CONQuest Festival 2022 makes its grand return this year to unite anime fans and gamers once again for a spectacular weekend-long event. Thousands of con-goers or “questers” came to experience one of the country’s biggest pop culture events; either dressed up as their favorite characters or with their anime or gaming-themed apparel. One of our staff even wore a Spy x Family shirt and the other had Eiko’s jacket on!
The last CONQuest Festival was held at Iloilo Convention Center back in 2019. Due to the pandemic, the yearly event was put on hold for two years. Now that everything is slowly returning to normal, the organizers decided to make their epic comeback this year and went all in. They moved the venue to a much larger city and brought in famous international and local guests coupled with exciting panels, game matches, galleries, and more. In order to cater to this immense line-up of guests and events, CONQuest Festival 2022 took place at SMX Convention Center Manila.
In spite of a bigger venue, CONQuest Festival organized the whole building admirably. One notable thing about the convention is that each floor had its own theme. The ground floor mostly contained gaming and tech-related activities. Meanwhile, on the second floor were the more community-oriented places (anime, artists, and VTubers). We at Anime Corner spent most of our time roaming around the second floor and got to experience the huge post-pandemic pop culture event like no other.
The Staggering Amount of Questers
A staggering amount of over 33,000 people came to experience firsthand the comeback of CONQuest Festival. With both floors occupied and almost every hall filled with booths, stages, and even a resting area to chill with other questers, there was surely something for everyone.
The whole venue was jam-packed to a degree where it was suffocating. Artist booths and event stages were the most crowded places. The floors were even shaking during hype moments (which we’ll talk more about later). It was also hard to squeeze into the stages and the passages between booths were super crowded.
With the number of people who showed up, it was already a given that the lines both inside and outside would be long. The outside lines were absurdly long as they circled around to the back of the building. Waiting in line outside also took an hour or two just to get inside. When people got inside, they were greeted by anisongs sung by local talents to lessen the stress of queue.
On both days, questers started to line up as early as 7 AM and by around 3 PM the lines were finished. The lines, despite being lengthy, went pretty smoothly all thanks to the CONQuest crew’s management.
The Headturning Cosplays at CONQuest
Much like the last convention that we covered this year, the cosplays continued to be amazing and a complete head-turner. Since CONQuest is an event where gaming and anime-related communities combine, it was expected to see all sorts of characters. Genshin Impact cosplays continued to be in the lead but there were a lot of beautiful cosplays from both the anime and gaming communities.
A handful of very exciting Spy x Family cosplays were on the scene, especially the cute and adorable Anya. League of Legends champions Ahri and Seraphine, Valorant Agents Viper, Jett, Sage, and Killjoy, and a suspicious Among Us crewmate also grabbed everyone’s attention, especially gaming fans. Even the strategist Kongming was present at the event and was mainly near the dance floors. A few familiar cosplays from previous events alike also dropped by to continue showing the community their creative costumes.
Needless to say, the two-day event was full of amazing and fantastic cosplays. A cosplay contest was held on both days and on the first day, the contest was judged by streamers Atsu, Nekkopi, and Bao.
Most contestants cosplayed characters from video games, especially from the first-person shooter genre. There were also a who dressed up as well-known anime characters like Yor Forger and Goku from Dragon Ball. An Ellie Williams (The Last of Us 2) cosplay won the Judge’s choice award, Mercy (Overwatch) won best stage performance, Caustic (Apex Legends) won the best costume award, and the overall champion goes to the Iron Patriot Mark 2 (Marvel) cosplay.
However, among all the contestants, the fan favorite was Goku (Dragon Ball) who showcased his epic martial art fighting techniques during the stage performance. Even though he didn’t win any awards, he won the hearts of the people as he received the most cheers during the contest.
