Last month, Manga Planet hosted a panel at AniManGaki Online 2020, one of Malaysia’s largest and greatest annual animation, comics, and games (ACG) convention. You can read our report on AniManGaki Online 2020 here. We had the opportunity to interview AniManGaki Event Director JoLynn and Founder Yvonne!
JoLynn: Hey there, I’m JoLynn, from Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia. I was previously working in the Accounting Field, while simultaneously organizing AniManGaki on a voluntary basis as a hobby.
Yvonne: Hello, my name is Yvonne. A foodie born and raised in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Due to the amount of workload and attention required, Jo and I have since decided to go full-time on AniManGaki event projects in recent years.
When did you get interested in Japanese culture or manga and how?
JoLynn: It was when I saw my older cousin play Final Fantasy VIII on his Playstation. I got curious about the game, and eventually led me to discover Japanese culture and the Anime, Comics, and Game (“ACG”) world.
Yvonne: If I must pinpoint an exact moment in time, I would call out my best friend, Lemon, for formally introducing me to anime and manga back in high school. She started me on Gensomaden Saiyuki, and the rest is history.
Please share any memories you have of manga during your childhood. Which manga attracted you the most and why?
JoLynn: The very first manga I read was Doraemon cause it was widely available here in Malaysia as the manga was translated into Bahasa Malaysia. When manga became more popular here and bookstores were starting to import more titles, I got attracted to NANA manga for its storyline and character developments, plus Nana Osaki is SUPER COOL!
Yvonne: Haha, yeah Doraemon was like the childhood staple. My dad would always buy a couple of books before we go on family vacations. Manga was one of the more affordable entertainment back in the days. Growing up, I really enjoyed titles such as Hunter x Hunter and One Piece for the crazy adventures, cool characters, and interesting storylines.
Do you remember any Japanese contents such as games, TV programs, Japanese songs, books, movies, food, arts, etc. you remember watching or listening to during your childhood?
JoLynn: Music was a huge influence to me since childhood. I was listening to Japanese artists such as Ayumi Hamasaki, Utada Hikaru, and Namie Amuro (They were some of the popular ones in Malaysia and their CDs were only available at music stores.).
Yvonne: Like Jo, I enjoyed listening to Japanese songs, particularly ones from anime series. Apart from music, I spent a lot of time playing Japanese games such as Pokémon, Dragon Warrior, and Super Mario on my Gameboy.
Is there any manga you are personally into right now?
JoLynn: At the moment, not really. I hardly read mangas these days.
Yvonne: I recently concluded The Promised Neverland and would be starting on Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba soon.
What kind of manga do people prefer in your country? Are there any characteristics or trends?
Yvonne: Shonen titles such as Naruto and One Piece do very well in Malaysia. It’s evident in the merchandise collaboration with certain brands and products. I would think it is due to the Superhero type qualities in the characters and also the flashy, colourful visuals. Though we are seeing a more diverse palate since fans are now being introduced to more titles with the power of the internet.
What do you think is the difference between manga fans in Japan and in your country?
JoLynn: The fans in Malaysia are more reluctant to spend on mangas as compared to fans in Japan, as prices are typically more or less comparable to buying anime merchandise. So fans would rather collect figurines or plushies instead.
Yvonne: Adding to that, I personally think the lack of accessibility and outlets to get manga titles make it hard for Malaysian fans to get into it. Unlike in Japan, there are only a limited number of bookstores selling a limited number of titles here. You might have to pre-order or get a specific title specially shipped via selected stores which I can understand might be quite a hassle for some.
Let’s talk about AniManGaki. Who started the event and why was it started?
JoLynn: AniManGaki (AMG) was the brainchild of Yvonne, the founder of Sunway Anime Club at Sunway University, Malaysia. AMG was initially an annual project for club members to come together and do something.
Yvonne: Haha, it always feels weird to hear this. I digress. Like Jo said, AMG started as a club activity. But it has since grown to become something even larger than what it was one decade ago. At peak, we are at 20,000 attendees.
