Event Report: JKT48 at AFAID 2014
First of all, I’d like to apologize for the lateness of this report. Although we tried to report on JKT48’s appearance at Anime Festival Asia Indonesia (AFAID) 2014 on Twitter, the sheer number of people trying to access their mobile phone Internet at the venue resulted in the network becoming congested.
JKT48’s participation at AFAID 2014 is unique because the girls were appearing at an event aimed at fans of anime, manga, and games. However, JKT48 has no connection whatsoever to this industry, which makes the nature of their appearance puzzling. The announcement of their participation also came at the very last minute, only several days before the event. As a fan of anime and manga myself, I was interested in how JKT48 would be received at the event.
The primary challenge to JKT48’s participation at AFAID is attendee interest. The majority fans of anime, manga, and games rarely cross over from 2D celebrities to 3D celebrities. There is a segment of the fandom which are interested in anime theme song (anisong) singers and voice actors, but they would place these celebrities in category called “2.5D”. The division sets this industry apart from other traditional TV and music celebrities. There was actually quite a bit of resistance on social media to JKT48’s participation in AFAID, questioning what relation they have to a convention on anime.
However, I would consider this resistance to be mild compared to the division of 2D and 3D in Japan. JKT48’s advantage in appearing at AFAID is that they are reaching out to an untapped market of young Indonesians interested in Japanese culture. SOZO, the Singaporean company which organizes AFAID in Jakarta and AFA in Singapore, aimed for attendance of 60,000 at this year’s AFAID. That is an impressive number of attendees that dwarfs attendance at JKT48 handshake events.
As I expected, JKT48’s participation had nothing to do with anime, manga, and games. It was more of a presentation of Japanese culture in general, followed by a small set of performances of the group’s songs. Four members took part in the presentation segment: Melody, Ve, Haruka, and Yona. They were joined by Danny Choo, a celebrity otaku whose work to spread Japanese anime, manga, and game culture has been recognized by the industry and the Japanese government. (Trivia: Danny Choo is the son of famed shoe designer Jimmy Choo.)
Some of the topics they discussed include places to visit in Japan, extracurricular activities (bukatsu) in Japanese schools, and how each member was introduced to Japanese culture.
For example, Ve indicated that her favorite extracurricular activities in school were badminton and basketball. Of the four members, only Yona has done cosplay before. She attended AFAID in 2012 as a cosplayer, only to return to the event this year as an artist. Haruka indicated that she had never cosplayed, but she would like to wear a costume like Shizuka Minamoto from Doraemon if given the chance.
After about 15–20 minutes of discussion, the remaining JKT48 members came on stage to perform a small set of songs.
- Gingham Check
- Musim Panas Sounds Good (Manatsu no Sounds Good)
- Fortune Cookie yang Mencinta (Koisuru Fortune Cookie)
- Flying Get
Although several people in the audience swung their glowsticks and light sticks during the performance, there was no audible chant of “Tiger! Fire!” etc. To me, this indicates that the fan circle of Japanese animation and Japanese idols in Indonesia have very little overlap. In fact, to many in the audience this would be their first time watching JKT48 perform. There was no negative sentiment, but there was also no positive sentiment, so the audience reaction was muted.
Rather that attempting to introduce JKT48 as a whole, I believe the management should learn to carefully cater to their audience. Members which have strong affinity for Japanese animation and comics like Yona would do well in these events. She was actively answering Danny’s questions and understood which series are currently popular with anime fans.
If you consider the success Diasta has had as a cosplayer following her departure from JKT48, it shows that a focused strategy at showing a member’s unique interests will be received well by non-traditional fans.