Category: Conventions

Anime Boston 2015: A true celebration of geek culture

Anime Boston 2015: A true celebration of geek culture

Anime conventions carry almost the opposite culture of a Megacon like PAX East, and Anime Boston is one of the best examples of the perfect fan convention. Yes, there are big anime companies who take up a large amount of space in the dealers room and have some of the largest panels at the convention, but the control and presence of those companies is easily drowned out by fan and convention culture. Anime Boston is purely a fan convention. The majority of the programing is created by fans, the tone is dictated by the fans, and the atmosphere is generated by the attendees absolute love and passion for their hobbies.

Anime conventions stopped being about anime a long time ago and I’ve written about fan convergence and sat on panels discussing it. Anime Boston still has mostly anime programing, a mostly anime themed dealers room, and it does of good job of maintaining the theme of the convention. But, being a fan run convention, looking around at what the fans are cosplaying and listen to what they are talking about is where the true culture of the convention arises. The dealers room features a ton of anime themed art but sitting along side it are League of Legends prints, Steven Universe, American comics, and a ton of other representations of pop culture. You can see the same mix of interests among cosplayers, and even in the dealers room. The majority of the sales space is dedicated to Anime merchandise but scattered among the booths are Video Game and US Comics toys and collectables, board games, art supplies, and a booth giving out samples of Mountain Dew’s newest beverages . Anime Boston’s dealers room space is so big and the taste of their attendees so diverse that you can turn one corner and be surrounded by Anime plushes and turn another and feel like you are in an entirely different place. It’s the greatest nerd flee market in the world, second only to Otakon.

We currently live in a world where Nerd culture has become pop culture. Fans who have used their love of Marvel comics as an identity for all their lives suddenly find themselves surrounded by millions of fans. Millions of dollars are being thrown into marketing to make sure everyone knows who the Guardians of the Galaxy are. So much of the comic con culture is dominated by who owns the biggest booth, who has the best celebrities show up, and who spends the most money. An anime convention is a place where people can celebrate whatever they wish. They don’t have to be steered in one direction or be drummed up by sales people to overhype the next blockbuster film. The fan convention is something alien to the normal public. It’s where the hardcore fans, the people who can still be classified as nerds for liking nerd things because of how much time and energy they put into it, can express themselves and be celebrated for that expression no matter how obscure. It’s an absolutely beautiful thing to be a part of.

But the show is still about anime. There are critics who point out that while anime conventions are attended well most of the fans there consider anime a secondary hobby to something else. Be it gaming, or Marvel movies, or a hundred different things: that is where the feeling of the fan convention truly takes over and develops. Anime in the title gets people in the door, once the fans are inside it’s up to the individual how they wish to express themselves. Anime is a weird beast that way because of how diverse the content actually is. It draws people who have wildly different interests together under the same banner.

 

The feeling of Anime Boston can be summed up by the Jojo’s Bizarre adventure panel that I attended. The panel wasn’t very good, it was a half hour of basic information on the show that I could have gotten from Wikipedia and the second half of it was calling fans onto the stage to make silly poses. However, the majority of the attendees loved it; shouting along and cheering. They most likely knew all the information being presented, yet they still cheered: Because someone was talking about Jojo’s. That’s really all it takes for anime fans to feel like they belong. Anime fans so rarely can connect with people about their hobbies that to see a few hundred people sharing their passion is overwhelming.

The one great change I saw to this year’s Anime Boston was a bristling Video Game room. Touho, ahead of it’s North American release, had hosted six machines to allow fans to try it or show off their skills. There were Katamari tournaments, a constantly running eight player Smash Brothers game (that I truly regret not taking part in) and every one who was playing was having a fantastic time.

Which is a theme to Anime Boston: Everyone looked like they were enjoying themselves. From those screaming fans in the Jojo’s panel, to the groups of Cosplayers doing photoshoots, and even the exhausted bundle of teenage girls laying on top of each other in the mall corridor. Every one looked satisfied. Every one looked like they belonged.

