Last week, we introduced Comic Fiesta, Malaysia’s leading Animation, Comics and Games (ACG) convention. Chin Hwa, or Nerv to his colleagues, shares with us how he was introduced to Japanese pop culture and talks about Comic Fiesta’s past, present, and future.
Hi Nerv! Thank you for this interview. Could you first introduce yourself?
Nerv: I’m Chin Hwa, born in Georgetown, Penang. I’m one of the company directors of SAYS Youth Society which run Comic Fiesta.
We’re just curious, why do they call you “Nerv”?
Nerv: The reason that I’m being called Nerv is because my highschool gaming nickname was “Nirvana.” Then they cut it short to “Nirv” for easy typing. Later it was changed to Nerv during my Neon Genesis Evangelion fanboying days. 😅 The name stuck with me ever since.
When did you get interested in Japanese culture or manga, and how?
Nerv: The first manga I read was Doraemon when I was around five years old. But what really got me into manga is Dragon Ball, which serialized in a Malaysian manga magazine “Comic Weekly” around the early 1990s.
Please share any memories you have of manga during your childhood. Which manga attracted you the most, and why?
Nerv: During my childhood, Doraemon was the manga that grew with me. It’s almost anywhere! In my room, living & dining room, barber shops, restaurants, and even public toilets. I think it’s one of the most influential manga at the time. I love every single story, especially Nobita’s Adventure series.
Do you remember any Japanese contents such as games, TV programs, Japanese songs, books, movies, food, arts, etc. that you watched, listened to or consumed during your childhood?
Nerv: Besides manga, I hardly notice any Japanese cultural influence here besides cars and electronics during my childhood years.
Is there any manga you are personally into right now?
Nerv: Yes, currently my top title would be To you, the Immortal (不滅のあなたへ) by Yoshitoki Ooima.
What kind of manga do people prefer in your country? Are there any characteristics or trends?
Nerv: I believe the trending titles are very similar to the ones in Japan. Based on what I observed, most of the best selling manga is popular in Malaysia, too.
What do you think is the difference between manga fans in Japan and your country?
Nerv: I think the biggest difference between fans in Malaysia and Japan is their spending habits. Malaysian fans are more likely to spend on merchandise while reluctant to pay directly for the manga or to watch anime.
Now let’s talk about Comic Fiesta. Could you please introduce your event?
Nerv: Comic Fiesta (CF) is one of Southeast Asia’s largest and also longest-running ACG conventions. Initially, CF aimed to mirror Japan’s Comiket, but over the years, it has grown from a doujinshi market into multiple directions with content such as commercial booths, concerts, e-sports, and so on to cater to the ever-growing market.
Who started the event and why was it started? How many people organized the event for the first time?
Nerv: CF was founded by Pin, XenGk, Tenkawa, Sakana in 2002. They were penpals who came from 3 different Malaysian states who love Japanese ACG culture. Initially, they were just trying to have a gathering place for artists to sell their doujinshis and for cosplayers to hang out without feeling awkward in public.
Besides the initial 4, there were around 20 volunteers helped out at the first event.
Are you aware of any difficulties in organizing your event for the first time?
Nerv: I wasn’t one of the founders, but as far as I know, the main challenge was to raise the initial fund to rent a venue. This is especially difficult for the team as most of the staff are not from financial nor event organizing backgrounds. They had to learn everything from scratch.
How do you organize your event? Please tell us about your team.
Nerv: Usually, we start by having an annual general meeting to form a new event committee. Then we split up and handle multiple tasks such as securing venue, sourcing for event content, selling booth spaces, and so on. My team consists of around 30 people from all around the country. Most of them are volunteers.
Which aspect of your event do you think has grown through the years?
Nerv: I think the numbers of attendees and the booths grow the most over the years.
Please tell us how CF was last year.
Nerv: Last year, Comic Fiesta broke the record by hitting 65,000 attendees over two days. This year, we wish to bring more interesting content and activity to the fans.
Have you invited mangaka before?
Nerv: Yes, we have. Since 2012, we have been inviting mangaka to CF. We invited Kurata Yoshimi, Tetsuji Sekiya, Keitaro Arima, Kore Yamazaki, Honda, Rino Mizuho, Kaoru Mori. The receptions were phenomenal.
Are you inviting any mangaka this year?
Nerv: Yes, we plan to invite mangaka again this year.
When you invite a mangaka, how do you choose them, and how do you approach them?
Nerv: We usually contact mangaka through our mangaka friends in Japan and Kinokuniya Bookstore’s referral.
Do you have any difficulties in promoting manga at your event?
Nerv: Challenges that Malaysian publishers face when promoting manga at events are the official censorship, the general public’s low purchasing power, and little interest in reading. There is also competition from Korea, China, and America.
What is your future vision for your event?
Nerv: I hope our event can be a regional promotional hub for international and local brands and titles.
What can you say about Manga Planet?
Nerv: I think there is a huge demand for the latest English manga around the globe. I look forward to what Manga Planet can achieve in the near future.
If you were to describe what manga is for you in one word, what would it be?
Thank you very much for your time!
If you’re interested in reading more of Manga Planet’s interviews, be sure to read our exclusive interviews with Head of Comic Frontier Sudwi Karyadi, Otakorp, Inc. (Part 1 and Part 2), Directors of San Japan, LLCDave Henkin and Tanya Arguijo, K-BOOKS Akihabara Hon-kan Manager Mr. Moritsuka, K-BOOKS Ikebukuro Chara-kan Store Manager Mr. Natori, Chairman of DoKomi Andreas Degen, former Production I.G. scriptwriter Yasunori Kasuga, The Golden Age of Decadence artist Yutsuki Inumura, After School! artist Umiharu, Kou Oushirou of MANGA.CLUB, and the RAYZ OF LIGHT Rōdoku Geki Cast.
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