New York Comic Con 2012: General Impressions

Hallelujah and praise Saber. I finally went to New York Comic Con and did not get mildly sick afterwards. Considering the seas of humanity that was any given day of NYCC that was a small miracle. But with that said you could feel that the convention has grown and it was hardly a small affair last year as it was.The crowds were big last year but they were absolutely humongous this year. The fact that I was able to mostly get around the same as I was last year is impressive in of itself. But that also meant there was even more to do this year which is never a bad thing.

There was one major causality at that was the New York Anime Festival. But in many ways maybe that was for the best. While there were no anime fan panels this year the manga guests were simply amazing. That alone was worth the price of admission. But there was a good deal of other things to do as well and I did many of them but not all of them. That fact that most on the events I attended were anime or manga related shows that while the NYAF is gone otaku culture is still alive in the NY convention scene.

I find the atmosphere of New York Comic Con electrifying! It just has so much energy I can’t help but get swept up in it for 4-day crazy days.

Generally every year I attended New York Comic Con I see 1) more people and 2) better organization. This isn’t to say everything was perfect, that is rather impossible, but I did get the feeling that the staff have worked hard and really want this convention to work for everyone.

The most impressive things I can say this year I got into all but one of the panels I tried to attend this year. That might very well be that I just happened to pick unpopular panels to go to but it is still impressive none the less. I think Reed now has enough panels running in total, along side a good idea of which sized room to stick which panels in, that while most rooms were close to being filled you never worried too much about getting in where you needed to get in. If I lined up early it just meant that I got a better seat more than anything else.

Well outside of the IGN theater. I know my roommate showed up 3 hours early for the Firefly retrospective and got turned away. But some people he knew from work showed up only an hour before the panel and got in fine. I do remember being told by a staffer that there was almost no way I would be able to get into Anime Network panel but I got seating in the first third of the room without breaking a sweat. These two incidents might have been simple mistakes but it did seem like some staffers were lying to the crowds possibly to create some amount of traffic flow. Still it was a bit sneaky and unfair if it was being done on purpose. I know that my roommate was platinum mad about the whole incident especially after making such a commitment in the first place.

The only panel I was turned away from was the Aniplex panel in which I tried to get in for the last 20 minuets of. I figured that I could go to the Image panel that started 15 minutes earlier, skip out a little early, and then just arrive for the end of the Aniplex panel. Since all the good stuff comes at the end of the end of an industry panel it seemed like a brilliant plan. Apparently the woman manning the door seemed to think I was trying cut the line waiting for the next panel so she would not let me in. It was hardly a major loss. I would have liked to have seen the end of that panel but if I really needed to have gotten in there it would not have been too much hassle.

My only major complaint is that they really need to stagger the seating in any room where they are showing video. I know several people complained that it was impossible to see the subtitles on anything in the screen room unless you were in the first three rows. It is a simple solution that would make those rooms far more valuable.

Crowds are crowds, if you don’t like crowds then certainly don’t attend, but I see little point in complaining about them just for existing. Then again, I live in NYC so I can imagine if you came from a smaller place how overwhelming it would be. Since this year NYCC sold out before it even started, can I assume this is the max number of people for future NYCCs as well? If so, I feel more than able to navigate it. The morning line to get in was chaos however and needs a vast rethinking. The construction out front did not help this, but even had the sidewalks been fully functional there just wasn’t enough room for 30,000+ people. Maybe NYCC could look into closing the street in front of Javits on Saturday and Sunday?

The entire weekend NYCC had longer hours than previously which was wonderful since there were more people but also more to do and see. The show floor was open almost the entire length of convention 10AM-7PM with Artist Alley open until 8PM and panels running until 10PM. I could never understand why the show floor would want to close early (besides it being crazy in there) since that is where all the money is changing hands. And as far as I could tell things never slowed down even with longer hours so I expect NYCC will be keeping them in place.

Thursday saw a couple of hours added too with it open 3PM-9PM for regular attendees. This was also the first time there was programming for non-professionals on Thursday. As would be expected Thursday was the best day for wandering the show floor but despite those panels things seemed busier on the show floor in general. I like having a day I can dedicate solely to the sensory overload of the exhibitors hall and then spend the rest of the con in panels and Artist Alley.

Random note, all the hours and some other information were printed on the back of the badges. SMART!

Of course all these extended hours resulted in me not leaving the convention center for 11 hours but hey I brought plenty of food! Speaking of, food options seems to be in better shape and with the IGN theater line being housed in Hall C, the food court actually became a food court again and not a standing area for panels. Would still like to see NYCC encouraging food trucks over, they would certainly make a killing and give more options to attendees who want to spend some time outside of the convention center without going too far.

Speaking about my roommate being platinum mad we also tried to get Yuu Asakawa autograph tickets on Friday morning. We left the house at 5 am and arrived at 7 am in hopes of getting tickets at 8. But when we got there we were told that all the tickets were gone. Considering my earlier incident with the staff members I now have to wonder if they were telling the truth. Then again according to the con feedback session  a girl showed up at 1 in the morning and was turned away so maybe you just have to be insanely hardcore.

Someone at con feedback did ask why they could not have a raffle for autograph tickets instead of the first-come-first-served line method. Lance Fensterman’s reasoning was that the current systems rewarded the most dedicated fans as opposed to leaving things up to luck of the draw. But he also mentioned that they were still willing to tinker with the system if people were unhappy with the current situation.

I do have to wonder why can’t they go back to the old system where there were three ways to get tickets. A VIP pass guaranteed you an autograph as long as you were willing to pay, then the remaining tickets were divided up between waiting in line and a raffle each day. It lets everyone have a chance to decide how much they want to leave getting any autograph up to chance.