I’ve reviewed and talked about Anime Boston four or five times now. Nothing is too different. It feels like coming home every time I go back. Most of the attendees are awkward teenagers, some of them are scary sexless thirty year olds. But they are my people. They will always be my be my people, no matter how much I believe to have out grown them.

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PAX East 2015: Where is gaming culture?

PAX East 2015: Where is gaming culture?

ideo Game fans go to PAX East for a dozen reasons. They want to see the latest games. They want to get swag. They want to meet people they only knew online. As far as I can tell there is only one real reason that PAX East exists:

PAX East is a place to play games.

I fear I won’t be returning to PAX East for the same reason I won’t ever be going back to New York Comic Con or the reason I will stay away from San Diago Comic Con forever. The convention is a place to show people what will be coming out in the next six months. I don’t need a place to learn what will be coming out in the next six months. I know what will be coming out in the next six months. I have the internet.

There is a specific class of people who simply are not internet people. Who don’t bother to look up games, only scratch the surface of their hobby online and spend the vast majority of their time actually playing games with their friends. Those are the people who the PAX East Expo hall is for. Those are the people who the big gaming panels are for. The last New York Comic Con I visited had a panel that just showed gameplay of the then upcoming Batman Arkham City. Just gameplay, maybe a little discussion from the developers. I would rather not spend $60, wait in long lines, spend a fortune on food, and deal with an awkward hoard of nerds just to watch a gameplay clip of a game that will be coming out in a few weeks. A clip that I can find online and watch in the comfort of my own home.

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Con-vergence reflection: The Internet Generation

I had the pleasure of sitting in on Charles Dunbar’s Con-vergence panel at Otakon Vegas, in which Charles addresses the issues around why other fandoms seem to be taking over anime conventions. Charles’ conclusion is that anime conventions are more welcoming places, that the anime fandom is just more accepting of other fandoms. Then there is the more bleak side of things, the theory that anime fandom is just a secondary or lesser fandom than some of the more prevalent media represented.

The chief cause of the weakening presence of anime at anime conventions is that anime is a medium, not a genre or a single show. So where a group of ten thousand people may not have that many shows in common, three thousand of them have all seen Doctor Who and the other seven thousand has seen the Marvel film adaptations. So the Iron Man cosplayer is going to have more positive attention than the Lupin cosplayer sitting in the corner. Anime is a unique beast in this respect. Single media conventions, like a Star Trek convention, assume that all attendees share at least a common cannon. Even the old school science fiction conventions were dominated by the mass media properties like Star Trek, Battlestar, and the like. With anime there can be almost zero connection between the forty year old fans drinking in a bar discussing the tape trading days and the fourteen year old girls running around in Hatialia cosplay.

The element that made anime so appealing was that it was an entire world of media waiting to be explored, but that allows individual fans to go off into a million directions. This issue can be visibly seen at conventions. There are people who go to the conventions just to cosplay, play dress up and hang out with their friends. There are people at the same event who want to seek out academic programing in order to learn more about the medium they’ve come to celebrate. The latter is a much larger and younger group, one that may never make the transition to going to panels about anime. So if their friends shift over to dressing up as a non-anime fandom that is where most of the group will go. Anime fandom on the Internet is similar. I can write my essays all I want but the mass of people looking at screen caps and writing fan fiction isn’t going to care.

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Convention Report: Otakon Vegas 2014

 

The Otakon name has a certain amount of weight associated with it. The name conjures images of a crowded Baltimore bristling with teenagers in cosplay trying to survive an oppressive heat. It brings to mind long lines, crowded hallways, and the biggest celebration of Japanese culture anyone could imagine.

So when I walked into Otakon Vegas on the first day and saw a handful of people milling around the expansive hallways of Planet Hollywood’s convention center my first reaction was doom. No one knew how well the new Vegas counterpart was going to do in its first year but the Otakon name carries with it some weight that, apparently, means nothing on the west coast and did nothing to boost the numbers of what turned out to be a decent first year convention showing.

