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September 25-27, 2009
Jacob K. Javits Center
New York, NY, USA
Last month we saw the final hurrah for a fantastic convention. The New York Anime Festival, started three years ago by the folks at Reed Exhibitions as an anime response to the New York Comic Con, is finally folding back into its sister convention. The merge means that the new version of the con will be filled with an incredible amount of events for all kinds of fans, but it also means that the anime focus of NYAF will be gone.
This year the New York Anime Festival once again impressed me with its wide variety of programing from both fans and professionals. There were the typical guest panels, with introductions to voice acting scheduled next to Question and Answer sessions with Gundam creator Yoshiyuki Tomino, but there were also a fair number of fan-run panels about things like Korean MMOs and Japanese ghost stories.
Even so, I was disappointed with the way the events schedule turned out. There were times (mostly early in the morning) when the convention was hosting three different events that I wanted to go to, followed by hours of a thin schedule with panels in which I had little to no interest. Perhaps this year's events situation was perpetuated by the lacking industry presence at the con this year. Bandai Entertainment's massive booth from last year was missing in action, and Yen Press, a New York-based manga publisher known for their great convention showings, was almost entirely AWOL.
But with all that free time came a chance to delve into things that I would not normally check out. On Friday I watched Cencoroll, the new anime short created almost entirely by one man (Atsuya Uki), and later that night I stopped by the Cosplay Variety show, thinking I would find nothing more than silly fanboy/fangirl antics as usual. Much to my surprise, however, I was rewarded for staying through some of the more inconsequential presentations with an operatic performance by Mario Bueno and a whole troupe of cosplayers, who acted out the final scenes of Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion to the tune of Coldplay's hit single "Viva La Vida." Not being a huge fan of cosplaying myself, I didn't think that anything at the Variety Show could impress me, but Bueno's breathtaking performance completely blew me away.
Saturday night was my personal highlight of the con, despite the fact that most of the fun wasn't even directly related to the con. (Not a ringing endorsement of the NYAF schedule, unfortunately.) We started off with a massive "Bloggers Roundtable" panel, featuring ten different outlets (Anime Almanac, Anime Vice, Anime wa Bakuhatsu da, Manga Worth Reading, The Gaming Dungeon, Manga.About.com, Ogiue Maniax, Reverse Thieves, Subatomic Brainfreeze, and, of course, Ani-Gamers) representing our varied views on the anime blogging scene. The panel on video thanks to Anime Diet went pretty well despite our being scheduled opposite the cosplay masquerade and the resulting lack of attendees, but the best part of our whole blogging reunion was the karaoke right after the panel. There are few things more fun than hanging out with a bunch of insane anime bloggers, singing "Take On Me" and "God Knows" late into the night.
Overall, I think the New York Anime Festival was really starting to come into its own this year, despite the crowded Javits Center with its expensive food and out-of-the-way location. With a truly big-name Guest of Honor (Tomino) and an open floor plan that allowed for more free navigation, it seemed like the folks at Reed Exhibitions were beginning to balance the needs of a professional convention with the desires of fans. It's a shame that the con will be folded into Comic Con next year, but my hope is that the lessons learned in organizing the past three years of NYAF will carry over to next fall's gigantic event. If it's anything like 2009's New York Anime Festival, it's sure to be a blast!