GUEST REPORT BY SKEITH
As I’ve been going to cons over the past half-decade or so, my reason for doing so has changed. Originally, I was there to gaze at the cosplayers and meet people that (gasp) actually shared my interest for this niche entertainment. Eventually I graduated to actually cosplaying. With that out of my system, I settled down and now spend most of my time at panels or Artists Alley.If I could, I would probably spend the entire day at an Artists Alley, talking with the many interesting people who come from far and wide to set up shop. But that was not possible at the New York Anime Fest, not only because the alley closed with the dealers room, but because there were several things it lacked to make it an immersive place.
For starters, the podcasters’ alley, which complimented the AA quite nicely last year, was not present. I thought there was a good flow, going from one group to the other, since they are both amateur mediums and they both are groups that seem to be just as interested in sharing their art as they were selling you something.
Also, there seemed to be a short supply of manga and comics in the alley. Ever since I first stumbled upon “Directions of Destiny” at Otakon several years ago, I make it a point to purchase at least one book from each alley I visit. Though the pickings seemed to be slim here. Only about four or five tables actually displayed a manga or comic prominently, and of those only 2 caught my eye for a deeper look. One was a colorful comic-strip with fantasy characters, and the other one was a Suikoden doujinshi which gets my attention by default.
Being able to engage the artists in conversation is probably paramount in importance to making a great Artists Alley. Otakon makes for the best alley because it’s so large and the visitors are spread out; that lets you talk more easily. NYAF’s alley lacked size, and that means the artists were flooded by lookey-loos. Even though most of the people weren’t actually buying anything, it was hard to engage any of the artists in a conversation for long, let alone ask for a sketch after I bought their stuff.
None of this is to say that the quality of the art was anything but great. While the overall size was smaller, the ratio of good to mediocre artists was better than anyplace I’ve been to before. There was a fairly wide variety of art styles as well, from gritty western comic styles to super-shiny eastern ones. I was also embarrassingly gleeful at finding several great pieces of Pokemon art. There was also a good variety of trinkets crammed in there, from buttons and patches to window stickers.
Though technically not part of the alley, the adjacent booth for Alteil.com (my favorite CCG) became part of my art hunt. As the game is founded on tapping famous anime/fantasy artists for every card, they gave away several beautiful posters and postcards. I was also able to meet the entire American crew even got their artist to draw a sketch for me.
While I felt the Artists Alley was strong, it wasn’t something you could list as a big reason for going to this con. The limited number of people and the fact that it was pressed right next to the loud, though not very busy, dealers room really detracted from the alley experience. In short, I felt it was tacked on and wasn’t given the respect it deserves.