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.)