Monday, September 9, 2013

An overview on Singaporean Touhou fans from a Malaysian perspective

This was not the first time Malaysia and Singapore have events so close together, with C2AGE and Cosfest occuring in such close proximity between each other a few months ago (which I've opted for the latter, seeing as I couldn't make it for the first one).

With Animangaki taking place just the week before Singapore's STGCC, it might be crazy to think of even going to another event, much less one a few hundred kilometres down south. But that's what a few of us did, and it's mainly for one reason:

TAM is a pretty humble person, I like him. And his playing is of course great. Nothing beat seeing the real thing in the flesh, hey!

For me though, there's always another alluring factor that draws me to going down to events in Singapore for a few times already. If it's about the tentative or content of the events over there... then, yes, they do have some aspects that are different and certainly interesting than the ones over here. The fandom shown in cosplay are pretty diverse and interesting, for one, and I get the impression that the cosplay community is well developed and more creative.

But that's not exactly why I would make subsequent trips over there.


Let it be known that I've always felt a sense of kinship with the Touhou fans over there.

Perhaps most of us here who aren't that well acquainted with the Singaporean would be quicker to throw out words like 'elitist' or 'snobbish' when we refer to their ACG scene (Touhou inclusive). Of course with time we're starting to warm up (with both sides making trips every now and then), but I do wonder if the stereotyping has a sound basis, as even some Singaporean have admitted that majority of them are simply aren't as open or engaging as the Malaysian counterpart... but don't let that distract us from viewing the overall fanbase shall we?

For my side of the story, I remembered the first time when I attempted a trip down there last, where I didn't have the comfort of having anyone else to join the trip. It might seem a crazy choice at that - I'm not exactly the most socially active person - but it turned out well as the decision to travel on my own subsequently forces me to be more proactive in socializing and not just be in the company of me, myself and I. In normal situation I might just fare so-so, but it's true when someone commented that events and cosplaying give a different dynamic in socializing...

And that is pretty much what's going on in each subsequent visits (I'm still working around my socializing, truth be told). It's a good breather to go around and experience different fanbase of the series, and these guys certainly have a different take and attitude to the series.

Of course we first have to start with the games... and I'm not really that much into the games to be honest (someone shoot bullets to me now, right?), but I feel that their Hisoutensoku group aren't as crazy as the ones over here (if the recent gathering of Malaysian-Singaporean Hisoutensoku players during Animangaki is any indication). Not sure what to make of the danmaku playing, as that one doesn't get much coverage as other aspect of the series in both sides, I feel.

If the more active Touhou fans over here could be said to be heavily into the Hisoutensoku side of the series, art and/orcosplaying seems to be the common points of interest for the active Singaporean Touhou fans. The biggest difference I could pick up on the Touhou scene over there is how the artists, despite their small numbers, are certainly active in bringing their work outside. To give a comparison, while the regular meetups over here are Hisoutensoku oriented, I noticed that theirs tend to be more art oriented. Their doujin scene over there might still be growing at this point - most of the Touhou artists are relatively new to the doujin scene it seems -but I expect good outcome in the future if they maintain their activities. These are the ones who take a healthy obsession with how the Japanese doujin artists work, and see the potential that they could do something in contributing to the series.

I've mentioned in the last post for Animangaki on how the Hisoutensoku players tend to be the ones that manage meetups and activities, and I noticed that in Singapore the role seems to be held by the arts people. If we want to go back to the last post and attribute competitiveness in instilling a sense of taking the lead... then I wonder how come the artists over here aren't as active in gathering, exchanging ideas and generally making themselves more known...


Another thing worth noticing is that Touhou cosplay there have been going on steadily for quite some time - and I know they must be doing it right when people acknowledge their presence (some rather hostile reactions aside). Despite their relatively tame cosplay drama (we have it worse here I'm afraid), I'm certainly amazed how far they've come after being subjected to various discrimination against their work - any of the male crossplayers over here that felt bad about being worded off for their attempt might want to look at how the same situation is taking place there, and how they came through. Perhaps  the relatively small, niche group of the series over there really force people to get together, being perhaps one reason why they're so supportive and helpful among each other.

And to put things things in perspective, if you're ever familiar with the exchange that goes between the Hisoutensoku players in Malaysia, then I felt that the same level of activity takes place between the Touhou cosplayers over there. They take things more seriously, and that's not really a bad thing at all. I like the effort and creativity that they put in their work, really something us over here could learn from.

All things considered, I think it's not surprising that the artists and cosplayers are so close knitted and supportive - the series itself it a niche in the first place, and given the small community there I suppose you could only go so far before you bump back again into the same group of people - but to say it's a mere geographical convenience is perhaps oversimplifying it, although it would have contributed to help form the state of the fanbase there I suppose.

I'm still not sure how to exactly pinpoint the role of the Touhou fanbase over there in the gathering of the fans - as I've mentioned, most of their gathering seems to be geared towards the art/game people (with the cosplayers ever present, albeit these are the ones who are more or less primarily focused on the series), and I'm not sure if they have any plan (or did one in the past) for a general gathering for Touhou fans. I would like to see them to put a conscious effort for one as opposed to one that is geared for the meeting of people they're already accustomed with - it's a good start if any, but they might want to consider to branch out to reach others who aren't exactly in the 'clique'.

I hope the folks at Malaysia could learn to have that close-knitted spirit and their more proactive moments and creativity, and ultimately it'd be nice to have more exchange going on between both sides - I've experience both sides of the fanbase, and believe me we could really get something amazing done if both sides can work together. I would really like to encourage both sides to do their own travelling to find out how the fanbase is over the causeway - and this is especially even more critical for those who're on their way on empowering local and/or regional fanbase. There's only so much you could learn by going about with the same old group, and besides: it's always good to travel.

And if you decide to travel alone, you really learn more about your true self and those around you.

Whichever side you are... there's always gonna be butttttttttttttttttttt