Event: Made in Asia (MiA 6)
When: March 14 – 16 2014
What: Asiamania convention
Where: Brussels Expo, Laeken, Belgium
First let me start by saying that Made in Asia is a fun convention. It has a wide variety of Asiamania subjects and it’s the only event of this kind that focuses on other countries on the Asian continent aside from Japan, even though the Land of the Rising Sun is still the unavoidable main focus. Mainly China and Korea had a few stands dedicated to them, which made for a nice change from just J-culture.
Sadly, Made in Asia is also a very flawed convention in many ways, and it’s become quite clear that the organisation should really address these issues sooner rather than later.
There’s a lot to see and do at Made in Asia, which makes it that there’s something for almost everyone to do and that’s always a good thing. There’s games, competitions, karaoke, Asian culture, shopping, meet and greet + autograph sessions, a photo wall to take photos against(sadly along a very crowded passageway so taking photos against it is not as easy or straight forward as the concept sounds), and even a photobooth that would allow you to have your photo printed instantly for free, amongst many other things.
Aside from the main hall with shopping and the Patio where larger competitions, conferences and concerts are held, there’s an entire hall dedicated to all kinds of games, ranging from vintage and classics to modern releases, ufo catchers, company promo stands, RC controlled helicopters, etc. It comes to no surprise that this is a very popular hall and on the very calm first day Friday most people seemed to be mostly congregated here.
The crew of The Gatehouse attended two days, Friday and Saturday daytime.
Friday the con was blissfully relaxed. Rather few people had attended during the daytime, probably preferring to wait for the couple of free hours of the evening. This made that visitors that did buy a ticket for the earlier time had the previously unseen luxury of strolling without having to walk over heads and properly see what was for sale at each stand. Brilliant!
Apparently it was pretty busy for the 2 free opening hours on Friday evening but we had gone before those started as we would return the next day.
Saturday was a whole different matter, with a convention bordering on overcrowded, making it very hard to photograph things and people and just move around in general. The convention keeps on drawing more visitors every year, but yet the organisation seems to insist on staying in one of the smaller Heysel halls or scaling down rather than going for a bigger one. On the upside, it was once against joined with the Creativa art’s fair in the adjoining palace (you could enter the other con regardless of for which of the two you had a ticket, provided you took the correct entrance as you could only get in via the con you had bought the ticket for) so that added opportunities for food and just sitting down for a moment. Made in Asia isn’t that diverse when it comes to eating and if you wanted to sit down you could go and find a piece of floor somewhere. And no, that wasn’t exactly a clean floor either.
As is typical for conventions, cosplay is a pretty big deal. And whilst it’s absolutely fantastic that so many people with excellent costumes wanted to participate, that should not be an excuse for the organisation to allow the competition to extend it’s allotted time on the program by more than 30 minutes, causing a horrible delay in everything still to come.
The conference with T. Kawamoto could have been very interesting, were it not that it was essentially one guy doing a live interview, backed with a bunch of trailers of anime. In Japanese, without subtitles. For an audience that was for at least 98% composed of people that were either waiting for the ADAMS concert to start or that were simply sitting around on the cool hard floor of the Patio by lack of anywhere else to sit down for a moment. It could have been brought a lot better. A Q&A for instance that actually involved the audience, rather than forcing them to watch a stage where very little was happening and trailers most of them couldn’t understand was not the way forward.
ADAMS gave an excellent performance but some of the fangirls were downright frightening. Made in Asia would absolutely benefit from installing a safety zone AND making sure there is security to do some crowd control because some pretty dangerous situations were occuring in those first couple of rows with all the pushing and shoving people into the stage. It’s a proper miracle no one got hurt! The screens at the side of the stage were awesome though, as they allowed people who didn’t quite feel like standing in the madness to still watch the concert. Sadly the sound deteriorated quite significantly the further you were away from the stage.
The sound in the distance was an issue that had already been going on during earlier events in the Patio due to the use of sound boxes that were entirely too small and unsuitable for a room that size. And together with the language issue it is something that Made in Asia really HAS to address next edition.
Whilst the convention has a both Dutch and French website and staff that you can contact in both languages before the event actually happens, on Made in Asia itself, you can just forget about finding anything in Dutch other than the program. Brussels is supposed to be a fully bi-lingual Belgian city but the convention isn’t catering to Flemish speakers at all. Everything is going on in French. We addressed over 10 MiA volunteers over a spread of 2 days and found _none_ speaking Flemish.
The cosplay competition was completely in French, as was the conference following it. Which was just beyond tragic and frankly this kind of thing is just excluding a large part of the Belgian population. If you’re Flemish and you’re not good at French, to be honest this simply isn’t your con if you want to do something else than shop (and even then you can best take a friend that is at least somewhat proficient in French as most shopkeepers only speak French) or attend the concerts.
As for the steampunk to this convention. I saw about a dozen steampunks (not counting myself or obvious cosplayers) on Saturday, but it was pretty impossible to photograph them due to the crowds. Several shops, most notably LunieShop, also catered to steampunks with accessories and some garments, but as it’s an Asiamania convention the focus is obviously on other things than ‘punk. But it does pose an excellent opportunity to dress up to the nines, provided you don’t mind having to deal with abovementioned downsides.
All products from LunieShop.
Bad points aside, if you find things on Made in Asia’s online program that you like it is worth attending for those convention items. If you don’t like crowds, the Friday daytime is a very good opportunity to still attend the convention without it being very busy. It was definitely a great decision of the organisation to open it up during that time as well. Hopefully they’ll keep the Friday daytime next year as well and the organisation will finally start on improving some of the issues that clearly need to be addressed, because whilst Made in Asia is a good thing, there’s definitely things that need to be improved upon, most noteworthy the language issue. Hopefully we’ll be able to see some changes for the better for the 7th edition next year!
More photos of the event are here.
Photos by Hilde Heyvaert and Bert Van den Wyngaert.
No photos may be used without permission of the photographer.