Maybe I was expecting too much. What Otakon Vegas always was is a way for Otacorp to expand and spend some of its profits to fulfill its mission statement. Being a non-profit company, Otacorp needs to get rid of its excess cash and it decided to do that the only way it knows how: throwing a convention. Otakon Vegas may just be the greatest excuse for a weekend in Sin City ever conceived.

While small, the programing was absolutely of the quality fans come to expect from Otakon. Otacorp took the time to bring in quality panelists like Mike Toole and Charles Dunbar to spearhead their new convention. Their effects felt like it may have been in vain because while all their panels were excellent, the panel rooms were at best only half full. The panel rooms were far bigger than required for a convention of Otakon Vegas’ size, but I’m used to Mike Toole panels at Anime Boston and Otakon being filled to capacity. Walking in and seeing fifty people in the room felt like a failure.

The highlight of the convention was the main events. The American Sumo event was engaging and entertaining. I learned a ton about Sumo while watching two of the best wrestlers in the world grapple and, more important, gained a newfound respect for the sport. I came out of the room feeling exhilarated. It was definitely one of the best events I’ve witnessed at an anime convention, the best non-anime event at least. The Space Dandy world premiere was also a ton of fun, but that was due to how excellent that first episode turned out to be rather than anything the convention did. Witnessing the world premiere of an anime that is most likely going to go on to massive success will mostly pay off in the future.

The biggest barrier to the growth of Otakon Vegas is going to be Las Vegas itself. Otakon’s standard audience back on the East Coast isn’t going to be able to afford the expensive plan flight out to Vegas every year, so Otacorp is going to have to rely on local attendees to start spreading the word. Of course, even without the flight Vegas is an expensive city. Hotel rooms can be had for under $50 if you know where to look but the city is a carefully designed trap to separate people from their cash. The average convention attendee being a poor fifteen-year old doesn’t bode well for the future of any anime event in Las Vegas. Food in the area is extremely expensive unless you want to keep going to the McDonald’s in the mall or the Subway down the street. The 24 hour buffet meal pass turned out to be a deal and I got four meals out of the $37 I paid for it. The buffet at Planet Hollywood is normally $20 a person, and the meal pass Otakon Vegas offered for $37 is normally $75. Vegas buffets are famous for a reason and the price was well worth it for the amount and quality of the food. The downside of the buffets is that you have to wait in line every visit and during peak traffic that could take almost an hour.

It is definitely a good excuse to go to Las Vegas, if you were planning a trip already, and it will keep you away from the casinos for a couple of hours. Where Otakon Vegas does have a future is in marketing to parents. What the convention can become is a safe and cheap space within Sin City where parents can leave their children with their friends while they go out and gamble. If the convention is able to push that message I see the convention having a bright future. If they fail to deliver that message than Otakon Vegas will always be a small con disguised as a tactic to give Otacorp staff a free vacation while spending money they legally have to spend.

Convention Report: Otakon 2012

 There is only one thing I can think to say about Otakon that sums up my experience. It’s the Mecca for American Otaku. I’ve attended Anime Boston for the last couple years and I’ve had nothing but complaints about the people who attuned the convention and use it as a social gathering rather than a celebration of Japanese animation. This has been a common complain around anime conventions, where the majority of attendees don’t seem to be interested in Anime as the chief reason for going to the convention. It’s common to see half of the costumes are Video Game, comic book, or Doctor Who related. Noted, I’m not saying that expressing fandom other than anime is a bad thing but when the event is designed to be an anime event then I’d expect… anime related costumes and fandom to be the majority of what I see.

At Otakon there are all of those problems. People are hanging around in the halls, using the event as a social gathering rather than an anime celebration, and homestuck and non-anime related fandoms were prevalent. However, it’s the size of the convention that makes up for the sizable group of people who are not displaying anime fandom. The pool of people is so great that the group of hardcore anime fans is big enough to make a huge impact on the convention and because of that, Otakon has maintains the feeling of a celebration of Japanese Animation. The programing, guests, and grand size of the event made me feel for the first time in a long time that anime fandom was alive and well.

