The lack of a regular New York based anime convention has always been a bit unusual. It seems the perfect place for a major convention to grow out of. NYC has a good amount of schools and anime clubs that could have been the genesis of such an event, there is a sizable Asian-American community, there is a readily available transportation hub, and locations that make it a tourist destination. New York City has always been a place where you could readily get rare anime goods, attend exclusive anime events, and meet fellow anime fans. The problem is no anime convention that has really taken root in the city in a way that has led to the growth of a something like Otakon or Anime Expo. All the little conventions centered around anime clubs in the city have never grown outside of their own little domains and all the big hitters who have tried to start by dropping a big convention in the city have quit after a scant few years. AnimeNEXT has distinctly grown over the years but it has always been New Jersey convention and all the upstate conventions never leave their area. It has always seemed like the idea of a major New York convention was a mirage. Nothing more than a wonderful and inviting illusion that could never actually be.
Waku Waku NYC is the latest contender to take on the Big Apple. It is definitely has decided to take an alternative strategy than Big Apple Anime Fest or New York Anime Festival. Undoubtedly the biggest change Waku Waku NYC has made is starting in Brooklyn as opposed to Manhattan. While Brooklyn is still a prominent borough it is a level less glamorous than Manhattan. On the other hand that also means it is a level less expensive. Also Waku Waku NYC has made a major focus on fashion, art, food, music, and games right from the start. Anime was still the most predominant but it has the spirit of a Japanese pop culture festival as opposed to an anime convention with all of those items blended in like a kitchen sink of toppings. It is clearly not the ambition of a Big Apple Anime Fest but at the same time in is clearly being much bigger and more professional than your local college anime club’s convention.
Can any of these different tactics make Waku Waku a convention that can finally give NYC an anime convention of its own or will it be another entry on the Wikipedia entry for defunct conventions?
In certain ways, Waku Waku NYC is a little hard to describe. It was an intimate affair but had an expansive line-up of guests from many different industries. It was small but also had air of sophistication at times. Waku Waku NYC didn’t feel like a first year convention, it was much more put together than that. From the quality of vendors and events to low-key vibe of the con, it all felt planned. And best of all, I encountered the most helpful staff I ever have at an anime con.