Singapore held it’s first ever Singapore’s amateur manga artists got together for a doujinshi (同人誌) ‘convention’ at Suntec City. As far as memory serves “KALEIDOSCOPE!” could be the first otaku event anchored by amateur comics enthusiasts. It had been three years since the last doujin convention. watzART! was a modest start that laid a milestone for the Singaporean otaku scene.
KALEIDOSCOPE! @ MY.PlayGr0und
For Singaporean doujin circles, the few occasions where they can showcase their talents are during cosplay events such as Cosfest and EOY. Sometimes, the doujin circles will also attend events across the Causeway such as Comics Fiesta. According to the organisers, the turn out for this doujin festival was better than anyone had expected. On both days, I witnessed a good crowd milling around the exhibition as well as the booths, and its a good mixture of otakus as well as curious ippanjins. KALEIDOSCOPE! can possibly the spark that will reinvigorate the local doujin scene.
KALEIDOSCOPE! was the combined effort of Collateral Damage Doujin Studios (CDDS) and Manga Oasis Cafe. Some months ago, Richard of Manga Oasis Cafe had wanted to hold a manga-themed event at the space near his cafe. Eddie of CDDS chanced upon his idea and offered to collaborate on this project.
Manga Oasis Cafe
Within a short span of weeks, Eddie did the leg work behind the scenes, orchestrating maneuvers to bring the doujin community together and to spread the word. Evon from KKnM rallied her network of doujin artists. The participants paid only an administrative fee of S$10 to set up their booth.
Eddie, Stan of IFS and Richard
Manga Oasis Cafe shouldered the financial costs, given the expensive rental and insurance of the event space. This event would not have gotten off the ground if not for Richard’s sponsorship. The boss of Manga Oasis Cafe believed that his business can benefit from the promotion of local talents. Richard wants his cafe to become the activity hub for comics creatives. He wanted his cafe to be a gallery and platform for these enthusiasts to showcase their projects.
KALEIDOSCOPE! featured an exhibition of the artists’ works, doujin booths selling their wares, and also ‘live’ demonstrations on digital manga/illustration drawing techniques.
The exhibitors can be classified into three categories, the Genshiken-type student societies, doujinshi circles as well as commercial entities. The layout of the booths are arranged according to their category. It was interesting to note that the ‘amateur’ groups secured the prime locations, while the only commercial booth from Chuang Yi was tucked away at one lonely corner.
Three tertiary institutions were represented by their student societies: Singapore Polytechnic’s SP LifeArts, the National University of Singapore’s NUS Anime Club and Nanyang Technological University’s NTU Visual Art Society. However only SP LifeArts and NUS Anime Club set up shop at the event. [It appears that NTU Visual Art Society's cyber-presence is off-line too...]
NUS Anime Club and SP LifeArts
NUS Anime Club and SP LifeArts’ shared the same booth.
SP LifeArts pwn NUS Anime Club for this round because they have a (accidental) moélicious mascot:
She was spotted on the second day. She’s not cosplaying per se. This otaku-saturated event presented her the opportunity to dress up in
Goth Ota-loli fashion in public. [Note: She reverted to civilian wear and got on with normal life when the event ended. I didn't get her name though... She goes by the nick of 'golden feline']
I appreciated her spontaneity, even though this wasn’t a cosplay event. I feel that cosplayers in Singapore shouldn’t have to wait for the next cosplay event to flaunt it. Cosplay groups or individuals can self-organise their own cosplayer gathering at public space, such as Youth Park (*Scape) or SMU’s plaza (near Sunshine Plaza) during weekends or holidays.
NUS Anime Club needs a mascot too. But will that role be usurped/subverted by Tripeman? The mutli-penile creature was spotted at the Graffiti Corner on the first day…but was no where to be seen after the mahjong paper canvas was refreshed. SP LifeArts gave away free copies of their past doujin art collection, “La Inc”.
There are many closeted aspiring comic artists who worked quietly in their private capacity. However, I never knew that doujin circles existed in Singapore until my first experience at EOY last year.
Collatral Damage Doujin Studio, blankbook, Comix Pandora
Three doujin circles – Collateral Damage Doujin Studio, blankbook and Comix Pandora shared a long table. This is a small sampling of the local doujin scene as there are some others, such as Dkartoon that exhibited their artwork but did not set up shop during the event.
Comix Pandora was the first doujin group that caught my eye then, as they had quite a number of ‘published’ works.
SOLD OUT DOUJIN
This bilingual doujin group puts out comics in both Chinese and English versions. I bought the English edition of “幻想境界”, titled “Fantasy Realm”. I got it because I liked the art and storyboard (画コンテ/分鏡). Not all people who can draw can do comics. That’s because comics art speaks with a different grammar apart from illustration. Illustrators are adept at telling a story within a single frame, whereas comic artists have to flow their narration over several panels. Good art can be compromised by dull storyboards or those that do not make sense; a good story board can tell a story with simple lines and without text.
Unlike most doujin fairs, where you’d expect fan-fiction works – there’s a glaring lack of doujin comics based on proprietary material. Except for one:
blankbook’s doujin “Sub-Zero” caught my eye. I bought it because of the art, and only then did I realise it was a fan-fic for “FFVII: Advent Children“.
During my chat with Eddie, I asked if he’d approached the Media Development Authority (MDA) for support. And there’s a reason why the organisers prefer to be independent of MDA’s influence. The government statutory board is rather sticky about using copyrighted materials, and they’d insist on ‘original works only’ if the bureaucrats are to give their stamp of approval. Both of us agreed that this policy would only serve to stifle rather than encourage creativity. MDA is behind the curve in their understanding of doujin culture, and certainly there’s no need to pimp creative freedom for MDA’s funding. The rule-based Bureaucratic system here is not comfortable in dealing with regulatory ambiguities.
