Animangaki came back bigger and louder this year with AMG 2022, following 3 years of no proper conventions thanks to everyone’s favorite respiratory virus.
As someone who cast aside their journalist duties for the weekend to go enjoy the convention, I had a lot of concerns. After all, we’d spent the last 3 years indoors. We’ve had conventions since, but being held in the concourse of a shopping mall is a whole bag of worms on its own and just isn’t the same to what the convention scene regulars might be used to.
Combine that with my very rational fear of other people in a post-pandemic world and worries about the amount of effort spent doing a convention vs the fun gotten by it (yes, I actually think in these words), and in general I was dealing with a lot of wary feelings about what used to be one of my favorite events back in the pre-COVID times. Thankfully, like a smart anime rival pushing their glasses up, the AniManGaki staff had thought of it all, and created what was without a doubt a magical event.
Location, Location, Location
With its own proper venue, AMG 2022 had plenty of room to do what it wanted- huge swathes of space for exhibitors, artists and, most importantly, a huge stage. People forget but the sense of space is a huge deal for conventions- I spent 90% of my convention at the artists alley, and barely interacted with the Cosplay section a whole floor above me- the enjoyment of conventions needs to be built around the ability to choose which part of the convention experiences you want to focus on, since not everyone will appreciate having to wade through a bunch of cosplayer meet and greet hopefuls to get to the Genshin booth.
I mean, there was a whole area just cordoned off for fighting games. Scheduling conflicts led to me not being able to take part in any brackets, but just the knowledge that somewhere in the same event were dudes doing mean Bridget combos is a good feeling to know.
It also helps that by being put in the convention centre as opposed to aforementioned shopping mall concourse, you don’t have to worry as much about interaction with the outside world. A poor conservative family no longer has to have the hard discussion of why a 6 foot tall dude is in a sailor uniform with a pink wig, or why a bunch of people are carrying spears with godawful drop rates in public.
For The Love Of It All
Once you actually get through the convention doors though, all those concerns just kind of melt away. At the end of the day, conventions like AMG 2022 have one major goal in mind- they’re a celebration of things that make us happy. One stroll through the artist alley and you’ll see plenty of artists who’d devoted hours into making art for Genshin Impact, or even manga like Chainsaw Man.
All along the convention centre, you’ll see plenty of people in cosplay ranging from currently trendy characters like Yor Forger from Spy X Family to more evergreen cosplay like Ed from Full Metal Alchemist to even people in fursuits (complete with portable fans because a full-on fursuit in Malaysian weather is a feat of extreme courage).
And that’s kind of my point with this- from the no-easy-feat of planning a convention to being one of the attendees, these conventions just aren’t possible without the kind of hours that are only born of extreme passion. You wouldn’t apply for a doujin booth if you weren’t prepared to put in the hours to make merch for it, and you wouldn’t decide to get out in cosplay without putting plenty of effort into making it to your standards.
One thing I’ve personally loved about AMG in particular has always been the performances. As someone who loves going to live music shows, let’s face it- the amount of times I’m going to hear Unravel on Kings Street in my life will probably be counted on one hand. And while I highly doubt I’ll ever see Band-Maid come to Malaysia, AMG gives the opportunity for the community themselves to fill the void with their own sets that, once again, come from a place of loving the medium.
I mean, I turned around and a band called The Oni-Sons had taken the stage, playing a cover of Stand Proud, the opening for Stardust Crusaders. You just don’t get there anywhere else. Another band had played a screamo rendition of Lapis Lazuli from Steven Universe, so it’s not like there’s not a lot of meticulous work going into arranging these performances.
It’s just a very special feeling when you have more niche interests, since ordinarily you’d only be used to interacting to them in one particular way (like listening to it on YouTube). Suddenly being presented with an entirely new option of how to enjoy it is part of what makes the experience so special.
Heck, the event even closed out with a massive afterparty, complete with DJ Taka Kazuki whose setlist included songs like Bad Apple Zhongli’s theme from Genshin Impact. Adult life eventually caught up with me and I had to leave mid-set, but not before I got pulled into a conga line set to the opening from Ya Boy Kongming.
Another high praise I’d have to give would be the community panels. A big problem any event can run into is the over-reliance on huge talents- and while it was definitely cool to see people like Emirichu meeting fans, the fact that a bunch of, comparatively, nobodies can also get a hall to talk about things like Gundam is how you keep the celebration feeling more alive, rather than having your whole con just feel like a big marketing push.
Full Disclosure: I was the nobody running the Gundam panel.
While community panels will probably never pull in the same kinds of crowds a celebrity will, it’s important that they continue to exist- geeking out with fellow fans is literally the core of the convention experience, so giving ordinary joes the chance to flex their expertise in all manner of bizarre fields is a huge way to keep them front and center.
I Just Miss It, Man
It’s hard to not say it without getting soppy, but in short: AMG 2022 was an event the community sorely needed. Small events are important but considering how little chance there’s been to cut loose and celebrate in recent years, we needed something loud and bombastic and wild. To that end, AMG delivered on all fronts.
Were there things they could have improved on? Definitely. But at the root of it AMG was the perfect mix of fan hype and official support, creating a fun weekend where things like deadlines and other such real world problems weren’t hanging overhead, and was the perfect event to truly welcome back Malaysia’s bustling convention scene.
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