As I was in Melbourne for PAX Aus 2017, I decided I’d stick around for an extra week and check out the relatively new Madman Anime Festival Melbourne. It’s a relatively new convention/festival on the Australian circuit that is run in Brisbane, Perth and Melbourne. It is also colloquially referred to as MadFest. As you may be able to tell by the name, MadFest is run by Madman who is Australia biggest anime distribution company (and they do other stuff too). Which actually puts MadFest in this weird middle ground of being a commercial convention like Supanova or Oz ComicCon but way more niche in scope like non-profit community conventions like SMASH and AICON.
Given it’s the proverbial new kid on the scene but is being backed by one of the bigger popculture companies in Australia (who’ve had some level of involvement or support of basically every other convention in Australia) I was pretty keen to check it out at least once.
(For those of you living in Australia, you’re probably thinking ‘Why the fuck is it run in Brisbane and Perth? Melbourne makes sense but surely Sydney would have an event before Brisbane and then fucking every other capital city but Perth before Perth?! And you’d be right except Sydney and Adelaide already have well established anime conventions, SMASH and AVCON respectively. And given how small an industry anime is there isn’t enough money to support two anime conventions so MadFest . Meanwhile Perth used to have an anime convention, WAICON, but it collapsed due to the people running it being idiots and Brisbane, despite being the birthplace of Supanova, has never had much of a convention scene for no apparent reason. And yes I’m ignoring Animaga which also runs in Melbourne. And no-one cares about Tasmania, the NT or the ACT coz they’re way too small in terms of population.)
As with PAX Aus, I need to caveat/disclose this write up with the fact I got a free ticket to MadFest Melbourne. Yay for connection. However I did have to pay money for the MadFest Movie Screenings and any/all of the paid content within the event. So take my positive feedback in with a grain of salt since I did’t put in money and thus have a lower bar needed to make me think it was worthwhile.
And by positive feedback I mean- I was pretty disappointment with the event and probably won’t bother going again even with a free ticket unless it lines up with something else like PAX Aus again. Which ironically I probably won’t go to again unless it also lines up with some thing else. (And at one of the finel events the main MadFest organiser teased that the dates for 2018 will probably change so things aren’t looking good in that front)
TL;dr- MadFest is a pretty underwhelming event and unless you have a heap of money and are SUPER big fans of at least 75% of their international guests, save your money and maybe just do the concurrent Film Festival Screening instead.
Also I should further caveat that stellar review with the fact I am a massive anime weeb so honestly anything related to anime has to be like half decent for me to love it.
To start with a legitimately positive thing- MadFest had the first guest I have ever had any vague interest in: Shinichiro Watanabe. He’s the director of Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo. Along with some Animatrix shorts, Terror in Resonance and Kids on the Slope. (I won’t mention Space Dandy as that show is utter shit).
Using my special early access i actually went straight to the autograph area to grab a token for Watanabe. I also went to both of his panels which were pretty ok. He made some pretty funny jokes and had interesting stuff to talk about. Although there were some organisation issues- like on Saturday they didn’t give his transport a microphone and on Sunday the host ran out of planned content less than half way through the panel so threw to audience questions.
Shifting straight into a negative- i was actually pretty disappointing with the host/MC of the panels. It was Andy Trieu from SBS PopAsia who I’ve seen do some great stuff in other places. But like he seemed to just not be clicking this weekend. On Saturday he kept yelling at the audience to ‘get pumped’ and then on Sunday his catchphrase had changed to ‘make some noise’. And he asked some really inane questions. Like Watanabe arrived in Melbourne on Friday evening and then went to MadFest on the Saturday. And Andy’s first question for him was ‘How are you enjoying Australia?’ And you could (or at least I imagined I could) see the side-eye Watanabe gave him when he explained that he had literally just got to the country and not had a chance to see him so why was he asking such a dumb question. And then on Sunday the opening question was ‘And how have you spent your time in Melbourne?’ Watanabe gave fairly bland, positive response but I expect in his head it was along the lines of ‘fuck me mate, I spend the entire day here yesterday and all of today here too so far, I haven’t seen shit yet’.