Please tell us about the AniManGaki team.
JoLynn: Our team comprises volunteers who all come together as one, to create an event as a means to give back to the ACG Community. The team members vary from university students to full time working adults.
Yvonne: They are the most important backbone of AMG. Without them, we won’t be able to do this every year. Like any team, we do buttheads from time to time, but ultimately, everyone acts in the favour of what’s best for the event. Over the years, our crew members have become our extended family, whether they are still in the team or not.
What do you think are the challenges in organizing events?
JoLynn: The main challenge is raising enough funds to cover the expenses of running the event, especially the exhibition hall rent, it ain’t cheap! The other challenge we have is keeping up with the attendees’ expectations, as trends come and go very quickly.
Yvonne: Ah, am I allowed to say ‘everything’? *laughs*
Which aspect of your event do you think has grown through the years?
JoLynn: That would be the number of attendees and the amount of content added to the event.
Yvonne: I concur.
JoLynn: 2019 was a challenging year for the team. After 7 years at Sunway Pyramid Convention Centre, AMG said goodbye and shifted to a new home, Mines International Exhibition and Convention Centre. Despite moving to a bigger play space (almost double in size), attendees were reacting negatively to the move. We understand that changes are oftentimes hard, so the team had to brainstorm ways to convince our fans that this change was necessary. Held during our Independence Day (31st August 2019), we also incorporated activities and performances to celebrate the memorable day. Despite the challenge, we managed to maintain the attendee count close to that of last year.
Yvonne: It was one of those quick to judge moments. Many of those who came to the event reacted positively for a number of reasons and we even have new attendees. We see this milestone as a win for both us and the community.
Have you invited mangaka before?
JoLynn: Yes we have. In 2018, we’ve invited Moriyama Daisuke to our event and had a great reception.
Yvonne: Yeah, we look forward to inviting more mangakas to our event in the future.
You organized AniManGaki (AMG) Online 2020 this year in lieu of the in-person event. How was the reception?
JoLynn: We weren’t sure about AMG Online at first, but after running the event, we were so glad to receive much positive feedbacks. It was more than what we initially targeted since we barely did any marketing campaign for the event. The event achieved 46,000 views for the 3 days from Youtube, Twitch, and Facebook.
Yvonne: It’s a success in our books. We couldn’t have done it without the support from various parties. Thank you for believing in us!
JoLynn: With the pandemic still in full swing, things are still uncertain. We hope to try out a mini-event with strict SOPs in place for the local attendees to attend.
Yvonne: Yeah, we will be keeping our fingers crossed as we hope for the best. We would like to see our friends and fans again soon.
What is your future vision for your event?
JoLynn: To continue being a HOME to the ACG community in Malaysia and also around the world.
Yvonne: To also entertain and inspire a generation of creative minds.
What do you think about the online manga subscription service Manga Planet?
JoLynn: There is definitely a huge demand for the latest and hottest English manga worldwide, there’s a potential for this service to grow!
Yvonne: It is a great initiative as there are only so few legal online manga libraries available in the market. Our hope is that there would be more languages available to the masses soon.
Lastly, what is “manga” for you?
JoLynn: An alternate world to escape reality
Yvonne: Food for the mind and soul
Thank you, JoLynn and Yvonne, for your time!
About Manga Planet: Read manga, support artists
In 2012, Manga Planet started as a joint project between Dai Nippon Printing Co., Ltd. and FANTASISTA, INC. to research and explore the ways manga is read throughout the world. Aiming to bring new manga to fans from all over the world and support artists and the industry, Manga Planet pushes for affordability and access to manga through a subscription-based service.
Readers who subscribe to Manga Planet and pay a flat monthly fee of $6.99 will have access to our expanding library of English-language manga. By the end of 2020, subscribers will have unlimited access to at least 500 titles. To subscribe, please go to read.mangaplanet.com and create an account. More information is in our Guide.