On the second day, another cosplay contest was held but this time, it was solely for Genshin Impact characters. Judges of the contest were Genshin’s voice actors Anne Yatco, Ratana, Lilypichu, streamer Atsu, and cosplayer Liui Aquino. The contestants acted out their characters on stage naturally. A few performances that made the crowd roar and laugh were Qiqi laying down on the stage like her fallen in-game sticker (and the meme that got the sticker banned from Genshin’s Discord server), Hu Tao’s hilichurl dance, Zhongli throwing his meteor across the stage, and drunk Beidou and Venti.
The judge’s choice awards went to the one who dressed up as the cute yet sleepy Sayu carrying a Wolf’s Gravestone. Lilypichu (Sayu’s English voice actress) was ecstatic to see the adorable cosplay take on stage. The best costume was awarded to a Tartaglia/Childe cosplay who didn’t only showcase his signature weapon, the Polar Star, but also his hydro blades and the spear during his melee burst animation.
While the previous winner was evidently a complete package, he was a bit short compared to the winner of the best stage performance, Zhongli. The geo archon cosplayer wasn’t just wielding the Vortex Vanquisher, but he also brought in his stone pillar and meteor. He also had a pouch with Childe’s face on it filled with money. Lastly, the overall winner of the contest was the Raiden Shogun cosplayer who had a stunning costume with glowing props. She also acted the Raiden boss slash while Anne Yatco said “witness the final calamity” during her awarding.
Genshin Keeps Leaving an Impact
Genshin Impact continues to dominate post-pandemic conventions. The amount of merchandise and cosplays was insane. From stickers, keychains, and prints, a variety of Genshin Impact merchandise was in store in almost every artist booth.
The Aezer booth had stacks of official Genshin Impact merch that were really amazing. A huge anemo slime bean plush was grabbing the attention of everyone that passes by. Most of the plushies sold out fast, like Klee’s Jumpy Dumptys, Childe’s whale, and Rex Lapis (Zhongli’s dragon form) plush. They also had acrylic stands, mini-figures, and the Genshin calendar with official art.
Fans of the game truly had an experience of a lifetime as they met their favorite Genshin content creators and voice actors. One of the most hype moments in the whole convention is when a fan asked streamer Tuonto to make a 10 pull on her account on the stage panel. The whole crowd chanted Kazuha while the host and crew quickly put the impromptu pulling session on screen so that everyone could see. When everything was ready, the 10 fates were wished, a gold star shone across the screen, the crowd erupts, the floors were shaking and the silhouette of the wandering samurai Kazuha appeared on the very first wish, making this moment the most hype moment in the whole event.
With moments like this, the hype of the game won’t be waning soon. Added to the fact that they continue to tease the new region and characters, Genshin Impact will most likely continue to run the show in post-pandemic conventions.
CONQuest as a Catalyst for VTubers and Fans Alike
Based on the past events we have attended, there is already an audience for VTuber merchandise. Hololive and Nijisanji fan arts are scattered in art booths, but there are only a few who serve merchandise from local virtual talents.
At a distance, members of the upcoming group Balangay Live let everyone meet and greet them virtually. Balangay, a group that aims to promote local history, folklore, and culture, is set to have its debut this November.
PC game Good Knight collaborated with local VTubers, making local VTuber merch available to fans at CONQuest. Aside from letting people try the bullet hell game, tons of posters, acrylic standees, stickers, and other items are on display. A total of 40 local VTubers participated in the collaboration. Their activities concluded with an auction of select life-size standees, and the highest bid was a standee of surgeon VTuber Shiori_p0n (Php6,000 or US$107.01), followed by a standee of VTuber and Live2D model artist Pan the Bread (Php5,000 or US$88.94) and a standee of virtual singer Emiri Kura (Php3,000 or US$53.37).
The important highlight however is the presence of guest VTubers Bao and Senz in the country. Bao, notable for her thirst tweet to Elden Ring’s Blaidd, is introduced to halo-halo (a dessert similar to Japanese shaved ice with sweet toppings). She also told the audience what her favorite Tagalog word is (an expletive).
The calm demon Senz on the other hand found a nice Korean skincare routine for cheap, saw the world’s largest IKEA store just a few kilometers away from the event venue, and met with fans along the way. He will formally debut this September. Both Bao and Senz received gifts from fans alike, such as a custom-printed pillow and several fan arts.
All things considered, CONQuest Festival gave VTubers and fans a better spotlight, paving the way for more opportunities for the VTubing community.
OSU! Continues to Click
As previously mentioned, event stages and artist booths were the most crowded area. If you’re inside the venue, you can truly feel the passion of each community rekindling. Everyone was having fun meeting their friends who they haven’t seen for years and also new people. The only downside of all this is that it’s hard to enjoy fully in a tight space. While event areas continue to be loud and crowded as ever, one space that was placed on the corner and was seemingly isolated from the rest of the booths and stages was the OSU! area.
OSU! is a rhythm game that has been around for more than a decade already and watching how its community is still going strong was a sight to see. Seeing the OSU! community is like watching a family reunion; everyone was super stoked about interacting with each other, playing together, and just overall having a casually good time in their own spacious area. It’s as if everyone was a member of one big family.
OSU! streamer BTMC also came to the area to meet the avid players of the game and got to hang out with them casually. He even thanked the USO! Philippines community for continuing to click the circle. Upon seeing them being a wholesome community together makes me want to download and play the game again.
“InazuManila” Shines Eternal With the Voice Actors
One of the main highlights of the convention was the Genshin Impact voice actors Anne Yatco, Ratana, Christian Banas, and Lilypichu.
The first voice actor we met was Christian Banas who was seen working tirelessly at his booth which had a line all the way to the back of the booths. Despite the number of fans who came to visit in his booth, he was amazing for staying so enthusiastic, patient, and friendly towards everyone. One of our staff even asked him if he could wish on their account for Kazuha. Unfortunately, Kazuha didn’t come home nor did Christian’s character Thoma who was also on the banner but everyone still laughed through the pain of getting a 3-star.
During the meet and greet that Carla got to attend, Christian says that he was “lucky” to get the role of Thoma. His role auditions are occasionally related to him and other times they are not. “We struck gold with Thoma because I’m very similar to him, except he’s hotter and more confident,” Christian said. A little girl asked him how much he spent on Thoma to which he replied with “a lot of money” and reminds his fans to wish responsibly.
He also shared his experience in voice acting during his meet and greet which was really inspirational. “My experience in voice-over is that I am learning who I am continuously. Am I perfect? Hello no. But, it’s like you continuously learn how to be who you are and the more you get better as a person, the better actor you become. That’s how I’ve been doing it, and it’s been really helpful,” Christian told the fans who got to meet him.
The road to being an established voice actor is no joke and like most of them, Christian also had some rough times in the industry. “It really sucked, but that really helped me because I got to be around entertainment, which was nice. I was actually gonna leave the industry… but Genshin brought me in, and my career exploded”, Christian said.
With Genshin Impact propelling his voice acting career, he shared a few personal preferences on the game such as how he likes Ayato more than Ayaka, his favorite Genshin character is Amber, and how gets creeped out by Thoma the tank engine meme sometimes.
Like Christian, the voice actresses Anne Yatco (Raiden Shogun) and Ratana (Yae Miko) also had their hands full in CONQuest. In their community panel “Titas of Inazumanila” with fans, they shared a few details on how they decide the type of voice they will use on characters they’re auditioning for, how they got into voice acting, and a few tips for aspiring voice actors.
In terms of choosing the type of voice, the creative process usually starts with knowing your character. “We have to do a lot of homework, a lot of deducing, like what is the character really doing and what are they really saying,” Anne Yatco told the audience.
She continued that after creating a backstory for a character, she then searches for a voice type under her belt that best fits the role. “You’re creating a backstory for this character, plus the visuals and descriptive words. Then I just go through like my rolodex of voice types I have and see what fits then whatever works best for me at that moment, is the one I pick for my audition.”
Ratana also shares the same creative process with her co-actress.“We’re asked to infer things based on what we read on the page, so we learn to read between the read lines as much as we read the lines,” Ratana told the people who were at the community stage.
After sharing how they prepare for their characters, the two went on to talk about how they got into voice acting. For Ratana, it was when she knew that the “drawings” in cartoons and anime had real people’s voices behind them. Anne Yatco was interested in the field after wanting to voice Disney princesses when she was a child. She also mentioned that she wanted to be Lea Salonga and is still working on it at the moment.
On the panel, the tip they gave to aspiring voice actors is to read out loud every day. “It doesn’t what it is, could be the text messages on your phone, it could be a book or the words from your favorite manga, just read out loud every day“, Ratana suggested.
Needless to say, their panel was very lively and informative. While not on stage, Anne Yatco and Ratana were both seen in their respective booths working relentlessly on meeting fans and signing autographs.
The last voice actress we’ve seen was Lilypichu who was also busy with meet and greets and possibly eating dried mangoes. While most of her panel with Micheal Reeves was about content creation, music, and their Manila experience, Lily also shared a tip on voice acting. “I would take acting classes, improv, whatever you can do to help the acting version. It’s not enough to just have like a funny sounding voice, you have to actually put into training, coaching, workshops, etc,” Lily advised aspiring voice actors.
When asked about her favorite thing about voicing Sayu, she told everyone that she loves her because she sleeps a lot. “I feel very relatable to her, I like how she just sleeps and all she does is yawns“. She and Micheal also did a Sayu impression for the fans on stage and Lily mentioned that she would love to cosplay Sayu again with the correct hair color this time.
The Unsung Heroes of the Convention
CONQuest Festival 2022 was a complete success that even former senator Bam Aquino even congratulates the whole team for bringing the community together. Part of its success is the hardworking crew and staff who kept the event running smoothly. From maintaining lines in place outside to patrolling every corridor inside of the building, the crew was seen everywhere.
What makes them even more fascinating is that the crew is composed of student leaders from their campus clubs. Like most of the questers, they are also students who want to experience a pop cultured event that’s tailored for them. Managing a large-scale event like this can be stressful which is why the crew deserves some praise for pulling through. Ultimately, CONQuest Festival isn’t just a mix of gaming and anime enthusiasts but also a union of school campuses all over the country.
CONQuest Serves as an Eye Opener for New and Veteran Congoers
To sum it all up, the convention was truly one heck of an experience. For the most part, it was seeing famous international and local guests and the joy of finally attending a convention again for years to hunt for merch.
While everyone was busy admiring the guest stars, having a picture taken with their favorite cosplayers, or trying not to lose all their budget on merch, the best moment that I’ve seen throughout the convention happened backstage after the Genshin cosplay contest.
When the winning contestant returned backstage, all the other contestants rushed to her, hugging her, and congratulating her on taking the cake. They may be competing with each during the contest but in the end, they all belong to the same community and share one passion. Its moments like this serve as a gentle reminder that conventions like CONQuest, are definitely worth attending.
Queuing in lines may be tiring, trying to get to booths may be suffocating, and standing for so long just to see your favorite stars may hurt your legs for days, but it’s all part of the con experience. At the end of the day, people will still gather at conventions because this is where people get to be themselves, have their passion reignited, and keep their fervor going. The feeling of belongingness that everyone craves was definitely satisfied, yet, I’m sure people want more.
What’s Next for CONQuest?
While it is still a new player in the pool of pop culture events in Manila, it’s already a contender for being one of the best there is. Of course, it doesn’t end here and more so it’s only just the beginning. CONQuest Festival will be back next year along with the promises of some personalities to return to the country. With hopes and teases that the next one will be more fun and longer, it hereby solidifies itself as one of the most anticipated pop culture events in the country.
Special thanks to AcadArena for organizing this convention. I would also like to thank Jay, Carla, Marlo, and Anne for their contributions and for accompanying me in covering this event. The whole experience wouldn’t be as memorable without them.
Anime Corner was an official media partner for CONQuest Festival 2022.