by Ed Sizemore
Day 0 (Thursday)
This year, the New York Anime Festival / New York Comic Con began Thursday morning when I met up with Erica Friedman and Sean Gaffney to tool around the city. We hit Bookoff and Kinokuniya. I spent way too much at the latter but have no regrets. Erica had to leave to help set up the Media Blasters booth, and I ran over to the Javits Center and picked up my press badge.
I was fortunate enough that Ed Chavez had some free time in his schedule to allow me a tour of the Vertical Inc. offices. The company occupies a small suite located in Rockefeller Center. I’m happy to report the books and galleys take up as much room as the people do in the office. It’s a bibliophile’s dream. Ed and I chatted about manga in general and Vertical’s current titles. I would like to see Twin Spica on the New York Times Bestseller list for manga. The series deserves it. I did pick up volumes 3 and 4 of Chi’s Sweet Home and will review them with my nine-year-old nephew Christopher shortly.
Thursday night, I hosted the Anime/Manga Lovers Dinner at Becco. We had seventeen people show up. It was a great time, and the food was delicious, too. Then a group of five of us headed off to Kyotofu for dessert. They serve Japanese desserts and have an extensive selection of sake. I don’t drink, but I can tell you the desserts are phenomenal.
Day 1 (Friday)
The convention didn’t begin until 1:00 PM, so I and my friend Ron headed over to Mitsuwa Mall in Edgewater, NJ. You can catch a shuttle bus at Port Authority that takes you directly to the mall, so it was easy to get to from Manhattan.
My first panel of the convention was Charles Dunbar’s “Dead Like Us: Shinigami, Death, & Japanese Culture”. I attended an earlier version of this panel at Otakon this year. I like the changes Charles has made, since the panel is now more focused. Of course, it’s still packed with about three panels’ worth of information. You can see the bibliography of the panel at his website. I continue to recommend any and all of Charles’ panels. They are exceptionally well-organized and enjoyable. Just be sure to arrive early, as he usually ends up filling up the room they give him, regardless of size.
Next up was the “Anime in Academia” panel hosted by Alex Leavitt. (He’s posted the panel audio.) Roland Kelts was scheduled to appeared but couldn’t make it. The panelists were Mikhail Koulikov, Casey Brienza, and Jennifer Fu.
There were a lot of good topics discussed during this panel, so this is just a sample. Anime and manga covers so many topics that you can easily integrate works from either medium into academic disciplines. Knowing Japanese isn’t as much of a benefit in academia as one would think, since there isn’t much cross-culture communication and exchange of ideas in the social sciences. There’s still a great gulf between academics researching anime/manga and fandom. Finally, there was a discussion of how academic writing is much different than writing in general. Fans who want to become academics need to be prepared for a much more formal, regulated style of writing where you have to defend all opinions and must cite academic sources.
I was pleased to see this panel well-attended with lots of audience enthusiasm. It’s encouraging to see fans who want to take their hobbies into academia with them. I look forward to the research the next generation of scholars will publish on anime and manga.
I briefly attended the Penguin Books panel, “Monsters, Myths, and Mayhem in Literature”. Jessica Wade, an editor at Penguin, was the moderator. The panelists were Beth Revis, Thomas E. Sniegoski (The Fallen series), Seanan McGuire (October “Toby” Daye series), Roger Ma (Zombie Combat Manual), Mari Mancusi (Blood Coven series), and Aaron Rosenberg (World of Warcraft novels). I was disappointed in this panel. Most of the questions were softballs designed to allow the authors to promote their series.
I went to dinner with Alex Leavitt, Ashley Seto, Charles Dunbar, and Melissa Tanaka. Beside being a great panel moderator, Alex is gifted in finding small, quiet Japanese restaurants with great food and the perfect atmosphere for conversation. We ending up dinning at Kiku Sushi.