New York Anime Festival 2007

Hisui and Narutaki’s NYAF schedule

Friday
Del Rey Panel
ImaginAsia Panel

Saturday
The Art of Reviewing Anime Panel
Katsushi Ota Q&A
Kobun Shizuno Q&A
Viz Media Panel
Otaku USA Panel
Unicorn Table Concert

Sunday
Vertical Inc. Panel
State of the Manga Industry
State of the Anime Industry

This was the first anime con in NYC since 2003, but nevertheless I had high hopes for NYAF. They were planning far in advance; they got the Javits Center; the schedule was up almost a month before the convention; and they were advertising. However, this last one was a bit worrisome, NYC is a big place and if everyone in it who likes anime shows up at a con you can expect a freakin’ crowd. Their projected numbers were around 15,000, I am eager to see what the actual was. Unfortunately for them, it didn’t seem that busy. It is not that I want to be squashed between otaku all day but for how big this con seemed like it was going to be, it wasn’t.

Without a doubt, this was definitely a professionally run convention. There were no major schedule changes and everything ran as smooth as silk. Even Otakon at it’s best did not run as smooth as NYAF. I think it could be argued that it ran a little smoother than Anime Expo. I have only gone to Expo once and it was very well run the year I went, 2006, but they still made things a little bit difficult and obtuse. They also had a bunch of schedule changes and mix-ups. So not matter what there is something to be said for professionally run conventions.

Saturday at NYAF, which is always the busiest day at most cons, seemed like a Friday at any other big con. When something like AnimeNEXT gets a crowd like that, it seems fine because they are smaller cons and have smaller expenses. They don’t need as many people to make back their money. Doing anything in Manhattan is expensive. I too wonder if this is the last we shall see of NYAF. First year cons almost always have a low number of attendees, so maybe they will wait and see if this con will grow. If given an chance, I’m sure that this con will grow but it has to be given that chance. According to this, BAAF had 3,500 people during its first year in 2001. Then again, BAAF 2001 was a much smaller affair from what I remember of it. Still, it was a convention that grew in numbers and scope as the years went on. BAAF did occur at another time but it still shows that even in NYC it takes time for a convention to grow. I’m also not really sure what exactly killed BAAF. I have heard several stories but they were more rumors rather than anything close to factual evidence.

Friday started out well for me, I got there around 2:30 since I had silk-screening in the morning. I met up with Kohaku to wander this new experience. The first thing that struck me was how the dealers room was set-up. It was very similar to comic cons and there was a lot of free stuff, which is always a plus. There weren’t too many people so navigation of the area was fairly simple. The entire convention was in a relatively small area but had very wide hallways.

I missed Friday because of work (and the fact that I accidentally FedExed the print out of my ticket to one of our clients). I guess on Monday there was a very confused guy opening up an overnight package. I showed up at around 6:30 to see Narutaki and Kohaku getting out of the convention.

The dealers room was definitely set up like the New York Comic Con when it was at the Javits Center. I don’t remember this convention having more free stuff than any other anime con. But maybe that is because I’m a moody loner that ignores other people where as Narutaki and Kohaku are normal functional human beings. I remember the comic con was pretty packed but things still moved nicely most of the time thanks to the large hallways.

It was also the best day to talk to industry people since there wasn’t a whole ton going on and they weren’t overwhelmed with questions yet. We chatted with Mike Bailiff (I think) from ADV and also Chris Oarr. We also talked with quite a few people over at the newest addition to the manga market, YEN Press. And as per usual, talked with the people from Del Rey as well. Del Rey certainly made a lot of acquisition announcements for the coming year, of which included a light novel of XXXholic and the manga of Gankutsuou.

I’m curious to see what the XXXholic light novel reads like. It was great potential to either be very good or very bad. XXXholic can be very episodic so a random story in the middle is not anything that would be obtrusive. I have not heard anything about the Gankutsuou graphic novel but historically any manga based on an anime is weaker than the original work.

ImaginAsia, I wanted go to to see how the classics were doing. I really wanted them to be going well! And thankfully they are, thanks to the sets being really nice and them being shown on their cable channel. They also have a block of programing that is all Geneon titles, I had to ask what was going to happen to that with the recent news. They said it would remain as is, and they have hopes that Geneon isn’t completely dead yet. I also spoke to them after the panel and asked about Rose of Versailles. I thought I was going to hear the usual about it being expensive, and the creator is problematic. But she told me that the biggest obstacle right now is Riyoko Ikeda wants the manga released first! Well, bring it on people!

Well did they not say that Riyoko Ikeda was not a super crazy lady but she was a super crazy lady who also wants the manga released first. Also Geneon still seems to be in an odd undead limbo between being fully dead and just half dead.

The dealers room, the industry booths, and the artist alley were one big mish-mash. I can’t really find a reason for this, except to possibly just fill the room to make it seem bigger. But after some searching you could find everything you wanted. And of course the dealers room did hold some gems. But this is not really my priority at cons.

