Even with just the preliminary numbers out, an estimated 96,000 attendees, New York Comic Con (and Anime Fest) far and away had more people than any other convention I’ve attended in the past. It made it exciting but also daunting, however at the end of the day things went pretty smoothly considering the enormous crush of people during points of the convention, especially and not surprisingly on Saturday. All different sized cons have their own magic, but there is no denying the elation felt at something huge like Comic Con and you can only expect it to get bigger in the coming years.
I have never been to the madhouse that is the San Diego Comic Con but I got a bit of a taste of what that is like by going to the New York Comic Con. At a busy time during the weekend it was like being thrown into a sea of humanity (some of which could use a little more exposure to water). I saw a ton of people I knew but hardly got to interact with anyone for an extended period of time because everyone was always running off to do something. The convention itself had a bit of something for all variety of geeks, nerds, and otaku. There were panels, premieres, and announcements for anime, manga, video games, comics, movies, television shows, and almost anything else you could imagine. The broader your interests the more you could get out of the convention and in an ironic note the more you missed out on. But unless you had extremely narrow interests there was always something for you to participate in every day which is the greatest benefit of such a huge event.
This was the first year NYCC and NYAF took over the entire Javits Center, if you have never been to it let me just say calling it big is sort of an understatement. The exhibitors hall was nearly twice the size of previous cons giving more space to big booths and providing some nice wide aisles. Though let’s be honest, no aisle is ever wide enough at the peak of the con. The small press and artist alley were ajoined to the exhibitors hall but had a space all their own which worked really well. These guys didn’t get lost among the bigger guys and the space was quite prominent still. I am sure everyone was happy to see bigger panel rooms and area for lines for the NYCCn side. On the NYAF side of things it was a little more of a mishmash with the artist alley, karaoke stage, and panels occupying the lower left of the convention center. I guarantee no one would have happened into any of the anime panels unless they were looking for them specifically, this is a shame because Mardock Scramble would have appealed to many a comic book fan wandering around. There were still a few unused areas thanks to construction for some and for others things just didn’t warrant it yet. It is a convention center that can accommodate the con as it grows bigger so I expect to see some different space distribution in 2011.
The biggest convention I have ever been to at the Javits Center before this had been the PC Expo and even that had to share space with other conventions. This meant that everything was bigger and more grandiose than it had ever been in either the NYCC and NYAF years past. There were often so many people in the exhibitors hall that you had to follow the randomly generated traffic flows of the crowd to get to anywhere you wanted to go. Certain areas were prone to bottlenecks especially if they had an exclusive game in the area. The last two rows where they sold the majority of the anime goods were almost always a nightmare. But I have yet to go to any large convention were the dealers room is not a mess during the prime time hours. My biggest problem with the layout was the fact that the panels for the NYCC and NYAF were on completely opposite sides of the convention center. This meant that if you wanted to go from a panel at one con to another there was a significant walk as you tried to navigate the masses. Some routes were faster than others but I hardly found anything that could be called a shortcut. I would have liked the panel sections to be close to each other but I made due.
I found myself rarely sitting around with nothing to do at NYCC and NYAF and isn’t that the ultimate goal? I even found myself torn between two things a few times. The schedule had a variety of happenings from talks to screenings, in fact this is one of the first cons I’ve been to where I watched so much anime. You saw a lot of industry presence as well as professionals sharing their knowledge on many subjects. I do think they could create more robust programing with more fan/amateur run panels, especially in the NYCC section. But the problem was actually knowing what was going on! There was no grid schedule, this was a huge mistake, there should be printed updates for the panels available at info desks. And how about some screens showing the current things going on around the convention center? But I do have to say there didn’t seem to be a lot of schedule changes once the con started, at least not that I saw.
There were some worries that the NYAF half of the convention would be an afterthought than its own convention. While NYCC clearly was the favored brother in every sense it did not mean it was neglected. The NYAF half of the convention may have been smaller than the NYCC side but they did pack some amazing things into the space they had. First of all the NYAF had more exclusive anime premieres than any other anime convention I had ever been to. In fact I think it was also the first time I ever had to choose between WHICH premiere I was going to at a convention. I was thrilled to see Mardock Scramble, the Gundam 00 movie, and the Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya all exclusively at the NYAF. I was also pleased to see a bit more industry presence in the anime side of things. While not all of the surviving anime and manga companies showed up it was more of a presence than last year’s NYAF.
Honestly, I like to not see a distinction made between NYCC and NYAF, it is just plain confusing. But even if that continues, I hope to really see these two cons fused together and creating some cross-pollination. Perhaps it is a romantic vision, but why not try to get people interested in new things while going about to things they already like? The panel rooms should exist together in two halls and all the premieres should get top billing. Though I do like the idea of having an “anime lounge,” as I’m calling it, where you would find the artist alley, the manga library (but please close the door and tell people to stop talking), and the hang out area. In fact, I’d like to see more hang out areas like this (the Cartoon Network sitting area was great) in the comic section, too. Long and short of it is, I’d like to see one big convention for all.
I think everyone will agree the biggest improvement that could have been made was the fact that all the printed material with the schedule on it was hopelessly outdated. The schedule in the con guide was the first draft and it was clearly wrong in many key areas. There was an updated PDF online but I never got a chance to print that out so most of the time I had to check the boards outside the panel rooms to make sure that everything was happening when it should. I am certain I missed out on some great panels because of that. If they just had a place were you could easily and obviously get an updated schedule each day I would have greatly appreciated it. I heard several people got the convention app to get around this but the reception in the convention center was so bad they had to leave the con to get internet on their phones which sort of defeated the purpose of the app in the first place.
In many ways this was really the first New York Comic Con because there was a new direction, the integration (sort of) of Anime Fest, and a much larger space. But despite that, it was amazingly well put together and it really had to be, they knew that and they prepared quite well. Of course there were hitches, some miscommunication, and always many improvements to be made but the point is it was a great time and it instilled in me the confidence that they can and will make it even better next year. I couldn’t find anyone who didn’t have a blast, see a few things they really loved, and can’t wait for next year.
I cannot think of a convention I have gone to recently were I have not had to choose between going to two really great events of the schedule at least once. In fact an easy metric to how interested you are in the content of the convention. This was pretty much my entire three days at the NY Anime Festival and Comic Con combination. My greatest regret was not being able to attend more of the Comic Con related events. I love going to the Venture Brothers panel every year and there were over a dozen great comics and video game panels I would have attended but I went to the corresponding anime panel at the same time. It was like a smorgasbord of entertainment choices. In that regard as much my overview may have seemed like what I found wrong about the con the rest of the week’s con report segments will clearly highlight why everyone needs to go to the convention next year if they can make it.
More NY Anime Festival and Comic Con 2010 posts:
NY Anime Festival & Comic Con 2010: Tweets
NY Anime Festival & Comic Con 2010: Anime and Manga Industry
NY Anime Festival 2010: Artist Alley – Making it Big! (guest post)
NY Anime Festival & Comic Con 2010: Exhibitors Hall
NY Anime Festival & Comic Con 2010: Premieres
NY Anime Festival & Comic Con 2010: Panels
NY Anime Festival & Comic Con 2010: Minori Chihara