by Ed Sizemore
Events at the New York Anime Festival (NYAF) didn’t begin until 2:00 PM on Friday. This gave me the morning to head over to Kinokuniya bookstore. I love looking at all the Japanese pens and stationary goods that are available. Plus, I needed to find a book for a project I promised a friend that is long overdue now. I actually ended up spending more money at Kinokuniya than I did at the convention.
The first panel I attended on Friday was How to Become Famous on the Internet, moderated by Adam Ghahramani with Michael Pinto and Gia Manry as panel members. This was one of my favorite panels. Lots of good solid information about how to build a lasting readership on the internet. I appreciate how all three speakers made it plainly clear that growing a following is hard work. It will take a lot of time and well-planned effort. Adam said it best when he told the audience not to be a novelty, but a trend setter.
Very briefly, here is Michael’s presentation.
- What do want to be famous for? What makes you stand out? Can you describe what you do in 25 words or less?
- Be reciprocal. The internet is one of the places where the good guys win. Be nice. Link to other people’s websites.
- It takes a great deal of time. You have to take a long-term perspective.
- Follower count doesn’t mean that much. You don’t want just sheer numbers; you want a committed audience. It’s easy to get big numbers, but they’ll just as quickly move on to the next big thing.
- Always Have a Hub That You Own. It’s okay to develop a following on Twitter or Facebook, but remember that you’re at the mercy of those sites. You need a web presence where the audience is directly yours and you have full control of maintaining that audience.
I don’t want to shortchange the presentations that Adam and Gia gave. Both were excellent and had original ideas of their own to share. If someone recorded that panel, I hope they will either upload the audio or a transcript. It’s worth getting all the details.
The next panel I planned to attend got cancelled, which left me free time to wander around the convention hall. There I met and hung out with Erica Friedman and Sean Gaffney. There really weren’t that many good deals for manga buyers. I did pick up three volumes I was looking for from a vendor’s used selection and got a good price on them. There was one true discount manga dealer. However, most of their stock was older manga that I already have full series of.
My only other panel on Friday was the Vertical Panel. Deb Aoki and Brigid Alverson have excellent listings of all the titles announced. Ed Chavez, Director of Marketing, hosted the panel. He began by explaining that Vertical is a prose publisher and that influences the way they look at manga licenses. Personally, I was thrilled to hear that Chi’s Sweet Home was finally licensed. I’m buying three copies of each volume. I already have two people in mind that I will be giving this manga as a gift to.
My first panel for Saturday was Steampunk in Anime hosted by Mike Van Helder with G.D. Falksen, Jared Axelrod, Evelyn Kriete, and Liz Gorinsky. Steampunk is a subgenre of science fiction focusing on an alternate version of the Victorian era. The idea is attempting to duplicate many modern machines but with steam as the power source. Themes found in steampunk are the wonder of technology, the excitement of the unknown, a sense of adventure to life, and the gentlemen scientist. The best examples of steampunk anime are Steamboy, Nadia Secret of the Blue Water, Steam Detectives, and Last Exile. The discussion was a little disjointed. I wished they had started off with a definition of steampunk and then a brief history of the subgenre. Instead, you got this information piecemeal over the course of the hour. Other than that minor complaint, it was a great panel. I was unfamiliar with steampunk and so learned a lot.
Next I got to see the first two episodes of the Emma anime. The show is just as charming and leisurely paced as the manga. I enjoyed it tremendously.
My second panel was Opportunities and Obstacles for Japanese Music in the US Market, moderated by Megumi Sato with David Hou, Hayden Brereton, and Keiko Shibata as panelists. The first Japanese pop (JPop) song to hit the US charts was “Sukiyaki” by Kyu Sakamoto which went to number one in 1963. Later, Lady Pink would reach number 37 in 1979 with “Kiss in the Dark”. Since then, there haven’t been any Japanese bands to break the Top 40 chart in the America. Needless to say, Japanese bands have a hard time establishing a sizable fan base in the US. Recently, BOA and Utada have tried to break into America, but with limited success. One problem has been the perception of Asian musicians as foreign, whereas European musicians don’t have problems establishing an audience in the America. Another problem is the management of the top tier JPop acts isn’t interested in trying to expand into the US. They don’t think the effort is worth the return. What is happening is more indy bands are coming over from Japan and slowly building a fanbase. It’s taken some time, but now more Americans are becoming aware of JPop. All the panelists were optimistic and think there are more opportunities than challenges today for JPop.
