Made in Asia is one of those Belgian conventions that, thankfully, keeps improving year by year. What started as a small Asia themed convention at Brussels Expo has grown to a far larger one with room for as many things involving Asian culture as possible.
Of course, there is a lot of geekery going on such as the cosplay and gaming areas, there’s the typical merchandise, the typical J-fashions: Lolita being the overwhelming presence, Visual-kei and Decora following to a far lesser extent.
But there’s also room for a lot of traditional things such as martial arts demonstrations, taiko drumming and various workshops. The only thing that keeps lacking is the availability of food and drinks, it’s just spread too thinly and queues build up to quite horrible proportions. Thankfully people are allowed to bring their own. Also, and this is a definite plus compared to several other cons, there’s clean toilets and plenty of them spread throughout the venue. They also get awesome guests (this year they had various manga and anime artists as well as musicians) and their stage acoustic for gigs is amazing.
I have attended MiA three years in a row now (the only edition I missed was the first one) and I’ve literally seen it grow and improve. It seems to me that the organization really goes over the points that should be improved upon and then actually goes ahead and does that, which is no doubt part of the convention’s success. They also make it varied enough for people who attend several days not to get bored by making sure that events are evenly spread out over the duration of the convention. I attended it for two days (Saturday and Sunday) for the first time, and while that was pretty exhausting, I didn’t feel bored the second day at all. Whereas I know for a fact that if I were to attend other conventions two days in a row I’d be bored out of my skull the second day, so this is a definite plus to MiA.
There is also plenty of room to go sit aside in the quiet if guests want to get a bit of breathing space from the buzz of the main body of the convention. The only downside is that it’s far chillier in those areas but that’s easily solved by having something warm to wear in your bag.
It may come as a surprise to steampunks and dieselpunks everywhere that this convention, being Asia-focused, actually encourages both ‘punk styles. Not only were there several steampunks around at the con (more than I would have anticipated seeing the Belgian track record), several of them wore absolutely stunning outfits. There were a few shops spread over the main shopping area selling steampunk and dieselpunk bits and pieces, most noteworthy the corset shop where a very good portion of their stock consisted on steampunk. They were definitely not the only ones.
All in all MiA4 was a fabulous con, laid back, friendly, open-minded and welcoming to steampunks (and dieselpunks) even though neither was the focus of the convention. If you’re in Belgium when this convention is on next year, I would definitely recommend visiting it.