New York Anime Festival 2008

Hisui and Narutaki’s NYAF schedule
Friday
Bandai Entertainment Panel
Funimation Panel
Ryu Moto Interview
Hideyuki Kikuchi Panel/Q&A
Vertical Inc. Panel
Anime Recruitment Panel (This was us.)

Saturday
Mobile Suit Gundam Panel
Cooking Manga Panel
Media Blasters Panel
Anime Blogging Panel
Del Rey Manga Panel
Yoshitaka Amano Panel/Q&A
Anime News Network 10th Anniversary Q&A
Rie Tanaka Performance

Sunday
Rie Tanaka Panel/Q&A
I Can’t Believe You Haven’t Seen This! Panel (This was us.)
Hideyuki Kikuchi Birthday Party

 Reverse Thieves kicks off back to back anime convention reports with our take on the New York Anime Festival. It was our second year attending NYAF but our first year as press. Being press changes your view of the convention but it certainly doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. Yet. Maybe in several years time I will be drinking and smoking my way through NYAF 10 to kill the pain that is my existence but for now it was merely a bonus. So how has New York’s corporate run anime convention changed and grown? How has Reverse Thieves changed now that we wield a modicum of influence? Who will revolutionize the world? These questions and more might be answered below.

Being Press was just a mite too dangerous, I am drunk on the power! Well, okay, maybe that is an exaggeration but I don’t want to go back to being a regular citizen at conventions. We were seated at the front of all panels and never had to wait in line, chatted with the heads of the convention (and get an upcoming interview with Lance, coming soon!), plus had the extreme pleasure of interviewing Ryu Moto who is best known for his Petite EVA work (this interview will be in a separate post coming soon!). Also the weather held out, this had nothing to do with us being press however, just enough to make it not a miserable weekend for a  convention. Though it was incredibly humid.

It’s always intriguing to meet people you only know from the Internet. Most bloggers don’t plaster their site with their pictures so it isn’t easy to know what they look like. You get this image in your head of what people look like from from the way they write. It is fun to see how much of your guesses are accurate and how much of it is wildly off base. I can’t say that anyone looked exactly as I pictured but I was pleasantly surprised how on target I was about certain things. It also makes me curious how accurate our fellow bloggers were about our appearance. Do people picture me as Kanako Ohno and picture Narutaki looking like Makoto Kousaka? I know that is how I always picture us and I know Narutaki in person.

I have always known that one of the best parts of any convention is socializing. We were lucky enough to meet some of our fellow bloggers, Scott over on Anime Almanac and Oguie Maniax, who were terrific guys. Though I have to admit to not fully picturing them in my mind as what we encountered. At the same time I am quite sure they didn’t think we looked how we did. We also took this opportunity to take a poll of our fellow anime fanatics, the results of which you’ll see sometime after Providence Anime Conference.

The first thing you see when you walk into the exhibition hall is the Bandai booth. I don’t know if Bandai was out of control at Otakon this year, too, but seriously their booth was a constant stream of free stuff (behold at my Gundam 00 and The Girl Who Leapt Through Time posters) and screaming fans mixed with Gurren Lagann cosplayers. This series certainly dominated the con with fans, merchandise, and events. But I am happy to report the Japanese guests had plenty of people clamoring for them. NYAF was the first convention I can remember having to turn away people from guest panels. It is usually the autograph sessions that take precedents but perhaps with the implementation of ticketing for autographs, the people who are turned away for that are coming to the talks.

I heard we missed out Vertical giving away syringe shaped pens for Black Jack which is a shame but we the get the squishy Phoenix Wright gavels from Del Rey which were cool and Haruhi slap bracelets from Yen Press. Wait what was that you said? People being interested in the Japanese guests and what they have to say? That is clearly impossible but somehow true! I’m thinking they had to turn people away because they had big enough guests that people cared even if they were “only” Japanese guests. Maybe that is the greatest things about a corporate run convention. They can get the big names, that draw the crowds, even in their second year.