My final panel as an audience member on Saturday was the Anime News Network panel. It was moderated by Christopher McDonald with Justin Sevakis and Bamboo Dong as panelists. Chris had planned to make a big announcement at NYAF; however, the contract is still being finalized. So they used the time for audience questions. Most questions were, “Do you think they will ever make an anime of this?” or “Will they release a second season of that?” I look forward to seeing what ANN’s big announcement will be.
Saturday also brought my first experience as a panelist. I was part of the Blogger’s Roundtable moderated by Kate of Reverse Thieves. My co-panelists were Gia Manry, Deb Aoki, Scott VonSchilling, Evan Minto, Dave Cabrera, Pat, Carl Li, Alain Mendez, and Caleb D. Because of the size of the panel, we only had time for four questions. First was to introduce ourselves. Second, how did you get into blogging? Third, what is your favorite piece of memorabilia? The final question was asked, via Twitter, by Zac Bertschy. Ed Chavez of Vertical came to the podium and read it.
It was my favorite question of the night. “Does it ever feel like you’re just writing into a void, or perhaps an echo chamber, with the sheer volume of anime blogs?” Which Ed modified slightly to ask how do we start and encourage critical discussion among bloggers and reviewers. That’s a question I’ve been asking myself. I would like to see more interaction among reviewers so we can encourage and challenge each other to probe more deeply into the books we’re reading. I think the panel was a good starting place for this. Overall, it was such a positive and energizing experience that I’m thinking of putting together a couple panels for Otakon and NYAF.
The first panel on Sunday was Convention War Stories. The two moderators/panelists were Kevin McKeever of Robotech.com and Adam Sheehan of Funimation. This was a fun panel with both telling stories about protecting voice actors from stalkers, dealing with actors hired to play a character for a convention, creepy fans, nightmare convention setups, and so forth. I’d like to see them continue to have this panel with different guests each year.
My final panel for the convention was Japanese Ghosts: GeGeGe no Kitaro moderated by Dawn Mostow with Kjoe and Mie Iikeda as panelists. The first thing I noticed walking into the room was a print from the Mizuki exhibit I covered last year. While gawking at the print, Mie introduced herself to me. She is the one responsible for assembling the exhibit. It was a great pleasure to met and thank her.
The panel focused on Mizuki’s very popular and influential manga GeGeGe no Kitaro. There have been five TV shows based on this manga. The panel began with a discussion of what are yokai (see my exhibit report for a discussion of the term). They then went on to discuss some of the central characters of the manga with illustrations from the newest anime series. Japanese folklore is wonderfully rich, and Mizuki is considered a self-taught expert on the subject. Again, I can only lament the travesty that his works are not available in English. This wonderful panel made me hunger for Mizuki’s works even more.
The NYAF was a great show this year. I’m not a Gundam fan, but having Yoshiyuki Tomino as the guest of honor brought a lot of energy and excitement to the show. Also, the musical guest AKB48 generated a good deal of buzz too. The show has a very upbeat feel to it.
The biggest joy for me at NYAF was getting to meet up with other manga reviewers and bloggers. I got to spend a lot of time with Brigid Alverson, Deb Aoki, Melinda Beasi, Robin Brenner, Erica Freidman, Sean Gaffney, and Moritheil. These are people I talk to online but don’t get to see in person since we live so far from each other. It just reinforced the sense of community I’ve felt this past year getting to know these people. It was also a great privilege to met Ed Chavez and have some quick impromptu conversations with him. All of these people, along with Johanna, inspire and challenge me as a reviewer. Talking with them encouraged me to continue improving my writing and reviewing skills, to strive more for excellence and dig deeper into the books that I’m reviewing. I feel very honored to be in their presence and want to continually show myself worthy of being a member of the manga reviewers’ community.
Everyone has already complained about the Javits Center’s location problems. That didn’t bother me as much. I wished the dealers’ room had been larger with more discount manga vendors, but that’s a very minor complaint at best.
I’m looking forward to the combined NYAF/NYCC show next year. It’s a chance to have my love of US comics, manga, and anime all under one roof. However, I know that there will be scheduling conflicts galore. So it will be interesting to see what sacrifices I’ll have to make. A friend of mine goes to a ton of US comic shows but has never been to an anime show, so it will allow him to finally see what one is like. I’m hoping the meeting of the two fandoms will provide a positive experience for everyone.