Ed Went to New York Anime Festival — Part 2

Ed attended the New York Anime Festival (NYAF) earlier this month. This is part two of three describing his experiences there, covering Friday, October 14, and Saturday, October 15. Part one is here.

Friday Afternoon

I left the CBLDF booth to attend the Anime Mythbusters panel. The hosts were Rukan Shao and Zhao Chen, both physics students who run the website Animechanics.com. The panel discussed topics like: How fast must breasts jiggle in High School of the Dead to dodge a bullet? (Mach 1.28.) How strong would a character’s legs have to be to jump 25.6 meters like in Naruto? (Strong enough to leg press 3800 lbs.) And how much energy does it take for a Gundam to fly? (128 Terawatts or 8.5 times the current consumption of all humanity.)

Shao and Chen certainly knew their stuff, and it was fun to listen to them discuss how they solved these questions. I do think they might need to tone down some of the physics. I don’t think any of the crowd was interested in which equations they used to come up with their solutions.

New York Anime Festival

However, the Anime Mythbusters also highlighted the fact that this year, the New York Anime Fest was once again ghettoized. First, NYAF was reduced simply to Anime Artist Alley and the Anime Stage, which is where the fan-run panels were held. The anime and manga industry booths and panels were blended into the New York Comic Con. This was a slight improvement from last year, where even the anime industry panels were segregated out.

Second, NYAF was held on the top floor of the Javits Convention Center. Mind you, this was a much nicer ghetto with loads of natural lighting. It was also one of the few places in the Javits where non-Verizon customers could get cellphone service. The downside was that there was only one set of stairs that took you to the NYAF. So you couldn’t just randomly wander up there.

Finally, all the natural lighting meant you couldn’t see anything on the projection screen at the Anime Stage. This was a problem for the panels using that stage. The Anime Mythbusters panel was running short video clips to introduce each segment, and you had no idea what they were showing, so the panelists had to describe the clip to the audience. It’s an understatement to call it a frustrating situation.

There is no reason for participants of Anime Artist Alley to be segregated out from the simpler-named Artist Alley connected to main showroom. The goods being sold were very similar, although there were more handcrafted items in Anime Artist Alley. The same goes for the anime fan panels. Let’s face it: the New York Anime Fest is being treated like the unwanted stepchild of the New York Comic Con. It might be best to drop the pretense and simply declare the NYAF dead.

Anime Network

My next panel was The Anime Network panel. Honestly, I went to this more out of a sense that I should attend at least one anime industry panel than any real interest. The panel was hosted by April Brem, Samantha Stevens, and Stacy Dodson. They opened by showing clips from their current show roster. They went on to show clips of upcoming shows like Persona 4, Murdock Scramble, and Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere. They announced the Loups-Garous movie would be out next month. They also announced the Broken Blade OVA series will air in January. It was an entertaining panel, and the hosts worked the crowd expertly.

I then went over to the Hiro Mashima & Kodansha Comics panel. Mashima is the creator of the popular manga Fairy Tail. This panel was packed past capacity, with people lined up along the walls. Thankfully, the Fire Marshall was nowhere to be found.

The panel began with Mashima giving a drawing demo. While he drew, Dallas Middaugh provided a brief history of Mashima’s career. Then Middaugh asked Mashima questions. It was revealed that Mashima’s favorite current manga is Berserk. He works six days per week, with at least one day being 17 hours. To be able to come to NYAF, he had work several 18-19-hour days so he would have all his required pages handed in ahead of time. He said looking at the NYC skyline inspired him.

Mashima left after they gave away the sketch he did. Middaugh announced the Sailor Moon manga sold so well, there was going to be a second printing. They are upping the print run on future volumes to 100,000. Genshiken and Kitchen Princess will be back in print in omnibus format. They announced two new titles, Miles Edgeworth: Ace Attorney and Attack on Titan. Also, Kodansha’s iPad app launched during NYAF.