I mean in hindsight I think Andy did the best he could on stage but obviously whoever was doing the writing for questions and prep let the team down. Sorry MadFest/SBS PopAsia Intern!
And from that, I’ve almost run out of positive MadFest things. Primarily because there was so little to do at the event.
They had one stage and theatre of programmed content and both stages were literally made up entirely of guest related content e.g. interviews of international guests, workshops by local cosplay guests etc. So literally there were two things I was interested in (the two Watanabe panels). Plus a third panel on Sunday that was with Kana Ueda from the Fate series and an AniPlex executive (which I saw by accident because i wanted to skip the line ride for the Watanabe autographs).
There were a few exhibitions on the expo floor of varying okayness.
The best one was the Cowboy Bebop one which had a heap of sketches and official art and such from the series. My favourite was the artwork of Faye in a bikini which was put at the bottom and I expect had lots of people stopping down to check it out over the weekend. The best part of this was that it ended with a ‘shooting range’ where you used nerf guns to hit some targets and win a Cowboy Bebop artwork. This was good for two reasons- one my friend and the other randoms there were shit at it. two- I literally picked up the gun and nailed the three targets in three shots. And then spent my other seven shots hitting 6 other targets to keep showing off. Like the carnival fantasy XD.
The bad parts of this exhibition was that the artwork you won was the same thing you were given to have Watanabe autograph. And that because I got in early I managed to literally smash through the thing in 5 minutes and thus finish the best part of the show floor before the event had even started.
The other good exhibition was the Your Name exhibition. That movie is fucking spectacular (side note- if you haven’t seen it, you should. And then watch A Silent Voice too. And then spend the rest of the week/month crying.) But the exhibition really was just three(?) art pieces and two(?) sets of text with quotes from various people describing parts of the movie and the movie creation process.
There was an Attack on Titan exhibition but that show is pure shit so I ignored it. Also there was an Attack on Titan VR experience but you had to pay $10 to do it. Screw that. Word is that it was mainly you just watching stuff happen and wasn’t very long/good. So fuck that for a rip off.
There was a Sword Art Online exhibition but that whole franchise is garbage (aside from the first… seven?… episodes of Season 1 and then half of I think episode 17) so meh. Also it was literally just two 6×3 wall of art with nothing to do or read so screw that for a boring waste of time.
Also allegedly there was a Love Live! Exhibit. But I would query if 8 cardboard cutouts qualify as an exhibit. And given I’ve seen them at at least two other events previously in the last 12-18 months I don’t think it’s much of an attraction either.
Also there was a heap of demos for Dragon Ball Z fighters. Which added a fun 5-10 minutes of content and then you finished the demo. The game looks pretty fucking sweet though.
The most annoying thing to me personally was the chill out zone with it’s anime screen. Firstly it only had bean bags. Fuck you MadFest. Some of us like to chill out with back support and/or not at ground level. Secondly the only thing that appeared to play on the anime screen was Boruto. I get that you’re trying to make Boruto the next Naruto even though it is somehow more tepid than Naruto was but seriously you’ve got a bunch of simulcast anime you should be promoing and a bunch of new release DVDs/Blurays you could promo. Fuck even the anime that you’re guests are in would be worth a slot in the anime lineup for people to watch. I saw three minutes of the anime ‘Hyouka’ while browsing the Minotaur Pop Culture shop in Melbourne which was 3 minutes more than MadFest of good anime being screened.
There was also a Maid & Butler Cafe. Using my early access privilege I hit up the line before the event even opened and still spent nearly an hour there in the line ride because something had fucked up with their set up so it took ages to get through it (to the point where we missed out on autograph tokens that day). It was ok. The Maids and Butlers did their best but the physical set up looked really basic and they didn’t have a lot to work with. The food and drink options were pretty shit too. (Also I only found one Maid attractive and we didn’t luck out and have her). Will have to take my girlfriend or a good mate to one in Japan so I can have the real experience (and while I am cynical, I refuse to be sad and go to a Maid Cafe by myself).
