Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Animangaki 2013 Touhou section: hope and gratitude for the local Touhou fans

Last weekend marks the third year of the Touhou section of Animangaki (this year being called as Animangaki Touhou Festival, with the second one being refered to as Touhou GenTouShou). As someone who was involved in helping for all the three consecutive years, I’d like to give a short review and critique on the Touhou section. This post is meant not only for this year’s post-event review, but hopefully as a review for any future activity among the local Touhou group over here.

Excuse for lack of picture for this year's event

Being under Animangaki, the Touhou section for this year could generally be divided into several parts: the Hisoutensoku tournament, Touhou Sky Arena tournament, Chaos TCG section, a commercial booth operated by Animate Geck-O, a music booth handled by Kazami Shintaro (which also serve as a place where occasional games and videos were played) doujin booths (this year we have Wolf Den Circle and Tauhu [P]rojak), a spot at the figurine display, and space for other Touhou fans to just generally mingle about. 

Me and the rest? Well, we were rojaking...

For this time around I spend most of the time back and forth between the figurine section and the doujin booth, I might have missed a few significant moments here and then. But in general I’d say majority of the crowd gathers at the Hisoutensoku and the music booth. I think the crowd control could be improved a bit… although there wasn’t any major incident  or anything I felt the crowd could be congested at times – but perhaps that’s just the large crowd rather than the layout of the area. Each booths were more or less under the responsibility of their respective owners, so if there was any problem such as messiness or anything it’d mostly be under them. We could benefit from more booth, but that… have to come after we can find people to fill them up, of course.  

In term of management everything was pretty good this year. It was much more smooth from the earlier ones, with pretty good setup in terms of event flow, hardware and all that. I also felt that we get to see a lot of new faces among the Touhou fans (with some Singaporean people coming to boot), and this might partly be due to better publicity compared to previous years. Seeing the cosplayers is one direct indication of the Touhou fans, and it does seem that we get to see more of them this year. And not only that: in terms of variety, it’s something which prior to this I’d only get to see during Comic Fiesta. So I take it that the Touhou section have gotten a good attention from the public… as well as more cosplayer from the series which contribute to the presence during the event, of course. But basically: more awareness of the event.

I’m not aware of the flow at the gaming booth (both Hisoutensoku and Touhou Sky Arena), but it seems that the people there are managing them quite well. However, that is partly one small issue I have with the section, and which is something that I felt need to be adressed: it is too Hisoutensoku focused. And when I say that, it could be neither good nor bad, although I felt that we’re missing other things. The reasons? Read on…

Fret not, Power Ups are here!

It is interesting to note that the Hisoutensoku people here in Peninsular (or heck, even perhaps the whole of Malaysia) are perhaps the most active and proactive out of the other group. In fact, a lot of the people that make up the group that manage the Touhou section could be said to be strongly attached to the game. So perhaps it is not surprising that Hisoutensoku gets the most effort and crowd – it is because those active and large group of people are there to run and support the whole thing. And do they feel that the event is Hisoutensoku oriented? Perhaps so; a few people that I know of do agree that this is the case, and even the ones in the group seems to be aware that their focus is on that section.

While it might be a coincidence that those active people are Hisoutensoku players, someone commented that the competitive nature of the game might have helped in instilling the competitiveness and proactive attitude shown by these group of people. In which to this case, I would say that the in other section (danmaku game, art, music) the are simply just not enough people and situation where the people are hungry and active enough to put in all their effort in running their respective sections for others to be involved with. Everyone e;se is just taking it easy~, probably while eating some red bean filled yukkuri somewhere (or Power Up biscuits, as we have observed so far from the pics here...) 

Somewhat I feel that the Touhou scene over here is totally different from the rest that I know of, where they focus on other aspect such as bringing doujin artist, empowering the doujin artist scene, holding panels, cosplay and going through the danmaku games... and that in itself is not necessarily good or bad, but it's something quite interesting to note. It's different.

I’m not sure just how many would come out and say that they really would want other aspect of Touhou to be given more attention and effort (or perhaps just as much) as the Hisoutensoku part, but I am sure most would then say ‘well, what can we do about the others then?’ Because if someone were to – for example, to borrow one of my friend’s suggestion – set up a Touhou panel, we would say ‘but who’s going to handle it?’ Or if for example we try to ‘invite foreign doujin artist’, we would then say ‘but would they even acknowledge us to even consider the invite?’ Because it seems most of the ones here have familiarize themselves with the setting up of tournament than the rest of the section which others would really like to see given more emphasis. But I'm sure with time we would have abled people handing other sections just as industriously. 

