We conclude our coverage of last week’s World Hobby Festival Ariake 18 Final with an overall “meta” look at the event. If you’ve been wondering exactly what WHF is or why it was canceled after nearly a decade of successful operation, this is the post for you:

What is WHF?

As first described in our coverage of WHF Ariake 16:

WHF is essentially a miniaturized version of Wonder Festival. Like its more prominent counterpart, the event’s primary purpose is as a space for amateur garage kit makers to display and sell their wares. PVC figure manufacturers also have a presence at the event, showcasing some of their new products (though nothing like the spread at Wonder Festival), and roughly a third of the event space is occupied by retail figure, hobby and toy dealers trying to get rid of their dead stock.

WHF Ariake 18 took place on May 5th, 2008 at the Tokyo Big Sight, and was the 77th iteration of the event since the first one was held in Kobe in November of 1999. The event name is designated by location (Kobe, Ariake (Tokyo), Yokohama, Sapporo, Osaka, etc.) followed by the iteration of the event in that location; therefore this final event was the 18th World Hobby Festival held in Tokyo since its inception.

As with similar events (and as described in our earlier coverage), WHF requires the purchase of an event catalog prior to entry which is used for the dual purpose of the ticket to the event. The catalog was sold to attendees queued in line to enter, who then hold it in the air so it can plainly be seen by event staff monitoring the entrance to the hall. The WHF Ariake 18 event catalog is pictured above, along with the page listing the event’s 77 iterations.

My personal experience at the event didn’t deviate much from past trips, though I was able to meet HD reader Y there and have a nice chat. We met near the table where cameras were being registered to allow photography; as at past events one had to obtain a numbered sticker that would allow circles to identify and report you if you were in violation of their photography rules. Before photography was allowed to start at noon I also picked up the sole item of loot I acquired at the event, the new resin set from Yamaura 3D-ism.

Why was it canceled?

As we reported back in March, World Hobby Festival officially ended with this event. With solid attendance both on the part of fans and circles it’s something of a mystery why they decided to call it quits, but some of the factors that could have potentially contributed to the event closure are outlined below:

  • Sagging fortunes of the parent company

S.E. Inc., the company that ran WHF, is primarily in the business of analog art supplies. This is an industry that has been hard hit in the past several years as computer applications become increasingly compelling replacements for the traditional use of screen tones, coloring markers, light tables, and other tools of the trade. It seems possible that the industry’s waning fortunes have put limits on the liquid assets and manpower required to coordinate an event the size of WHF.

  • Increased logistical complexity in obtaining copyright permissions

First it was Miku at Wonder Festival, and just prior to this final WHF Kadokawa laid down the law on Haruhi and Lucky Star, requiring circles to reapply for permission to sell kits based on their intellectual property regardless of their previous status. In the past if a kit had received the green light at an earlier event it was given the automatic green light at subsequent events, but a change in Kadokawa policy meant that virtually all reissued Lucky Star and Haruhi kits this time around were display only.

Lucky Star reissued kits marked “display only”

This is less of an issue at Wonder Festival, with plenty of time between events and their already elaborate approval process; the limited time between WHF events makes it much more of a headache for circles and event planners alike, and could have been a contributing factor to the event’s demise.

  • Increased competition in a shrinking market

The advent of figure convention Hobby Complex in 2007 with essentially the same mandate as WHF created direct competition for both fans and vendor attendance in what has been a steadily contracting garage kit culture. Conversations with veteran fans and sculptors confirm a slow but steady erosion in the garage kit scene over the past several years that correlates with the PVC boom over the same time period (though a direct causal relationship is debatable). Whatever the reason, the number of new garage kits is shrinking and the prospect of two major events coexisting both temporally and spatially in the hobby vacuum between Wonder Festivals seems unrealistic at best. I had my money on WHF winning out over the less seasoned Hobbycon, but it seems the new hotness has won out.

All that said, this final event was packed and bustling with happy fans and circles who had poured their hearts into their work. The event’s cancellation is a sad puzzle that may never be fully resolved; it was a hell of a lot of fun while it lasted. Goodbye WHF; we’ll miss you!

Our WHF Ariake 18 coverage consisted of the following posts:

Earlier World Hobby Festival coverage can be found below:

The next figure event we’ll be covering will be Wonder Festival 2008 Summer on August 3rd, 2008. Otanoshimi ni!