 We both went to the Hideyuki Kikuchi panel. His translator was Kevin Leahy who also translated the Vampire Hunter D books. Of course almost all of the questions were about Vampire Hunter D and he answered them with pretty substantial answers. I also asked him about his time at Kazuo Koike’s Gekika Sonjuku. I wished he had talked more about his time there because it seems like a fascinating place. Kazuo Koike seems eccentric enough that any classes he gives must be entertaining. He seemed surprised that I knew that he had gone there which filled me with a warm happy feeling that I had done some good research. I loved the part when Kikuchi stared to talk about Amano not releasing he was in the audience. He was definitely embarrassed when he realized what was going on. It was definitely a high point of the panel.

Yoshitaka Amano was probably the most talkative guest, telling stories and what not. He really made the audience laugh as he regaled the story of Tako-Man, his part octopus superhero. He promised us we would see him in a project soon. I was rather disappointed than NYAF didn’t put something together to show some of his work at the convention. It would have been great to have a small gallery space. I was also really surprised at the lack of Final Fantasy questions. Maybe if there was more time they would have come up, but I was impressed by the queries about his fine art and film works. He also brought along some t-shirts, which featured Final Fantasy and Vamprie Hunter D, I didn’t get a close look but I thought they may be the ones from UNIQLO. The crowd was randomly called on to tell everyone why they liked Amano in order to get a chance at playing Jan-Ken-Po against him. Never in my life have I seen more people openly cheat.

Rie Tanaka was just so cute! Got to see her perform three songs right before the masquerade which seemed to be a bit of a secret event. I only knew about it thanks to the forums; a few people were really disappointed to learn about it after the fact. She was bright, funny, and very happy to interact with her fans. At her panel she even had everyone gather around and take a photo with her. It was especially hilarious to hear her talk about being a huge gaming otaku. I was lucky enough to throw a question out there which was did she feel any difference between voicing for a large franchise like Gundam and a smaller project. She responded by saying there isn’t much of a difference though she feels more pressure when doing something big because of all the money, time, and people involved.

Rie Tanaka was definitely a cutie. When she was talking about gaming I could easily see why she has the fan following she does. She is a nerd boy’s dream. Rie is super easy on the eyes but just geeky enough to seem obtainable. I joked that she seem more like a Nagi than a Maria in real life. Her mini concert was not long but it was enjoyable. She put in a great deal of effort for someone who was not an official musical guest. The greatest injustice was I came in seconds after she had already used her Maria voice at her panel on Sunday. Damn you cruel fate. Damn you. Maria is love. Oh, they gave away prizes at the end by have the audience play Jan-ken-po against Rie.

 I went to the Mobile Suit Gundam panel with Phatbhuda on Saturday. The Gundam panel had a woman on it dressed as Fa Yuiry from Zeta Gundam! It seems that women can like Gundam enough to do a panel about it and she spoke about more than Wing and 00. I was as shocked as much as you are. The three people who did the panel were pretty knowledgeable but it was mostly a overview of Gundam for people who had only seen the most popular parts of the franchise. It was hardly the most in-depth review but you could do several panels off each Gundam series so this is understandable. They had a fun little Gundam Jeopardy at the end which easily proved my Gundam Kung-Fu is mad weak.

Cooking manga was underwhelming. I am aware of all the cooking manga currently licensed and was expecting this panel to be about those plus all the great stuff we haven’t got yet. The only titles mentioned were the few that have an English release so I was visibly disappointed. The woman heading the panel seemed to genuinely like some of the titles but at points it was more like an industry pitch. It was a decent first try, but I would like to see a more fleshed out version.

I had mixed feelings about the anime blogging panel. The panelists were obviously seasoned bloggers. They gave everyone in the audience all the information they needed to start their own blogs and they a lot of basic advice. I felt after that the panel sort of petered off. They seemed to assume the room would be filled with people wanting to ask questions so they left too much time at the end. My personal opinion is you should always have enough material so that questions run over to outside the panel room. That way people get what they came for. Still it was a panel with potential and I hope they run it again with added info.

