Made in Asia
What: Asiamania convention
When: March 12 – 13 2016
Where: Brussels Expo, Laeken, Belgium
The past couple of years, there had been a lot of critique on Made in Asia: it was overcrowded, hardly any room to move, and especially to sit and relax. After the especially flawed 7th edition of last year, however, the organization finally realised that changes had to be made, and actually went ahead and made them. They clearly based themselves on the lay-out of Japan Expo near Paris, but hey, if it works, then it works. Which it does.
We can’t speak for Saturday, but Sunday Made in Asia was pleasant and good fun in general. Rather than cramping as much in as little halls of the Brussels Expo Palais they took up for that edition, they had properly fanned out. It didn’t mean that you didn’t have to look for things, but it did mean that you could move around. And find all the little steampunk treasures at the convention, and of course, fellow steampunks and dieselpunks!
This year’s edition was a joint convention with YouPlay!, and that’s what made this edition so much fun, I hope that they’ll stick to these joint events!
Whilst YouPlay! seemed to focus more on popular culture such as gaming and YouTube, there was still plenty of Asiamania mixed in, making it blend in smoothly with Made in Asia. Most visitors probably didn’t really notice where one ended and the other began, which is proof of how well they blended both.
Whilst it used to be total chaos, you could now properly navigate, thanks to the programs and maps you could pick up at the entrance, and the maps that were conveniently placed in every hall. It really made the convention easy to navigate.
Another pleasant surprise was the fact that they had properly spread out the areas.
There was a hall with nothing but food stands, providing not only a much larger variety than what you usual see at a convention, so not not just improving on past editions, but also focusing on both Asian foods and western, to make sure that everyone could find something to their liking. Aside from the food hall, there were also plenty of other food stands spread throughout Palais 12, which Made in Asia was occupying this year. Convention food is never cheap, but we’ve seen worse prices.
Instead of the shambles that autographing stands generally were, this year Made in Asia organized them in the better part of one hall and the Village, another definite improvement, even though finding the right place to be could still be a little daunting. At least the volunteers in these areas were briefed better than in past years, so they were able to help out quite well.
Provided you speak French, because despite the fact that Brussels is actually also the capital of Flanders (and not just Belgium), the vast majority is French speaking, and whilst Made in Asia provides a bilingual website (if it’s not down like it was on convention weekend) and plan + program, in reality it is still 90% French. That of course doesn’t mean you can’t have a lot of fun if you’re Flemish (or other language) speaking, it just means you need to realise this, especially if you are looking to shop for manga and anime.
There were of course many vendors present, ranging from indi designers and artists, to slightly better known brands, there was a good variety between things you see at every convention, and things people hadn’t really seen before. Like the convention in itself, it was a good mix between pop culture and Asiamania. It was especially nice to be able to buy cute stuff, fashion bits and bobs but also Asian sweets, food, teas and home décor, for all kinds of likes and styles.
Whist this is a convention that in itself doesn’t cater to steampunks or dieselpunks, there were several shops that did, including several stores that only sold ‘punk items.
Aside from that, Made in Asia had the largest number of steampunks I’ve seen at a Belgian convention in a long time, so it is definitely a great meeting point if you love dressing to the nines in your finest steampunk garb, and are also interested in gaming and Asian cultures!
The great thing of course, was that this wasn’t a convention you simply visit to spend money, like many others. You could try out all kinds of board and card games, ranging from just released to well established, such as the Pokémon card game. Aside from that there were two stages each on both Made in Asia and YouPlay! with karaoke, quizzes, all kinds of competitions, not just cosplay, and concerts. And it didn’t end there either, because there were also hourly initiations and workshops in the Village in a wide variety of subjects such as origami, sushi making, various martial arts, bonsaï, calligraphy and more.
So even if you were on a tight budget, you could still spend an entire day having a great time and just having spent money on your ticket. You could bring your own food and drinks, and participate happily in all free items on the program and still have a great time. Which is also part of why this edition of Made in Asia was so great: they really improved their lay-out and set-up, and made sure that there was something to do for every visitor, which probably explained why there were so many smiling faces at the convention.
Hopefully they will keep these improvements up, so next year will be just as great!
For more photos, click here.