Interview - Thomas Munro, President of SMASH!
The Sydney Manga and Anime Show (SMASH!) is Sydney's ultimate day of Japanese pop culture and otaku lunacy. The most obvious and endearing factors into the success of SMASH is that it is a con for fans, by fans - which is probably why it is so much fun!
Today I had the pleasure of speaking to Thomas Munro, the President of SMASH about his geeky habits as well as the past, present and future of SMASH!
Thomas: I think like a lot of people my first experience with anime was from the early morning cartoons you used to get on TV like Pokemon, Dragonball Z or Sailor Moon. I don't think I really identified them as anime at first, but I certainly knew they had a striking visual and thematic difference compared to the sort of superhero cartoons that would air opposite them. It wasn't long after that that SBS began to screen Neon Genesis Evangelion and Bubblegum Crisis: Tokyo 2040 and I became hooked, wanting to find more.
So aside from those mentioned, what series do you think every otaku must watch/read?
There's a few that I would always recommend to people that made me enjoy anime and manga more. Cowboy Bebop to me is a standout anime series that really shows what can be done when you mix a great story with a fantastic score and visual medium. In terms of manga I think both Ranma 1/2 and Death Note are great entry points for fans. Ranma is just a fun series with lovable characters, and even though it's incredibly long it never really feels like it outstays its welcome. Death Note though sort of shows how a really intricate plot can be handled in a manga format.
What is it about SMASH that is different to other cons?
The most noticeable difference is that SMASH! is held over a single day, while other events take place over the course of a weekend. I don't think that a weekend event is necessarily a bad idea but we've taken the position that one single exceptional day is better than a drawn out weekend. Additionally, we put a strong focus on trying to find guests who can speak about the actual process of making anime and Japanese culture, from anime directors to popular voice actors.
2011's effort was absolutely huge! What have you got in store for us this year at SMASH?
This year is going to be pretty huge. We're lucky to be joined by three wonderful voice actors from Japan, Shin-ichiro Miki, Sakura Tange and Yuko Miyamura who have all been leads in a number of incredibly popular anime series. Yuko Miyamura will be leading a great workshop on the processes involved in preparing and recording voices for characters. We will also be hosting the national finals of the Gunpla Builders World Cup, where a trip to Japan is available as the grand prize.
Where do you see SMASH going in the future?
It's really hard to say. If you told me when we started this event that we would be where we are now, I don't know if I would believe you. I don't think it will be long before we could see mangaka or first class musical acts on the guest roster. We're able to grow and do more things every year because of the support we get from the fans who come to the show. Their continued support has meant that every year we can try to do a bit better for them. This is supposed to be for them and I really want to encourage them to tell us what they want to see or even consider becoming more involved in the event.
Finally, what are you watching and reading at the moment?
I can't get enough of horror manga, so at the moment I'm reading a collected work of Junji Ito's manga series. If anyone is into horror and anime they have to check out his work - he is the master at making beautiful art also incredibly terrifying!
Thanks very much to Thomas for speaking to us and also for his part in organising such a wonderful event.