In the Land of manga and anime, you would be forgiven for thinking American comic books struggle to find an audience in Japan. But with the explosion of live action super heroics, not least the astronomically successful Marvel Cinematic Universe, the likes of Superman and Spider-Man, Boy Wizards and heroes from a “Galaxy far, far away” have not only been embraced in Japan, but actively included into the pop culture psyche. So much so in fact, that Tokyo now has its very own American style “geek” gathering in the form of the Tokyo Comic Con. The SMAC! team were invited to drink in the action…
Chris showing he’s more than “worthy”!
Now in it’s third year, the Tokyo Comic Con has been drawing crowds to Chiba, on the outskirts of Tokyo in ever growing numbers. With 2018 promising a larger space, even more spectacular guests and record breaking pre-ticket sales, the SMAC! team braced themselves for a day to remember!
As members of the “Press”, Ken, Vivi and Chris entered the cavernous space that is the Makuhari Messe at a yawn-inducing 9am, three glorious hours before the general public. With the event space pretty much to ourselves, we wasted no time in unpacking our cameras and venturing forth amongst the plethora of booths and attractions on offer, including a touching monument to the Father of American comics, Stan “The Man” Lee…
A fitting memorial to the “Father of American Comics”, Stan Lee.
From the gargantuan DC and Marvel stands, to the small traders selling all manner of “geek sheek”, the Tokyo Comic Con caters to all tastes. One particular area that piqued the interest of your SMAC! manga editors was the “Artists Alley”, where we hungrily eyed up the outstanding work from the likes of Adi Granov (Marvel), Mark Brooks (cover artist), Stanley “ARTGERM” Lau (hyper real artist), Ryan Benjamin (DC) and Eisner Award winning artist Sean Phillips, to name but a few.
Ever the editors, Vivi and Chris eyeing up the talent on “Artists Alley”.
As the clock struck 12:00, the heaving crowds of comic book obsessives, movie fans and cosplayers burst into the hall, hungry for the latest releases. Above the din of enthusiasm rang out the announcement for the eagerly awaited Opening Ceremony, and with that your “roving reporters” lined up with the rest of the Japanese press to take our places in the front row.
The lights dimmed, the music rose and four excitable boys, donned in tight Avengers “onesies” burst onto the stage. After a quick introduction and a word from the event President, it was time to bring the glittering Hollywood guests onto the stage. The Phelps brothers (Harry Potter), Peter Weller (Robocop), Ezra Matthew Miller (The Flash), Tom Hiddleston (Loki of the MCU) and manga/anime legend Leiji Matsumoto-sensei (Galaxy Express 999), were trotted out to thunderous applause; with the God of Mischief receiving an exceptionally warm welcome!
The star-studded Tokyo Comic Con Opening Ceremony.
The Opening Ceremony complete, it was time to mingle amongst the ever fantastical cosplayers. With its origins found in Japan, it came as no surprise that the standard of cosplay here was of the highest order. After spotting an army of Wonder Women, several Captain America’s and enough Deadpool’s to call it a Mercenary Reunion, the SMAC! editors decided to embrace the open air for a quick bite in the food court. But instead of steaming bowls of ramen, we found the police waiting for us!
“I fought the Mobile Police Patlabor and the, Mobile Police Patlabor won!”
Towering above the food stalls arose a life size “Patlabor”. The Police special Mecha from 90’s manga classic Kidō Keisatsu Patoreibā (lit. Mobile Police Patlabor) by manga making collective “Headgear”, not only added a much welcome dash of drama to our dining experience, but proved a solid reminder that although the focus was on American comic books, manga was never far away.
A cacophony of Cosplay!
The main stage was a hive activity throughout the day, with an enjoyable career retrospective from Leiji Matsumoto-sensei, an “out-of-this-world” Star Wars Resistance Talk Event with Emmy® Award-winner, an Executive Producer at Lucasfilm, Athena Portillo, followed by the cosplay event of the year… the Marvel Cosplay Competition!
An action packed schedule on the main stage offered something for everyone.
But all good things must come to end, and the Tokyo Comic Con 2018 had every intention of closing the first day with a musical bang! First up was singer-songwriter Re-Mi-Fa, with a collection of guitar infused, pop-rock melodies. Accompanied by a keyboardist and enthusiastic percussionist on a “box drum”, the young musician delighted the crowds in preparation for the arrival of, quite possibly the only Japanese singing sensation suitable for closing the first day of a Comic Con…. the Otaku Princess herself, Shoko “Shokotan” Nakagawa!
Ushering in the closing ceremony with Re-Mi-Fa.
With Shokotan’s anime classics still ringing in our ears, we wearily packed up our countless freebies and purchases and set out on the long journey back to Shinjuku Station. With two more sold-out days to follow, it’s clear that Japan has lovingly embraced western creativity. From Star Wars to Harry Potter, fans of creative escapism in Japan are just as eager to pick up a lightsaber or magic wand as they are delving into manga or anime, making the world of comic books and movies a truly unifying event that crosses borders, culture and language.
Much like your beloved SILENT MANGA AUDITION®, the ability to enjoy a good story told well, share your passions and come together as equals, instills a sense of uncontainable hope for the future. With our experiences of the Tokyo Comic Con still fresh in our minds, I for one truly hope, that the “Geeks” inherit the Earth…
“See you next year!”
What’s a Comic Con without the TOYS?! Here’s a pick of the best…