A Geeky Experience: AsiaPOP Comicon Manila 2018

SMX Convention Center was the focal point for a weekend of celebration of geekdom. AsiaPop Comicon Manila 2018 is back to show why it is the country’s premier comic convention with celebrity guests, The CAGE cosplay event, the famed Marvel and Netflix Halls, the new Disney Hall, and other activities for the young and the young at heart.

This is my third time covering this convention for Back2gaming, and the second as an officially accredited media partner. It has become a yearly thing for me to go what I consider as the “main pop culture event” ever since I stopped going to Cosmania, and ToyCon developed an identity crisis, becoming more about celebrity guests than the toys.

But this is my first time going on all three days, and I will be without my Editor-in-Chief, BossMac who begged off due to vertigo (or at least, he said it was vertigo). At first, I wasn’t too concerned because, hey, I’ve covered APCC the past two years already and everything turned out fine. It’s just the scale of what I planned to cover became a little bit bigger as I wanted to be able to at least attend the press meets for celebrity guests, Tye Sheridan (Ready Player One, X-Man Apocalypse) and Finn Jones (Iron Fist, Game of Thrones). That and maybe get into one of the three Halls, with Marvel and Netflix as my main goals.

The first day was all about settling down. I’ve always been advised to come and get my media pass during the first day because there’s not much people yet, and you can still roam around comfortably to view the displays, see the booths, and acclimate yourself to the location. I was also supposed to attend the stage of Osric Chau (Supernatural), but I was late because I mistook the main stage (which was on Hall F4 on the second floor) for the center stage which was on the event floor. So, instead of Osric Chau, I was treated to a dancing Jollibee.

Speaking of Jollibee, Funko released a limited edition Jollibee Funko Pop! which was being sold by Filbars in the event. The line was unbelievable! There were reports of people standing in-line for 9 hours. 9 hours! There’s no way I will stand in line for that long and I’ve never been crazy for Funko Pop! anwyay. But we all have that soft spot for the bee, right? In any case, I opted to roam around instead and take pictures.

The toy displays are supplied mostly by retailers, and they provided much eye-candy for the con-goers. I noticed that we did not have as much displays this year than last year. However, that can be due to space limitations as there’s not much free space in the event hall. The booths of the various artists and guest cosplayers are now in an very accessible spot so that fans can easily access them.

The Netflix exhibit occupied the most space with set pieces inspired by Netflix shows like Riverdale. While I wasn’t a fan of the edgy take on Archie and the Riverdale gang, seeing Pop’s Chock’lit Shoppe pulled me down memory lane back to when I was reading Archie comics as a kid. I always liked Netflix’s displays because they aren’t just well thought out, but interactive as well. In comicons, a little interactivity between the displays and the fans goes a very long way into converting people who still haven’t bought into the Netflix hype. I wasn’t even a Netflix subscriber during last year’s APCC, and now I’m raving about Daredevil, The Punisher, Luke Cage, and even Iron Fist.

The Cignal Booth offered video games (I didn’t check out what they were actually offering, sorry), and their booth has four cosplayers in each corner, representing a different game. I took an interest on the Dota 2 and Tekken 7 displays and took pictures of the cosplayers there.

My Day 1 ended with me standing in line to get tickets for Hall D. I never stood in line for Hall tickets, ever so I didn’t know that they were also giving out tickets for Hall M. But the staff gave out the tickets at exactly 6pm and with that, my Day 1 ended.

Day 2 was the literal “Day 1” in terms of activities. I managed to attend Tye Sheridan and Finn Jones’ press meets. Tye Sheridan is a tall man with a deep voice I didn’t expect given that the roles I’ve seen him in, has him play really young characters. Finn Jones was really engaged with he questions the media have for him. Don’t take my word for it, here are the videos I took of the press meet.

Day 2 also had me face a problem I never encountered before in my past attendances to APCC: fatigue. After Finn Jones’ press meet my legs aren’t cooperating well, and I just wanted to stay in the Media Lounge. Youko Kurama of FilWota was coming that day though, so I dragged my ass back to the floor and we had a good conversation about a lot of things: idols, MNL48, the Manila Idol Matsuri, and more idols.

A convention like this is clearly geared towards group participation. I feel that it’s never supposed to be experienced by your lonesome, if only for the fact that you barely notice your tired legs when you’re with someone you know. Either that or I’m just getting too old and too out of shape.

Unlike Day 1, there are a lot of cosplayers walking around during Day 2, and some are really good too. My personal favorite is Hela from Thor: Ragnarok. Youko and I noticed that a lot of cosplayers are tentative whenever someone asks to take their picture. They happily oblige to our requests to take their pictures, it’s just that a good number of them didn’t know how to react on camera. Not that Hela cosplayer though. She really knew how to rocked the cam!

