New York Comic Con 2012: Anime & Manga Panels

Even though NYAF was folded into NYCC, there was still quite a bit of anime and manga programing on the schedule. Of course we’d always like more though! This being NYCC, things were really led by industry guests and there wasn’t any fan-run panel programing that I was aware of. Still, there were plenty of interesting things to experience including special guests and screenings.

I know one of Narutaki’s favorite things about the blog is that when she goes to a convention she can pretty much do whatever she likes and write it up no questions asked. Therefore neither of us is obligated to cover anything or miss out on anything if we don’t want to. That said I think we tend to have tastes that keep us fairly on point for anime and manga coverage at NYCC. Our general schedules align in a way so that we cover most of the interesting panels just as a natural extension of our personalities. So while we did a bunch of cool comic and generally geekery related activities we did not skimp on the anime and manga coverage. I regret missing out on seeing Masakazu Ishiguro (other than getting his autograph) but there is still a good deal that we did cover.

One of the bigger guests of the convention was artist Yoshitaka Amano known for his delicate, androgynous style seen in things like the original Vampire Hunter D novels and concept art for the Final Fantasy franchise.

He opened the panel in good humor emphasizing that his strong suit is drawing not talking and confided in us that he was blowing off Vampire Hunter D deadlines for the convention. Then after briefly mentioning his first gig as a writer for the upcoming Dark Horse title Deva Zan, the panel became a Q&A.

Most compelling was when someone asked him about the androgyny ever-present in his work. Mr. Amano talked about his point of view of beauty being genderless, his example was in nature a mountain is beautiful but is not confined by gender. He liked not have a regulation on what he found beautiful and always tried to bring that to his art.

Without a doubt the highlight of  the panel was surely the same for everyone: Mr. Amano drawing live. There was a camera focused on the table on the stage so it was broadcast on the two big screens in the panel room. The audience had a great time guessing what he was drawing as he went along. All four pieces were to be used in the charity auction.

I went to a nice sampling of industry panels this year. I think oddly enough I might have gone to more industry panels at NYCC than I did at Otakon. I mostly went to the Anime Network panel as a lark. I was curious how much Sentai Filmworks information they were going to talk about and quickly learned that this was exclusively about the Anime Network. That said I did have some interesting observation you won’t get in the standard panel write-up.

The first was the fact that Kids on the Slope invoked the biggest reaction from the audience. I think that while the show won’t be Cowboy Bebop in terms of sales it will hopefully do well enough to justify to MAPPA do continue to consider titles with an international appeal. There was also a small but very vocal group of people yelping for Un-Go. I was a little surprised that got a reaction when other anime were shown without even a peep from the audience. The was also a single guy wh0 seemed super stoked to see footage from Majikoi – Oh! Samurai Girls. That was amusing. I was thankful they kept the fan-serivce to the minimum when they showed the Samurai Girls clip.

The NIS America anime panel was an unusual insight into the company. The first thing to mention was the fact that half the panel was just a discussion of the philosophy of NIS in regards to anime. It was half sales pitch and half technical lecture. The other insight was the fact that when they talked about their titles they were either coming soon or out of print. It was very clear that they are working on a scarcity model much like Atlus games. Other than a few select titles they produce a very small number of copies of any of their licenses and the only way to guarantee you can get anything they put out is to make sure you preorder it. It is distinctly a system that has a good deal of advantages and disadvantages for the consumer.

It is always worth attending the Vertical Inc industry panel at any convention. You don’t know if there will be any license announcements, although there usually are, but you can ask Ed Chavez any question about their books or manga in general. And at NYCC, people who asked questions were gifted with autograph tickets for Moyoco Anno.

Josei has started to become a bigger part of the Vertical list with things like Sakuran and Paradise Kiss so it was very exciting to hear them announce a seminal title like Helter Skelter. I hope this bodes well for further acquisitions. I asked about the possibility of more Ai Yazawa from them since VIZ doesn’t seem interested in her works besides NANA. Ed said he’d love to, especially Gokinjo Monogatari, but that he didn’t really have a chance to build a relationship with her during their Paradise Kiss acquisition. It was all done through agents and he didn’t get to meet with her directly.

With the license of Osamu Tezuka’s Twin Knight, I guess we can assume now that Princess Knight did well for them. Happy news indeed! And making it even sweeter was Ed’s mention that it will have a similar packaging to their lovely Princess Knight editions.

