New York Comic Con 2016: Anime and Manga

hisui_icon_4040_round If you need proof that this was an odd NYCC I can’t think of one better than the fact that Kate did not do anything anime and manga related this year. I did not help that she could not get out of work on the days when the headline events were but it still makes it extremely peculiar. It is not as if there was no compelling anime and manga content. Isuna Hasekura and Yusei Matsui would be solid guests at a convention devoted to anime let alone a general media con like NYCC so the content was there in spades. It just so happened that it worked out that I was the only person in our little gang who could attend much of the content.

So I will try to give you all a decent overview  of what happened in our little corner of the world especially when it is so easy to only see people talking about the other mediums at NYCC.

The highlights of the convention Isuna Hasekura and Yusei Matsui. They were both a mixture of slightly unexpected while also having a strong following. They are not the superstars that Takeshi Obata and Masashi Kishimoto were but they both are behind series that have serious name recognition. Assassination Classroom is not one of the Holy Trinity of Shonen Jump but any well-known Jump title is miles ahead of most series in English. Spice and Wolf is a bit more obscure but it is one of the few long-running light novels that have actually been completed in English so far. (Actually Spice and Wolf JUST got a sequel series but the main series is finished so my comment is still valid.) If anyone showed up for these Japanese guests it was these two.

As someone who has really enjoyed Spice and Wolf, I was very interested in seeing what Isuna Hasekura had to say. Apparently, he mainly fell into writing because he quickly learned he was not the sort of person who would have fared well as a salaryman. Also surprisingly enough he did not go to school for economics and was mostly self-taught. In fact, this came to bite him on the arse because he started to heavily invest just before the Subprime mortgage crisis. If nothing else the experience gave him plenty of material for World End Economica.

It turns out that the inspirations for Spice and Wolf have a mixture of utterly expected inspirations and a very unusual muse. The initial inspiration for the series was a book called Gold & Spices: The Rise of Commerce in the Middle Ages. It was the spark of the idea for a series about an economic story set in a fantasy version of the middle ages. After that, The Golden Bough informed much of the fantastical elements of the series. With the Golden Bough being a key element in Eureka Seven I have to wonder if Sir James George Frazer’s book is very popular in Japan. But the final title that kicked off Spice and Wolf was the most unexpected.

Apparently, it was Moyoco Anno’s Sakuran that was the final key to creating Spice and Wolf. In fact, the character of Holo is heavily based on him wanting to recreate one of his favorite scenes in the series. Sadly he did not mention what that scene was. I should have asked him about what scene inspired the creation of Holo when I asked my question during Q&A bur I instead asked who was his favorite economist or economic school of thought. He did say that he really liked Ben Bernanke and felt people were rather hard on him and should be nicer to him.

He also mentioned that he set Spice and Wolf in Europe because he always saw that as a setting more conducive to fantasy. Medieval Japan seemed to him just to be the mundanity he learned about in history class as opposed to a realm that could contain mystery and magic. In fact, his plan for his next series is leaning towards something set in the Mediterranean. He said that he made Holo first and then designed Kraft Lawrence as a character who would play well off of her.

It was also very clear that Holo is a bit of a waifu for Mr. Hasekura. He noted that he often get samples of merchandise for approval and he has kept almost all of the items related to the wolf goddess. He also has gone out of his way to collect as much Spice and Wolf doujinshi as he can. (That seems a Herculean task.) His favorite title he has is Harvest. He also admitted to trying his hand at making doujinshi before he because a published author but quickly assured the audience it was all clean. But it was extremely clear why type of lady he likes since he was very passionate about the manga and anime not increasing Holo’s bust size in their adaptations. Clearly, he thinks being flat chested is a status symbol.

While there are quite a few light author novelists I could care less about I do think Isuna Hasekura has made me interested in seeing more authors as guests. I would love to see Keiichi SigsawaRyohgo Narita, or Kazuma Kamachi (although I hear Kazuma is Kinoko Nasu levels of reclusive.) Considering how many light novels are being made into anime and manga fans are almost surely curious to see what the author’s of many of their favorite titles think about their works.

While the turn out for Isuna Hasekura was enthusiastic is was not as large as the number of people who came out to see Yusei Matsui. He had two panels and they all were filled to capacity. Some of that is just the power of being in Shonen Jump although he seems to be an author who would be popular no matter what magazine he was run in.

Before I say anything else I wanted to make one complaint. I was only able to go to the first panel with Yusei Matsui. The second Shonen Jump panel was a bit too full so I was not able to go. The first panel did not have open Q&A. Now overall I have no problem with that. If you have seen enough Q&A sessions you have probably wished the Sword of Damocles would drop on the head of certain people asking cringe-inducing questions. People reserving the right to screen questions is perfectly understandable. The problem was they REALLY could have done a better job of picking their questions. I don’t know what questions they did not choose but they asked “Who would win in a fight between Koro-sensei and Neuro Nougami?” three times in only slightly different fashion.

I was a little surprised how many people seemed to be fans of Neuro: Supernatural Detective. I did not think it was that popular a series but apparently is always got a good reaction whenever it was mentioned. He did admit that he would pick Koro-sensei in a duel with Neuro because Assassination Classroom was the series with the better sales.

The most interesting part of the panel was how Yusei Matsui became a manga artist in the first place. His parents did not allow him to read manga or watch anime. This, of course, meant that he would do those things whenever he could outside of the house. In fact, he started to draw his own manga just to do something animation related whenever he could not read manga on the sly. It is a classic story of only encouraging the behavior you wish to restrict. He also mentioned that JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Parasyte, Captain Tsubasa, and of course Dragon Ball were all major influences on him. He eventually became an assistant for Yoshio Sawai on the Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo manga before getting his own series.