As a first time Otakon attendee I was in awe at the size of the convention. The convention center itself takes up two city blocks with a massive lobby, a number of panel rooms on the top floor, and two massive halls on the ground floor. The Baltimore convention center is an impressive structure with a beautiful modern design, second floor garden, and huge windows that let in tons of natural light. The convention also extends to the hotel next door making the size of the convention space span a full three city blocks. While the space was massive with tons of open area for people to gather and roam the times when the dealers room and artist alley weren’t open the hallways on the second floor were unnavigable. Also, while most of the convention’s seven panel rooms were big enough for more than three hundred people the convention put some popular panels in tiny rooms that could fit around fifty people. With over 30,000 people at the convention those rooms filled up an hour before the panel even began. So while Otakon is using the space as effectively as possible, I would have liked to see more panel rooms and have all of them be big enough to fit a decent number of people. That probably won’t happen at this venue in the next few years.

Having attended Anime Boston I thought I was used to huge dealers rooms and artist alley. Otakon puts any other convention I’ve ever been to shame. The airplane hanger that the dealer’s room was in was packed with booths but left amble room in the alias for traffic to pass. It was so that once the first rush of people clamed down that the dealer’s room became a fairly relaxed environment where attendees could actually browse. I was super impressed with the use of space and flow of the room to make this happen and it is something I’d love for the horribly overcrowded New York Comic Con to attempt. Artist Alley had a similar feeling with a wide array of talented artist with a great assortment of craft projects on display. While it is controversial, the policy that artists have to stock half original artwork reduced the number of Bleach prints and replaced them with some interesting pieces.

The fan panels at Otakon are almost universally well written and hosted. There were some exceptions such as the “Moral Philosophy and Madoka Magica” panel where the panelists talked about a Modoka character, brought up a philosophical concept, and then invited the audience to chat about their theory. It was a poorly planned out event and the hosts quickly lost control of the room. It was their attempt to stretch fifteen minutes of actual content out to fill an hour and it definitely showed.

Most of the panels I went too offered an audience participation aspect. I don’t know if Otakon requires it or if it is in the culture of the convention to have the audience take part in panels. I prefer straight lectures of presentations and some exceptional hosts came to give their consistently stellar events. Charles Dunbar’s “Yokai Nation” was entertaining and informative about the origin of many anime monsters and demons, Mike Toole’s “Dubs that Time Forgot” was hilarious and a fantastic history lesson all in one, and Aaron Clarke’s “Evangelion Manga: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly” took the audience on a journey through the fifteen year run of the Evangelion manga and the rise of its multiple spinoffs.

“The Aging Otaku: Anime Fandom and getting Older” was about how to keep up with the fandom as you grow older and lose the enthusiasm of youth. It was a great panel hosted by fans that were going through the aging process. There was a big audience participation portion, which offered some insights from parents but distracted from the main topic. The same can be said for “Fandom and Criticism: The Art of Active Viewing” and “Sexism in Anime and Fandom” where the concept was solid and the presenters clearly knew what they were doing but the panels were dragged down by audience participation. Overall, the programing at Otakon was extremely good but I do wish the audience participation were scaled back for next year’s event.

The big Japanese guest that I cared about this year was Gen Urobuchi, writer of Madoka Magica and Fate/Zero. The Q&A he had was an incredible event even if the room was barely half full, as expected for most Japanese guest panels. Otakon attendees were respectful and knowledgeable, asking well thought out questions that were clearly coming from the perspective of an informed fan. He had two autograph sessions, which were filled with people holding 

I spent the majority of Sunday caught in the Charity Auction. What I figured might be a little interesting turned into an exciting battle for beautiful art work and rare pieces signed by Japanese artists. Japanese Guests and American licensing companies donated the Charity pieces while the art was up for silent auction all weekend and if it was aggressively bid on it went to live auction. There was one person in the back who was constantly buying things, for far more than the current bid. He alone most has spent well over $15,000 at the auction. I was so overwhelmed by the excitement of the auction and bid on a collection of goods from Maruyama of MAPPA, which featured a poster from Kids on a Slope signed by several people including Shinichirō Watanabe. I lost, because of someone with deep pockets.the most expansive releases of Madoka Magica and art books from an array of his works. It was a bit disappointing the Q&A was not filled to the brim, considering the Madoka Magica badge was the only badge Otakon ran out of, but it felt good to see the fans that did show up were passionately in love with the medium.