I am always completely terrified before we do a panel, but then I hit some sort of stride and it all melts away. We had great turn outs for both our panels; more than 70 people in our I Can’t Believe You Haven’t Seen This! panel and a slightly smaller crowd for Anime Recruitment. The crowds were really great, asked a lot of good questions, and seemed genuinely interested in what we were going on about. We even had some great conversations with some girls after Anime Recruitment and one of them took our picture (we are famous?). It is a bit hard to get feedback on panels but the general feeling seemed to be good. They went smoothly although both times we had to search for staff to get some tech support.

I was slightly surprised by what got big reactions and what did not at I Can’t Believe You Haven’t Seen This! I was worried that everyone and their mom would know Hayate but it was not a total audience recognition like I had feared. I was shocked by the number of people that cheered for the Dirty Pair. That made me happy. Hopefully some people will go out and watch Kekkaishi and Saiunkoku due to the panel. We are definitely going to keep the I Can’t Believe You Haven’t Seen This! panel. They are enough really good overlooked shows that there is no reason not to switch it up. Phatbhuda made the good point after the panel that we should throw on at least one robot show considering how unloved the genre is in the U.S.

Industry panels were basically the usual with a few announcements sprinkled in. I was probably most excited about the Mushi-shi live-action coming out from Funimation. Oh, funny story from the Bandai panel. So they were announcing something new and decided to let the audience guess by just showing the trailer. We get an overhead view of a street and then a 1988 date and Neo-Tokyo. I thought I might know what it was, then the whispers of EVA start and culminate in buzzing, chattering excitement. I thought maybe I was just crazy, everyone was pretty sure. Then there is an explosion of Tokyo and the words Akira come up on the screen. I almost burst out laughing because I was right all along. Akira on Blu-Ray, not very funny to call it something “new.”

The Del Rey panel was amusing as always. The oddest announcement in my mind might be the fact that they have licensed Moyasimon: Tales of Agriculture which is about a college student who can see and talk to bacteria. It is a cute but bizarre series. I wish them luck on it. It seems like something that is going to be a horrible failure in the U.S. like Nodame Cantabile but I admire their persistence in pushing new and inventive series. I feel since Hisui is a maid I should also mention that they licensed something called Maid War Chronicles. That looks like a series in which you instantly know if your going to like it (or want to burn it in cleansing fire) by the name alone. We really wanted to go to the Yen Press panel but since it was during our I Can’t Believe You Haven’t Seen This! we didn’t have the chance.

The Media Blasters panel looked like it was going to be a real turkey what with having no presentation, trailers, or announcements. However, it ended up being entertaining and rather candid. I learned the writer of the Twelve Kingdoms anime had a bit of a breakdown and that is why the TV series didn’t continue. Also heard that Gonzo isn’t a happy place to work. And she [the Media Blasters rep] also went on a bit about how the decrease in retail space has hurt the anime industry possibly more than fan-subs.

I theorize that it is more like a circular relationship between the two than one killing the market more than the other. People download more fan-subs so they buy less DVDs. Since people are buying less DVDs they get less self space which means that there is less diversity among the shows on the self which means people download more fan-subs. This continues until the market is in shambles for everything but the best-selling titles.

Vertical didn’t have any manga to announce but man I am very curious about one of their series of novels called Shinjuku Shark. Apparently, he is one of the pinnacles of Japanese detective characters, kind of like a Sam Spade type. Plus he has a totally awesome name. Someone asked them about licensing more Keiko Takemiya work (I was going to ask this!) and they said unfortunately the numbers for To Terra . . .  just don’t justify it. Needless to say I am sad about this. Only stayed long enough at the Anime News Network panel to ask a question (and gain a L figure!). Funnily enough Anime Almanac mentioned my question without realizing it was me. I wanted to know if they planned to continue their reviews of first episodes of the new shows in Japan. They answered in the affirmative.

Overall the exhibition hall was same ole, same ole although I felt prices were a little higher this year (sorry 2 bucks off a Tachikoma on Sunday is not enough to make me buy). The hall had a lot of space which was great because I never felt the nauseating push of too many bodies. I tend to stay away from the dealer’s on Saturday but with the wider aisles it wasn’t as necessary. Friday night was pure chaos after the exhibition hall closed. It was a free for all in the panels hallway, the atmosphere was odd. But atleast Friday was free of sign people and yaoi paddles. These are two major things that other conventions have put their foot down on and I was disappointed to not see the same measures being taken at NYAF.

