Wonder Festival Summer 2011 Event Report

Up before 5 am this morning to prepare for the day’s festivities, I got everything assembled and was out the door by around 6:40 – plenty early, it turned out (note to self: get one of those battery > cell adapters before Comiket. Also a set of highlighter markers). I picked up some sunscreen to use while standing in line, and hopped on the 7:30 train bound for Tokyo.

This was my first time attending an event at Makuhari Messe, so before I left last night I researched the route. Turns out it’s nearly identical to the route to the Big Sight, so this morning’s trip was routine until the Messe stop. When you exit the Kaihin Makuhari station there’s a maze of overpasses and sidewalks that take you to the event halls, and the Wonder Festival staff had routed the queue around the entire complex to manage the flow of the line, so I got the full tour of the place before making it inside.

The line was hot but moved pretty quickly, and once inside there was AC (though not as cool as it would have been at a normal summer WF due to the electricity saving measures currently in place). WF occupied all eight halls of the exhibition center, with halls 1-3 used for industry booths and 4-8 for smaller industry displays, hobby shops, and individual garage kit dealers. I opted to fork off and head for hall 8 first, home of the cordoned off and ID-checked “adults only” section of the fair.

From there I worked my way back through the hall toward the industry booths, roaming the aisles and taking shots of anything that caught my fancy. The galleries that follow document one man’s take on the massive, wondrous world of a festival that no single person could take in on their own; I invite you to add this trip to others you’ve seen and humbly hope it helps inform your complete impression of the event.

Main Gallery

Industry Gallery

Adult Gallery

My purchases at the event consisted of the A Plus Manyuu Chibusa garage kit I wrote about yesterday, a 2ch sticker that reads “CV: Wakamoto” and is now proudly adorning my laptop, and one of the most wretched event hall bentos I’ve had the misfortune of eating. I didn’t know french fries could taste like both cardboard and papier-mache paste at the same time… A word to the wise, stay away from the chicken potato combo at Messe at all costs.

Highlights of the event for me included seeing bajillions of Madokas, both figures (it was by far the most prominent series on display) and in cosplay form. There was an astonishing amount of amazing cosplay of all kinds, and my one regret is that I didn’t have more time to devote to it before the outdoor promenade closed at four. A goal for next time.

Other strong showings were made by Touhou, Panty & Stocking, several Nitroplus properties (mostly Super Sonico, but also some Saya, Demonbane, and Muramasa), and Love Plus. Perennial favorites Evangelion and Fate/stay night were also well represented, and while only a few of them made it in time for the con, the Anohana figures that were there were met enthusiastically by fans.

By the time I made it to the industry section most of the event-only goods were sold out, so fans had settled into large clumps around the various stages set up by companies around the cavernous space. The Goodsmile/Max Factory collective dominated the room in size and presence, but personally the thing that blew me away the most were the life-size dinosaurs on display at Griffon. Staring face to face with a 1:1-scale T-Rex isn’t something you forget easily, and it made me feel like a kid again while wandering through the booth (screw boobs – dinosaurs are fucking awesome!).

On the topic of boobs, though, there’s plenty to look forward to in the coming months especially from Native and Orchid Seed. There are a lot of great things in store, and seeing the actual physical mock-ups always fills me with a creative rush (maybe I’m mistaking it for something else, but hey, it feels like creativity). Catching up on everything that’s been going on in the figure world over the past couple of years is a heady deluge of a task, but today made it definitely seem worth the trek.

Shingo out.

For more on what Wonder Festival is, see yesterday’s preview post! For HD’s history with the event, see the archives at heiseidemocracy.com.

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11 Responses to Wonder Festival Summer 2011 Event Report

  1. Aka July 25, 2011 at 12:22 am #

    Great post, I enjoyed seeing the event from a different perspective. In the past all I really saw were the figures and less of the layout and overall content. Was nice to see it all, especially those dinosaurs. I have no where to put something that big, but that doesn’t stop me from wanting one.

    I wish Native would produce more figures annually, but I guess that’d just make me a bigger perv.

    I didn’t realize there were massive displays like this where companies showcased their past works as well. Looks like GSC has every figure they’ve ever made on display.

    • Shingo July 25, 2011 at 8:33 am #

      It seems that Goodsmile’s display this time around was a one-off thing to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the company; on the signage they said “see you with this collection again in another 10 years!” so I don’t imagine they’ll trot out the entire historical lineup every WF. The industry displays have become pretty resplendent over the past few years, so who knows what they’ll try to one-up it with at the next one.

  2. MorisatoK July 25, 2011 at 1:31 am #

    Awesome figures on display there … Now I need more money, a lot xD

    Thanks for this post :)

  3. wah July 25, 2011 at 7:30 am #

    Did you have the distinct pleasure of being sectioned off in the Cosco parking lot while waiting in line like I did in 2009?

    Also, re: electricity saving measures: Are they still doing blackouts or are people saving enough energy that that’s not needed?

    • Shingo July 25, 2011 at 8:27 am #

      I got to the venue late enough that the overflow line wasn’t being stacked like cordwood anywhere, thankfully. The new primo entry pass system may also have played a role in keeping initial crowds down.

      It turns out they haven’t had to do blackouts again yet this summer, since people have voluntarily cut their consumption back so far. The effects of the cutbacks are visible everywhere, though.

  4. serogane July 25, 2011 at 7:49 am #

    Great report!

    Will remember to pack own food.

  5. The-O July 25, 2011 at 8:35 am #

    Awesome, wish I was able to go. T.T

  6. PL August 1, 2011 at 6:12 am #

    This must be overwhelming. It certainly looks bigger and flashier than the last and only WF I went to, which was Winter 2005!

    • Shingo August 1, 2011 at 10:04 am #

      Yeah, it’s amazing to see how the industry section has expanded, even since I started attending (around the same time as you). The success of Goodsmile has driven the entire sector upward, is my perception, while garage kits continue their slow decline (in terms of market share, and volume and quality as well as all the best sculptors are taken full time into the PVC machine).

      The sense of magic is still there, though, and I hope the strong root of fan participation and aspiration continues – I wouldn’t want to see garage kits become the equivalent of an “artist’s alley” to a dominating industry presence.


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