Events such as these are basically a large convention hall where hundreds to thousands of anime and comic book fans shop for exclusive and hard to find items, all while dressing up as their favorite character from a favorite series.
Having been to only a few expos in the USA, I greatly missed the festivities that I experienced back home. Being surrounded by people who share the same love for characters with spiky hair that cast fire spells can become intoxicating for any fan of the genre. The question for me to discover was if the Busan comic world expo was really worth checking out.
Decked out in my cosplay (the Governor from The Walking Dead), my friends and I made our way to the main room to check out the convention. As I was hoping, for there was a long line of attendees for the event. The line was predominantly Koreans with a few groups of foreigners mixed in.
The merchandise and art display booths were rather minimal. Although the convention lacked intriguing and diverse merchandise: the fan made art, comic books, character dolls and pillows, and embroideries, were definitely worth taking a look at.
A commonly displayed anime style found at these booths was photos of characters in Chibi style (a cute/baby version of an anime character). Almost all of the merchandise is fairly affordable; I paid about four thousand won for two fan made Studio Ghibli posters and a Frozen hand towel.
Most conventions I attended back in the USA included a lot more booths with a more diverse product choice. However, the low price for these exclusive items made up for the lack of selection.
Everywhere you looked, Korean cosplayers were dressed as popular characters from Japanese anime and Korean comic strips. There were characters ranging from popular anime like Naruto, to video games like League of Legends, to even a random bear costume.
Some cosplays that were unfamiliar to me, turned out to be from Korean comic strips and manhwa which at this current time are fairly new to those in the western world. It would be uncommon to see cosplays of characters from Korean manhwa at conventions in the USA.
Although the Japanese animation scene is still a dominant force at these conventions, cosplayers have developed costumes from other animated series native to different countries, as well as drama series from America.
A popular American made anime, Avatar, has influenced many cosplays at various conventions in the USA. Even my own cosplay which was from AMC’s The Walking Dead, attracted the attention of westerners (and one Korean who actually knew the series) while outside the convention. It appeared that the Korean cosplayers were not as aware of the characters from American dramas and certain cartoons, quite similar as to how Americans are not as familiar with Korean comic books and animation.
The closing events including a few songs from popular anime, a costume contest, and some last minute photo shoots with the cosplayers. I expected the cosplayers to come up onto the stage for the costume contest event but they just showed pictures that were taken of each cosplayer. This made for a bit of disappointment for me since most of the costume contests at these conventions back home feature the cosplayers actually getting on the stage and striking a pose with their garnets on.
The event ended at around 4pm, which I thought was kind of early. Most events in the USA are all day or conclude late at night. The lack of events featured at the expo seemed to result in its early ending.
Other things absent from conventions back home were events such as panel discussions, workshops, and various contests. Adding more events like these to the schedule can be one improvement to make the expo better.
Although the event is quite small, it was an overall interesting and fun experience. Being able to discover new anime and comic books that are exclusive to Korea was an intriguing change to the mostly dominant Japanese scene. I feel that being exposed to exclusive Korean comics and animated art can allow foreigners to find new ways to practice Korean and learn more about the culture through some of their favorite hobbies.
The Busan Comic World expo is held bi-monthly at Bexco in Centrium city. Be sure to come down as a cosplayer or spectator and check it out. And please, do not feed the guy in the bear costume.