The one thing that was a bit unsettling about Otakon was during the dance, very late at night, there were tons of young girls walking around in the middle of Baltimore in revealing clothing. This isn’t odd in a big city but a lot of con attendees aren’t used to being in that kind of environment and being mixed with a diverse con and sports crowd plus being in Baltimore, which isn’t the safest city in the world, I started to feel uncomfortable for them. I’m sure the area is safe but to see a seventeen year old girl walking around at 1AM wearing jean shorts and a bra… that raises a red flag in my mind. I don’t know if Otakon needs to police this or be more active to inform people of the danger of being around that late at night… but it definitely needs to be addressed.

I wrote a piece on the food I had during the convention at My Tubes are Clogged but I will add that the inner harbor is a great place to find food, but can be extremely expensive. I had great dinners every night I was at the convention and might secretly be looking forward to next year just for the food alone.

At Otakon I experienced the celebration of anime that I always wanted. Yes, there were the many non-anime elements present that many anime fans complain about, but the focus on anime was so great as to drown out those groups. I’m glad there is at least one place left where it feels like anime is still the driving force behind the event. I hope Otakon sticks to their strict requirement for Japanese related programing and the event continues to grow as a celebration of the medium.

Convention Report: Anime Boston 2012

The numbers are in and I’m shocked. Even with PAX East 2012 across down, a much more mainstream convention, Anime Boston’s attendance grew yet again. A fitting bullet point for the convention’s tenth year.

I was glad they acknowledged how big a deal the tenth anniversary was and yet they didn’t go overboard in reminding the attendees of the milestone. They had a few retrospectives panels run by staff and a small “museum” in the Sheraton hotel dedicated to the convention’s history. They had shirts from all ten conventions; even if they were just staff shirts; they had badges and programs from all of them as well alongside special bits of signed merchandise and newspaper articles from the convention’s history. They even had a ten year old room sign which, when I saw it, I clearly remembered the style of sign from that original convention. As an attendee of the first Anime Boston I was happy that they had gone through the trouble to preserve the conventions history. While ten years isn’t a long time, it is a significant part of my life and my fandom that the convention has been around. I wore my Anime Boston 2003 shirt and looked at the same shirt displayed proudly in the museum as a piece of it’s own history. I felt like I was a part of something in that moment, and felt confident that Anime Boston will be a staple of the fandom for years to come.

Anime Boston is held, as it has for the last few years, in the Hynes Convention Center and Sheraton Hotel in the heart of Boston. Unlike most convention centers, which are normally build away from city centers, the Hynes provides easy access to the Prudential Center Mall’s food court. If that doesn’t sound appealing, there dozens of amazing restaurants within walking distance and an entire city’s worth of attractions if you want to drive or take public transportation. A favorite in the area has been the Pour House, which is a pub that serves an amazing burger. This year we decided to take a short drive, long in Boston traffic, down to the famous Eagles Deli which has been featured on Food Network’s Man Vs. Food for a delicious Cheeseburger and some of the best coated french fries I’ve ever had. Of course, as I have for the previous two years and because disgusting Chinese food is one of my guilty pleasures, I also went to Panda Express in the reasonably priced food court. Hynes also has the normal convention food located right in the main hallway but if you buy from those venders you’re wasting money and not allowing yourself to enjoy the food that a major population center can offer.

