Last year we were disappointed on the outcome of Ozine Fest, but this year it gave us a ray of hope for some improvements on the annual otaku convention.
Otakuzine Magazine has been hosting otaku conventions for the longest time, what makes them interesting is how they launched several ‘mini events’ alongside a major event every year, these events cater more on anime and manga enthusiasts as well as the cosplay community. For quite some time they have been in hot water due to issues in organizing events. They have been quiet during those times and just recently they have become more open to the media and the community for feedback and suggestions in improving their future events. With the conclusion of Ozine Fest 2015 held last weekend at the Megatrade Center, we take a look to find out if they did improve or not.
Entrance and Registration
Instead of opening just one area for the entrance, Ozine has three entrances and exits; one for each hall. Two entrances (Halls 1 & 3) are for the regular con-goers while the Hall 2 entrance is exclusive for guests, exhibitors, VIPs and the media. Ticket booths have been increased, as there are two booths stationed on Halls 1 and 3 which made transactions faster, an information booth (including the PlayPark-dedicated ticket booth catered for their players) is located on the second hall for other inquiries and concerns about the event. Compared from last year, the flow of the ticket line has improved dramatically, there may be long lines but the waiting time is far shorter than before, thanks with the properly placed security guards in maintaining order on the queue line.
Event site and booths
Ozine Fest returns to the Megatrade Center after their trial stay at the SMX Convention last year, and it was for the better, as Ozine finally rented all three halls, including the conference hall for the entire event. With almost 4,000 square meters of venue space (compared to last year’s 2350 square meter venue), the organizers learned from their mishaps of renting just a single function room for their major event and decided to rent multiple halls and combine it into a single venue.
A large venue would still spell trouble if there is no proper floor planning, the Ozine organizers finally prepared a better layout which provided ample amount of space for con-goers to hang out inside. Some attractions are strategically located in selected areas, for example the stage area is at the far end of Hall 1 with the activity area is in-between Hall 1 and 2 while the maid café is at the far end of Hall 3. This prevents the attendees from overcrowding in a particular choke point that could cause a congested pathway. The new cosplayer dressing room is also located at the third hall. A new policy was implement by the Megatrade security prohibiting cosplayers from using the rest rooms to change in their costumes as some mall-goers are complaining over the lengthy usage by the cosplayers during a convention. Though the dressing room would need some improvements, such as placing perimeter lines and marshals to assist cosplayers with their costumes.
As for the booths, Hall 2 is for the exhibitors, these are the merchandise booths ranging from apparels, collectibles and plastic model kits. This area could need some improvements on the spacing for the hallway, as it gets jam-packed quite easy especially with a lot of con-goers checking out some items at each booth.
The video game area is located at the first hall, just beside the stage area. MMO publisher PlayPark was present and featured some of their hit games with different activities in specific days, for console fans, there’s Hot Seat for you to try out some of the hottest fighting games and music rhythm games.
There is even a Gunpla booth where con-goers can learn how to build model kits or join their daily competition and a chance to bring home some Gunpla prizes.
The Indie Area is at the 3rd Hall where a number of independent comic artists and illustrators show off their artworks and sell some of their creations, you can even ask for an artwork commission from them with a small fee.
Navigating around the halls is easier thanks to the well-prepared floor layout, there are more room to roam around near the entrance/exit which gives you more space to take photos or videos with some cosplayers
Just like last year, the event stage is still small, though the space allocated for the stage area is bigger and can accommodate a large number of audience, the opportunity of having a bigger stage was missed. Though the organizers explained the reason behind having a smaller stage (some miscommunication from the event contractor) and the original plan was actually a bigger stage. It’s still a minus on the event experience.
We still get to see the usual activities in Ozine Fest, the band performance, eating contest, trivia bingo, karaoke singing competition, cosplay competition and other stage performances, but the stage is not the only attraction at the event. There are also some booth attractions such as the Horror booth for those who are into some screaming sprees and the Matsuri area for some traditional Japanese parlor games. The Maid Café made a return at Ozine Fest, a lot of people lined up at the café to have a great time with some of Ozine’s meidos.
The meet and greet became a mainstay for Ozine events, this time they invited more international cosplayers and illustrators. There are several price packages that are being offered (these have to be pre-purchased) ranging from PhP 900 to PhP 1,700, we tried attending a meet and greet session to see how it goes and we are happy to say that the cosplayer guest are indeed approachable and fun to chat with. Unfortunately some guests weren’t able to make it on the event due to some passport issues, but the organizers provided some compensation to those who purchased the meet and greet package. Even if the guest were not complete, some who spent for the package said that it was well worth it.
A lot of things have changed in terms with event security. With a new policy being implemented, mall securities are enforcing that no one is allowed to loiter outside the event area and you can’t roam around the mall premises while in a bulky costume (this was soon opened some exemptions to selected cosplayers) unless you remove your costume. There are also more security guard roaming around inside the event venue to lessen cases of stolen items.
However, strict policies had its flaws, there were confusions on both the organizers and mall security in dealing with cosplayers leaving the event premises, as the cosplayers cannot leave the area unless they are not in costume; which is a preventive measure in avoiding cosplayers to loiter outsides. This caused some commotions as some cosplayers felt that they have limited movements at the event. This was soon resolved when the organizers consulted with the security to make some exceptions.
Looking back from Ozine Fest 2014, it’s easy to say that there are indeed improvements; ranging from venue size to the list of attractions to tightened security. But there are still minor setbacks in some attractions and issues of getting overcrowded and rowdy attendees; which are understandably inevitable, there are instances that the venue is full of people that the security had to stop letting more people inside for a short period of time, there are even some cases that there are still few people loitering outside the event area and there are still trash scattered inside the area (and even inside the dressing rooms), but these cases can be remedied with some minor adjustments on the policies and layout plans.
What matters most is the improvement of turning the once horrific experience into a more entertaining and fulfilling experience that the community once have been craving for. The organizers have finally listened and prepared, it’s the Ozine Fest that most people have wished for, and it became a reality, it may not be the best, but it made progress.
Check out our Aftermath Video of Ozine Fest 2015