Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Tale Of Two Conventions: New York Comic Con & Anime Festival 2011 Wrap-Up

Comic Con/NYAF 2011 activate! Via Brooklyn Vegan's awsm photo collection.

This year marked the fourth time I have been to New York Comic Con and Anime Festival and its magnitude and depth never ceases to amaze. From October 13 to 16, the Javits Center housed the biggest New York gathering of comic enthusiasts, anime diehards, and pop culture geeks of the world.

Reed Exhibitions, the event’s producers, once again outdid themselves by adding an extra day to the usual three, bringing even more special guests both new and returning, providing hours of fascinating panels, and cramming tons of exhibitors throughout the Javit’s 675,000 square feet of space with rare comics, one-of-a-kind merchandise, goods imported from Japan, and objects of nostalgia.

Close to a 100,000 people over the four days roamed the Center, many creatively costumed as characters parading around all four floors of the building. The amorphous mass of comic crusaders shuffled and huddled through the mammoth exhibitor halls, the theater, dealer’s showroom, autograph signing area, and artist alleys--all filled to capacity.

We waited hours in lines for panels featuring special guests such as Mark Hamill (the actor who played Star Wars’ Luke Skywalker, who has gained an even bigger following as the voice of Batman’s eternal enemy, Joker), exclusive screenings such as the upcoming Avengers movie hosted by Captain America star Chris Evans, and discussions around every conceivable facet of comics, anime, and video games.

We saw big names such as Tony Moore, original artist for the Walking Dead comic series, and Pendleton Ward, creator of the incredibly wacky Cartoon Network show "Adventure Time", got their autographs, and brought back plenty of freebies and purchased action figures (signed by the previously mentioned artists!

Riding side car to New York Comic Con’s behemoth, New York Anime Festival (NYAF) roosted in the Javit’s incredible fourth fourth floor (imagine Cloud City from Empire Strikes Back combined with BSG's hangar deck). Populating this celestial haven were talented amateur artists displaying prints, buttons and all sorts of crafts, while the maid cafĂ© gleamed with fancily dressed maids and butlers handing out candy. Opposite superheroes of every incarnation and valuable vintage comics was everything kawaii cute (heavy on the animal ears).

As always, the Japan element was in full force. NYAF flew over a slew of prolific industry names from Japan such as Makoto Shinkai, prodigy director (hailed to be the next Hayao Miyazaki) of feature anime films such as 5 Centimeters Per Second and The Place Promised in Our Early Days; screenwriter Dai Sato (Cowboy Bebop, Ghost in the Shell);  Katsuhiro Harada, longtime producer of the venerable Tekken fighting game series; and Junko Takeuchi, voice of popular manga character, Naruto, from the original anime dubbing. Other anime and manga-focused panels were hosted by industries like FUNimation and VIZ Media, who provided updates on acquired licenses and their release dates.

For the fourth year running, Japan Society had its own booth thanks to the organizers of NYAF.

"Maybe it’s the closeted otaku in me, but I live for the Comic Con and New York Anime Fest," said Japan Society’s Shannon Jowett, who volunteered at the Society’s booth. "The sense of community—by sheer number as well as  connectivity—is overwhelming and infections. Everyone gets along, has fun and shares passions and creative interests that they may not able to express everyday.”

Recognizing anime and manga fans’ inherent love for all things Japan, NYAF invited Japan Society to take part in the festival in 2008, offering convention goers exposure to many different kinds of Japanese culture.

“When we first started attending the cons in 2008, very few people knew about Japan Society,” said Jowett. “Now people run up to our booth, eager to sign up for language classes we offer and find out what we have coming up. They share stories from exhibits and concerts they’ve attended here and try out the Japanese they’ve learned from our language center. On a couple of occasions people have told us about the Japan-appreciation organizations they’ve started at their schools because of their experiences with us. Next to the guy that dresses up as a full-fledged Transformer, there is no greater joy at the Con.”

--Sean Tomizawa

Bumble be real. Via.

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