Madman Anime Festival 2019, Melbourne – Event Review

Madman Anime Festival has come a long way since it first came to Melbourne in 2016. I remember the 2016 festival being quite small and humble, with my friend and I entertaining ourselves at the sticker photo machine on the show floor and dancing at 2016 Madman Anime Festival guest, Cristina Vee’s music performance. Within just a few years, Madman Anime Festival has grown in Melbourne substantially. In a bigger space than before at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre during the weekend of September 14th & 15th, only those who have been to every Melbourne instalment of Madfest since the beginning, those behind the scenes at Madman and long-time members of the anime and cosplay community can understand how far we’ve come.

The show floor this year was filled with a balanced amount of stores, artist stalls and exhibitors. The Fate Series had a big presence at Madfest this year for “Fate/Grand Order” with a massive booth and pins to give away for excited fans who chose to take part in the Summoning Stand event. Nintendo returned to Madfest for its second year in Melbourne, showcasing both released and upcoming games, in particular “Doraemon Story of Seasons” which doesn’t come out in Australia until October 11, 2019. As a long time Doraemon fan (since I was a kid), I was very excited to try the demo at the Nintendo booth and I’m now admittedly excited for the game to be released. There were other games available to play on the show floor thanks to Bandai Namco Entertainment consisting of games such as “Dragonball Z: Kakaroi” which isn’t released until January 2020, “One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4”, “Code Vein” due for release this September 27th, “Trails of III Cold Steel” which is exclusive to Playstation 4 and due to be released October 29th, 2019, “The Dark Pictures Anthology: Man of Medan”, “RAD” and “One Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows” which at present has no set release date. I did manage to try some of these games and will eagerly anticipate their releases in the (hopefully) not too distant future.

For photo opportunities, the Anime Lab booth had you covered, whether it be for “Demon Slayer” where there were two cosplayers dressed as characters Tanjiro and Nezuko on standby to take photos with fans, a “One Punch Man” booth where you could swing at a punching bag and find out your strength score, a “Sword Art Online” section where you could take photos with a cosplayer to earn a badge, a “Fire Force” area where if you were lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time, you could take photos with a giant fire safety doggo, and last but not least, “Tokyo Ghoul” fans could take photos with character Kanaki Ken’s ‘Kagune’ which is actually, really damn cool.

A highlight of the show floor though was the “My Hero Academia” obstacle course where fans could climb through a blow-up course which looked a lot of fun and at the same time physically challenging. For a limited amount of time, patrons could take part in the course and obtain a limited-edition badge/button at the end. Unfortunately, by the time our team had taken part in the course, all the badges were gone. Demand was popular with volunteers advising that they had disappeared within the first half an hour of the convention opening for the day, which is crazy impressive! We also enjoyed a VR short film called “AR Voice Battle” which showed a 360-degree view of legendary Japanese voice actors recording in a studio. The short film was enjoyable, impressive and recently won the Best VR Award at the Mt. Fuji-Atami Film & VR Festival 2019.

I was delighted to find the now Madfest staple, Manga Library available on the floor thanks to manga publisher, VIZ. I’m a manga reader, so having manga easily available to sit down and read at the convention is a huge plus. However, I was slightly disappointed when I found the Mai-Wish Café on the show floor for everyone to see. In previous years, the café has had a divider or its own private room to give the perfect ‘maid/butler’ experience. There were also no cosplay backdrops like in previous years. Thankfully, the weather was mostly nice outside for both days of the event, and perfectly timed (whether it be intentionally or unintentionally) with the cherry blossom trees outside the venue, which were in full bloom and a perfect photo opportunity for cosplayers.

Madman Anime Festival had an impressive collective of guests for Melbourne this year such as Japanese voice actors; Natsuki Hanake, the voice of main character Tanjiro in “Demon Slayer”, Akari Kito who is the voice of character Nezuko also from “Demon Slayer”, voice actor Yuu Asakawa who is Ana from “Fate/Grand Order”, Aina Aiba, voice of character Yukina Minato in “BanG Dream! Girls Band Party”, and voice actor Shin-Ichiro Miki of character Sir Nighteye in “My Hero Academia”. Two Japanese producers Shizuka Kurosaki and Yuma Takahashi also made an appearance for their works “Fate Series” and “Demon Slayer”. While signings and meet and greets were quick to sell out, the voice actors managed to surprise fans at themed cosplay meets dedicated to the anime they voice for, specifically Nastsuki Hanake and Akari Kito who together surprised the “Demon Slayer” cosplayers on Saturday during their fan meet.

Unfortunately, I did not attend many panels this year. I attempted to visit the Uniqlo Stage to attend the Demon Slayer Special Event on Saturday, but it was so loud and difficult to hear (the Uniqlo Stage was on the same floor as the shops and artist stalls), it was very crowded and I couldn’t see anything, so I decided to leave. Saturdays are always busy at any convention, but with the Uniqlo Stage sharing the Expo Hall floor, it would have been difficult to hear regardless.

I did manage to catch American voice actor Cherami Leigh’s panel at the Anime Lab Arena (Plenary Theatre) who excitedly shared memories about voicing characters Asuna in “Sword Art Online” and Red Blood Cell in “Cells At Work!”, which was a very enjoyable experience. I also managed to catch an entertaining set by J-Idol Group AGS102, as well as see pianist Natalya Aynsley perform who was delightful on-stage while cleverly playing rearrangements of music from Studio Ghibli’s  “Ponyo”, “Sprited Away”, “Kiki’s Delivery Service”, “Howl’s Moving Castle”, and music from Square-Enix games “Kingdom Hearts” and “Final Fantasy”, all to the style of classical composer, Chopin.

While there were once again Australian premieres of animated films at Madfest (I have been attending at least one film at Madfest for the past two years), I did not catch any films this year. I hope that next year I will be able to do so.

Madman Anime Festival 2019 is the biggest I’ve seen of Madfest in comparison to its previous years in Melbourne. I admit, I feel happy and humbled that the anime and cosplay community has grown so much within the last ten years, and I’m grateful that the folk from Madman Entertainment have decided to create and run with this event, which is now the biggest annual anime festival in Australia. Thanks to anime and manga being more and more accessible, this fun anime convention will only get bigger. And I honestly can’t wait until August 2020 when Madfest will return to Melbourne again. The collectable freebies were great at this year’s event, because who doesn’t love a treasure hunt? My only wish is that next year they bring a bigger music entertainment guest to perform at the anime festival. Fingers crossed.

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