On a semi-positive note, the line ride for the guest signing wasn’t too bad and fairly well administered. i mean i was meant to be there at 1:30pm, rocked up at 2:05pm (since I went to the Ueda panel to reduce time spent in the line) and still had 45 minutes in line. But I liked how when you signed up for a token you were given a little card with your name and autograph time. And you then gave that card to the (Japanese) guest so they had you name and could write it down without you having to say/spell it. Fucking super efficient. Mad props MadFest
The only problem with autographs was that for the main guests (Watanabe and Kana Ueda) you needed a token for and you could only get one per day. So if you got fucked over in a another line (e.g. the Maid Cafe) or slept in or were just slow or not there in line at 10am, you literally couldn’t get both of their autographs.
I should actually give kudos to MadFest for this, as combined with no online token sales it meant that you had to be at the event at 10am both days to get autographs. And autographs were always late in the day. So you were being forced to hang around and buy stuff. Otherwise I (and I guess others) wouldn’t have bothered rocking up to the event until like 2pm.
Although I legitimately spend three hours of MadFest on Sunday in a coffee shop next door watching current season anime on my laptop with a mate because there was nothing to do at MadFest itself. As there was nothing else to do. i also spent parts of both days doing paperwork and admin for various personal things. Real exciting stuff that is a selling point for going to conventions…
The only other MadFest event there was was the Madman National Cosplay Championship Final held on Sunday arvo. I went to that, which is saying a lot as I strongly dislike Cosplay. But i was interested to see that it wasn’t being held at Brisbane Supanova. Historically the MNCC has been wedded to Supanova (aside from in Adelaide where it is with AVCON due to timing). But given a) it’s not particularity well watched, b) the increasingly oversaturated cosplay comp circuit between MNCC, the World Cosplay Summit and OZCC’s ‘Champions of Cosplay (with the other two arguably being more reputable and having a better prize respectively) and c) the ongoing tussle between Supanova and OZCC; I’m guessing Madman wanted to consolidate their investment/resources. Any by running literally no other good content at the same time everyone was funnelled into watching the finale.
I think a Naruto cosplayer won with a fairly low quality comedy skit full of memes and internet jokes. I think they had a good quality costume though.
Also oh god skits are fucking terrible. OZCC’s comp has zero skits which makes the event way faster and way more bearable to watch.
The only other thing there was was the expo floor with shops. In positive news there was almost exclusively anime weabo crap on sale and my opening round had me racking up a theoretical bill of like $2000. But I have two strict shopping policies- if it is my top three waifus i buy immediately regardless of price, otherwise I do not buy outside of the first or last hour of a convention. In the first hour you can get the stuff you absolutely must have before someone else buys it. In the last hour you normally get great firesales as people don;’t want to pack up stock.
NORMALLY you do. But being in Melbourne, all the shops and warehouses were in Melbourne so it was no hassle (and no interstate shipping) for the stalls to pack up unsold stock. So no firesale. Which probably made me almost as salty as the fucking Boruto screenings. I did still spent nearly $1000 on anime crap though. Mainly waifu related but some excellent statues from rare (either old or obscure) franchises.
And that’s all of MadFest.
I say that because the most enjoyable part of MadFest was, in my opinion, an entirely separated event. And that was the screenings. I say it was a separate event for two reasons. Firstly, four out of five of the screenings took place in the evening/at night when the rest of MadFest was closed (and fifth one finished outside MadFest hours too… I think. I bailed on that one). And secondly the screenings were separately ticketed. So people could (and did) buy a ticket to the screenings without attending the main MadFest Event.
Given this, I’m going to write up a round up for those screenings 9and some reviews of the movies/screenings) in a separate post.
And that’s MadFest Melbourne 2017.
Uhhh… 4/10 (with a 2.5 bonus to be 6.5/10 if I factor in the screenings which i like a fair bit more on balance)