New York City, NY, USA. October 13 – October 16, 2011.
New York Anime Festival. Or, New York Comic-Con (NYCC), depending on who you talk to. For the second year in a row, the two were the same convention. After New York Anime Festival had had three years to cement itself as the New York anime con, Reed Pop brought back NYCC from its hiatus in 2010 and combined the two conventions into one mega event, to varying results.
On paper, NYCC/AF 2010 looked great; a good balance between guests, panels, and space, and a chance for those con goers who appreciated both to be able to see both represented fairly. Unfortunately, this didn’t end up being the case, with both sides calling the other obnoxious and feeling pushed out in the end. Questions were raised whether the merge would happen again, and the hope seemed to be that the two conventions would split off again. Fortunately, Reed Pop decided to give it another go for 2011.
When most people say, “I’m going to Comic-con,” the listener will automatically assume San Diego International Comic Con (SDCC), the Mecca for pop culture news and announcements. But it’s getting competition. This year’s NYCC/Anime Festival really brought it forward as a main convention and solidified its future. It’s still nowhere near being big enough to compete with SDCC, but with publishers and studios taking more of a chance on bringing big-name guests and releasing exclusive content and premiers, it’s certainly on its way to the big time.
The main attraction this year was Marvel Studios, bringing a panel on Saturday at 6:30PM for The Avengers that had people camping out in the panel room as soon as the convention opened at 10AM. I had friends who got into line a little before 2PM, and they were some of the last people let into the room. And boy, was it worth the wait. Five stars of the movie, the executive producer, and exclusive content, and wow, did NYCC’s reputation go up.
Even outside of movie stars, NYCC’s guest list improved a lot this year. The anime side saw the premiere of Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica, Fairy Tail, and Makoto Shinkai’s newest film, The Children Who Chase Lost Voices From Deep Below. The comic side saw a first look at season 2 of The Walking Dead, Nikita, and the return of The Venture Brothers, with respective creators and talents at screenings and autograph signings.
Last year, one of the major complaints was space. The Anime Festival events were all placed down in the lower corner of the convention center, removed and distant from the exhibit hall and the other panel rooms, and difficult to get to. This year, theAnime Festival events–specifically Artist’s Alley and live events like karaoke and the maid cafe–were placed directly upstairs from the exhibit hall. You could see down into the exhibit hall and its chaos from the NYAF Artist’s Alley, making everything seem much more centralized and connected. The panels were run in the same rooms as the comic panels, giving more of a sense of community and connectivity. This was also reflected in the Exhibitor’s Hall. Last year, the booths specializing in anime got shoved to the back, where aisles narrowed dangerously and once you ventured back there you wondered if you’d ever get out alive. This was possibly one of the biggest complaints the NYAF attendees had about last year’s layout, and their complaints were heard.
Although definitely still crowded, the NYCC Artist Alley was moved to an annex off of the exhibit hall, clearing up more room for wider aisles, more vendors, and a generally more open feeling. Anime-specialist booths were focused in two aisles, meaning attendees could much more easily traverse the hall and not have to fight the hordes of people all the way to the back of the room to do so.
All in all, the organizers of NYCC seem to have taken the complaints of attendees last year into account and put together a well-organized, well-stocked convention enjoyable for both anime and comics fans alike, and I wish them luck. Seeing as how both Friday and Saturday tickets sold out before the convention even started (and boy, did that show), they should have no problem cementing themselves as the major comic convention on the East Coast.