Ed Went to New York Anime Festival Part 2

by Ed Sizemore

Continuing from Part 1

Day 2 (Saturday)

I spent the morning wandering around the dealers’ room with Lissa and Melinda. Thankfully, we were on the opposite side of the room from where the general public was being let in. This meant we could browse for awhile before the crowd worked its way to where we were. Since I could get better prices on Amazon, I didn’t get any books.

My first panel of the day was the Crispin Freeman Spotlight moderated by Brad Rice of Japanator. I attended this panel because Crispin is known for giving a lecture discussing the mythologies found in anime, and I was hoping he would get a chance to discuss that at the panel. Thankfully, I wasn’t disappointed. He talked briefly about the hero’s journey found in many anime and how that differs from the hero’s journey found in Western comics. This panel made me much more interested in his Anime Mythology lecture.

My favorite response to an audience question was when he was asked what it felt like to portray some anime character. He said it felt like voice acting. His focus isn’t on enjoying the role he’s playing but making sure the audience can enjoy his vocal performance. He wants to leave the recording booth knowing that the performance he gave was the best he could do and that it was a good performance. I was very impressed with the thought he puts behind his acting and his understanding of acting as a craft.

Next, I attended a series of three panels that were part of ICv2’s Comics and Digital Conference. The first panel of Comics, Graphic Novels, and Manga focused on kids and was moderated by John Hogan. On the panel were Kai-Ming Cha, Brigid Alverson, Eva Volin, Martha Cornog, and Vicky Smith. The discussion touched on such issues as what kids are reading, age ratings on books, the problems book sellers have stocking longer manga series, and the lack of general media coverage for kids books. Overall, I enjoyed the discussion, but I was disappointed at the recommendations. They tended to be for teen readers. I wished they had recommended books for elementary-aged kids.

The second panel of the series focused on teens and was moderated by Vicky Smith. The panelists were Christian Zabriskie, Alison Hendon (Brooklyn Public Library), Sharon Rawlins (NJ Library Association), Tyler Roussau, (Monroe Township Public Library), and Todd Krueger (Baltimore County Public Library). The panel pointed out the Great Graphic Novels for Teens list by the American Library Association. The focus was on creating and maintaining a young adult collection of graphic novels in libraries. Graphic novels winning various book awards have helped librarians justify a comics collection to administrators. I wish the panel focused more on general topics regarding teens and graphics novels, but it was a good discussion for librarians.

The final panel of the series focused on adults and was moderated by Martha Cornog. The panelists were Robin Brenner, Ryan Donovan, Natalie Korsavidis (Farmingdale Public Library), and Karen Green. Again, the focus here was on maintaining graphic novel collections in libraries. There was also discussion on using comics in college classrooms. Another decent discussion.

I returned to the NYAF ghetto for the Yen Press panel. I arrived late and so missed the panel introductions and the first few announcements. I was glad to see that Yen Press was opening an iPad store, but I think the price point of $8.99 is too high. Personally, I’m not willing to pay more than $5.99 for a digital manga. I would prefer the price be $4.99.

I was surprised to hear that Svetlana Chmakova will be doing the adaptation of James Patterson’s Witch and Wizard. While she is working on this project, Nightschool will be on hiatus. That’s sad news for me since I’m really enjoying Nightschool.

I liked the response given to a question about speeding up translated works. The panel pointed out that books are released on a schedule best for encouraging sales. If you release a series too fast, you appease the hardcore fans but risk alienating the casual fans. You want to give each volume sufficient time to find as broad an audience as possible before releasing the next.

I moved over to the Del Rey and Spectra Books panel, which oddly enough was located in the hall with the anime/manga panels instead of among the other general publisher’s panels. The first few minutes were painful as audience members began asking about manga and manga-related issues. Sean Gaffney finally stood up to remind the audience that Del Rey is no longer publishing manga, and they need to direct their questions to Kodansha. After that, the panel settled down to a list of upcoming science fiction, fantasy, urban fantasy, etc. titles.

Next up was the Vertical Inc. panel moderated by Ed Chavez and Ioannis ‘Yani’ Mentzas. They announced two new manga licenses, The Human Insect by Osamu Tezuka and No Longer Human by Usamaru Furuya. I’m always overjoyed to hear about new Tezuka books. Ed and Yani are very entertaining. Every manga fan needs to experience a Vertical panel.

