to seriously question Ozine’s capacity to organize an event. As I said earlier, Ozine did get a good impression last year as they handled almost all of their events well. Ozine Fest 2015 is what I would consider as a good example of how well they organized their events last year. The promotions prior to the event were good, with the week leading up to the event being characterized by constant information releases through their media partners. This year, we did not get to see that as even as the event was only mere days away, only a trickle of information was being received by congoers on how the event would be. Also, in Ozine Fest 2015, it ran into the trouble of having its meet and greet guests backing out of the event due to varying travel and scheduling issues. It never really became that much of an issue as Ozine offered either a refund or an alternative meet and greet with other guests for those affected by the guesting cancellations. This time, people were reportedly treated rudely and unprofessionally especially when it comes to the FLOW concert.

So, to summarize, Ozine Fest 2016 is definitely an event that was disappointing and even insulting to a certain point. People were definitely expecting a lot from Ozine this year but only got a poorly planned, mismanaged and less than mediocre of an event. This definitely raises questions if people should even attend future Ozine events.

They already have plans for this year’s Otaku Expo Reloaded in which it is scheduled to be held at the Megatrade Halls during the first weekend of August 2016. I would probably attend not for the sake of it being an Ozine event, but because it is really one of the only few places were people can meet their otaku friends and contacts, or cosplay, or basically live out their otaku-self.

(Author’s note: Decided to delete my older post about Ozine Fest 2016 since I felt it didn’t feel natural for me and it didn’t reflect my thoughts on the event.)

~ Sugumi

Thank you, μ’s

Dear μ’s,

Honoka Kosaka, Kotori Minami, Umi Sonoda, Rin Hoshizora, Maki Nishikino, Hanayo Koizumi, Eli Ayase, Nozomi Tojo, Nico Yazawa

Emi Nitta, Aya Uchida, Mimori Suzuko, Riho Iida, Eriko Hori, Yurika Kubo, Yoshino Nanjo, Aina Kusuda, Sora Tokui

Today is April 1, 2016, the day when all 18 of you finally ended your amazing journey that lasted over five years. All of you sang your hearts out for the final time to entertain your thousands of fans that have continuously supported you all these years. However, while all of you have agreed and decided that today marks the end of μ’s, you and your fans – including me – still have this feeling of wanting to continue. Maybe every single one of you and everyone asked whether or not this was just a joke. But there is no denying that everything has to end today.

The journey that μ’s started began more than five years ago, however, I only got the chance to become a part of it only about a little more than a year ago. This is when I encountered Love Live! for the first time, which was also my first time watching an anime about idols. I expected this anime to be just another regular anime, which is something that I would just watch, complete and move forward from. However, that didn’t seem to be the case. When I completed the first season, I went for the second season. Following that, I watched the OVA and the animated music videos released before the anime series aired. After that, I went for the School Idol Festival rhythm game. Then, after re-watching the whole anime series for a second time, I watched the movie. All of these moments within a span of a year, and it wouldn’t have been such an amazing and enjoyable year without μ’s.

Unfortunately, as μ’s ended today, I was not able to be a part of your final moments as a group. So, here I am writing this letter so that I can convey my feelings for μ’s for a final time.

First, congratulations on ending your successful five-year run with an amazing final live. I read somewhere that when μ’s was just starting, it hoped to turn the few fans that it had in its first few lives to the thousands of fans that was realized in the past two days. μ’s definitely deserved this overwhelming support from its fans.

Second, a thank you to all 18 girls that consist of μ’s. Love Live! wouldn’t have been that much of an important part of my five years of watching anime without the talents, the songs, the stories, the struggles and everything else that forms μ’s. I know that my simple thank you is enough to convey to every single one of you how much μ’s and Love Live! has done for me.

Finally, a farewell to μ’s. However, I wouldn’t say this is a final farewell for μ’s . While μ’s may have ended today, while Aqours is starting to create a brand new story for Love Live!, while they might be anime series or idol groups that may be on par or even better than Love Live! or μ’s, but the fact remains that μ’s will always be special in my heart especially in these five years that I have been watching anime. μ’s is also definitely something that I would continue to go back for even in the future.