The Hynes itself is a beautiful convention center but can be a little large and difficult to get around. The main hallway, which connects right to the entrance, becomes completely jammed at the height of the convention on Saturday. But once that area is breached the rest of the hallways and rooms are spacious. The convention feels a lot smaller than it really is because of how much room there is for people to disperse. There was little improvement over last year, it seems that Anime Boston has found a set up that works for them and they’re sticking with it. I wish they policed the main hallway a little more and got people to move into the comparatively empty halls right off that main entrance, but that would have probably become a near constant struggle.

The convention culture is a mix of the worst kind of meme shouting super-nerd and the sense of community that I love about conventions. Marco Polo was back in force this year. In fact it felt like more of the conventions attendees were into this year than ever before. Luckily, there wasn’t much of a smell in the convention center but when I went up to tabletop gaming the smell of people who weren’t regularly showering was obvious. The plus side to the culture was the feeling that everyone wanted to be here for the same reason. From the photo gatherings, I was in the middle of a poorly organized Pokemon photo op, to just people who wanted to give high fives while going down the escalator the sense of community was there and it boosted my spirits just when I felt defeated by the negative aspects of Anime Boston.

The convention itself was set up just as it had been for the last couple years. The dealers room is massive, the largest at any convention I’ve ever been too and yet not crowded because of the space they leave for aisles are large enough that they will never be blocked even at the height of the convention on Saturday. Even with people stopping and taking pictures it was rare that I had problems navigating the floor. This comes in stark contrast to New York Anime Festival which is in a much larger space but absolutely impossible to navigate even on the smallest days of the convention. The dealers room seems to have more cell dealers than I remember there being last year; and I picked up an Azumanga Daioh production sketch; and My Little Pony has exploded in popularity this year. The figure vendors were all there, but their selection didn’t quite entice me as much as it normally does for some reason. The figures that vendors bring to conventions seem to favor Haruhi and Evangelion and I’ve already seen nearly every variation of those characters. I did walk out with a Kallen I’ve never seen before, she has become a collector character for me. It was last year that I spent too much on a rare figure of her in a beautiful red ball gown.

The Artist Alley is equally as impressive as the dealers room, featuring artists from all over the dense Boston and New York area. Again, the same trends I’ve seen in previous years are still there with the addition of more Doctor Who and a lot more My Little Pony. The dominant anime represented remained Bleach, with some interesting characters sprinkled throughout. I walked out, somehow, with only a Moogle keychain. Although I mentally purchased hundreds of dollars in prints.

The low point of the convention, and possible what was hit by PAX, was programing. According to Charles Dunbar, many of the panelists canceled at the last minute leaving gaps in the schedule. Due to this there were long stretches of time where I looked at the schedule and couldn’t find anything I thought was worth going too. The weirded part of this was the theme, which was apocalyptic anime, was barely represented. I saw two or three panels that directly represented that theme. The panels I did see were universally pretty great, and I know there were excellent panelists giving their normally high quality lectures such as Rym and Scott from Geeknights and the previously mentioned Charles Dunbar. I sat in on a retro games collecting panel early Friday which was fun. The idea behind it was to feature some huge collectors and give tips to starting and taking care of a game collection. The anecdotes were interesting and at times hilarious, the tips were practical and I felt prepared to start the hobby if I had mind too.

Next I went to Latin Latin Madoka More Latin hosted by Viga and Froborr. They seriously examined the themes and symbols in Madoka in order to dissect the pieces of fiction it was alluding too and the messages the show was trying to invoke. It was a well researched and fascinating panel. Friday night I was able to catch the always excellent Mike Toole and his Dubs that Time Forgot panel. He mostly focused on the Wizard of Oz anime versions and the dubs they received when they were brought over to the United States. Just find this panel and watch it, there is no reason not to. Many versions of the panel exist on Youtube and Mike Toole rarely recycles material.

