The weather was bitterly cold in NYC, but the icy climate did nothing to deter legions of fans coming to the third Anime NYC convention at the Javits Center from November 15th to the 17th. In a scant three years Anime NYC has become the city’s premiere event for Japanese animation and manga, and being its own event means not having to put up with NY Comic Con to see my favorite manga publishers. Anime NYC is a con so packed with panels, screenings, and publishers, that it almost makes the Javtis’ nightmarish non-euclidean architecture bearable. Almost.
The convention has taken up almost the totality of the Javits Center, with a modest portion being allocated to a chocolate convention that was in town. The crowd was lively and plentiful, but never reaching the unbearable levels of New York Comic Con (though it got close to that on Saturday afternoon) Industry big-wigs such as Viz and Funimation, along with exciting newcomers such as Denpa were packed alongside vendors selling discounted manga and over-priced city pop records.
Anime NYC had an ample selection of premiere screenings, such as Makoto Shinkai’s latest: Weathering You, Gundam Reconguista in G: Go! Core Fighter and the dub premiere of Lupin III: Goodbye Partner (starring anime stand-ins for Edward Snowden), but the Javits Center was designed primarily with expo halls and modest sized meeting rooms in mind. Meaning most of the screenings were done in woefully cramped rooms with screens so small that subtitles are damn near impossible to read from the back. Some of these problems could be mitigated with additional screens in the room, but really only the main event hall in the Javits has enough room for a movie theater sized screen.
Typically anime conventions skew towards a younger audience and there was no shortage of teens in Demon Slayer and My Hero Academia cosplay filling the halls, but there was one event that would get any anime old timer excited. The man behind Mobile Suit Gundam, Blue Gale Xabungle, and Overman King Gainer, Yoshiyuki Tomino, made an appearance at Anime NYC. This was a pretty momentous occasion especially since his last appearance in NYC was a decade ago. Speaking at a panel discussion as well as after a screening of the new Gundam Reconguista in G movie, Tomino drew in legions of attendees. At 78 years old his words still carried hope, frustration, and candor in a frank, and at times, bizarre discussion. We learned that Tomino is very excited by the diverse crowd of con-goers in NYC, the ideal shape of a space station is a donut, Snow White is what Tomino considers to be a sexy cartoon character, and that even he doesn’t know what is the secret to Gundam’s longevity. Extending the Gundam saturation even further, the Gunpla Builders World Cup was held with expert modelers showing off their skills with painting and customizing Gunpla.
For the musically inclined, the Lantis Matsuri concert portion of the con featured JAM Project, TRUE, ZAQ, and Guilty Kiss from Love Live! Sunshine!! Aqours!. For those not in the know, that mouthful of musical acts represents the Anisong World Matsuri, a series of concerts that perform hit songs throughout anime history (but mostly whatever is on TV right now). While the bulk of the audience was definitely most excited for Guilty Kiss, no act in the world has the same kind of kinetic energy as JAM Project, with a sound that is equal parts Ronnie James Dio and fighting game soundtrack. Going as someone only tangentially familiar with these acts, I was treated to the revelation of just how into the acts everyone was. Row after row of fans came equipped with color changing penlights, as they performed coordinated dance moves along with the music. Imagine all the lights on a Christmas tree suddenly learned how to choreograph. It was the most fun I had at a concert while sober.
It does my heart good to see a convention of this scale dedicated to anime flourishing in NYC. Here’s hoping Anime NYC has a long and prosperous future in the city (as long as it doesn’t get as unwieldy as New York Comic Con).