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Two weekends ago we saw Malaysians trek to the Sunway Clio exhibition center in Petaling Jaya to enjoy the latest anime and cosplay convention in the post-MCO era called ‘Cos-Mic’, only for it to be abruptly canceled on the second day, Sunday the 26th.
While no exact reason was really given beyond “unforeseen technical difficulties” many netizens that attended the event say that the early cancelation was likely due to one clear reason: large crowds and not enough space. Many users on forums like the r/Malaysia Subreddit noted that they had to wait two hours to get in and that some people even fainted.
This is the not only Anime convention to have problems with the crowds. Anime Fest at Paradigm Mall while not being canceled, also was not the best received. This for mainly for the same reason as Cos-Mic: the high amount of people in the tiny amount of space was suffocating.
I can say from personal experience that the space was too narrow for the high volume of people with colorfully costumed weebs packed shoulder to shoulder shuffling around stalls and booths. It was incredibly hot and within half an hour of getting there, both me and my friend had headaches. We made one lap around the different stalls in the center of the con and then went off to find some water.
The Problem With The Venues
Now we should of course acknowledge that running a convention is difficult and these are among the first conventions to come about following the end of the Covid-19 social distancing restriction. I can understand that getting these large-scale events up and running after two years is likely hard, and renting a suitable venue when many are still wary of covid can be even harder but at the same time if your plan to organize an event like this then a proper venue should be paramount.
We haven’t had these problems with conventions in the past. There have been many anime conventions in Malaysia from Asia Comic-Con to Comic Fiesta and they all ran perfectly fine, I have the overly expensive Limited Edition Nendoroids to prove it. Part of the reason for that though, is that I actually had enough space to get to the stall and buy the figures.
The most obvious potential solution is simple: don’t set the cons in malls. Shopping malls are one of the worst places to set such large-scale events. They don’t have enough space to contain a large number of stalls and all the attendees, not to mention the regular mall-goers who aren’t interested in any of the nerd stuff. They’re just trying to enjoy their weekend out yet may end up caught in a stampede of Genshin Impact characters.
There’s a reason that cons are set in convention centers, places with a large amount of open space, further away from the public eye. The attendees can enjoy their day without awkwardly trudging through food courts while children quietly ask their parents why the funny man is dressed as a Victorian maid.
Another option if you can’t get a big enough venue is to sell a limited number of tickets to the event. I would prefer my cons to be free considering I spend too much money on them anyway but this would ensure that if only say, one thousand people can be inside the building at once, then only one thousand people will be coming down. Animangaki is doing it this year so it’s not a completely radical idea.
I love attending conventions. They’re great events to spend time with friends and like-minded hobbyists as well as just indulge in some general nerd culture.
That’s why I hope that those organizing these events will learn from the mistakes of Anime Fest and Cos-Mic. These large-scale gatherings need bigger venues that aren’t inside public spaces like shopping malls. They need to confirm just how many people the venue can hold and plan to only allow that number of people in.
As we all break free of the restraints of social distancing, it’s important that our conventions are safe, comfortable, and welcoming, and with a large number of new anime and cosplay conventions and events coming to Malaysia and Singapore as soon, let’s hope we can do better in the future.
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