On Saturday I stumbled into a Super Sentai panel, mistaking it for something else. That became the biggest surprise of the convention. The presenters had an enthusiasm for Super Sentai that was infectious and by the end of the hour I was seriously considering watching some of the newer shows. The panel was a history of Super Sentai and Kamen Rider, which was framed by showing which series were connected to the imported versions such as Power Rangers and Beatle Borgs. At the end of the panel they showed half the first episode of the newest Super Sentai show… which featured Pirates! I was far more excited than I probably should have been when I walked out of that panel.

Ultimately Anime Boston has settled into their space and formula with grace. The conventions have been consistently fantastic and even with the threat of being hurt by the presence of PAX the convention managed to thrive and grow. The blow to programing is unfortunate, but the convention managed to print accurate schedules and make sure that no one showed up for a panel that wasn’t going to happen. I do think that Anime Boston probably should drop the idea of having a yearly theme, I barely felt the presence of the theme and even that official convention art didn’t conform to the theme; granted the tenth anniversary celebration was probably more important than following a theme. Going to Anime Boston is like coming home. I know exactly what to expect, I know where everything is going to be, and I trust the convention to provide excellent programing. I was not disappointed, yet again, and I can’t wait for the party to continue next year.

Additional Anime Boston 2012 coverage:

Anime Boston 2012 in Photos, Part 1

Anime Boston 2012 in Photos, Part 2

Convention Report: New York Comic Con 2011

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It’s hard to say anything about New York Comic Con that hasn’t already been said, or that isn’t a repeat from what I talked about last year’s show. The event was definitely bigger than last year and the space was far better utilized than last year with them opening up the North Hall for the autograph area. Of course, this being Comic Con, even with the large show space the crowding was horrible. Building a multi-genre show has its positives and negatives but I fear that Comic Con may have finally crossed the line into being more of swap meet with a theater showing clips from upcoming pop culture hits rather than a space to celebrate any type of fandom.

IMG_1777.jpgThe main component of New York Comic Con is undeniably the show floor. A massive space that serves as both a dealers room and a place where marketing professionals can attempting to push their new products on con-goers, a space for meeting your favorite artists and writers, or check out some fantastic indie art pieces. The show floor comes with all the spectacle that you’d expect from a geek event that takes place in one of the largest cities in the world. This is, unfortunately, a double edged sword. While the show floor is so large as to keep attendees busy for an entire weekend it is also the main place where the majority of people will be concentrated. Over all three days it was difficult to get from one end of the floor to the other. There is a constant fight against the raging mod to see anything and if you happen to be stuck behind someone who wants to take a photo the halls immediately get blocked with dozens of people fighting, not realizing that they’ve been halted by a guy with a camera phone and desire to get a third picture of Captain America. They’ll always be something to enjoy on the show floor, but be ready to fight in order to see it.

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Surprisingly, this is an improvement over last year. The anime section of the show floor experienced a massive traffic jam making that entire area impassable. This year the anime booths were spread throughout the floor, making it hard to hit all of them but it ensured that they were actually approachable. Overall, space between booths was much improved and even though the crowds were difficult to move through there were no complete jams like last year. It seems they did everything possible to increase the flow of traffic, if only they could prevent people from stopping and gawking at

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costumes.

The biggest question hovering over the convention this year was if the anime section would be improved or continue to become a shrinking piece of the convention. Well, while anime artist alley was moved from the basement to the gallery at the very top of the convention center it was still a difficult place simply to stumble upon. One needed to go up two escalators, following large signs, even to get to the area. Once there the artist alley was spacious and easy to browse and at the end of the gallery was a massive space which contained dozens of tables, some snack vendors, and the dreaded anime stage. Last year New York Anime Festival had a decent assortment of fan panels in small rooms. This year the only anime fan panels excepted were forced to perform on a stage, which forced the presenter to speak to a massive room where the majority of people were just sitting and chatting, not even caring what was happening on the stage. This worked for some of the game shows, like cosplay dating game, but I cringed through Aaron Clark’s Evangelion Deconstructed panel as he attempted to present serious analysis over the low rumble of crowd noise and the shouting of memes.

