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Pokémon fan convention reportedly turns into Willy Wonka Experience level disaster, as attendees report child safety concerns

"I wish they had been more careful."

Pokeverse - a Pokémon convention partnered with the Make-a-Wish foundation and that featured the original voice of Ash Ketchum from the Pokémon TV series - has been labelled as a disaster on a scale with Glasgow's infamous Willy Wonka rip-off experience.

Speaking to Eurogamer today, attendee BintuRita - whose social media posts describing her experience have since gone viral - said the event lacked proper planning and care for its young attendees.

Ahead of the convention, held in Mandaluyong, Manila last weekend, Pokeverse had been described by organisers as "the premier Pokémon-themed expo in the Philippines made by fans for fans!" It was advertised to feature "trainer quests", "stellar headliners" and "live musical performances", alongside cosplay contests and game tournaments.

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Pokeverse's main attraction was the oppurtunity to meet Veronica Taylor, Ash's voice for the first eight seasons of the franchise's anime, and Jason Paige, the singer of Pokémon's iconic original theme song.

But even before the expo began there were concerns over its seemingly unlicensed nature, and its partnership with Dubai NFT firm Kaloscope. (Responding to concerns, Taylor has stated she was not compensated for her attendance.)

At the convention itself, the event's attractions look to have been drastically downsized based on floorplans previously posted by Pokeverse to social media.

Entering the event space, attendees were reportedly greeted by a large booth from another sponsor, Frigga, which sold Chinese lucky charms. An inflatable soft play area featured a row of circus side-show style activities, completely unrelated to Pokémon.

More serious questions were raised about a Make-a-Wish panel where terminally-ill children were reportedly brought on stage for a filming oppurtunity, wearing surgical masks but in front of a large crowd.

Another criticism was the event's filming of attendees, including minors and cosplayers changing their outfits, in a lounge area. Some of this footage was then reportedly posted online.

"Let's talk about Pokeverse, the Pokémon-themed Wonka-Dashcon-Fyre Festival of the Philippines," BintuRita wrote on social media platform X. "Let me take you on a day-by-day journey through the Premier Pokémon Expo!

"The convention center was basically barren... with standees, designs or decorations filling all the empty spaces. The place was littered with empty tables and the promised floor plans on their Facebook page were suddenly changed."

The event's 'quests' amounted to a paper checklist asking visitors to post about certain parts of the convention on social media. And in another bizarre moment, a person covered in ravioli apparently unsettled some guests:

Speaking to Eurogamer, BintuRita said she wished "the convention had more time to be planned".

"I wish it was more Pokémon centered. I wish the production team had more emphasis on consent. And I wish they had been more careful with the children in the convention space."

Still, Rita said she had enjoyed meeting Veronica Taylor and an oppurtunity to sing with Jason Paige - despite the shambolic nature of various elements' organisation.

"Overall, my experience does not reflect everyone's Pokeverse experience. Some people went to the con and despite the hiccups, had a wonderful time. That wasn't my experience," she concluded.

Pokeverse organisers have responded to some of the concerns raised above already, in a reply to BintuRita's posts.

"We apologise for the oversight, we are investigating matters with the production team," a Pokeverse spokesperson said. "It's our first event with very little time to prepare but we do agree that a lot of things need to be improved.

"We appreciate your participation and will continue [to] take your feedback to do better next time."

The Pokémon Company itself is yet to comment on the event. Eurogamer has contacted it and Pokeverse's organisers for more.

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