Holy shmupoly it's ZUN...'s cosplay (sorta :v) 

But this could, of course be said because everyone have their own preference. And with the series, we’re going to have a lot of diverse fans - some might want certain aspect to get more attention, while not having any interest in anything else. However, in general term I felt that we should pay more attention to the danmaku games and the cosplay. The doujin scene is also something which deserve much more attention.

The danmaku games are, of course, the whole essence of the series. I know we have fans that don’t play these games, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t expose to them to what Touhou is all about – everything goes back to these girls shooting bullets like hell. And it’s always fun to watch people reaction when all the crazy bullet patterns come out.

Cosplay is… to borrow my friend’s words (he’s not a cosplayer, interestingly), practically a free signboard. For me these cosplayers are already providing you with something to break the ice, as they immediately tell you that they are at least partly aware of the series. And if they’re not, well it’s a good opportunity for you to get them more interested in the games.

It's heartening to see a group of Touhou cosplayers under one roof 

In terms of doujin work, besides the usual artwork (illustration, books, badges etc), I felt that the music scene could use a lot of activity. In term of events, someone suggested that we could try and get some on-event collaboration between the artist – for example, setting up a drawing section where the artist are free to draw their work there (this one somewhat I saw being done by the Singaporean Touhou fans). This is a great idea for me, as it’s something hands on and collaborative in nature (not to mention it’s a good sight to behold). The music section is a bit hard to say – there’s only so much people who are skilled in music, much less with the knowledge to perform or arrange songs… and it’s certainly hard to try and bring that element into event… Perhaps encouraging them to play their songs over would be a good start (programmers, guitarists, violinist, keyboardist and other music performer – this might be your chance to hone your skill as well as showcasing them).

For the doujin artist, I’ve seen a few old familiar faces during events, but even when you count them in there’s still a small group of people over here that are actively producing Touhou doujin. They’re there, but there’s just that feeling of… Sure we have the usual badges and illustration, but you get the feeling that… there’s a lot of potential that are waiting to be released. Something entirely fresh and having their own identity you would be talking about them for a while. As for the music, I can only say that our good ol friend Kazami Shintaro is one who proactively produce and bring his music out. I guess because not many musician here are actively into Touhou… or the fans aren’t up to the task to perform (pun intended). We do have a few who can play some instruments (maybe keyboard/piano, guitars)… but that’s it. Not much on the arrangement part, I’m afraid (with that being said, a special mention to kkcwoh and his large Touhou piano playing). 

Of course these are very very general suggestions: after all some people might get intimidated by the danmaku patterns, not all cosplayers are very much into the series that they cosplay as, and not everyone can draw or perform music or produce work of art. But the first two are what I see as the ones you could much easier relate with each other, with the doujin being a creative outlet for fans.

Sebenarnya topeng Kokoro ada 67 keping kesemuanya... Nicolas Cage lah topeng ke-67 beliau

At the end of the day, we have to remember that Touhou Project offers a lot of different appeals to fans from different background. After three consecutive years, the Touhou section is a good outlet for gathering the Touhou fans here, and we should diversify our effort and attention to these different appeal. Of course not everyone has to be good at the danmaku games or the fighting games, not everyone has to draw or play music, and certainly not everyone has to cosplay – but if you feel like contributing, then hey – by all means. I know a lot of people probably have ideas to get the Touhou fans here to be more active, so here's the first step to get those ideas out: talk with others, get the idea moving back and forth. Meet with people, try to get the plan into action.

On a side note, if Comic Fiesta is the Comiket of Malaysia, then we could now say that Animangaki is the Reitaisai of Malaysia… so hats off to those people who’re always actively trying to get the Touhou fans over here to gather around (you know who you are!). There’s a lot to improve in terms of diversifying the content to try to appeal to more fans, but we've done a splendid job at it - keep what works, and put new ideas that we might want to try. As a fellow Touhou fans I'm really grateful we have such platform, and it always make me happy every time I see all those Touhou fans under one roof that I hope we can keep the spirit going, even outside of events.

Thanks guys, ya guys are awesome. 

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