Hello Asia! Interview: Ray Elinon - President of SMASH!

The Sydney Manga and Anime Show - best known as SMASH! - returns this weekend for a two-day convention on August 9 and 10 at Rosehill Gardens. As we get excited for the event, we caught up with SMASH! President Ray Elinon to find out what they have in store for Sydney for 2014...

Hi Ray! This is a very exciting year for SMASH! with lots of changes compared to previous years. Let's look at the biggest one -- venue change. Where is the new venue and why was it chosen?

This year's SMASH! convention will be at Rosehill Gardens this year. Since the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre is currently unavailable, we have to look at our other options that will cater for all of our usual events and attractions. Because SMASH! gets bigger every year (with events and attendee numbers), naturally, we would like a location that is similar to the Sydney Convention Centre -- or bigger. And we believe Rosehill Gardens is the perfect alternative venue for this year's convention.

The second change was the addition of a second day of SMASH! Why was an extra day added?

We have been gearing towards a two-day convention for awhile now. Over the years, many fans have noticed that SMASH! offers so many events, but the big issue was time. A one-day convention meant that many events were occurring at the same time and fans found it difficult to attend all fan-favourite events plus look at other aspects of SMASH!. As a result, we feel that it was a good decision to have a two-day animecon this year. You can never have too much of SMASH!-goodness!

With the additional day, what programming changes have your team been able to make?

First of all, the additional day allows us to have more versatile events occurring throughout the weekend. For instance, this year, we've got some brand new events happening such as the SMASH! Cosplay Catwalk and Nippon World Karaoke Grand Prix. Secondly, with two days, we are able to create a less restricted schedule for all fans. Events are now spread across the two-day event which means people will have the chance to have more time to look around the venue, buy anime goodies, participate in on-the-day activities, watch cosplay competitions and meet our guests.

Let's also talk about the WCS Cosplay competition. I believe it's now incorporated into SMASH!

Yes, the Australian Preliminary Finals of WCS Australia was previously held at Animania, but it has found a new home at SMASH! this year. Cosplay is a huge aspect of SMASH! every year -- Although we already have the annual Madman Cosplay Competition, it doesn't hurt to have a second cosplay competition. For us to be involved with World Cosplay Summit Australia is a big deal as the lucky Australian duo who wins the finals will get the opportunity to win a trip to Japan and enter the international World Cosplay Summit in Japan.

Let's talk about the international guests. Who is coming this year?

This year, we've got three major Japanese guests coming all the way from Japan. We've got the top-ranking cosplayer from Japan, Reika Arikawa, who is best known for her amazing cosplay costumes and great likeness to the characters she cosplay. For those who love Cowboy Bebop and Gundam, we've got the character designer/animation director, Mr Toshihiro Kawamoto, attending the convention as well. And last of all, Ms Kotono Mitsuishi, the voice of Sailor Moon from the classic anime series AND the brand new series which has taken the anime world
by storm.

Which guest should fans of SMASH! look out for? Who do you think will be popular?

It's a bit hard to say! Everyone loves cosplay and appreciates cosplay talent with great calibre so Reika would definitely be popular. If you hear loud fangirling throughout the weekend, that is probably Reika's massive fangirl (and fanboy) camp going wild for her.

For animation fans, Mr Kawamoto is also a guest to look out for. A fun fact: Mr Kawamoto is actually co-founder of Bones animation studio which has produced some of the most popular anime series in recent years including Ouran High School, Space Dandy and Full-Metal Alchemist.

And of course, Ms Mitsuishi's popularity cannot be missed....who doesn't love Sailor Moon?

It's a great combination of guests this year and I think SMASH! fans will have a great time meeting the guests, and learning a thing or two from them.

Every year we get asked if SMASH! will bring out Jpop or anime music performers. Is this something that is in the pipeline for the future?

In the past, we've had some Jpop/anime music performers coming to SMASH!, including voice-actress/pop-idol Haruko Momoi and Vocaloid DJs Hachioji P and kz(livetune). As SMASH! gets bigger by the year, there is no doubt that we will attain Jpop and anime artists coming to the convention as guests one day. Personally, I would love to see Yui, Kung Fu Generation, Maaya Sakamoto or May'n. Who knows, maybe next year...!

What does the future hold for SMASH!

With a two-day convention this year and a new location, SMASH! has gone beyond limits already. The convention will keep getting bigger than ever, and we hope to showcase even more Japanese talent, events and attractions over the upcoming years.

Will we see you at the Maid Cafe?

There might be a chance!

Any last words of advice for people attending SMASH! this weekend?

Make sure you wear comfy shoes, bring lots of money to buy your anime goodies and make sure you check out the schedule so you don't miss out on your favourite events. We hope you have a SMASH!-ing time at SMASH! 2014.

-------------

For further information about SMASH! 2014 - which takes place August 9 and 10 at Rosehill Gardens - visit http://www.smash.org.au/ - and stay tuned to Hello Asia! for live coverage from the event! Make sure you follow us on Instagram and Twitter.