The final panel for the day was Gay For You? Yaoi and Yuri Manga for GBLTQ Readers moderated by Robin Brenner. The panelists were Chris Butcher, Scott Robins, Alex Woolfson, Erica Friedman, and Leyla Aker (Viz Media). The panel got its genesis when Robin was asked to give a talk on GBLTQ readership reactions to yaoi and yuri. Robin didn’t know much on the subject and so decided to conduct a survey to find out more. Her findings will be published later this year in an upcoming anthology. She decided to do a panel to further public discussion.

It was an excellent discussion that covered a lot of ground regarding yaoi and yuri. Any summary will fall to do justice to the intelligence and nuance of the discussion. Erica pointed out that while there are many lesbian comics created by men for men, there is a strong yuri community of lesbians creating comics for lesbians. Alex pointed out that he enjoyed yaoi for its romantic elements. There was a discussion of the tension between the desire for more realistic depictions of GBLTQ relationships in comics and the appeal of the fantasy element inherent in most yaoi and yuri. As a heterosexual male who never thinks about these issues, the discussion was enlightening. It was a chance for me to get a peek inside the GBLTQ comics reader community. It’s a privilege I don’t take lightly, and I thank the panelists for their openness and candor. You can read a list of their recommendations at Erica’s website.

The final panel of the day was Unusual Manga Genres moderated by Erin Finnegan. On the panel with her were Noah Fulmor and Ed Chavez. The title says it all. Here are just a few of the genres highlighted: badminton, curling, yo-yo, kittens, study guides, salary men, fishing, and golf. It was a great panel. Never doubt that Japan can make a manga of anything.

Day 3 (Sunday)

The day started off with me attending my second Charles Dunbar panel of the convention, “Castles, Forests, and Bath Houses: The World of Hayao Miyazaki”. The panel was so popular there were people actually standing out in the hall listening in. He began with a brief biography of Miyazaki and then moved on to discuss each of his films and some of the major themes in each one. I liked how Charles pointed out that Princess Mononoke could be considered a sequel to Nausicaa. I agree. Princess Mononoke consists of Miyazaki’s mature meditations on the conflicting demands of humanism and environmentalism. Charles called Toy Story 3 the greatest Miyazaki film that he never made. He then went on to discuss themes common to all of Miyazaki’s works. It was a great panel with a very enthusiastic audience.

My final panel of the convention was the Anime News Network one. Christopher Macdonald and Justin Sevakis were at the convention, but they couldn’t attend the panel, so it consisted of writers Erin Finnegan, Gia Manry, Mike Toole, and Todd Ciolek. The panel was just questions from the audience. It was a good wind-down panel for the convention. The panel was taped and you can see it on YouTube.

Overall Impressions

It was hard not to think of the NYAF section of the convention as being an unwanted stepchild. The artist alley and panels were both located in Hall E of the Javits Center. The artist alley for NYCC was up on the main floor and was in the same room as the small press publishers. The panels for NYCC and the ICv2 conference were in A Hall on the opposite end of the convention building. NYAF had six rooms of programming compared to NYCC’s ten rooms. I know several people that had panels rejected by NYAF, so the difference wasn’t from lack of available content. It felt like NYAF was simply tacked onto NYCC as a cost-cutting measure.

The dealer’s room was nicely blended. Funimation was there among Sega, Marvel, Archie, and the rest. Vertical was included among the small press publishers. There was even a very impressive display of manhwa by the Korea Creative Content Agency. As an aside, the gaming companies had the most impressive displays.

The dealers’ room wasn’t perfect. Yen Press was simply a table lost among the large Hachette Book Group booth. I had to tell several people they actually had a presence. The manwha booth appeared to only contain books from NetComics. It would have been nice to have Yen Press, First Second, and Dark Horse represented too.

It was upsetting that Viz, Tokyopop, and Kodansha weren’t present at the convention at all. With a preliminary attendance figure of 95,000, NYCC/NYAC is now the second largest comics convention in America. They can’t afford to ignore or alienate such an audience. I’d like to see manga fully represented in the dealers’ room.

A lot of this convention was getting to meet people I’ve only talked to via Twitter. I’m old-fashioned, and I enjoy meeting people face-to-face. It was exhilarating to finally shake hands and talk to so many new people. I also got to spend time with old friends. This aspect of the convention made it all worthwhile for me. It also makes me hungry to return next year and do it all over again. I’m thankful for such good friends.

Since this was the first year for a combined NYAF and NYCC, I’m willing to cut the organizers some slack. Hopefully, Reed Exhibitors has taken a lot of notes, and next year will be even better. I think that 2011 will be the year to determine if a combined show works well for NYAF or if they are getting lost in the shuffle. If NYAF is treated the same next, then it will be my last year. There are too many other excellent anime conventions to spend my time and money on.

