Sunday, June 28, 2015

5 Factors that made CharaExpo so Special


Artistes roaming freely in the halls, wrestling matches taking place alongside live performances and many Japanese exhibitors here for the first time- what's not to love about the carnival atmosphere at CharaExpo?

XDantheManX Online was at CharaExpo over last weekend!
The XDantheManX Online team, in collaboration with Nakitty Channel, Roaming Dog and Bryan Ong Photography, was out and about at the first edition of the convention last weekend, covering an event for the first time as accredited media. Here are five factors that we thought made CharaExpo stand out from other conventions, from our perspectives as fans. We can't wait for CharaExpo 2016!


How often do you get to see an anisong singer walking around in the same convention hall as you? Having been to many pop culture conventions, our answer would be "no". At CharaExpo, we were fortunate enough to meet Kurosaki Maon near the New Japan Pro-Wrestling Ring and although we didn't manage to catch Ayano Mashiro, we noticed photos of her trying out the Sony headphones  popping up on Twitter.

Ayano Mashiro trying out some Sony headphones

In addition, fans were entitled to a meet-and-greet session with the Hokkaido singer with a purchase at the Sony booth. We saw many pictures of delighted fans posing with her after receiving her autograph. We also saw Bushiroad talents including Yonaga Tsubasa, Kitta Izumi and Aimi challenging members of the public to card games at the Bushiroad Card Game Area. Not to mention that guest cosplay personalities KANAME, Sin Izumi and Tatsumi Inui were also happy to pose for photographs with the attendees.

Ardent fans during a live performance

What we liked most about this anime event was the level of freedom with the invited guests. The guests were permitted to spend their free time outside of their event obligations however they wanted. The anisong singers who wanted to could get closer to their fans, the voice actresses could play card games with them, the wrestlers could give their fans hugs and the artists could meet those who appreciate their artworks in person. One of our writers, Nakitty, remarked that he felt the same atmosphere in Japan, where idols and fans could talk to each other like friends, at the Tokyo Idol Festival.

Ayano Mashiro posing for a photograph with fans after her performance

We have to remember that the talents are humans too, just like us. What would make them more happy than interacting with those who appreciate and support them? It's a win-win for both fans and guests. Everyone knew their place too, never crossing the line. CharaExpo delivered on its promise of  bringing fans closer to the content creators. There were no major incidents so we can safely say that this was one of the primary factors behind CharaExpo's first-time success. We hope that this approach could be applied to next year's edition and other similar conventions too.


Nail-biting action in the NJPW Ring

Wrestling matches featuring the biggest names in New Japan Pro-Wrestling, live performances by anisong artistes, live drawing sessions by top artists and a 600-seat card game tournament- there were too many programmes taking place at CharaExpo concurrently that we were unable to enjoy them all! It's not necessarily a bad thing though. The convention managed to pull in a crowd of over 16,000 over its two days, ensuring that all fan bases were covered.

Hey look! It's DJ Momochi!

Anisong lovers showcasing their dance moves at the Anicrush booth

Attendees were also treated to a diversity of exhibitors at the convention. From visual novel studios VisualArts/Key and Frontwing exhibiting for the first time in Singapore to Japanese music companies Pony Canyon and Amuse, there was a huge selection of merchandise to choose from. Cospa was also present, covering the anime wear section. Anicrush lent a unique presence too, providing an event-first on-site anisong dance corner, where the public could try their hand at spinning a DJ set or just groove along to the music blasted throughout the day.

The year's 600-seat Bushiroad Spring Fest was held at CharaExpo

Trading card game hobbyists were also not left out either, with the annual Bushiroad Spring Fest held for the first time at CharaExpo. All guests were given a promotional card for participating in any of the tournaments, with the champions and runners-up receiving a certificate for their achievements. First-timers were also encouraged to pick up the games as hourly teaching sessions on how to play the card games were organised.

Mel Kishida and guest cosplayers Kaname, Sin Izumi and Tatsumi Inui at the CharaExpo CosStage

We look forward to CharaExpo bringing us an even wider and more fantastic spread of activities next year. I'm sure many would agree that the live wrestling matches definitely gave us a good adrenaline rush and made CharaExpo stand out from other similar pop culture conventions. Idols seem to be the only thing missing at this year's event so *hint* I hope we'll see some of them *hint* next year.