Late in the afternoon, I felt my legs cramping up and my knee becoming sore, so I decided to call it a day. I was going to miss Hall N, which I was really looking forward to, but I doubt that I can stand in the line for an extended period of time given the situation of my lower extremities. Admin Youko and I availed of some good old Ramen at Ramen Nagi, and I was off on a UV Express ride to SM Molino and home.

The penultimate day of the convention is normally the “presentation” day for the major sponsors, Marvel, Netflix, and now, Disney. Although Hall N happened on Day 2, Netflix will also have another presentation on Sunday. Although I was only able to secure tickets for Hall D, the staff asked around the media lounge anyone who is interested in going to Hall M. What a lucky day! I scrambled to get inside Hall M for the presentation.

Although Hall M did not have an exclusive movie clip like the previous years, it still presented snippets from the season 2 of Iron Fist (the first two episodes of which were shown in the Hall N presentation the previous day) as well as a teaser for Cloak and Dagger. It also showed new and upcoming comic book issues namely Infinity War Prime, Captain Marvel, and Return of Wolverine. Marvel also showcased their new games, the highlight of which was the upcoming Spiderman video game.

Hall D makes its debut in APCC’s impressive line of Halls. A first in South East Asia, Hall D opted a more grounded approach, heavily promoting its DisneyLife streaming app. After that is a talk by local furniture designer Kenneth Cobonpue who not only talked about his inspiring story on how he got into furniture design, but also showcased his impressive Star Wars-inspired furniture that are the perfect fusion of artistry, functionality, and Star Wars. Like, who doesn’t want to sit on the Darth Sidious inspired chair?

But the star of Hall D goes to legendary artist Mark Henn, the man who drew most of Disney’s beloved characters like Mulan, Winnie the Pooh, Moana, and many more. On top of his life story, Mark also gave the audiences a taste of the complexities of making animated movies. Hall D also showed a small video clip from the upcoming film ‘Wreck it Ralph 2: Ralph Breaks the Internet’ that featured all of the Disney Princesses in the same scene.

Netflix had another presentation that afternoon which I still was not able to attend because I was famished after the Hall D and had to take my lunch. I made a mental note to make sure there were more of us from Back2gaming covering the event because one guy sure isn’t efficient and I’ve also been missing workshops and presentations left and right.

With a last patrol around the exhibit hall, I finally ended my time with AsiaPOP Comicon Manila 2018 bringing with me a fun-filled weekend and lessons I learned as well as issues I needed to address when I come back to cover the event next year.

AsiaPOP Comicon is the largest pop-culture event in the Philippines and in South East Asia. For this alone, other conventions have tried to replicate their formula with varying degrees of success. Unlike other major conventions like Best of Anime, Cosplay Mania, and ToyCon, AsiaPop endeavors to encompass every face of pop-culture, both western and eastern. Obviously, CosMania is still the go-to event for Cosplayers, and BoA is still better as an anime-centric event. But APCC has grown throughout the years to encompass it all. The Cosplay Authority Global Challenge (CAGE) event is a huge draw for Cosplayers as well as the celebrity cosplayer guests. CAGE is considered one of the major cosplay competitions in the country.

I always loved covering APCC because not only are the schedules provided, but the staff are kind and very helpful. They always keep the media up to date on certain press meets and presentations, and offers those who did not get a ticket to get into some of the Halls. The organizers also put in clear instructions to the media regarding where their lounge is, how we can sign up for a press-meet, as well as reminding us to be respectful of the cosplayers we’ll undoubtedly be taking pictures of.

In terms of areas for improvement, I have not experienced a lot of gaffes, but I did notice that the workshops don’t really have a lot of people in it. I think for next year, APCC should really push for people to attend these workshops because they are very informative. The tickets for the Halls were also generally peaceful and orderly, an improvement on what happened in Hall N last year. My only observation was that the media should get a separate registration because it is difficult to cover the event when you’re standing in one place for an hour to get a ticket.

The Halls are becoming an APCC staple, and I would like for APCC to expand it to maybe make it include other presenters like Sony PlayStation, perhaps. San Diego Comicon – the mother of all comicons – have exhibits showing the latest and upcoming games. Also, toy collecting is big business and very much part of major conventions. For now, only retailers have displays, but maybe in the future we can have exhibits from major toy companies showing their lines. Sure, APCC isn’t exactly a toy convention, but so is SDCC, and there’s always a major toy exhibit there.

AsiaPOP Comicon Manila 2018 is definitely one of the best conventions of 2018, both to cover as a media partner, and as a fan wanting to have a weekend of geeky fun. There are still other cons coming on the horizon, but barely a week since the event, I’m already looking forward to next year.

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