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This past weekend was the big annual New York Comic-Con/New York Anime Festival. It drew a huge crowd of visitors in one “big” venue, the Jacob Javits Center. Reed Exhibitors decided to combine the event due to financial & scheduling concerns. The event was supposed to be 50/50. However, it ended up 90% NYCC, 10% NYAF. NYAF was like a bastard child thrown into his/her parents’ basement in a dark corner, shunned & rejected. Is it just me or do I feel the “impending death” of NYAF in the future?
For those who attended, I’m sure you know NYAF was thrown right down into the lower levels on the con. It consisted of an Artists’ Alley, Variant Stage, and a few panel rooms. That was it. NYCC took up virtually the rest of the building. There was also more coverage in terms of movies, TV shows, video games, and other media. Friday was ok. Saturday was probably one of the worst days ever. Too many people and volunteers (most of them) seemed pretty rude to con-attendees. I left earlier than I wanted to because of the insane crowd. I was like “This is just too much, even for me.” Sunday was the best day of the three because the crowd size was normal. I got a chance to fool around, interviewed Boom Boom Satellites (<3), and went to the Far East to East Showcase 2010 concert.
I enjoyed the "Psychology of Evangelion" and "Anime of Academia" panels on Friday. They were both well-done, informative, and gave me ideas on how to present a panel when I decide to do one. The "Marvel vs. Capcom 3" panel was INSANE. Great crowd and I got a chance to talk to Seth Killian. However, I find it disappointing that even with a Press Pass, I had to line up with everyone else. I even saw Professionals on the line! What’s the damn point of those passes if we have to get in line with the regular folks? Why are people not being allowed to do their jobs!? The panel I did for Samurai Beat Radio, "Pitching Japanese Music to American Media", went well on Saturday. A good crowd came and it was nice being a panelist. I got some experience in how to handle being on a panel, so it was fun.
Back to the subject of NYAF, you want to know why I sense the “impending death” of it besides the lack of space. I read an interview by MTV with the main organizer of NYCC, Lance Fensterman. There is a question directed to him about other projects.
"MTV: I can only imagine. And it feels like, of all the shows, this is your baby. Is New York Comic Con the event that you throw yourself into more than the rest?
FENSTERMAN: I don’t understand anime, I’m not going to lie. We have people on the team that are massive fans, but I don’t understand anime.”
The reason why I put this quote up is because most fans will be complaining to Peter Tatara, Programming Director of NYAF, about the merger. I’m going to say this: it may not be Peter’s fault or entirely his fault. I personally believe that upper management in Reed may not have been pleased with NYAF attendance numbers even though attendance has gone up every year since its inception in 2007. Maybe they wanted huge NYCC-like numbers for NYAF. The thing is that anime only appeals to a certain niche. Comic books & other aspects of American pop culture are more mainstream than anime in America. Doing super mass-marketing for a specific niche product to a massive audience won’t get you anywhere. Anime will always be a somewhat small niche here in America. It’s not like Comiket in Japan. Somewhere, I bet Otakon is laughing incessantly at the fact that NYAF won’t overtake them as THE anime-con for the East Coast.
I owe part of my success to Peter. If it wasn’t for the events he organized at Kinokuniya Bookstore in NYC, I wouldn’t have met my future boss for SBR, cosplayers, and made some awesome friends with people along the way. Hell, I wouldn’t have this blog. The guy brought the NYC anime community together!
The combination of the two conventions will continue for the next 4-5 years. Hopefully, Reed realizes they need to step up their game and give the NYC anime community a breath of life. Why destroy a community built 3 years ago possibly because there aren’t enough members to generate a large profit? I personally enjoyed the convention (because I love pop culture in general), but I can’t say the same for a lot of people.
The last thing New York Anime Festival needs is to be written onto a DEATH NOTE and have its heart stopped.
**UPDATE: Lance Fensterman has posted a blog entry on his blog, Medium At Large, with his afterthoughts on New York Comic-Con. You can read it here.** (If Lance is really willing to listen to the anime fanbase, then I say give him a chance and see what he can do.)