Apparently, Koro-Sensei was created for a different series and found his way into Assassination Classroom as the teacher.  He came up with the idea of a classroom of students trying to kill their teacher and them came up with a scenario in which the teacher could actually survive his students trying to murder him each day. Apparently, his favorite story in Assassination Classroom is the one where Kayano tries to murder her teacher with flan.

In the middle of the Q&A, he did a live drawing on Koro-Sensei dressed as the Statue of Liberty that was raffled off at the end of the panel. He also mentioned Koro-Sensei being easy to draw since he is mostly just a circle.

Interestingly enough while they were never mentioned explicitly there were two manga editors who were guests at the convention as well and they both answered some questions. They both showed up as a little extra for other panels it was still interesting to hear them talk about their jobs a little.

Yasuyuki Mimura had a little presentation about his job as an editor at the end of the Kodansha Comics Manga Panel. The main panel went a little long so Mr. Mimura clearly had to rush through what he had prepared. The main things I gathered from his talk is that while the general job description of a manga editor is easily explained what exactly they do seems very variable. It seems that not only does editing style vary from editor to editor but the same editor will do different things when working with different authors. To some people, this is probably an amazingly obvious observation but it can still be a surprising bit of information since manga editors are usually mysterious people behind the curtain.

He did talk a bit about his experiences as an editor for Moyoco Anno and Takehiko Inoue. He shared some stories about working as an editor for Hataraki Man. He would often go to magazine publishers and interview their staff while Moyoco Anno was working on the manga. He would bring those interviews back to her and she would listen to them to see if anything in there was good fuel to inspire a story. On the other hand working with Takehiko Inoue coming up with story ideas for Vagabond was often them sitting for two hours saying nothing and then machine gunning ideas at the end until they had something for the next chapter.

An extremely surprising thing he said would have seemed like a throwaway line to most people. He seemed fascinated that shonen manga was the demographic that was so successful in America. That would be obvious to anyone here but it speaks volumes to the amount that the  shonen market has shrunk and how much the seinen has become dominant in Japan.

During the Yusei Matsui panel they interviewed his editor on assassination Classroom while he worked on the live drawing. It was clear that his editor did much more of his busy work like approving merchandise which let him work on his manga. Despite the fact he did not say much I got a very different vibe off of him than Yasuyuki Mimura.

Sadly neither of them really had a full panel to discuss their jobs and their relationships with the artists they worked with. It made me realize that manga editors are really overlooked potential guests for conventions. I would have loved to see a whole panel with either editor if I had a chance in the future.

A few quick notes about the rest of the convention. I was able to do some calligraphy at the Yen Press booth in order to promote Barakamon. There was a simpler single kanji character option and a harder four character challenge. I took the more difficult course but I got a needs improvement because my handwriting is chicken scratch in English so there was no chance that writing in a foreign language was going to go better.

The highlight of the showroom floor had to be the Viz booth. They had a huge wall of signature boards with various Shogakukan and Shueisha artists. They had everyone you would have expected like Akira ToriyamaEiichiro OdaMasashi KishimotoRei Hiroe, and Naoki Urasawa but they also had more than a few unexpected names as well. The fact that they had Yellow Tanabe and Kenjirou Hata genuinely surprised me. It was ALMOST like Viz remembered that they owned Hayate the Combat Butler. I had to immediately had to tweet the shikishi of Nagi Sanzenin.

As I mentioned in the general post for NYCC 2016 I have some questions about the anime and manga content next year. Next year Anime NYC will premiere at the Javits Center a month after NYCC 2017 will be in the same location. It has made a good deal of industry watchers wonder how these conventions will bounce off of each other. While they are not in direct competition they clearly going to have some sort of interaction due to being in the same ecosystem in the same season no less.

When Lance Fensterman was asked about the convention during the Con Feedback panel he said that there was room enough for two conventions with anime and manga content in New York City. But it is important to note despite the fact that he said that he also made it very clear that they had major turnout from several of publishers including Yen Press, Kodansha Comics, Vertical, Funimation, Viz, and Crunchyroll so they were generally considered an important convention for companies to attend.

The real question is can New York City support two conventions with anime and manga content within a short period of time. Now it is possible that New York is such a large market and visible location that all the major companies will just feel obligated to have a presence at both cons. If that is the case then this is mostly a moot point. The thing is that is probably not the case.

First of all anime and manga companies are hardly rolling in the dough. One has to wonder if they are going to have to choose if they think their marketing dollars are better spent at the larger and established NYCC or would they rather stand out in the more focused Anime NYC even if it is the newcomer. When they bring over guests which convention will they prioritize? Will they make a token appearance at one convention and focus their real attention at the other? Also, it is hardly guaranteed that everyone will choose one con or another. The manga companies might go with NYCC whereas the anime companies could back Anime NYC. Viz could feel they are better severed by NYCC but everyone else could try to rally behind Anime NYC. It is important to remember that Viz has only just started considering it worth schlepping their staff over to the East coast very recently. It would be slightly unexpected if they did that for two conventions in a row.

Since I often feel like Jackie Harvey whenever I try to make predictions about the anime industry so I won’t make any definitive proclamations but it is worth watching to see how it turns out. Next year might very well dictate the East Coast anime convention scene for the next few years. Or  Anime NYC could be another New York Anime convention that comes and goes before you can blink. NYCC is not going ANYWHERE but the amount of anime content might be very different in a few years time. Only time will tell.


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