Programming and guests should always be king at NYCC and I think this year had a wonderful spread. So much so that at any given time I had two or three things I was interested in doing. This is nothing to complain about! True, sometimes it made for hard decisions and prioritizing, but it also meant that if I didn’t get into an event I more than likely had a back-up. And if for some reason I didn’t get in to any of them (this never happened by the way) or didn’t feel like sitting anymore, the Artist Alley was more than a sufficient distraction.

Manga and anime were well represented as a piece of the whole of NYCC. Top of the list, if you were asking me, was the lovely and amazingly talented Moyoco Anno. There was good presences in the Exhibitors Hall too with VIZ, Funimation, and Bluefin showing off large booths and peppered about were Vertical Inc., Kodansha, and others. There was also a presence in the Artist Alley which was a pleasant surprise, I was worried without NYAF we’d lose those artists all together.

I think most people attending Comic Con have at least two interests whether it be movies/TV and comics, or anime and fantasy novels, or any other combination. There was plenty to see and do on all fronts. I always hope that NYCC can also help people check out something new or gain a greater understanding of other hobbies.

I rarely get mad at a fellow attendee at a con feedback panel but this year I almost got up and became “that guy.” Thankfully I kept myself in check. Apparently three people were very upset that the New York Anime Festival had been canceled. As someone who writes for an anime blog I am obviously disappointed that New York City’s only major anime convention had to close down but such is life.  Lance danced around saying it directly but it was very clear that a lack of industry support and less than spectacular profits meant that the convention had to go. A look at the numbers make that very obvious. While there are several advantages to the for-profit convention one of the biggest downsides is that the second they might not be as profitable as the company that runs them would like they get the ax.

That is not what got under my skin. It was the fact that two of the three people complaining had very specific complaints. While they claimed that they wanted more anime and manga content they seemed blissfully unaware of any of the manga related guests. One lady said the only noteworthy guest was Yuu Asakawa. And most of all when they made suggestions it was very clear that they did not want anime directors or manga artists. What they wanted was American voice actors. And I know they wanted American voice actors because when they got into specifics of what they wanted all they mentioned were American voice actors.

I don’t want to be too grumpy old man about this stuff but when you have several interesting manga creators on the guest list as well as several manga artists in the artists alley the problem is not that there was no content. The problem was that the content was not catered to your specific tastes. Those are two very different things. In my humble opinion if you don’t care about the creative individuals who make the shows you love and only care about the dub actors then quite frankly I don’t care about what you have to say. Don’t get me wrong. Dub actors are talented individuals and are often a great draw for fans. They should not just be the only meter stick in which you use to judge a convention.

The Javits Center building needs two major improvements above others in my eyes: cell reception/wi-fi and larger bathrooms in the main building especially the lower level. That would basically eliminate most complaints I have about the space. The new North Pavilion that opened last year was put to excellent use as the Artist Alley this time around. It was easily the best space in the convention center. The corridor leading there unfortunately had a lot of bottlenecks over the weekend. Perhaps this section shouldn’t have any booths and instead be strictly for traffic.

The 4th floor was closed off this year which was where the NYAF was housed in 2011. I’m really hoping this section will end up being a huge new panel room once it opens again. That would help alleviate such a crush on the IGN theater and allow for more space for other panels to be added to the schedule. The construction on the center is due to be completed by the end of 2013 so I’ll be curious what new features that will allow.

I don’t know why I’m obsessed with signage, but it always comes up when I’m talking about a convention because it is so vital. Despite HUGE signs hanging from the ceiling, it was still easy to miss things around the center. So I’d suggest adding closer to eye-level signs for Artist Alley and the lower level halls. And if possible big signs for Hall A, etc. that way attendees can pick which escalator is closest to their destination. Why not have the information booths have a blown up map of the center with a “you are here” sticker while they’re at it. The same goes for bathrooms and ATMs, really the staff should just pretend we are all idiots and can’t find anything without major help.

All that aside these impression posts all come down to two simple questions: Did I have a good time and would I come back next year? The answer for both question is surely yes. Did I get to do everything I wanted? No. But in many ways that is a good thing. It just means I was often busy enough that I did not even have time to find wi-fi to tweet let alone be bored. Did everything run perfectly? Hardly. Somethings fell through or could have gone far better. There were times I would lose people if I looked away even for a few seconds in the dealer’s room. But overall I saw an amazing amount of cool geeky things. My schedule was filled with fun events all day long.

If next year could keep up this same level of manga content I would be thrilled. I’m hoping that we might get Yoshikazu Yasuhiko next year along with some other guests. A few voice actors and anime production staff members would be great as well. But even without a single Otaku guest I would have had fun. They just make things even better.

I had a blast and you all probably know that already because I told just about anyone who would listen after and during the convention. NYCC is busy, it is big, sometimes it is even madness but it is the best time!

I’ve seen NYCC grow over many years, so I feel really close to it and I know that it can become an even better convention. That thought is kind of scary since it is pretty much three really nice conventions (Exhibitors Hall is one, programming is one, and Artist Alley is one) all together already. The East Coast deserves a totally bad-ass con and now we’ve got it.

Bring on 2013!

Other NYCC 2102 Coverage:

New York Comic Con 2012: Tweets
New York Comic Con 2012: Our 6 Favorite Announcements
New York Comic Con 2012: Exhibitors Hall & Artist Alley
New York Comic Con 2012: Moyoco Anno
New York Comic Con 2012: Anime & Manga Panels
New York Comic Con 2012: Comics & Media Panels

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