MangaNEXT 2007

Let me start out by saying, we completely forgot about this con until less than a week before it! Whoops. But we busted our butts and got our panel together along with fliers for the blog.

MangaNEXT, for better or for worse, is very much a small convention. This is the convention’s second year. If it will always stay a small time convention is another story but for now it is a little con. The down side to a small time convention is less guests and smaller guests. There is also less programming, panels, dealers, and workshops. The up side is a greater sense of community, not waiting for anything, and a lot more access to guests and panelists. The ability to just come up to the guests and just chat, even sort of hang with a guest, is almost unthinkable at larger cons. If you thought Anime Expo was going to let you within 10 feet of CLAMP you were sorely mistaken.

I like both types of conventions, one kind is really crazy and goes by like a whirlwind and the other is relaxing and slow-paced. I have equal amounts of things that I learn from both. Besides most of the guests I want to see, no one cares about anyway! This is terribly unfortunate but completely true since I like to see the directors, producers, character designers panels. However, even when there aren’t a lot of people, at a big con you still don’t get to talk one on one much.

We started our trip on Saturday because the three of us (Narutaki, Hisui, and Kohaku) had work on Friday so that made Friday a no go. There was a Media Blasters panel that might have been interesting. Media Blasters licensed The Gorgeous Life of Strawberry-chan by Ai Morinaga and I was curious if they were looking into other Ai Morinaga titles.

The panel I was interested in was one Jason Thompson mentioned he did on Friday, about Japanese manga magazines. I was even most interested in it after he inferred, in a panel later on, that Weekly Shonen Sunday is not doing so hot.

There was a panel on strong female characters. I would have liked to have seen. I’m sure I would have had some interesting conversation with the panelist for that one. We saw her the next day and she gave us her list of shows with strong characters. It was mostly good, but there were some interesting choices on the list. Miaka Yuki and the dolls from Rozen Maiden are hardly anything near strong female characters IMHO.

I remember her from the previous MangaNEXT, and she did other panels about women. She seems to know a lot and has a good deal to say on the subject. If I had had time, I would have liked to see her reasoning behind some of the choices on that list. You will remember her best as the woman running the panel where that girl said Misa Misa was a strong female role model.

I’m also very curious to have seen what was talked about in the famous manga-ka and their not so famous works panel. You can sometimes be surprised what other works can come out of a manga-ka you think you already know. The fact that Rumiko Takahashi does both Ranma 1/2, Rumic World, and Mermaid Saga might not be immediately obvious.

On Saturday, we started by signing in at Panel Ops. MangaNEXT was pretty cool in the fact that we got special panelist badges. I don’t remember getting any special privileges due to the fact that we got panelist badges but it was still cool.

I was so stoked to get special badges! I want everyone to do this from now on. We had a regular badge and another badge letting them know we are panelists. I think this would be especially helpful at bigger cons where people are trying to get through lines to check in and not be late. Sure people would use them to always get in a few minutes early, but is that really so bad? After all, we are helping at the con. And why is it that Panel Ops always looks so baffled when we check in early, are anime fans really that unreliable?

The first panel we went to was Women in Fandom. We only caught the final part but it mostly seemed to be a discussion of how women have different experiences being a part of anime fandom than men. It seemed an interesting panel so I’m curious in what was discussed in the earlier part of the panel.

It is pretty obvious that women and men show and experience fandom in different ways but also in similar ways. Being that I sort of had knowledge of this already I didn’t learn anything new but it is nice to share experiences with others.

We went to the dealer’s room, it was small but it had doujinshi so we were happy. Nartutaki and Kohaku bought some doujinshi from a dealer that let you browse before you buy it. I almost got a Akiha figure from Melty Blood but I decided to hold off from buying it. Maybe I will pick you up another day you wacky incestuous tsundere.

I see that dealer at all the east coast cons and never knew I would open anything! Actually, they are on our little side bar, Ultimate Doujinshi, and they are always getting new things. This time around they had lots of Fruits Basket, I however did not pick any up. I finally found a Cowboy Bebop doujin that was good and also grabbed a fun little Bleach one as well. I don’t really care if the dealer’s room has tons of vendors, but boy, was it cramped! It was really clogged up on Saturday, I could barely breath.

