Top anime director Shinichiro Watanabe and well-known producer Go Nakanishi will be among the big names in Japanese pop culture attending this year's Anime Festival Asia.
The event, taking place at Singapore Expo from November 9 to 11, will also feature a series of anime-themed concerts with performers such as singer T.M.Revolution and the Regional Cosplay Championship, featuring guest cosplayers such as Singi, one of Japan's best.
Nakanishi, who has played a key role in developing anime hits such as Sokyuu No Fafner (2010), will be showcasing his latest and long-awaited work, titled K, with exclusive footage, while Watanabe will be the focus of a special panel dedicated to his work, which includes the highly popular 1998 TV series Cowboy Bebop.
More details on ticket prices and the guest line-up will released by the festival organizers at a later date.
One new feature in the fifth edition of the festival is the Japan Future Entertainment Zone. Representatives from Japanese artist management companies and record labels such as Horipro and King Records will be showcasing their latest artistes, dramas and movies.
The festival aims to eventually follow in the footsteps of the San Diego Comic Convention, which is a major platform for announcements on the latest Hollywood movies and TV shows.
The event has also seen its visitor numbers grow steadily since its inception in 2008, when it attracted about 27,000 people. Last year, more than 82,000 fans attended.
Its budget has also grown from less than S$500,000 (US$400,500) in 2008 to more than S$1 million last year. Two months ago, the festival expanded into the region, holding its first overseas satellite event in Malaysia, attracting about 40,000 visitors. A similar event will be held in Indonesia next month.
This year's festival is expected to draw at least 85,000 visitors. Festival director Shawn Chin says the growth in numbers since 2008 is partly due to an "explosion" in regional visitors, which started in 2010.
Last year, the event also extended from two to three days.
"We want to be the regional anime event in Asia and now we are spreading our wings to Indonesia and Malaysia. This is the first year we have gone beyond Singapore but we still call Singapore home," says Chin.
Asked if the regional events could cannibalize the Singapore audience, he admits that was an initial concern. But he notes: "These events are under the Anime Festival Asia brand but they are more tailored to the local market. We also try not to repeat content for each country."
The demand in Singapore for Japanese pop culture is such that the Singapore Toy Game and Comic Convention, another major pop-culture event and ostensibly a more Western-oriented convention, has also incorporated elements of anime, manga and cosplay.
The event, which drew almost 30,000 people last year, takes place at Marina Bay Sands on Sept 1 and 2. It will be its fifth edition.
Anime fans such as specialist engineer Siti Aisyah Abu Bakar, 27, are all pumped up for this year's Anime Festival Asia.
Siti has been to all four editions of the festival and is impressed by the guests coming this year.
The cosplayer says: "I believe Watanabe is the first anime director to come down and it's changing what the convention is about.
"I would love to see them improve further but this is really already quite good.
"I will definitely be going this year."