Anime NYC was a convention born from the “anime ghetto” of New York Comic Con, and has grown to the point where Reed Pop’s own New York Anime Fest shrank into obscurity. This year's ANYC brought 53,000 attendees, with a vaccine requirement to enter. I had to see what would definitely be the anime/social event of the season, but there were some things I did not anticipate.
I have been going to conventions at the Jacob Javits Center fairly regularly since about 2005, and this was, without a doubt, the most chaotic line situation I had ever seen. I reached the convention around one o’clock, figuring the early rush to the convention would taper off by the time lunch time had passed. How wrong I was. There are two things you need to enter the con: the con badge, and a wristband confirming your vaccination or negative test status. Some attendees had one or the other since badges were mailed and you could get an early vaccination check the day before the con, while other attendees would need to pick up both on site. Rather than funneling attendees into specific lines or otherwise grouping people for efficiency’s sake, the convention had ALL it’s attendees, regardless of badge or wristband acquisition, wait in line, with virtually no staff to direct people or otherwise let them know where one line began and another ended, all the while in weather that was in the low to mid 40s. Picture the Javits center as a body; attendees were overflowing from the front parking area (let's call this the small intestines), then wrapping around the convention center (the large intestines), and then spilling out onto the streets (the bowels) with thousands of attendees waiting in the cold.
Two friends had shown up around 11 (and had used valuable vacation time to do so), and after three hours with no update from con staff, they cut their losses and left. They were not the only ticket holders to do so, as Anime NYC has been granting refunds to people who were unable to enter the con due to the line being an innavigable mess. Saturday and Sunday of the convention rectified some of this issue with one big line that then breaks up into several smaller lines depending on if you already had your badge and/or vaccine wristband.
Once I actually got inside the show it was still a well programmed anime con with screenings of new and classic titles, industry and fan panels, and the usual dealer room of overpriced import toys (most of what I bought were some Pink Lady records and a 45 of the opening to Orguss).
Panels were all very well attended, actually a little too much so. The Javits Center is very big, but what it doesn’t have are great rooms for panels. This led to almost every panel or screening I went to either being near capacity or having overflow. What’s not clear is if this was a gaffe on the part of the convention staff, or them not being granted enough of the Javits Center to work with. Animeigo had Shinji Aramaki with them, who recounted tales of designing Soundwave from The Transformers and then getting paid peanuts for it. Justin Leach of production studio Qubic recounted his own history of going from storyboarding Titan A.E. to working on Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence and producing Star Wars: Visions. And Kurt Hassler (Yen Press Publisher and Managing Director) and Kevin Hamric (VP of Publishing Sales at Viz), gave a state of the manga industry address, boasting a growing voracious appetite for manga that sales are surpassing even the heady boom days of the early 2000s (though a certain manga editor I spoke to said these claims were greatly exaggerated).
Vtubers were making their presence known at the con with a large booth from Hololive where you can get your picture with (cardboard cut-outs of) Gawr Gura, Calliope Mori and Tsukumo Sana. Something about cardboard cutout photo-ops in general spread like wildfire at the con, and even Odd Taxi got in on the action. Dark Horse had a memorial wall for Berserk author Kentaro Miura who passed away in May of this year, where attendees could write messages of thanks to the late manga artist.
It's me, your well adjusted author
Difficulties aside, the number of attendees showed that the appetite for manga and anime has not abated (though curiously I saw fairly few booths actually selling manga, and only a handful more selling blu-rays and DVDs).
With the recent news about Anime NYC potentially being the first source of Omicron spreading in New York, the con has come under some additional scrutiny, and now we have the New York state government talking about anime in major press conferences. I’m sure the people working at ANYC hoped the con would make headlines, just not like this. Organizing a con is no easy task these days, but the line was still a fiasco that could have been avoided or at least mitigated. I have a feeling from the ticket sales that this wont be the end of Anime NYC. Fandom is a form of death-drive that can make people endure the ordinarily un-endurable.