We saw part of a rather mediocre Manga vs. Anime. Dubbed vs. Raw panel. The part we came in on mainly seemed to be bashing the Naruto dub and how awful it is. I’m no Naruto fan but the dub seems at least to be to do an adequate job. If any Nate the Ninja fans want to chime in on their opinion, I’m interested to hear what people think of it. I thought the guys complaints seemed sort of a super weaboo argument to me. There was another guy who was supposed to do a similar panel at the same time, but due to a mix-up he never got to do his panel. I’m curious if his panel would have been any better.

Okay, I dunno what nice pills you were taking, but HELL YEAH THAT OTHER DUDE’S PANEL WOULD HAVE BEEN BETTER! That panel was awful, there is no way it could have been worse. It was exactly what I try to avoid, panels that deteriorate into nothing more than, “yeah I hate this,” “me too,” “isn’t this cool,” from a bunch of kids that think Naruto is the end all of anime. Gar. I know panels like this exist, but damnit I got roped into one for a few moments and it was so not cool.

We then went to Jason Thompson’s panel on his new book Manga: The Complete Guide. He basically talked about how he got started in the anime and manga business at Viz and how that eventually led to him writing a book for Del Rey about manga. He then talked about his book which is a complete guide to all the manga published in the United States. It seemed very thorough and will be getting regular updates online. My only objection was the fact that all the entries were reviews. I tend to like my reference books without an opinion. I don’t want to go to the encyclopedia and have the author tell me why he thinks the Holy Roman Empire was lame sauce. I will probably still get it but I would have preferred a comment free guide.

Well, I am definitely buying it. Even before we met Jason Thompson, who is a really cool guy, I heard about this book. He read some entries out loud to us, and what was really great was the reviews themselves are entertaining. You are getting a “what’s out there” guide along with some witty commentary. Most of the reviews are written by Jason, he became a Hikkikimori for a year to do it, and the hentai and yaoi sections are mostly written by a few friends of his. His experiences at Viz were funny and he was an all around charming guy. He is no longer with Viz, he said he had to leave before he wrote the book because he wouldn’t hold back!

The Del Rey panel was a well done but rather standard industry panel. Other than the announcement of the licensing of Faust there were no shocking revelations or announcement of note. Faust seems to be a light novel anthology so it’s the first of it’s type licensed in the US. I’m kind of curious how well it’s going to do. There are some illustrations in the magazine but it’s mostly text. That means a lot of translation and adaptation so it’s riskier than some licenses IMHO. But it has Decoration Disorder Disconnection in it so I’m waiting for that with bated breath. I also heard that some little known female mangaka named CLAMP have done illustrations for the magazine. Might be a selling point for some people.

I had never heard of Faust magazine, no surprise really when I looked it up to find it was mostly a light novel publication. The official Japanese site is really great as it lets you see sample chapters and art, from what looks to be every issue. I really like the concept of following a novel chapter by chapter every month, kind of exciting like TV. I’m looking forward to more novels making it over from Japan, so this sounds like a great way to kick start it. However, Del Rey did mention they won’t be localizing the entire thing, so it is still unclear if we will be getting a monthly adaptation or just anthologies released every few months with their picks. They also mentioned they will be having an event at the Kinokuniya grand opening near Bryant Park, NYC on November 3rd. I haven’t found confirmation of this online yet but hopefully it is still going on.

Mari Morimoto had a panel about her experiences as a translator. She gave an overview of how she got into the industry, what a translators role is, how a translator works with others to make a manga come to the U.S., her views of the industry and how its changed, and then she gave advice about how to break into the industry as a translator. It was a good behind the scenes peek at one of the vital grunt jobs of the industry. Morimoto was very friendly and open so the panel was very relaxed and informative.

Mari is the semi-famous translator of Naruto, since the original translator was panned by fans. She almost always does Shonen translations, she mentioned that translators have to have a different voice depending on the genre. She says by now if she did a shojo series it might sound awkward. She also does Saint Seiya (Knights of the Zodiac) and we sort of bonded over it! She brought a new release of it with her, so cool! It was also hinted that the Saint Seiya manga is in the bottom 10 of sellers for Viz but they are on contract to finish the series, 28 volumes! We talked to her a lot after her panels. Kohaku asked her if she knew anything about Princess Knight but we found out it will not be released.