The VisualArts booth was a total sell-out

With Japanese firms making up over eighty percent of the exhibitors, it wouldn't be a surprise if we were to drop straight into CharaExpo through a time portal and think we were in Japan. CharaExpo succeeded in bringing Japan to Singapore. Japanese companies such as Aniplex, Nitroplus and Good Smile Company made up the bulk of the booths at the convention. We were able to purchase goods usually sold in Japan only such as Cospa T-shirts, Na-Ga's rindou artbook and the Kanda Matsuri X Love Live! collaboration merchandise, without actually having to make the flight there.

I'll let you guess if those are really Japanese or Singaporean cosplayers

To add to the "being in Japan" feeling at CharaExpo, there were also quite a number of Japanese booth promoters and staff at the event. It was nice being able to speak to them and tell them how much we like their products. (We managed to get some info on Magical Suite Prism Nana too; check back for updates!) They were also quite well-versed in English, which eliminated any communication barrier. The companies certainly brought their best staff, who were very helpful and always on their feet to ensure that customers had the best experience at the event.

We loved the feeling of "being in Japan" and hope that CharaExpo brings in even more Japanese exhibitors such as Animate, next year!


Reasonably-priced CDs on sale at the Pony Canyon booth

In addition to the Japanese nature of the exhibitors and their staff, there was one very important factor which incontrovertibly contributed to CharaExpo's success- the prices of the goods. More too often than not, anime merchandise imported from Japan into Singapore have marked-up prices and shipping charges are incurred by the customer, making them expensive. However, we found that the prices of the items on sale at CharaExpo were actually comparable to their Japanese counterparts. Shipping charges were kept to a minimum or not even passed on at all to the consumers.

The Cospa Cinderella Girls shirt costs $25- definitely not just for the rich!

We were rather surprised by the CharaExpo-exclusive The Idolmaster: Cinderella Girls shirts sold by Cospa. They cost only $25 each, which was comparable to retail prices of shirts sold at clothing stores in Singapore. Anime wear is definitely not for the rich only! Among other good deals we found was Yurika Endo's single on sale at a low $10 at Pony Canyon's booth. We guess that bringing in Japanese companies to promote their products to consumers directly reduces additional charges and price-setting, increasing sales and revenue, benefiting both producers and consumers.

Kurosaki Maon performing at CharaExpo

Not to mention the admission tickets for CharaExpo were extremely cheap- at six dollars only, for early-birds. It is equivalent to what you would pay for a meal at a food court in Orchard or City Hall. The front-row wrestling seats cost only five dollars too, ensuring that one wouldn't have to break the bank if one wanted to watch one's first professional wrestling match.

Voice actress-singer Aimi performing her BanG_Dream! song

Despite the inexpensive admission fee, the organisers did not scrimp on the contents. They brought in popular anisong artistes Kurosaki Maon, Ayano Mashiro, Ayaka Kitazawa, Aimi and BACK-ON for an impressive two hour-long anisong concert over two days for only six dollars. Five dollar-tickets to catch Hiroshi Tanahashi and Togi Makabe? That's an impossibility. The biggest illustrators in the industry- Akio Watanabe, Mel Kishida, Kaoru Hagiya, Akira Itou, among others- were also invited to the convention.

BACK-ON rocked the entire CharaExpo to a close

By pairing a low ticket price with in-demand top-notch talents for their first edition, CharaExpo was virtually guaranteed a high attendance. There was little for fans and members of the public to lose to attend this convention. In fact, there was every reason for them to attend, with the long list of distinguished talents in attendance.

Ayaka Kitazawa- also held her first overseas live in Singapore

CharaExpo managed to attract Japanese pop culture fans who were still studying and had little disposable income, enthusiasts in their 20s to 30s who had a larger purchasing power and even members of the public who were looking for something interesting over the weekend with their attractive price and non-price attractions. It remains to be seen if CharaExpo will continue employing this price strategy for next year's edition or align their ticket prices more closely to similar conventions such as Anime Festival Asia.


The flow of human traffic was smooth

By holding the convention in the spacious Hall 7 of Singapore Expo, the organisers ensured a smooth flow of human traffic. There was ample room in the walkways for attendees to navigate and take a good look at the items on offer at each of the exhibitors' booths. The passageways were not clogged with people despite the huge turnout for CharaExpo and this ensured that everyone would have a pleasant time.