It’s clear that the anime fans and the comics fan simply don’t mesh together. New York Comic Con is evolving to become closer and closer to San Diego, a direction that I dread. Instead of eagerly waiting for fans speaking to fans and building a sense of community San Diego Comic Con is about room sitting all day to hear actors talk about films and television shows that are due to be released in the next few months. That isn’t a convention to me, the same task can be accomplished by reading an interview or checking a Hollywood news site. I go to conventions for the community, to see people I only know online and to experience fans speaking about their passion.

There are two main reason for the divide between the anime and comics fans. The first is simply age. Anime convention attendees tend to be younger and are more focused on hanging out with their friends than browsing through rows of comics looking for a rare issue. The other, and more important, reason behind why these two groups can’t seem to coexist is a difference in philosophy when it comes to the art. Comics fans come to these conventions to see footage of upcoming movies and get exclusive comics from the big publishers, they come to these conventions as consumers of media. Anime fans have developed a culture where they get most of their content for free on the internet, be it through illegal fan subs or the many legal steaming services. There is no surprising an anime fan with new titles or “exclusive” content because of the delay, even with simulcasting, it takes to licenses and release media from Japan. Anime fans don’t come to conventions to consume anime, they come to participate in the fandom, hang out with their friends, and buy additional merchandise.

The unfortunate fact about New York Comic Con, to quote Christopher MacDonald from Anime News Network at Sunday’s ANN Q&A panel: “It’s really good for the industry, it kind of sucks for us. Well, it’s good for me as a business but it’s not so good for fans.” The sheer number of people walking through the show room floor is always going to be good for the licensing companies and allows them to expose their titles to fans outside the group that normally goes to anime conventions. That being the case the way New York Comic Con was this year will probably be the way it’s going to stay, and as much as I might not like the state of the convention if this draws more fans towards the medium than it is completely justified. We’ll always have Otakon.

Panels

Anime News Network

Anime News Network panels are always fun as they allow the people fans have come to know through their writing to interact and answer questions. In New York there were some extremely well thought out questions asked to the panel, as well as the normal awkward “how can I write for ANN” questions. For a group of writers they are surprisingly adept at handling their interesting fan base.

Evangelion, Deconstructed

As always Aaron Clark put on an excellent panel going over some of the visual, cultural, and narrative references used the Neon Genesis Evangelion. Clark seems to have an endless supply of knowledge on the subject and will always surprise even the longest Evangelion fans with some tiny tidbit. The anime stage wasn’t the ideal place for his panel to be held as he was being drowned out by the low rumble of the mass of fans sitting and going about their business. He handled the situation professionally, not even letting a minor technical glitch to get in his way. If you like Evangelion his panels, and his website are highly recommended.

Makoto Shinkai

The highlight of the convention of me was getting to meet Makoto Shinkai, sit down for an interview with him, get an autograph, and watch his newest film “Children Who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below.” I’ve been a huge fan of his for a few years and it was a great honor and opportunity. If Shinkai hadn’t been a guest at this convention this report would be a lot more negative. Read my interview with him, watch the excellent Makoto Shinkai spotlight panel with Roland Kelts, and I’ll have a review of “Children Who Chase…” up in the next few weeks.

Hiro Mashima Interview

I was able to sit down with Fairy Tail mangaka Hiro Mashima. It was an interesting talk especially since I was paired with two bloggers from South America who made the long trip to New York Comic Con!

Photos

Comic Con is a difficult place to take photos because I don’t want to be like the people I mentioned above. So I was reserved, far more reserved, than I usually am. I did get lots of very pretty photos of toys though!

My Loot

I didn’t pick up much at New York Comic Con because of the logical problem with bringing loot back on the train. But I did get a few really cool items.

This adorable Kagami figure who is looking her most Tsundere.

A wonderful Squid Girl art book complete with a flipbook printed onto the side of the pages.

Makoto Shinkai autographed copy of 5 Centimeters Per Second. Now the crown jewel of my Anime DVD collection.

 

More New York Comic Con 2011 Coverage