Morimoto was at the next panel we went to as the translator for Hiroki Otsuka. He used to be a Japanese erotic/shojo manga-ka then he came to the U.S. to pursue a slightly more relaxed career. He is currently living in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. He seemed like a friendly guy and spoke a decent amount of English, not enough to go without a translator but still a good amount. If nothing else, we reaffirmed the fact that being a popular manga-ka can be hellish and that editors are often like co-writers in Japan. I also got a good insight how a Japanese artist makes it into the Japanese manga industry. It was definitely a unique experience to find a Japanese manga-ka living and working in the U.S. and getting to hear him talk. Often manga-ka are so busy that they can’t often come to American conventions and when they do they often are not that accessible.

Hiroki was a delight. It was the first time that I heard a manga-ka be very frank about the manga industry. He wasn’t completely candid, but a lot more open about what goes on. This could be because he is no longer working in it. It was fun to hear about his adventures in doujinshi and fan-made games. That was actually how he got discovered and was hired on. He has done a variety of genres but likes shojo best as far as I could tell. He has a shonen series out in the U.S. called Boys of Summer although he only does the art for it. He also has an exhibit at the Japan Society in NYC which I am hoping to check out. Hiroki seemed to think that as a growing artist, not just manga-ka, NYC was the best place for him to be.

On the way back, we ran into some internet celebrities in the form of Erin and Noah of the Ninja Consultants. They were rather delightful to talk to. I distinctly remember the topic of strong female characters in anime turned into a conversation about NANA.

Well, I never miss a chance to theorize about NANA. I had only spoken to Erin and Noah briefly at Otakon so it was cool running into them again and having a chance to chat.

We started Sunday with our own panel. Our panel examined the history, methods, and impact of scanlation in America. I think it went pretty well but it was the opening slot on Sunday so we had about 6 people at the panel all together. If nothing else, everyone who came to the panel walked away with a decent amount of free manga. One girl got the old versions of of Cardcaptor Sakura and Magic Knight Rayearth.

I always get so nervous right before a panel! Ugh. But once I start going, I get into it. All the people who came were very attentive and talked a lot with us afterward. Seemed that most of them had dabbled in scanlation but hadn’t really known much about it. I do wish there had been more people but luckily no one got up and left. I would love to do it again in a different time slot. When I mentioned to panel ops how few people we had they said the feedback panel only had about 10, it was running at the same time, so I didn’t feel too bad.

We inadvertently got roped into a horrible D.Gray Man panel. The panelist itself seemed to be rather well-informed and well-prepared but she also seemed like a ferret on cocaine. We had to leave when she left all of a sudden to talk to her friends. I think that was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Okay, it was my fault we went in that panel. I love D.Gray Man. It’s true. It was not truly awful but once again, it was a panel that I could have looked everything up on Wikipedia for if I wanted to. D.Gray Man is full of dark and religious themes, plenty of fodder.

I think the main problem with panels about one title is they are just why title X is so cool and why character Y from title X is so cool (and maybe why we hate character Z and hope characters A and B get together). I really would like to see more panels like the panel I saw at Otakon about Hellsing. A detailed analysis of characters and themes of a title. A more mature and detailed examination of a work. That would make me happy.

Exactly, I don’t feel anymore that people go to panels about shows to learn about them. There are just so many other resources for that. The only thing I learned before hi-tailing it out of there was that D.Gray Man will be going on after 52 episodes. I probably would have known this if I wasn’t pissed at the show at the moment. But now maybe I can get over it since it is continuing, hopefully without filler.

We ended the day with the Manga Industry round-table panel. All the guests were on one table and Morimoto acted as moderator as she asked questions of all the guests and took questions for the guests from the audience. Morimoto started the panel with the joke that she recognized everyone in the room from other panels she had given over the weekend. I guess that show once again that most of the time people who come to conventions don’t care about the guests.

All in all I think MangaNext was worth the time and the money. I had fun, learned some stuff, and met some very cool people. I would like it to grow a little more so they might draw some bigger guests, while keeping that same relaxed and comfortable atmosphere.

MangaNEXT grew by leaps and bounds since last year. I am proud to be a part of it. And hope to do a panel next year as well.

P.S. This con report is ridiculously long.

Nartutaki Currently!
Watching Gundam 00
Reading Saint Seiya
Listening to L’arc en Ciel

Hisui (Brainwasher Detective) Currently:
Watching Orguss, Super Dimension Century
Reading Negima! Magister Negi Magi
Listening to Tobira Wo Akete by Anza