Of all the stuff that I saw at KALEIDOSCOPE!, this is my favourite.”SUPERSCENIC” is a collection of illustrations by the artists of Collateral Damage Doujin Studio. This is also CDDS’ official debut as a doujin circle. Not only is it a visual treat, this doujin collection comes with an original soundtrack too. This project is a collaboration with Tera, a doujin sound designer.
Brown Box Package
Eddie of CDDS got to know Tera during last year’s EOY, after picking up his self-published soundtrack “Promise”. That meeting transpired into a cross-media collaboration between two doujin groups. This book and CD super collection comes packaged in a brown box
STICKER: Proof of Pre-order
The doujinshi is priced at S$25. For those who pre-ordered the item, the final package will come with a bonus CD as well as a postcard. Those interested in ordering the package, drop Eddie an email “firstname.lastname@example.org”
Other than the unique sound-surround feature of this doujin, this is the other reason why I wanted “SUPERSCENIC”:
VOCALOID Miku Hatsune
Xephonia’s rendition of Akiba’s cyber idol Miku Hatsune (初音ミク). For those that have been living under a virtual rock, Miku is the latest sensation among the Japanese otakus. She’s the avatar for the Volcaloid2 voice synthesizer software. You can make Miku ’sing’ by keying in the melody and lyrics. Miku’s voice is based on the seiyuu Saki Fujita’s (藤田咲) voice samples.
Imaginary Friends Studio
For those interested in having a copy of IFS artwork, you can get hold of their excellent portfolio album “Imagine Prime” from Basheer Graphic Books at Bras Basah Complex.
Moonlight Rhapsody, Sora Doujin Works and Dkartoon
Collateral Damage Doujin Studio
NUS Anime Club
NTU Visual Arts Society
Studio Bounce did a live demonstration on how to draw using the stylus and digital tablet.
However, what I found most interesting was the analog art in meatspace:
The organisers set up two boards with white majong paper on both ends of the exhibition space. I thought it was a great idea – having these blank canvas, wild cards that offered audience participation – some sort of user interactivity. There were no explicit rules governing the use of the white space, and I wondered how would people make use of that ‘freedom’.
These were the drawings on the wall when I was there on the first day.
GRAFFITI CORNER – DAY 1
Looking at how the budding artists used the space, I was reminded of the “Gotta Start Somewhere” incident that led to the expulsion of an art student from Laselle College of the Arts. In the highly regulated society of Singapore, there are limits to freedom. The authorities fear the condition of Bellum omnium contra omnes in a multi-cultural society variegated by fault lines demarcating race and creed. If left to their own devices, will individuals exploit the free space to push extreme, sectarian agenda? Will the unfettered freedom of expression be the writing on the wall that portends the end of social harmony?
The paranoia was unfounded. This was as far as extremity went.
Nothing is more gratifying than seeing artists in action (as opposed to doing a ‘demonstration’).
Can this be considered performance art? I like to look at the raw pencil line work. The spontaneity is another sexy factor.
As all the white space had been drawn/coloured over by the end of the day, the organisers had to refresh the sheets. Some of the drawings were preserved and displayed at Manga Oasis Cafe.
Here’s the yield of graffiti art for the second day:
GRAFFITI CORNER – DAY 2
I managed to catch more artists in action on the second day
One thing that I noted…there were hardly any left-handers! I thought there’d be more left-handed artists. This proves that you don’t have to be a left-handed person to be ‘creative’ or ‘artistically inclined’.
Towards the close of the second day, a crowd of kaypoh onlookers had gathered around one of the graffiti panel.
Kua si mi?
What are they looking at?
MistaYoH, Xephonia and Kelvin (from Chuang Yi) are adding pencil and inks to the finale masterpieces
MistaYoH vs. Kelvin
MistaYoH is the one adding colours to the bishojo art, while Kelvin is the guy adding shades to the Dark Elven warrior.
If this was a on-the-spot art competition and I have to pick a winner, this is my choice:
Dango Big Family
The assorted, gummi-coloured and yummy dango (団子) family. The hands behind this piece of art?
She can pwn you in games that demand highly developed psychomotor skills and a keen sense of rhythm…
Although there was no loud music and throbbing disco lights (pew pew!), KALEIDOSCOPE! was like a party that wrapped up on a climatic beat. For the organisers and participants, they felt that this doujin fair had turned out to be better than they’d hope for. It was also an unplanned off-line gathering for the local otakus who were first acquainted via the Net. I also happened to meet the Japanese representative from J-Biz Pte Ltd, who was distributing flyers for the “Animation Master” course.
It was encouraging to see the ’sg anime bloggers’ pulling their strengths together to support this endeavour. That’s Windbell the semi-official photographer covering the event.
Crew & Cast
These are the people who made KALEIDOSCOPE! possible.
This is certainly not the end of KALEIDOSCOPE! nor will this be the only doujin activity in Singapore. The organisers intend to make this an annual event. And the doujin circles will continue to participate in other otaku-related events such as cosplay festivals.
COMICS SOCIETY (SINGAPORE)
For those who can’t get enough of doujin works, this Saturday (3 Nov), the Comics Society (Singapore) headed by The Celestial Zone’s Mr Wee Tian Beng will be holding its inauguration at Kim Mui Hoey Kuan (72, Keng Lee Road) from 1pm to 3.30pm.
The MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC Mr Baey Yam Keng will be gracing the opening ceremony. The programme for the inauguration includes presentation by industry professionals on comics production and business. There’s also an introduction to doujinshi as well as the launch of comics courses. The presentation is in Mandarin (it appears that this is a Chinese-predicated society). While there is no admission charges, interested participants are required to register by fax (63921804) or email (email@example.com). Check out the society’s website.