7 Comments

  1. Never been to a convention but you made it sound like fun Ed. I’ll have to eventually get around to going to a convention to see a Vertical panel if it’s as good as you make it sound.

  2. Setre,

    Conventions are a blast. Don’t be afraid to meet new people. And make sure you get to a Vertical panel. Ed Chavez is great.

  3. Was it just me or do I feel like they might kill off NYAF in the future?

    I posted my thoughts on this at: http://www.mangatherapy.com/post/1300806600/nycc-nyaf-afterthoughts

    I personally know the organizer of NYAF, Peter Tatara, and he’s done a great job in bringing the Tri-State anime community together. It will terrible to see his hard work wasted.

    Though Lance Fensterman has stated that he’s willing to listen to the fanbase. Do you think that with all the scanlations/fansubs around us & manga/anime sales going down that there seems to be no point in NYAF for a for-profit organization such as Reed?

  4. I wouldn’t pull out the death shroud just yet. I do think this year was a misstep for NYAF. However, I hold out hope that they can pull it together next year. We do want to consider a couple of things.

    First, NYCC had 18 months to prepare for the show compared to the NYAF having only 12. It was either immediately before or after NYAF last year that NYCC began announcing guests.

    Second, the NYAF seems understaffed. It felt like they couldn’t focus on NYAF until after C2E2. Having the same staff work multiple shows is always going to cause problems.

    Third, last year NYAF was at 20,000 and NYAF was at 77,000. So the audience isn’t 50/50. That said, NYAF definitely wasn’t 1/3 of the convention. So there needs some work making the show more representative of the audience mix.

    Fourth, given the state of the anime and manga market at the moment, there really isn’t that much industry to be present. Viz, Tokyopop, and Kodansha not being there hurt. But Funimation, Bandai, Vertical, Fanfare, Yen Press, Dark Horse, First Second, Media Blasters, and KoCCA were there. If you put all the manga, anime, and manhwa publishers in one area they would have filled up only 10% of the convention anyway. If we want a bigger presence, we need to be a bigger industry.

    Let’s be honest. Anime doesn’t have much of a presence at San Diego, I bet it’s less than 10% there. NYCC wants to be the East Coast equivalent. So we can expect that NYAF isn’t going to be a significant presence at NYCC in the coming years. We had high hopes because NYAF was half the name and we use to have our own convention. It’s easy to overestimate our size and influence when we are the only people in the room. Now that we are being throw into the mix with gaming companies, movie studios, comic publishers, and book publishers we’re being reminded of our true place in the culture at large and that hurts.

    We just have to wait and see what next year brings. Worst case scenario, NYCC/NYAF turns out to be a bust for anime fans. That’s okay we’ve got Anime Expo, Otakon, Anime Boston, Anime Weekend Atlanta, etc. We’ll be okay without NYCC.

  5. I look forward to Svetlana’s new work but I REALLY enjoy Nightschool, so that going on hiatus makes me a bit anxious. I agree that downloadable manga should be cheaper, the high prices of the regular books are also what’s stopped me from seriously considering an e-reader. If you don’t have to pay for the book to be manufactured and shipped, why is the cost that high? I admit there is probably some additional structure that needs to be added to a company as they shift business models to be more focused on e-copies, but I never imagined that price difference was only $1! As someone who has a room bursting at the seams with thousands of manga, I like the thoght that at some point all of those titles can be officially owned on an e-reader or laptop. But they have to make some changes to their pricing and policies first.

    Also has Kodansha mentioned which titles they’ll be continuing? Currently my biggest concern is that Alive: The Final Evolution will be dropped. I also have worries about xxxHolic, Air Gear, Pumpkin Scissors, Tsubasa, and Zetsubou Sensei. I adore Fairy Tail as well but the anime is wonderful, if the anime continues I can live without the manga.

  6. lovelyduckie,

    No word from Kodansha yet. We are waiting and hoping at this point. You can bet we will post the information as soon as we get it.

  7. I do agree that NYCC is trying to be like SDCC.

    There’s also other organizations around my area that are trying to keep the NYC anime community spirit going. Cosplay is supposedly becoming more “popular” around my area.

    The only thing is that the audience around here is mostly teenagers to young adults who may not have readily disposable income and were into anime first. So, they may not be able to travel to other cons like we can.

    Like you said, let’s see what happens. I loved American comics & pop culture first before anime, so I won’t be affected as much if NYAF goes down.

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