Again, thank you, μ’s.

North Korea orders “Love Live! craze”

North Korea has entered into a “Love Live! craze” after leader Kim Jong Un issued an order creating a two-day holiday for the Final Love Live!, according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency.

“Our respected comrade Kim Jong Un has recognized the importance of Love Live! to the final victory of the revolution and has issued an order creating a two-day holiday for the people of our Republic to enjoy the Final Love Live!,” the report read.

Day 1 of the live was reportedly aired live on state-run Korean Central Television at 3:30 pm local time, with with sold-out live screenings being arranged at Kim Il Sung Square, Rungrado May 1 Stadium and Kim Il Sung Stadium. Kim Jong Un reportedly enjoyed a private live screening arranged for government, party and military officials in a theater in Pyongyang.

The daily programming for the state-run television for the two-day holiday was also reportedly filled with Love Live! anime re-runs, movie, music videos and previous lives.

Pyongyang residents were reportedly excited about the two-day holiday with one commenting: “We thank our respected Marshal Kim Jong Un for giving us the chance to watch the Final Love Live!.” The same person broke down in tears when asked about μ’s disbanding, saying: “This can’t be true! They cannot disband!”

Love Live! merchandise are also reportedly selling out within the country, despite the recent sanctions placed over the country over its nuclear test and satellite launch in the previous months. Maki Nishikino merchandise is reportedly a hot seller ever since leader Kim Jong Un ordered that she is “the best girl.”

While there have been celebrations in Pyongyang over the Love Live! craze, the situation outside of the city was reportedly tense. In North Pyongan province, it has been reported that most of the people there were fans of THE iDOLM@STER and there has been a crackdown by the Ministry of People’s Security on the rival idol anime series.

“There was this man who was well-known in our town for having a Makoto Kikuchi figure who was executed, and there was also this party official who was caught playing SideM in his phone and was sent to a re-education camp,” a source within the country reported.

Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso

It’s been a while since I’ve written an anime review because I haven’t got the time to watch anime as frequent now due to my busy schedule. After slowly working my way through 23 episodes, I’ve finally finished Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso, which is the subject of today’s review.

What is it?

Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso (Your Lie in April) is a drama, romance and music anime series produced by A-1 Studios, which had a 23-episode run between October 2014 and March 2015.  The story revolves around Kousei Arima, who was a child piano prodigy that suffered a mental breakdown following the death of his mother (who also served as his piano instructor) which left him unable to play the piano and seeing the world in monochrome. One spring day, he meets a girl named Kaori Miyazono and everything changes as she urges him to return to play the piano.

First impressions

The reason why this anime series ended up in my list is that there was a considerable hype about the anime due to its feels ending. Also, I expected that the production quality for this series to be really good.

What I liked…

Animation: The animation was generally good especially in scenes where the piano is being played.

Music: Nope, not the classical music pieces that were played. I liked the songs Hikaru Nara (If You Will Shine) and Nanairo Symphony (Seven Colored Symphony), which served as the opening songs for the series.

Character design for random kids: Should be self-explanatory.

What I didn’t like…

Story: It was completely messy since the anime ends up being inserted with tons of tons of completely unnecessary fillers. Nothing bad in a few overdramatic thoughts or flashbacks, but when you repeat it over and over again across different episodes, it just doesn’t make sense (maybe they were going for the 23 episodes length). I guess the story could have been compressed into an hour or so long movie (or even in 15 or so minutes, as seen in Kaori’s letter in the final episode).

Also, because of the fillers, the pacing is extremely slow. For example, a single piano competition that lasted for only a day ended up taking 3 episodes to complete. After that, it has a tendency to speed up the timeline in order to focus on another competition (let’s say the story compresses months worth of time between a competition in just a single episode).

Also, I expected the story to be focused on both Kousei and Kaori but it just ended up focusing on Kousei just complaining about things and some random stuff. To be honest, I think the anime could still work if there was much less focus on Kousei’s rivals in piano competitions and if the part involving Kousei teaching Nagi was removed. I guess this is why I wasn’t moved even a slightest bit on the anime’s feels ending.