Next up was XX: The Women of Queeer Comics. This panel was hosted by JD Glass. The panelists were Paige Braddock (Jane’s World), Jennifer Camper (Rude Girls and Dangerous Women), Joan Hilty (Bitter Girl), Kris Dresen (She’s in the Trees), Abby Denson (Tough Love: High School Confidential), and Erica Friedman (Yuricon & ALC Publishing). My apologies to the panel, I got confused during the introductions and so wasn’t able to keep track of which person was speaking.

They panel began with Glass asking the panelists why they started creating comics. They talked about wanting to create stories of gorgeous women who were tough, wanting more realistic portrayals of lesbian relationships, and out of a desire to express themselves. They mentioned Howard Cruse and Robert Triptow as being very supportive of lesbian cartoonists.

Glass asked what they saw change over the years. The big one was that queer characters no longer exist just to tell the ‘coming out’ story. They now have their own narratives. They also said the manga boom brought more women to comics reading and creating. They mentioned Archie Comics now having a gay character. This was another excellent panel that helped open my eyes to a different part of the comics universe. My thanks to the panelists for sharing their experiences.

Erica Friedman wrote up her experiences of being on the panel at Okazu. You can listen to the panel at Gay-Nerds.com.

My final panel for Friday was Vertical Inc., run by Ed Chavez with Ioannis Mentzas adding comments. Chi’s Sweet Home has been a huge success for Vertical and helped fund their expansion. Unfortunately, with volume 8, Vertical will catch up to the Japanese releases, so there will be a long wait for further volumes.

Chavez feels that No Longer Human will be their most important release this year. Drops of God will be getting a website. New releases for next year are Flowers of Evil by Shuzo Oshimi, the manga adaptation of 5 Centimeters Per Second by Makoto Shinkai and Yukiko Sieke, Sakuran by Moyoco Anno, and Message to Adolf by Osamu Tezuka. Chavez was really excited about Sakuran. It’s a title he’s wanted to license since he first started working at Vertical.

Saturday

My first panel of the day was Super Inspirations. This was part of the Comics Study Conference (CSC) track of academic programming on comics. This panel was held in a very small room and was quickly packed out with people lining up against the walls. Each panel in this series was an hour and half long with three speakers. The presentations were very dense, so I’ll only offer a very brief description for each.

Brad Ricca’s presentation was The Secret History of the Fantastic Four. He looked at Fantastic Four in light of the space race. He saw the origins of the group as a retelling of history where, through the Fantastic Four, Americans are the first in space.

Hannah Means-Shannon presented a paper called Heroic Process: Super Strength and Supernatural in Tom Strong and Herakles. She compared and contrasted the heroic journey taken by Alan Moore’s character Tom Strong and the inspiration of the character Herakles. She made me want to read Tom Strong.

Rich Shivener’s presentation was Joker and Camp. He used Susan Sontag’s definition of camp to examine the history of the Joker and campiness. We can use the Joker to discuss how our perception of camp has changed over the years.

This was an excellent panel. Hopefully, NYCC will place the CSC in a larger room next year.

Manga Is Not a Crime sticker

Afterwards, I wandered up to the anime ghetto to visit and help out at the CBLDF booth. The “Manga Is Not a Crime” stickers were delivered, and we began to hand them out. Nothing will get you attention at an anime con like free stickers. I found the time spent at the booth in Anime Artist Alley very satisfying. I got to talk to a few people and make them aware of the Christopher Handley and Brandon X cases. Unfortunately, we ran out of stickers before the day was over.

My experiences at the CBLDF booth were wonderful, and I discovered how much I enjoyed discussing these issues with people. It energized me enough that I’m hoping to get a booth and panel set up for Otakon next year.

After the CBLDF manga raffle was complete, I went to the CSC panel, Understanding Comics and the Self. For some reason, I didn’t catch the titles for each presentation. Neil Cohn was the first presenter and spoke on how our brain reads and organizes comics. It’s known that we read sentences in word groupings and not as individual words. It turns out that we do the same for comics. He discussed the details of the tests used to prove this theory.