I did not buy much this convention most because it was so close to Christmas. I did find it odd that they combined the dealers room and artist alley into one as well. I did pick up a neat Gundam doujinshi where they remade Azumanga Daioh strips with Gundam characters. Any doujinshi with Domon Kasshu and his glowing King of Hearts in a Azumanga strip is worth the price of admission.

The Art of Reviewing Anime panel was rather uneventful, but it did reaffirm my beliefs about the AnswerMan being jaded. I don’t think it’s impossible to work in the industry and still be a fan. Daryl from AWO was there to and it was rather amusing to see him and the AnswerMan saying the completely opposite of the other. But the Katsushi Ota panel was wonderful! Thank you Del Rey for bringing him. He is the editor of Faust which Del Rey announced they would be releasing parts of. It is a light novel anthology series that has illustration accompaniment. This will definitely be an experiment here in the U.S. and I’ve very excited about it. I asked him about digital distribution and he said there was something big coming up later this year that he couldn’t talk about.

Jaded? The tomb of a Chinese Emperor is not as jaded as Zac Bertschy. A noir gumshoe is not as jaded as Zac Bertschy. The fact that he did not light up cigarettes to put them out on members of the audience was somewhat surprising.

Well if nothing else, Katsushi Ota provided me with the highlight of the con. Kinoko Nasu who writes for Type-Moon (games like Tsukihime and Fate/Stay Night) also has written for Faust so you know I was at this panel. I like the idea of light novels in general so I was probably going to go anyway, but once I found out they might be announcing some works by Nasu, I was there in a flash. Faust seems pretty interesting. They have a collective mix of authors and artists working on the book. We will only be getting selected parts of the Japanese Fausts but as long as we get Garden of Sinners, DDD, and see their CLAMP artwork I’m happy. I asked Ota what his impressions of Nasu were and he gave me both an amusing story and a definite insight into the man. That was awesome. I also thought that their boxed line of books looked nice.

I am always interested in more light novels being released, since I’ve such a big reader, so this is a dream some true to me. Ota seems to be smart, insightful, and has a desire to bring creative people together into projects. Anthologies haven’t been bigger sellers in the U.S. but I hope this turns that around. It will have short stories and also excerpts from longer works.

At the end Katsushi Ota gave me the first two books of DDD and then took my picture with the books and promised to send the pictures to Nasu himself. WIN! That is the second Japanese creator that now has a picture of me. Without a doubt my favorite part of the convention.

The Guest of Honor was Kobun Shizuno. At first Patrick Macias asked him about how he became a director in the anime industry and what he though of the industry in general. Then Shizuno showed a pretty long clip of his newest show, Cross Climber. It seems to be about a full immersion virtual reality MMO with a sinister secret purpose. Then a bunch of people asked him questions about the Evangelion movies that he could not answer. The most interesting part was listening to how Shizuno worked his way through the industry to become a director. I sort of wished the people from the audience had asked him some more interesting questions. I did like that someone asked him a Princess Nine question. That show does not get enough love.

You are kinder than I was. I was practically leaping from my seat in outrage at the crappy questions. Two questions were not about his OWN work but about Ginax works. This man is a director, not a film critic, you shouldn’t be asking what he thinks of other peoples’ work. Not to mention there was only time for about 5 or 6 questions so them being wasted was quite a frustration. After this panel we also man into Dave and Joel from Fast Karate and talked with them a bit.

I had never heard of Unicorn Table before they were announced as the musical guests. But I am always up to hear some J-pop! So the concert was something of a high priority for me, and I wasn’t disappointed. There were 10 or 11 songs, which was more than I could have hoped for. We pushed our way to the second row and enjoyed quite a show! We survived the otaku stink for nearly an hour and a half. Although, I wasn’t crazy about her solo songs in the middle, the entire band was the best part. They really got the crowd up and cheering. There was even a raffle at the end, they gave away a t-shirt, a DVD, and a small bag.

Unicorn Table was pretty fun, although my favorite part was when the guitarist and the bassist just started to rock out while the main singer was changing costumes. I stayed away from the madness at the front of the concert and enjoyed myself in the back. I also have no need to be around stinking touchy-feely otaku.

The panels were all industry run and this was my biggest complaint. I really like a mix, I always go to many industry panels but I also like things about older anime or some aspect of anime. I hope this can be remedied next time around. The best things were the state of the industry panels where people from all over got together for a round-table of what’s been going on in the last year. As can be imagined, the anime one had a lot of what if’s and what can be done. It was really informative.

I’m not sure why they did not have any fan run panels. I admit when fan panels are bad they are very bad but they also could have had some good fan runs panels. It might be that as a professionally run convention they did not want to take the risk of a non-guest/nonprofessional run panel. Excluding fan run panels cuts down on your poorly done panels but also excludes a good many interesting panels that could exist.

It was really interesting to hear the two state of industry panels. The manga panel was happy talk and full of what are we going to do next. The anime panel was full of what can we do to pull ourselves out of this mess. Both panels talked about digital distribution. The manga panel speculated on why they were doing so well and how they could keep up their success. On the anime panel, they discussed why sales were down, what they could do to counter it, and what their hopes for digital distribution were. John O’Donnell, from CMX, definitely stole the show during the anime round-table. His answers/tirades were insightful if a little harsh.