The Artist Alley was much better organized from my point of view. But it was a part of the exhibition hall which closes rather early. It wasn’t huge but it had a wide variety of styles to choose from. Though I did hear about the price of tables being quiet high by anime convention standards. I picked up another piece from ProdigyBombay this time it was Cloud fan-art. I had scooped up a picture of Allen from D.Gray Man at Otakon 2007 and was pleasantly surprised to see her again here. It is becoming harder for me to pass up these sensitive and beautifully rendered pieces. She really captures nice expressions on the characters.

I keep meaning to bring pictures with me to get commissioned works but I never remember in the end. I really should have gotten a Hisui and Narutaki. That would have been cute. One year I will remember and it will be glorious. Be sure to look for full artist alley coverage from our friend Skeith which will be up October 7. I was sad that there was no podcasters section like their was at Comic-Con. I am always on the look out for new anime podcasts worth listening to.

I capped off the convention with the Hideyuki Kikuchi Birthday Party at the Jekyll and Hyde Club. For people who don’t know about the Jekyll and Hyde Club it is a quirky themed restaurant with okay food but excellent atmosphere. The theme of the restaurant is horror so it was the prefect place for the birthday party for the author of Vampire Hunter D.  The Club has its normal waiters but they also have actors constantly interacting with the patrons in-character whether it be a vampire or a mad scientist; there are animatronic statues of things like Zeus, the Wolfman, and talking Voodoo masks that perform little comedy routines; there is also a periodic stage show. Everything is a production and if you are in the mood it can be a blast. Narutaki’s advice: Go on Thanksgiving. The place is dead so you get the most bang for your buck.

Unfortunately Amano did not show up for the dinner but I did get to sit down next to two representatives from Dark Horse. I was at the opposite end of the table from Hideyuki Kikuchi so I did not get to interact with him much. I did chat a lot with the lady who does the Dead Sea Scrolls 606 blog. She was very charming and apparently has also seen Macross 7 and enjoyed it in only the way one can love Macross 7. I felt bad for the two girls that showed up late. One of them used to live right next to the other Jekyll and Hyde location on 7th Avenue so they went there not realizing there are three in the city. The conversation was very free flowing and several people took everyones’ email addresses. At the end Kikuchi gave everyone cute little sketches with his autograph. Peter Tartara promised that everyone there would get sketches from Amano due to him being unable to attend. If they offered such a experience next year I would consider it again depending on who the guest was.

For me, this is my last con of year and I think I’m going out on a high note. With it only being the NYAF’s second year, there are still improvements to be made (is there any con that doesn’t need those?) but the event shined brighter than it did previously. It was vastly more populated but never felt overwhelming. And with dates for the next already announced, September 25-27, I look forward to bigger and better things in 2009!

I on the other hand will return next week with my report from the Providence Anime Convention. Considering I came back from NYAF rather worn out I am curious how much of a number PAC is going to do on me. I enjoyed New York Anime Festival more than last year and look forward to the next one. I hope they keep improving and expanding like any convention does. NYAF is still going through its growing pains as compared to established conventions like Otakon and Anime Expo but it is still enjoyable. I felt that I always had something to do which is my litmus test of an enjoyable con. See you in 2009.

Top 5 Anime Maids
5. Kogarashi from Kamen no Maid Guy
4. Emma from Emma – A Victorian Romance
3. Karinka from Steel Angel Kurumi
2. Maria from Hayate the Combat Butler
1. Hisui from Tsukihime

5 thoughts on “New York Anime Festival 2008

  1. Scott says:

    Again, I’ve gotta say that you guys put on a great panel that Friday night. I hope I’ll get to catch more of it at the next con. (^_^)b

    Also, the maid at the very right side of that last picture is apparently a friend-of-a-friend of mine. One of the strangest moments all weekend was taking a subway with her on Sunday after the afterparty. She was in her full costume, and we were all just waiting on the platform downtown.

    You had to have seen the look on people’s faces as they walked by a maid in the NYC subway. It was one of the most surreal moments in my fandom experience.

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