During the Q&A, the subject of artbooks was brought and Ed told us that he wants to do more. Hisui suggested Ed do one of the slightly well-known Vertical surveys for titles people would like to see artbooks of. Ed thought it was a great idea and confirmed that manga titles they have picked up have come directly from previous surveys so they really are looking at them and considering fan requests.

Yu Asakawa is the voice actress for Rider from Fate/Stay Night so I was immediately interested in her panel. Ostensibly it was about her work as the model for the voice of the Vocaloid Megurine Luka but it was mainly a Yu Asakawa panel that just touched on Vocaloid every so often. The biggest downside was the fact that Danny Choo was the moderator and was being very … Danny Choo. It was almost like he was doing a bad sketch comedy routine with her. I think he was going for cheeky but it mostly came off as painful. Yu Asakawa was a bit more dryly sarcastic then I assumed she would be. She was not in full on Akira Kogami mode but she was distinctly more sardonic than the average Japanese voice actress. Her English was fairly good and she only needed a bit of translation for a few of the more complex questions.

I was going to ask her about Otaku Verse Zero but I never got the chance. Some one did get her to say that Rider was her favorite voice acting role so I was happy about that. Also someone asked her a Fate/Stay Night question that was even too nerdy for me to ask. I am as shocked as anyone else about that. And without a doubt the biggest jerk in the audience made a big deal about how he was an up and coming American voice actor and then proceeded to tell her about American voice acting differed Japanese voice acting in the form of a question. I want to believe that in his head his speech came off better but in practice it was horribly conceited.

I had to attend the Rose of Versailles screening to show my support, and honestly I was overwhelmed by the turn out for a classic title like this, it did my heart good! And people stayed glued to their chairs and didn’t disappear when they saw the older style. Maybe because Rose of Versailles still looks amazing!

After the first episode, which was impossible to see the subtitles on, Susan Napier led a short discussion about Rose of Versailles’ place in anime and manga history.

This panel confirmed that Japan’s obsession with France began thanks to this very series. The combination of a powerful and unique female lead with the exotic setting made it a hit across demographics.

I will fully admit I mostly went to the JManga panel on the off-chance I might win a Nexus 7. While they were supposed use the names of people who entered through the ANN contest it seemed like almost no one who entered through the website actually showed up at the panel. I’m guessing most people just randomly entered hoping to win not realizing you had to show up at the panel to claim your prize.

Other than that I have to say I was impressed to see how many titles they announced at the panel. There were a wide variety of titles from license recuses like School Rumble to slightly unexpected niche titles like Aoi Hana. I have to say while I had lots of problems with the site when it started I think they have really worked to come to a good compromise between what makes the companies in Japan happy and what American fans are willing use. JManga7 and the simplified point system are really key to a great business model. I hope it works out for them. I also want them to finish Hitohira. They have still not released anything past the third volume

I originally did not expect to go to The Fight to Defend Manga panel as Narutaki already went to it at Otakon. But Dave convinced me to go while we were talking in between panels. I think I liked this years panel much more because the CBLDF had a far softer pitch. Last year it felt like an aggressive guilt trip PBS drive. This year they merely presented the facts and then mentioned what they were doing to help people who would otherwise be persecuted for reading comics. They went through the standard summary of legal cases involving manga in the US. It was rather chilling. In an unexpected addition they listed the infamous manga that Chris Handley received through the mail that got him arrested. There had always been a good dead of speculation about the titles but this might have been the first time I have seen someone name all the actual titles involved.

But the most powerful content came from Ryan Matheson talking about his own case. It pretty much was the prefect story to tell at such a panel. It highlighted the ease at which innocuous materials can be used to trump up charges, how horribly he was treated, how desperate his struggle was, and how much time and money he and the CBLDF had to throw at the charges which objectively seem flimsy. It even had a mostly positive ending. But it was clear that this was not the end of the story for Ryan Matheson or assaults on manga. Ryan and CBLDF are still trying to pay off his legal fees and it is clear than this is hardly the last time something like this will happen. Overall a very sobering panel.

My time is always greatly split when at NYCC because I have so many interests, but I’m glad I was able to attend a few anime and manga panels that all ended up being very worthwhile diversions. I do cross my fingers for an increase in programing next year!

I know a lot of anime and manga fans were a bit quick to assume that the NYCC would have nothing for them this year. I think this report alone should prove there was little something for everyone.

Other NYCC 2102 Coverage:

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

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