I feel like this was a small con that seemed bigger because of the industry involvement but really it wasn’t anything like Otakon. A small con dressed up in big con clothes. Then again, it was its first year and also it is the winter…in NYC, not exactly the most inviting scenario. I also feel like it should have gone on longer into the night. Panels running till 8 or 9 at least and showings till at least then if not later. We know they could do it since the concert went on till almost 10. Overall, I had a good time and learned a lot. It wasn’t the best time I’ve ever had at a convention but I look forward to another one of these, if there is one.

I like having a con basically in my back yard. I’m sure I would fly halfway across the country to go to NYAF, but I will definitely take a subway ride again next year. It was not my favorite con but I had a good time and it did everything I need a con to do. I was never at a real loss of what to do; there was always something interesting going on. I sort of wish I had had some more time to see some of the movies they premiered on the big screen but there were too many good panels. Too many good things is never a real problem. It proves that a for profit convention can be done in an acceptable manner. If NYAF takes what they did this year, and grows, it has the potential to be one of the big name East Coast cons. I look forward to seeing how things turn out next year.

8 thoughts on “New York Anime Festival 2007

  1. super rats says:

    I almost went to this, but had other things I had to do so couldn’t go. Yay for someone giving some Princess Nine love. Kind of surprised by the number of industry panels for a new convention, but that’s a good thing. Nice to know that overall it was a good con. I’ll keep that in mind for next year.

  2. jpmeyer says:

    Actually, it seemed like all of the panels that I went to after the Art of Reviewing Anime panel were fan panels. Match Game, Geeknights Podcast, Uncle Yo, and the amrc-l panel were all fan-run, and with the exception of amrc-l (which was incredibly dry since it was, after all an academic panel), really fun.

  3. reversethieves says:

    < I almost went to this, but had other things I had to do so couldn’t go. Yay for someone giving some Princess Nine love. Kind of surprised by the number of industry panels for a new convention, but that’s a good thing. Nice to know that overall it was a good con. I’ll keep that in mind for next year. >
    I think they wanted to make this convention Anime Expo East. They basically wanted a big industry supporting anime convention for the East coast. They had a professionals only ICV2 conference on Thursday. They have tried in the past with that BAAF/Anime Expo team up back in 2002. I also think certain companies wanted a big east convention that was not Otakon. But that is my unsubstantiated theory. However, it would explain why all those companies flocked to a first year convention.
    Conspiracy theories aside you also can’t discount the ability for professional convention staff to get people to come to their convention.

  4. reversethieves says:

    < Actually, it seemed like all of the panels that I went to after the Art of Reviewing Anime panel were fan panels. Match Game, Geeknights Podcast, Uncle Yo, and the amrc-l panel were all fan-run, and with the exception of amrc-l (which was incredibly dry since it was, after all an academic panel), really fun. >
    The Match Game panels and anything else by the Geek Nights guys are pretty much professional panels because Rym and Scott were guests. Uncle Yo seems sort of old hat at being at conventions but for some odd reason I don’t follow his career. I don’t know much about amrc-l but that seems like the only fan run panel. However, it seems like amrc-l is pretty professional.
    I guess I do stand corrected. Like Anime Expo there are a few fan run panels but they are few and far between and almost always by people who have long histories of running panels. Even Erin and Noah from the Ninja Consultants were not allowed panels so they did not casually give out panels to non-industry people.

  5. Erin F. says:

    John O’Donell is from CPM, not CMX. ;)

    Even though the Geek Nights were guest, I considered the panels they ran to be fan-run panels. I assumed everything in the “Anime Culture” panel room were fan panels, but I didn’t really go into that room because I was covering industry stuff. It was useful to have panel rooms set up like that, so you could tell what would be industry, in a way.

  6. super rats says:

    “I also think certain companies wanted a big east convention that was not Otakon. ”

    I wouldn’t doubt that at all. I thought it kind of odd that Otakon would screen fansubs of properties that were already licensed AND announced by companies that attended their convention. Whether or not that was an indicator of anything toward industry friendliness, I have no clue, but was one of those things I thought strange.

  7. reversethieves says:

    Haha. If enough people buy into your theory on the Internet it becomes an Internet fact whether it’s true or not.

    I think Otakon playing fansubs has more to do with anime convention tradition more than anything else. Back in the day when there were not as many show being licensed or fansubbed and you could not just hop on the Internet and download what you wanted to watch. There were a bunch of shows that it was much easier to watch or find out about when you went to a convention. So it is basically a con tradition to play fansubs at cons because that is what everyone has always done.

    I assume that if a guest company even hinted that they did not want something played at the con it would be out of the schedule so fast it would make your head spin. I also assume it is the US anime companies pretending fansubs don’t exists except for when they do. In general up until recently US anime companies have tolerated fansubs for the exposure they give them but grumbled about them when ever asked. After things that have gone down this year I wounder if that will remain the same.

    – Hisui

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