Characters: Is it just me or are most of the characters overdramatic for no reason at all? Kousei just keeps on whining about things throughout the anime, which got insanely annoying. His rivals, Emi and Takeshi, were also annoying when it comes to their thoughts especially when competing (which is why I started questioning why the hell would you guys even consider playing the piano if you guys just keep being overdramatic about it).

Meanwhile, Kaori is the only good character in the series. The only problem is that her screen time (despite being one of the supposedly main characters) is extremely limited. Even Kousei’s rivals, friends, mother, instructor and student (which I felt were minor characters), had more time than her. Sure, you could say it’s because she’s sick and confined to the hospital, but that doesn’t really make a good excuse for her to have limited screen time.

Animation: I did say generally good earlier about the animation since as the anime series progressed, the quality was no different to the usual anime series now. In my opinion, the animation by the time it reached the final episodes felt rushed compared to the detailed work in the first few episodes.

Comedic effect: They did try to insert some comedy in this anime series. For example, there’s going to be a random joke here or a comedic animation effect there. For me, it didn’t work since it’s just too random for a drama anime series (imagine comedic effect or light moments in the middle of a pretty dramatic situation).

Overall

Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso was a pretty disappointing anime. It failed to have me relate to the story was a mess leading me to not appreciate the much-talked about ending. The characters were generally pretty annoying as what I could remember about them is their complaints and whines in every single episode. Sure, it’s a drama but you should have a pretty good reason why they’re dramatic and not just aimlessly be dramatic in every single episode. Overall, it’s just a trying hard anime that failed pretty badly in my opinion.

My score for the series: 6/10

~ Sugumi

Ozine Fest 2016: Something big is coming

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(Ozine)

A quick update just before February comes to an end.

Last 25 February, Ozine released a promo hinting “something big” that is coming to the event in April, which is set to be revealed tomorrow, 1 March.

Not expecting much on whatever Ozine is planning to reveal tomorrow (I feel like the guy above), but yeah… let’s still see what this would be.

Also, did anyone notice that Ozine has put up another Twitter account for their events?

ccen1ogucaelx1a

Also, a quick update on what I’ve been watching. I’m currently more than halfway with Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso. It’s been taking a while due to a mix of school-related stuff and the anime itself being a bit disappointing (feels like my disappointment with 5 Centimeters Per Second… but stretching 24 episodes long). I would be writing my thoughts on this in the first half of March.

~ Sugumi

Otaku Expo 2016

Labelled as the first major otaku event of the year in the Philippines, Otaku Expo 2016 was held last 23-24 January at the Megatrade Halls at the SM Megamall. With that, I guess it would be proper to start the year by being able to squeeze in this event in my schedule by attending Day 1.

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(AnimePH)

Otaku Expo 2016 is basically your regular Ozine event but in a much smaller scale (since the Otaku Expo events are basically designed to fill in the gap between Ozine Fest and Ozine Fest Anime Figure Special). Not much has changed aside from the event itself occupying one hall of the Megatrade Halls (compared to three in Ozine Fest events). In that one hall, there’s the stage, the merchandise area and the meet and greet area (with the Ozine Maid Cafe not being present this time around which is pretty rare). There’s another hall that the event opened up as a free hall where people are free to loiter.

There were also a karaoke singing contest, group and individual cosplay competitions, and a battle of the bands. Hong Kong cosplayers Luffy and Tsubasa were also at the event as guests.

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With the Supreme Leader hiphoppy11 (Arvee Santos Andaya)

Though, things did get a little interesting for me in this event.

With a nationwide gun ban being enforced due to the national election to be held in May, I decided to not bring my prop Kalashnikov to the event so that I don’t get into trouble with the authorities. (Though, there was still a a good amount of prop weapons in the event. You guys know who you are… explain yourselves.)

So, instead of being the intimidating security detail of the Supreme Leader, I ended up looking like the military officers accompanying Kim Jong Un when he does his field guidance when I was with hiphoppy11 with his Supreme Leader cosplay.

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Days before the event, Ozine announced that they were finally scrapping the usual PHP 100 (USD 2.10) ticket price for their events due to the rising costs of organizing these kinds of events. They announced a price hike with tickets at PHP 180 (USD 3.78) for Otaku Expo (and it is expected that future events would now stick to the PHP 200 or USD 4.20 ticket price).