Just opposite the Expo was Changi City Point

There were also a number of nearby dining options for the public to choose from. Just a stone's throne away was Subway in the main Expo building, which saw the longest queue at lunchtime. Further inside were fast food outlets Burger King, Texas Chicken and dining establishments such as Meng Kee Prawn Noodle House and Lerk Thai Restaurant. Just opposite the Expo was Changi City Point, which boasts a food court, supermarket and many other alternatives. You might even bump into your favourite voice actress there!

Huge turnout for the first CharaExpo

By locating CharaExpo in a convenient and accessible location, the concerns of the public were met and ensured that it would have a big turnout. We hope to see CharaExpo held at the same venue again next year. Maybe even open up another hall for even more booths, if the organisers are game for the challenge, as a member of the public had commented on Facebook. We would like to give a thumbs up to the incredible sound system too. It magnified our enjoyment of the artistes' live performances and was one of the better setups among those we have came across at similar events and concerts.

When all is said and done, despite being one of the more enjoyable events we have attended (with the other being our personal favourite, the Singapore Toys, Games and Comics Convention), there is certainly room for improvement for CharaExpo. Here are a few short suggestions from us and what we gathered from the public:

There is certainly room for improvement


CharaExpo was a haven for Love Live! fans

CharaExpo achieved its main emphasis on connecting fans with the creators of their favourite works exceedingly well. However, one of its aims which was announced at its second press conference in May, to promote this season's and the next's animes, might have been slightly overlooked in its first edition.

Classic Doraemon was featured at the convention too

Limited series were featured at the convention- namely mega-franchises Love Live!, The Idolmaster: Cinderella Girls and others such as Garo: The Animation, Tokyo Ghoul and Crayon Shinchan. Of the current spring line-up, excluding Vanguard and BuddyFight, none of the animes were showcased. Of next season's anime, only School-Live! (Gakkou Gurashi!) was promoted by Nitroplus.

My only regret at CharaExpo? Not taking a photo with the awesome Garo cosplayer!

We feel that there is room for improvement in this area and hope that CharaExpo will feature a bigger line-up of animes for next year's edition.


We apologise if you are reading this during your mealtime

I guess if there is one thing we would all agree on, it would be the toilets at CharaExpo. With only one small toilet for each gender with two or three cubicles open to the public in the entire massive Hall 7, a toilet disaster was waiting to happen.

There were more toilets located in the main Expo building across the road, on both the first and second floors. However, the public were not informed of the location of the toilets. It would be helpful to include them in the event booklet especially as Hall 7 is separated from the main building. The toilets in Hall 7 would also benefit from more regular cleaning sessions, for the convenience of the public.

I like Captain New Japan's costume

As CharaExpo is an anime, comics and games (ACG) convention, many attendees were expected to cosplay at the event. Not being a cosplayer myself, I'm not sure if there have been changing rooms dedicated to cosplayers at previous events. However, with many changing in the public toilets, we thought it might inconvenience those who are urgently in need of using the toilet.


You wouldn't want to miss this when you go for lunch!

With so many interesting activities happening at CharaExpo, we would definitely not want to head out for a half-an-hour lunch and miss all the excitement! Some of our friends we spoke to lamented the lack of food and beverage options on site. There was a drinks vending machine directly outside the venue. However, it may not have been conspicuous enough.

They could've sold these at CharaExpo

A suggestion would be have some booths selling Japanese snacks or finger food where attendees could grab a quick bite while those who want a full meal could head over to the main Expo building or Changi City Point. Maybe CharaExpo could invite BonJapan (they seem to be popping up at every local Japanese-related event) or even a Japanese company over (FamilyMart anyone?). This suggestion might seem a bit far-fetched and unnecessary so we'll leave it to the organisers to decide.

We hope you enjoyed reading our article

Well, that was certainly a lot of text, enough to fill more than 7 GP essays. We hope that you really enjoyed reading this article (and didn't fall asleep reading it halfway). If you have any other praises or suggestions for the CharaExpo committee, feel free to leave your comments below or drop an email to

We would love to cover CharaExpo again next year

The XDantheManX Online team, together with Nakitty Channel, Roaming Dog and Bryan Ong Photography certainly enjoyed covering this event and we would love to cover it again next year. We will be rolling out more articles over the week (if we don't spend half a day writing essays) so do check back and like our Facebook page for updates!

In the meantime, check out our interview with Ayano Mashiro and discover how Kurosaki Maon fell in love with wrestling!

Article by XDantheManX Online.
Pictures by Nakitty Channel and Roaming Dog for XDantheManX Online, and CharaExpo 2015.

 Check out our CharaExpo coverage here: