On this edition of Going Places where I attend online anime/cosplay events, I went to virtual Japan to enter the first Comic VKet.
Japan’s pop culture events industry
The year 2020 was supposed to be a big one for Japan. Olympics are scheduled to be held in Tokyo. Even pop culture events have set aside themselves for this big event.
The thing is, a pandemic broke out. Everything Japan has prepared for this big moment has to be postponed.
Japan has already announced a State of Emergency last April, which lasted around a month. Kyodo News has an interactive chart detailing the number of confirmed cases for each prefecture as of this moment:
This is a problem for Japan’s pop culture events and live stages – events are restricted to a maximum of 5,000 spectators only, as cases increase especially in the Tokyo prefecture which has already passed the 19,000 mark.
There’s one report where a fan “falsely claimed recovery from coronavirus” prior to going to a concert last March 17, which affirms my idea that events and similar forms of recreation are of importance to most Japanese people, if not every person worldwide who can afford to visit such events.
Moving forward, the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), in its July 2020 report stated that “various new endeavors have begun in response to COVID-19, such as online classes, development of systems to reduce food loss caused by cancellation of events and self-restraint of restaurants.”
Patrick St. Michel wrote these words on his column “Sound Off” for The Japan Times last April:
Due to disruption in the way the industry has operated for years, major Japanese music companies and artists have been forced to think of new ways to connect with fans at a time when physical distance is preferred.“Ensuring live music survives the pandemic,” The Japan Times
By now, some voice actresses have been approved to open their own YouTube accounts by their agencies or on their own, and independent idol groups have their ways of meet and greets. (Don’t get me started on Virtual YouTubers, it’ll take a whole day before we finish discussing it.)
Then there’s more merch available online through sites like Pixiv’s BOOTH and other online platforms. I’ve seen more of them during these times, especially with the vtuber stuff on board.
If you want a more immersive experience, try visiting a virtual reality event such as Comic VKet.
Virtual Independent Comic/Music Market
Comic VKet has been opened to the public from August 13 to 16, although it did had a test event called Comic VKet Zero sometime in April, with over 25,000 visitors (as per Josh Tolentino’s report on SiliconEra).
Comic VKet has gathered 377 exhibitors and 60 corporate partners, scattered in two virtual environments – the Comic VKet held at virtual Akihabara, and Music VKet at a gallery-type indoor venue.
Ease of Access
There were three ways to access Comic VKet and Music VKet:
- VRChat – I believe most will prefer this platform given that there’s already a sizable audience who are using the program. I do have to install Steam in order to use it, which is kind of a bummer given that I want to use less resources.
- Styly – Styly has a web player, but with the internet connection conking up, downloading the environment is a hassle. I also tried the mobile app but it’s only available for select device models.
- Cluster – This is the one I used, and while it doesn’t allow you to buy stuff unlike the other two platforms, if you are there to just browse the whole environment, this is the safest bet.
Comic VKet Gallery
Music VKet Gallery
Overall, Comic VKet is recommended for those who want to visit a comic market without going there physically.
Especially with this pandemic around, there’s a lot of restrictions and mandatory quarantine procedures that travelers need to observe, which is a hassle.
It might take long for me to visit an actual comic market in Japan, but with these virtual gatherings fulfilling our want to be there, I can say that we can be contented with this for now.