「Hyper Japan Summer 2019」
Welcome to Hyper Japan, the only event in the UK which truly reflects the cultural nuances of today’s Japan – or so their slogan runs. Let’s find out whether this is true and see what you can get up to at the UK’s largest J-Culture exhibition.
Disclaimer: I only attended the Saturday 2nd Session that ran from 3:30pm-9:00pm, so all my thoughts and opinions specifically cover and reflect the experience for that particular time slot.
The Olympia is definitely an excellent place to host the event, since it is centrally located and has great proximity to transport links. It’s a sizeable venue too, that has more than enough room to be divided into multiple thematic sections (e.g. anime, games, fashion, food, etc), while accommodating a massive amount of visitors.
I also liked that there were two floors. It seemed like they grouped most of the free stuff (game events, performances and cosplay viewing) downstairs, while shopping areas (the artist’s alley, merchandise markets, food stalls) were upstairs. In my opinion, it was really useful that the organisers had a relatively clear idea in terms of how to optimise the experience between each demographic. That said, I felt that the main staircase often got a bit too packed. So perhaps they could have highlighted the side stairs to ease the congestion.
Game and Anime Zone
Because the queues were ridiculously long, I didn’t actually play the demos, so I can’t comment on what Pokemon Sword and Shield, Link’s Awakening and Luigi’s Mansion 3 were like. But my friends who did gave me a massive thumbs up! So Nintendo fans can certainly look forwards to their upcoming releases. Rejoice!
And as always, I will forever recommend the retro gaming section at Hyper Japan, which offers older Smash and Mario Kart titles where you play multiplayer with strangers. And definitely try the taiko drums if you haven’t. It’s such an awesome game that’s somehow gone under the radar in the West. Other than that, a virtual reality multiplayer game called Hado looked like tons of fun too – something akin to 3v3 dodgeball.
Dealers Hall / Artist Alley
This year, the Market Alley and the Artist Alley took up the entire upstairs section. Starting with the Markey Alley, it was rather impressive just how many vendors and companies were packed into area. The ability to manoeuvre around? Not so much, with how narrow the upstair corridors were but I suppose it couldn’t be helped. In recent years, it seems like posters have been plummeting in popularity, with merchandise like cushions, enamel pins, keychains and small prints coming into the vogue as of late. These little trinkets are very much appreciated, and seem like great merch to acquire and have on hand for anime/manga fans in general. Especially the younger ones who might not have the disposable income to blow on figurines.
Moving on to the Artist Alley, visitors were spoiled for choice. And it certainly helped that a good chunk of the Market Alley comprised of independent artists as well. With rows upon rows of tables that extended down the entire length of the area, Artist Alley enthusiasts had a lot to bite into.
There was a fantastic mix of beginner artists looking to gain a foothold for themselves by providing dynamic styles, and experienced artists returning with their polished wares. The place is quite welcoming to newbies and veterans alike – provided that you can afford the table fee. My personal advice to artists in the alley based off observation? Don’t chatter too much to the person in the neighbouring stall, smile outwards, look ready to engage in conversation and be enthusiastic.
In terms of improving how information could be provided, I think it would be helpful if the organisers could bring forwards more consistency in labelling the market and artist areas within the guide. It can be pretty confusing if a person wanted to look for a specific artist, only to find that their name isn’t present in the artist alley, but in the market area.
Events and Panels
I attended the Nintendo live event – which was essentially a Mario Maker 2 advertisement in the form of a crowd competition, and I even took part in it. The winner was decided by seeing who could reach the finish line first, and I made it to the grand finals. I was leading the pack going into the final area, and managed to fail by running into the lava instead of warping down the pipe… but at least I got a free t-shirt for participating! That was pretty darn fun. I spent the rest of my time experiencing everything else that Hyper Japan had to offer, and didn’t really go to the other live events.
But I did feel like there was a lack of events compared to last year, where we had the likes of Reol, Mousou Calibration and ViViD’s ex-lead singer performing on the stage. And we even had Eir Aoi a few years ago. My recommendation for the organisers would be to look into getting at least 1-2 headliners on board. That’s a surefire way to drum up more excitement for the event. Personally I would put forwards Tricot as a suggestion, since they’re a brilliant indie J-Rock band that know how to turn up the hype and it also seems like they really enjoy performing in the UK too.
Food and Drinks
This year, I didn’t check out the food hall. So I can’t specifically comment on what was provided – although they seemed to be vending hot and fresh Japanese streetfood as well as the classics like they always have in previous years. As for lovers of Japanese drinks and alcohols, they have a rather extensive selection at the event – and I ended up nabbing a bottle of Mio Sparkling Sake for myself.
Most of you might have heard of the global MCM Comicon, which is also a brilliant event in its own right, predominantly featuring Western comic culture with a smattering of anime/manga. Hyper Japan on the other hand has a much greater focus on Japanese culture, which is perfect for the more consummate weebs out there.
There are only so many events outside of different conventions and Halloween where people can get away with being dressed up as fat and hairy Sailor Moon. Though it’s heavy on the traditional aspect of Japanese culture, which typically frowns down upon otaku culture, what I think Hyper Japan does best is creating an environment where weebs can feel free to be weebs without getting judged for it. After all, there’s still stigma against anime and its fans within the UK – at least that’s what it felt like when I was in school! But you really get none of that at Hyper Japan. It’s a great place to hang out and relax with friends, while enjoying the plentiful offerings of Japanese culture.
I think the organisers should feel happy for the most part, seeing the spreading popularity of Japanese culture in the UK. And it surely brings them a sense of pride to know they’ve been a part of that process. They’ve been doing a fantastic job, and I really hope that they will continue to keep up the good work for years to come.
P.S. While big names like Nintendo continue to have a strong presence at Hyper Japan, I think that the event could go further in bringing big cultural names on board. For example, they should seek to invite prominent members of the anime industry to come over and provide their insights. Yuasa Masaaki and Eun Yong Choi have both expressed quite an affection towards the UK, and I think they would be excellent guests to have at a future convention sometime down the line. It would also be an incredible coup if KyoAni could be invited to sell their official merchandise. People would come flocking from all corners of the UK and maybe even Europe at the prospect of obtaining bona fide KyoAni wares, because they’re simply one of the most beloved names amongst the Western anime fandom.
2019 Convention Info
Winter 2019 Information