I live in the Philippines where we always joke about the country never getting its own Anime Festival Asia event. It’s safe to say that I’ve never been to an AFA event my entire life even if I write for Wow Japan. But all that changed when I finally flew to Bangkok for C3 Anime Festival Asia Bangkok 2017.

Yes folks, this was my first AFA, so how did it go? To tell the truth, I really can’t put it in words. It was everything I’ve dreamed it would be and more. But what really made AFA so special were the tremendous people I met. The staff who worked behind the scenes to make it all happen, the people who tirelessly worked in the various booths, the cosplayers who happily posed for the camera, the production staff who went the distance to make the stage presentations even more special, and of course, the guests who showed everyone a great time.

First up are the cosplay all stars, comprised of Angie, Baozi & Hana, H, and Mon. Every time each of them revealed their latest cosplay pictures, the crowed went wild. Fans felt that the cosplayers were really outdoing themselves with each reveal, and they all reacted loudly with approval.

And speaking of the guests, one stage presentation felt very special to me. I’ve been a Gundam fan since I was 8, and when I finally saw Amuro Ray’s seiyuu, Toru Furuya, I can’t help but get emotional. Sitting together with my new-found friends over at Akibatan, we cheered as Furuya himself finally entered the stage.

And then, a few Zeon cosplayers arrived and trolled Furuya-san with some Sieg Zeon chants. Of course, the guy who voiced Amuro Ray just laughed them off. But then, he amazed everyone when he finally recited a few lines from his most well known characters. From Amuro to Dragon Ball’s Yamcha to Detective Conan’s Toru Amuro, and then Saint Seiya’s Pegasus Seiya and Sailor Moon’s Tuxedo Mask, the legendary seiyuu proved that even after 50 years in the industry, he still has that signature sexy voice. And when he said that “Amuro Ray is my Life”, the crowd cheered. They knew that the Gundam protagonist role made him a star.

C3 AFA Bangkok 2017 was also where I first experienced a live reading. When the lovely Yuuki Kuwahara stepped on stage to read a few of Tohru’s lines from Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, I couldn’t help but be amazed at how different she sounded in character. I loved the anime, and her appearance on stage made me appreciate it even more.

And then, Junichi Suwabe arrived. As a guy, I somehow felt out of place in the sea of women who came to see the seiyuu. Every time he would do that “Aomine Voice” of his, the female fans would cheer really really loudly. I loved Junichi Suwabe’s performances in his roles, but him going on and off character on a whim on stage is something really special. That and the legions of swooning female fans. Saying that the ladies love Junichi Suwabe is a bit of an understatement. Hey, if his meet and greet event during C3 AFA Bangkok were of any indication, I’d say that the ladies reeeeeeeeeeeeeeally love the guy.

And after the ladies got their Junichi Suwabe treat, Sword Art Online’s Yui herself, Kanae Ito, took to the stage. Together with producer Shinichiro Kashiwada, the Thai fans greeted them with much enthusiasm. The enthusiasm they received mirrored just how big Sword Art Online’s success is around the world.

And then, Tomohisa Sako arrived to rock the Royal Paragon Hall at the Siam Paragon. His various Anisong covers, as well as his other songs got the crowd wanting more. One just can’t help but be drawn into his performance, and his performance during the event got him even more fans than before. Simply put, his voice was just just divine.

Finally, the one and only Chihiro Yonekura closed out Day One, providing a musical treat for the ages. Her beautiful voice was still with her even after more than 20 years of singing, and it showed how much the Bangkok crowd loved her performance. And then, the crowd went really wild as the Mobile Suit Gundam: 08th MS Team OP singer started leading the “Sieg Zeon” chants… to troll Toru Furuya. Hey, she may sing Gundam theme songs, but her allegiance is with Zeon!

And things got even crazier when she finally sang the song they all wanted, Arashi no Naka de Kagayaite, the OP song for Mobile Suit Gundam: 08th MS Team. I’ve been to Anisong concerts before, but this is the first time I actually got goosebumps from just one song. I will admit that I am a huge Gundam fanboy, and seeing her perform Arashi no Naka de Kagayaite live on stage got me very emotional. And it wasn’t just me who got emotional, as a Zeon cosplayer near the stage actually teared up. Chihiro Yonekura consoled her and was thankful to the Thai crowd for their love.

But as she exited, the crowd chanted “Encore!”. Needless to say, she reappeared and said that it wasn’t right to end the show with an OP. This is why she decided to sing an ED! To be exact, her encore performance is the ED for 08th MS Team, “10 Years After”.

All in all, my first AFA Experience was unlike any other. The fanboy in me really went all out, though I kept calm. This is mostly because I knew that there was still Day 2…