Monday, December 6, 2010

The Wonders Of Anime Matsuri - Kieran

A special event took place at the Sydney leg of the 14th Japanese Film Festival. For the first time we held a special "Anime Matsuri". A hallmark of Japanese Cinema and Television, Anime has been around in some form since the early 1900's and we are delighted to have put on this mini 7 hour marathon of this artistic expression.

The event was co-hosted by SMASH! Sydney Anime and Manga Show and was such a mammoth event that it took place in 2 parts. Part 1 featured the short music video "Precious" and the feature length version of the futuristic sci-fi piece "Time of Eve". Part 2 consisted of a special Naoyoshi Shiotani double feature with the romance tale "Tokyo Marble Chocolate" and the new 3D CGI Production I.G piece "Oblivion Island: Haruka and the Magic Mirror".

We decided to ask SMASH! about the wonders of anime and their thoughts about this matsuri (Matsuri is Japanese for festival). Read on to hear the thoughts of the event runner Alexia Zahra-Newman!

"JFF: How did SMASH! come about?
SMASH!: SMASH! was founded in 2007 by a Sydney artist and anime fan Katie Huang. She wanted to make an event for fans, artists and creators that could be both affordable and entertaining. Our first meetings were in Hyde Park and I don’t think anyone ever imagined that the convention would come as far as it has since. 

JFF: Tell us a bit about SMASH!
SMASH!: We have about 40 staff, all working voluntarily in whatever spare time they have around full time employment or study. Our key objectives are to provide an event dedicated to Japanese animation, art and culture that is affordable, educational and entertaining.  In particular we want to ensure that local artists have an opportunity to not only learn from professionals and develop their skills, but also to sell their works to the public. We run a large number of events over the course of a day including cosplay, karaoke, video game tournaments, Gundam model making workshops, academic and craft panels, trivia as well as a range of activities and games.

JFF: What does the future hold for SMASH?
SMASH!: Since our first year we’ve continued to grow bigger and better and we hope to continue that. Already we’ve confirmed a brand new venue at the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre and we hope that very shortly we can announce some very exciting events and talents that will feature at the show. We’re a volunteer organisation and as such we’re always looking for people with new ideas and a willingness to help out. We’ll have information on our website soon for those interested in volunteering, but until then anyone can contact our staff at

JFF: Why do people get so involved in Anime, cosplay etc?
SMASH!: People are drawn to anime for a variety of reasons. The breadth of anime is one of those reasons. Because it is animated, it is restricted only by the imagination of its creators. There is anime for fans of sports, cars, martial arts, magical girls, robots, spaceships, high school romance and politics with settings that range from the extraordinary to the mundane.

Narrative appeals to yet others. While it is more common in the West than it once was, it is still frequently the case that Western televised drama will continue for years, often rotating characters, with no larger fixed story other than the plot of the episode of that week. While such self-contained stories have their appeal, anime caters to the fan looking for a narrative with a longer, but nevertheless, defined arc. Finally, it has blue hair. And shirts made entirely out of buckles. And frogs that are vampires. Well, maybe not the last bit. But that's coming next year for sure.

JFF: How do you intend to get more people interested in manga/anime?
SMASH!: We believe that anime has something for everyone and the biggest barrier is merely people's preconceptions. In Australia, we grow up with a very rigid view of what the cartoon is useful for - humour. Although television shows such as South Park and The Simpsons have pushed the age groups which are permitted to enjoy animation it is still, at heart, about laughter.

This is why events such as the JFF are important. They provide an opportunity for people to realise that animation can be used to explore themes which are serious, sad, uplifting and challenging. People enjoy good storytelling and once the medium is no longer seen as restrictive to what storytelling can take place, we believe people will reach for an anime DVD as easily as they reach out for the next episode of Mad Men.

JFF: Are you excited to be involved with JFF?
SMASH!: Definitely! We think that anything that promotes anime and Japan to audiences in Sydney is a fantastic thing and we’re more than happy to work with the Japan Foundation in producing the Anime Matsuri. We hope that the Festival will reach a whole new bunch of people who haven’t yet discovered anime and Japanese culture.

JFF: What sort of special events were at the Anime Matsuri?
SMASH!: We want to show attendees that might not know much about SMASH! and other Anime conventions what the feeling is to be at one of these conventions. So we have put together a mini one for this event, including a Cosplay runway. This will be where members of the audience can come down from their seats to the front of the cinema and show everyone their great cosplay, to win great prizes.

JFF: Are you excited for the future?
SMASH!: Yes, the screenings were great. I know a few people had seen these films through their own means but this is the first time for many and personally we think they are a great introduction to anime for anyone new to the culture. We would love to work with the Japan foundation in the future and grow Sydney’s awareness and love for Japanese, Anime and popular culture."

The event was a great success, with cosplay, prizes and guests galore. We had over 1,000 people attend, from young children to anime veterans. Special thanks to Alexia for that interview and to the whole SMASH! team for the wonderful event.
We hope to work with you guys in the future too!

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