Organizers share why and how they got Japanese star Mackenyu to banner ManiPopCon 2023

Charmie Joy Pagulong - The Philippine Star
Organizers share why and how they got Japanese star Mackenyu to banner ManiPopCon 2023
Japanese actor Mackenyu Arata is set to headline this year’s ManiPopCon to be held at the Ayala Malls Manila Bay on Nov. 17 to 19. Mackenyu recently portrayed popular character Roronoa Zoro in Netflix’s hit liveaction show One Piece.

Among the list of international talents that the organizers of Manila Pop Culture Convention (ManiPopCon) have eyed and reviewed, one name popped out to banner this year’s event.

He is Japanese star Mackenyu Arata, the one who portrays the popular character Roronoa Zoro in Netflix’s hit live-action show One Piece. He earlier appeared in other manga series such as JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond Is Unbreakable Chapter I, Tokyo Ghoul S, Rurouni Kenshin: The Final and Knights of the Zodiac.

“Hi Mackenyu here. To all my Filipino fans out there, I’ll be appearing at the ManiPopCon in Manila from Nov. 17th to 19th. See you guys there,” Mackenyu announced in a video message.

The convention, which is dedicated to “uniting generations of geeks and celebrating the vibrant world of pop culture,” will take place at the Ayala Malls Manila Bay. ManiPopCon was first staged back in 2019.

From left: Marco Aventejado, chief geek officer of ManiPopCon, with event partners Patrick Henry de Dios, chief marketing officer of Cosplay.ph, Pinoy Board Game publisher Freddie Tan and May Davis of Underground Gaming Champions.

ManiPopCon’s chief geek officer (CGO) Marco Aventajado shared in a media conference the process they went through in inviting the One Piece star.

“I wanna start by saying I’m a smart guy,” quipped Aventajado. “I’m smart enough to listen to my friend, Andy Punsalan, who has been part of ManiPopCon since 2019. Early on in the process, when we were figuring out who to invite, he came up with this actor from a show that came out in August. And this was around June. (And I said) ‘OK, let’s try.’

“So, we had our friend Jerry Blank (of Dogu Team)… (who reached out) to Mackenyu’s talent manager. And they were very receptive and I was surprised. And the conversation continued, e-mails were exchanged, contract drafts were exchanged then we pulled the trigger parang before it launched. Then we just saw the support (and the) excitement of the people that were watching One Piece live action,” he added.

Aventajado said that aside from Mackenyu, they are also “in talks with several other actors for TV shows as well as voice over talents from very well-known video games.”

They will soon announce other international talents who will grace the three-day affair later.

According to Aventajado, Blank, a Filipino-American who has been instrumental in the process of getting the international talent for this year’s ManiPopCon, had previously worked with the late Stan Lee, the celebrated American comic book writer, for big conventions like the San Diego Comic-Con.

He was one of the people responsible for bringing GMA 7’s Voltes V: Legacy stars and director Mark Reyes to the San Diego Comic-Con this year.

He told The STAR in a separate interview, “It happened that I met him through Andy, one of our partners and we were discussing kasi yun nga yung ano (field) niya. I met him right after ManiPopCon (in 2019). I said ‘pag magkaroon ako (when I have another event), I will ask for his assistance. So four years later, it happened and then I asked him and he really helped.”

“Kung makita mo yung dinaanan naming listahan so na-whittle down because of scheduling and the talent talent fee because at the end of the day, it’s a business. We want to break even at least. OK na sakin imagine nadala mo (international actor). Kung ma-break even, then OK ka na. Kumita ka then mas OK, dun pa lang OK na.”

On why they picked Mackenyu to headline the ManiPopCon, among other One Piece cast members, he remarked, “We only have a certain amount of time din sa convention. So we picked the best na may track record, na may following (and) na na-excite yung mga tao. And the team recommended him and then I said, let’s book him.”

“We are the first one in Southeast Asia (to do this), so it’s going to be very interesting because we wanna invite not just the Filipinos but also the other people in the region and that of course translates to interesting event that would help the sponsors,” declared Aventajado.

The photo opportunity with Mackenyu is priced at P6,000 while the autograph signing is at P5,500. The tickets for the event can be purchased via ManiPopCon website.

As per media release, ManiPopCon is “a convergence of diverse geekdoms and a platform for Filipino creativity and talent.” It takes its name from the beloved Filipino snacks “Hopia, Mani, Popcorn” and embodies the fusion of past and present pop culture, it added.

This year’s edition will feature five different areas, namely, ManiPopCon MainStage; Laro: The Philippine Games Convention; Concourse de Geek; Artist Alley; and Cinema Classics.

Usagi Yojimbo creator Stan Sakai is also expected to arrive for the Main Stage for his panels to discuss his journey and his plans for the upcoming 40th anniversary with Usagi Yojimbo.

Meanwhile, Aventajado divulged that they actually inquired for Game of Thrones and House of the Dragon stars to be invited to the convention.

“We actually had some discussions. It didn’t push through because of the schedule. Si Sansa Stark (played by Sophie Turner) just gave birth (at that time),” he told this paper and teased, “But we’ll see. Maybe next year.”

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