Anime NYC 2019: General Impressions

hisui_icon_4040_round Undoubtedly this was the year that Anime NYC felt like it was just a few steps away from being the East Coast version of Anime Expo. Now before anyone on the West Coast is offended I will say that there is still a distinct gap between Anime NYC and Anime Expo. But it is also worth noting that Expo has been running for 27 years and this is only Anime NYC’s third year. This year proved that if Anime NYC continues for a few more years the gap between the two could easily all but vanish. The number of guests, premieres, and exclusives makes it feel like what you would think a professional convention in NYC would be.

And therein is the rub. Anime NYC felt like it was a growing professional convention in the heart of NYC. For better and for worse. It is not a case where the general quality of the convention has suffered. It is all just a matter of scale. Whenever a convention gets big enough it tends to get quite a few perks and a similar number of problems that are just inherent with the size. The thing is these benefits and flaws tend to slowly grow. Anime NYC has had a rather rapid period of growth over the last three years and so each year it has skipped ahead in the development chart as well.

How you feel about this is very much dependent on what you expect out of a convention and what is a deal-breaker for you.

So a quick note before we go any further I will mention what my other posts will be just in case anyone was curious. First of all Weathering With You, the Gundam Reconguista in G movie, and Code Geass: Lelouch of the Re;surrection will get their own posts. I figure those are big enough to talk about independently . Also, all the Type-Moon stuff will get its own post. That is partially because that is very on-brand for me and partially because there was enough stuff to warrant it. The final post will be the remaining guests and panels. I wish I had more to say about the guests but in the end that segment is thin enough to just fold itself into panels.

I remember one of the key cool things about the first two years of Anime NYC was that other than a few key moments you always had room to move. The convention was very lively and had an extremely full schedule but in never felt like a sea of people like the modern NYCC. This was the first year the convention felt crowded. It was never Soylent Green levels of packed but it distinctly felt different than the first two years. Anime NYC still has a decent amount of room to grow within the Javits Center but I have a feeling that the certain sense of openness from the first two years is pretty much gone unless the convention takes a turn for the worse. You just have to expect this level of crowdedness or worse going forward.

Now, this level of busyness does not come without some distinct benefits. First of all the schedule was amazing. The sheer level of guests, premieres, and events was frankly shocking. This lineup would have made for an amazing Otakon let alone any sort of third-year convention. The fact that I, Alain Mendez, had to decide which Type-Moon events I went to and which I did not should say VOLUMES. I missed the FGO US Tour Panel to interview Tomino. Anyone who knows me will vouch that was not an easy decision for me to make. While it was great to speak to the Bald Wizard I missed one of the highlights of the convention according to my roommate. So there are distinct costs but also distinct benefits.

Actually, one thing I wanted to mention was it was enough content for things to very easily slip through the cracks. I saw the first half of The Wonderland aka Birthday Wonderland purely by chance. I was waiting to see Weathering With You and so to kill some time I wandered into a panel room and found this movie. Only then did I learn it was by Keiichi Hara, the director of Miss Hokusai, and from Signal.MD. No one I knew was aware this film existed at the convention. When I talked to everyone afterward they were rather shocked to know that the film has been at Anime NYC and would have gone if they saw it playing.

As a quick review, The Wonderland seemed like it wanted to be a Studio Ghibli movie. From what I saw it was good but not great but I would need to see how it wrapped up before I gave it any sort of final judgment. It was pretty and technically competent if nothing else. I feel a lot of my overall feelings would come down to how it tied everything together. If nothing else Aunt Chi who sort of just tags along with the main character’s heroines journey was fairly amusing in a “What if Yukari Tanizaki just inserted herself into Hitomi’s trip to Gaea” way.

Last but not least I recently had a major revelation about Reverse Thieves convention reports in general. When Kate was writing for the blog she was the Artist Alley expert. But now that she on hiatus that role has gone vacant. Or has it? I mean in the end she still goes to most of the conventions that I do and she still goes and explores Artist Alley in-depth blog or not. So I might as well just tap the expert and write up her findings. It will not be the full report Kate would give but it at least keeps the enormity of her knowledge alive and up to date.

According to Kate the big new trend at artist was wooden charms and miniature dioramas. Enamel pins were still very popular as well. Fire Emblem: Three Houses was the new king of the block with lots of My Hero AcademiaPromare, and Demon Slayer as a matter of course. She was slightly shocked that there was almost nothing from the new Pokemon game. A lot of it had to do with the game just coming out that weekend but she usually sees Pokemon stuff at Artist Alley as soon as it is revealed.

One other thing was unlike last year Artist Alley and the Dealer’s Room were in the same hall this time. This had its benefits and flaws. On the plus side, it meant that there was no need for a separate bag check. It also seemed to increase the foot traffic between Artist Alley and the Dealers Room as Kate saw many more sold-out signs at Artist Alley tables. On the downside, the Artist Alley was far nosier whenever it is connected to the Dealer’s Room so it was not as pleasant to casually browse as with it was in its own section.

The only thing that I worry about is the fact that this might invite some problems down the line if they continue to keep Artist Alley and the Dealer’s Room in the same space. Over the last few years, I have seen more and more Japanese companies making complaints about merchandise in the Artist Alley especially as goods in the Artist Alley get more and more sophisticated. A convention as industry-friendly as Anime NYC seems to be the prime breeding ground for someone to see items in the Artist Alley as competition for official goods or even as effectively bootlegs. The last few years have shown this will happen no matter what but having Artist Alley and the Dealer’s Room right next to each other only seems to be a catalyst for this happening more frequently.

Unless something odd happens Anime NYC looks like it is only going to get bigger every year for a long time to come. So that means the crowds are just going to get bigger and bigger. At the same time, I also see the number of exclusives growing to the point was the convention could give any American convention a run for its money. I welcome this growth. For the longest time, the West coast has gotten Anime Expo and Sakura Con which always are these insanely packed events. Otakon and Anime Next are amazing but they very much have a very different fan run feel. I was always eager for something more industry-focused to balance things out. I would never hope that Otakon and Anime Next go away but I just feel a convention like Anime NYC balances the coasts much more evenly.

Now several people I know are a little worried that as Anime NYC grows it is just going to get more and more corporate. Anime NYC started as a for-profit convention and as it grows it is only going to get bigger and that corporate vibe will only increase. I don’t think it will ever get to Comic-Con levels but it never has and will never feel like a fan-run convention. If any of that turns you off then your not going to like what is coming. I feel it is worth it for the amount of access you get even if I also feel a bit of claustrophobic in the middle of the convention. It is not everyone’s cup of tea but it is nice to have the option on the east coast.

Plus if I can see Kenjiro Hata or more Type-Moon staff thanks to Anime NYC then it was all worth it. I would love to see Arco Wada or Koyama Hirokazu next year. They feel like guests you could get with the 4th year of Anime NYC without dreaming too big or too small. But only time will tell what 2020 brings. I can’t see what they try to do to keep up their momentum.

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