CJ Suzuki discussed Keiko Tobe’s manga With the Light. This is a semi-autobiographical series about raising an autistic child. This manga helped to raise awareness in Japan about special needs children. The manga even served as an inspiration for a 2004 law to protect the handicapped.

Jeff Barbanell spoke of his experience using comics teaching Native Americans. One way that he used comics was to look at the way Native Americans are portrayed in comics and then discuss the attitudes that inform those images. Terry Moore’s Echo was cited as one of the best depictions of a character with a Native American heritage.

Defending Manga NYAF panel

My final panel for the day was CBLDF: Defending Manga. The moderator was CBLDF president Charles Brownstein, with participants Erica Friedman and Deb Aoki.

The panel began with a brief history of censorship. Brownstein pointed out that every generation has its form of entertainment that it believes is corrupting our youth. In the past it’s been jazz, rock and roll, and comic books. Now it seems like the focus is manga and video games. The people that prosecutors have targeted has changed, too. First it was the publishers, then it was retailers, and now it’s readers. The first manga-related arrest was in 2000 when a Texas retailer was arrested for selling Demon Beast Invasion: The Fallen to undercover cops.

Erica pointed out that with Bill 156 now in effect, we can no longer argue that it’s simply a case of misunderstanding Japan culture. A savvy prosecutor can use this bill to show how the manga found offensive by police in the US is also considered offensive in Japan.

The panel pointed out it wasn’t just porn that could get you in trouble. Manga like Love Hina and High School of the Dead feature underage nudity. Depending on the mood of the cop or the customs agent, they could get you arrested for possessing child porn. The only way to be safe is to get the law to understand that a drawing of a child is not a child. Nor is it the photograph of a child. Until such a time, manga readers need to be aware of the risks they face for their hobby. Erica wrote of her experience on the panel at Okazu.

5 Comments

  1. I wasn’t there, so I didn’t get a feel for the organization, but it seems to me that putting the anime-specific events in their own area can be considered a benefit, not ghettoization. Perhaps attendees interested in that particular area would like having a separate artist alley, to make it easier for them to shop?

  2. Johanna,

    That may true, I hadn’t considered it. I can’t speak for the attendees, but certainly the manga bloggers and the anime bloggers feel like they are being separated out. I will say there isn’t much cross traffic between the comic fans and the anime fans.

  3. I guess I’m saying that that separation may be a good thing — if everything was lumped together, I fear the Anime Fest really would disappear. But as I said, I don’t know how it feels to be there.

  4. [...] describing his experiences there, covering Sunday, October 16, and his final thoughts. Part one and part two have been [...]

  5. Oh God, if you think listening to us was frustrating due to the lighting and acoustics, think about what it was like giving the presentation… at the very least, the physics would have been more understandable if people could actually see the Powerpoint and it didn’t seem like we were just shouting random equations into the crowd…

    But yeah, suffice to say I was not happy with that convention, considering I am very much *NOT* into the comic side of things. Not only did I feel shunted (as an anime fan) to the side, I barely felt any of the fuzzy warm atmosphere that anime cons usually have. Indeed, I felt a lot of the people who went specifically for NYAF were a bit confused and found themselves standing around not knowing what exactly to make of it all. I kept telling my friends who went (only half-jokingly) that the beams on the windows on the 4th floor were just thinly veiled metaphors for prison bars. Suffice it to say, I barely went to the con on Sat/Sun in favor of hanging out with old friends in the city.

    Ultimately, I would much rather see NYAF disappear than for this type of thing to keep happening. It’s almost deceptive to ask people to pay so much (especially considering how expensive New York City is) and then to deliver such an underwhelming experience for the substantial number of people who are *ONLY* anime fans. I applaud NYCC for all their success on the comic side, but I (and I’m sure a lot of fans would agree) would much rather have no con than a very mediocre, unsatisfying one.

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