What surprised me is that Ozine stated that while the ticket price rose, the meet and greet for Luffy and Tsubasa was made free. Ozine further stated that they would also offer discounts on merchandise purchases on future events and that they would also try to continue the free meet and greet in Ozine Fest 2016.

Well, because of the free meet and greet session with Luffy and Tsubasa, hiphoppy11 and I decided to go for it and we both ended up getting a free poster signed by them and a free photo op. Achievement unlocked: Get myself into a meet and greet session.

(For the record: Not exactly a fan of either Luffy or Tsubasa but I’m familiar with them since they’ve been Ozine event guests before. I also started following them following the event.)

The Supreme Leader also went on a little adventure during the two-day event. I guess it would be best if he would be the one to tell it over at pandapile.

P.S. The Supreme Leader cult is growing.

Some event photos here (sadly, not much compared to previous events).

Here’s some after event thoughts (as a response to what people been commenting about it):

Megatrade Hall

Again, most of the complaints about the event was about its venue. First, the mall management. I understand that the mall is just trying its best to keep everyone satisfied and to keep things in order. Though, I can’t help but agree with some people that congoers are looked down as if they’re second-class people compared to other people in the mall (especially if you’re not Team Labas and you’re really supporting the event by paying for the ticket).

Second, the venue. Again, people were complaining that the Megatrade Halls were no longer the best place for events as big as this. Also, why the need to have congoers (especially cosplayers) be limited inside the halls and not allowed to roam around (again, especially for those who paid the event ticket)? The mall management needs to understand that people also need to take a break from the event and that’s the reason why they roam around outside. Also, for congoers (especially for cosplayers and photographers), they should understand that having the freedom to be outside the halls does not mean that you should create inconveniences for others i.e. staying in an area long enough to attract much attention (for cosplayers) or claiming an area for a photoshoot session (for photographers).

There have been hints from Ozine that SMX on the other side of Metro Manila would be the venue for this year’s Ozine Fest (and the same is true for all the other major otaku events for this year). People may rejoice at the fact that it is the year of SMX and that it would offer a much more better venue than Megatrade (with an emphasis on people looking forward to having enough space for them to move around or do whatever they want), but for me, that would not be the case as Ozine Fest 2014 proved. (Big space does not mean more space for you to move around… Also, it’s too damn far and it’s hard to commute there.)

I guess what I’m trying to say is that you might as well dash your dreams of having a good venue for large scale events like this (if space and not having to bring out cash for the event is your thing).

Congoers

Things got interesting when people started commenting on the congoers. Most attention went to people that were part of Team Labas or people who goes to events but are not willing to spend cash on the event ticket and ends up loitering in an area just outside of the event or who expects that the event would provide for them a free area to stay despite not paying for the event. I understand that these people just want to have fun on the same level as those people who spent cash for the event ticket. But I would agree to those people saying that since Team Labas are not supporting the event by buying tickets, they are not entitled to receive something in return from the event. This issue would be a completely different story if an event is packed with people but every single one of those attendees have bought the event ticket.

Then there’s the behavior of some of the people in the event. The usual problem of people not looking after their trash in the venue was fixed with the help of some cosplayers volunteering to do a clean-up drive. While the intention is good, it just kinda makes the problem worse since it’s not really sending a message to people to look after their trash (since there would be people who would pick up for them). Also, perverts suddenly became a major issue again using the excuse of being an otaku or a fan to justify their actions (especially towards female cosplayers). Sure, complaints are flooding in for the good intention of bringing up the issue (but as with the trash issue, it’s not sending a message). However, I would say that it should’ve been solved during the event itself (for example, having these perverts brought to event or mall officials for proper action).

So… Otaku Expo 2016. While it was more or less the same stuff, I still had fun, so it was an okay event for me. I would try to have Ozine Fest 2016 squeezed in my schedule since I can no longer go on all three days due to my probably busy schedule at that time and the fact that it’s SMX (which is roughly two hours or more away from my place compared to 15-30 minutes if it’s SM Megamall).

~ Sugumi