Western VS Japanese ACG Events: What Will The Future Bring?

These days, it’s like you can’t go a month without another brand spanking new ACG (animation, comics, and games) event appearing out of nowhere. These things are popping up as fast as the pimples on my face, but thank goodness for our community, this development is actually good news.

For one, it shows that the community is growing; more and more young people are getting into ACG while the older ones are still sticking around. It shows that our ties and passion for it is alive and well, and most importantly, it shows a lot of opportunity and willingness for growth.

Now, all of us at The Magic Rain are more than familiar with the typical event scene in this community, especially the Japanese side of it. But one aspect that’s still a bit of a grey area is Western ACG events.

In recent years, we’ve seen a small but noticeable increase in the number of these events. I personally attended two of them, Komik Kon 2015 and Geek Con 2016, which among others, seemed to be the most strongly advertised as Western ACG focused; mainly pandering towards the Marvel, DC, Star Wars, and Star Trek subcultures.

Image sourced from Campus Plus

For first time events, they both did fairly well. The booths and displays were pretty interesting and they managed to draw a decent crowd. However, I can’t help but question the sustainability of these events in the future, especially when compared to the more successful Japanese ACG community in Malaysia.

Now, before you commenters start poising your fingers over your keyboards, I don’t think it’s just a matter of time and experience. But, in fact, fundamental differences between the two communities that will affect their futures. For example:

 

1. Each event attracts different age groups

Japanese ACG events tend to attract mostly teenagers and young adults, plus the occasional middle aged person. You seldom see many children hanging around the event, unless accompanied by their even more weeaboo parents trying to indoctrinate them to the cult from a young age.

Western ACG events aren’t very different as their main audiences are still teenagers and young adults, but I’ve also noticed far more family units there. Thanks to the growing popularity of several film franchises (e.g. Avengers, Star Wars), Western ACG has the ability to pierce through multiple generations. Not only attracting those pre-existing fans, but also those who don’t center their lives around geeky hobbies.

 

2. The origin of each community

If you approach 10 people at a Japanese ACG event, you probably won’t find anybody who’s only watched one anime or read one manga or played one video game their entire life. These are people who have dedicated a significant portion of their life to this culture, and events are a good opportunity for them to meet up with like-minded friends.

On the flip side, the Western ACG community is made up of a mishmash of all degrees of fans. There are hardcore fans who follow the comics, the animations, the movies, know all the characters’ full names and back stories in every single timeline. (DUDE.) And as I mentioned earlier, there are more casual fans, who picked it up through watching films.

While the mainstream popularisation of Western ACG isn’t a bad thing, it does split its existing community into two. You don’t feel that same disconnect at Japanese ACG events because, let’s face it, we all have to go pretty deep to end up here together.

Star Wars Episode 7 not only revived the fanbase, it enlarged it.

3. One event has more direction than the other

Subsequently, Japanese ACG events tend to be incredibly niche. A lot about them, from the cosplaying to the anime song cover bands, would appear bizarre to those who don’t know any better. You’re unlikely to get the same culture at any other type of event and that makes them unique.

Western ACG events, on the other hand, seem to take advantage of the generality that mainstream media has afforded them. Those that I’ve attended, they tend to show movie trailers and display figurines and have a poor man’s version of a cosplay competition; all of those things are incredibly friendly to newcomers, but none of them are particularly unique to their community.

I’ve noticed, they also tend to include the Malaysian comickers community at these events, even if they are not Western ACG focused. This fact has always appeared inconsistent to me because – are you organising a Western ACG event or a Malaysian ACG event? Neither is wrong, but to me it shows that the Western ACG community is still discovering their identity in this regard, whereas the Japanese ACG community already passed that stage a long time ago.

 

Conclusion?

As a member of both communities, I would love to see Western ACG events eventually reach the heights of its Japanese counterpart. However, the former doesn’t seem to have as much presence, and until they do (or gain a few community members who are willing to lead the way, much like how the Japanese ACG grew so rapidly), I don’t see it happening in a big way any time soon. Hmm, what do you think?

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