Big Fun At First New York Anime Fest
Posted 8/15/08 , edited 8/15/08
The first annual New York Anime Festival, held at the Javits Convention Center in Manhattan December 7-9, started slowly, but the fans came out in force on Saturday. NYAF officials estimated that about 15,000 attendees visited the Javits Center for the inaugural event. The NYAF is organized by Reed Exhibitions, PW Comics Week’s sister company.

After a slow start on Friday, the exhibition floor and adjacent space for panels turned into a giant Otaku party. Naruto cosplayers bumped shoulders with waves of girls in super frilly dresses—“gothic lolitas”—and all manner of anime fans, in costume and out. The Anime Network’s maid café, where “waitresses” dressed up in maid outfits—actually adorably energetic teens, delighted to pose and dance for the cameras—greeted customers with a bow and attracted hordes of equally adorable dancing and enthusiastic teenage cosplayers. On the exhibition floor vendors sold everything from discounted manga and anime titles to samurai swords, plush toys, t-shirts and fuzzy pig slippers. At the back of the exhibition hall a giant stage sponsored by Tokyopop was used for cosplayers, a concert by the J-pop band Unicorn Table and special artist and publisher presentations. And while some publishers were absent—CMX and Viz did not exhibit, but distributed their sneak peek volumes—many others such as ADV Manga, Dark Horse, NetComics, Del Rey, and Yen Press were on hand.

John McGeary, director of the NYAF, said they were “excited” about the attendance which he said, “exceeded our expectations.” NYAF had projected attendance to be between 10,000 and 15,000. “Things worked; there were no glitches. Lines were manageable and there was a steady flow of people all day Saturday,” said McGeary. And while McGeary said they are considering whether to leave the show in December or move it to September, many exhibitors prefer the show in December because there are no conflicts with other conventions. McGeary said the September date would put the show in close proximity to 3 other fan conventions, “we’re keeping our exhibitors in mind. 25 our 40 exhibitors said they would like it to stay in December,” he said. Nevertheless, he acknowledged that the December date—chosen because of availability in the crowded Javits schedule—may have suppressed attendance because of conflicts with college exams. “We’ll do survey of attendees to see what they want,” said McGeary.

McGeary was pleased with the selling activity, but acknowledged that “vendors with lower priced items did well; kids aren’t going to buy $200 kimonos.” He said NYAF will consider shortening the professional hours, which ran from 10 a.m. until 2:30pm on Friday. He said, “We may open earlier and close later,” and added that they were also considering moving the ICv2 Anime and Manga conference to Friday morning, from Thursday afternoon.

Although many of the publisher panels featured previously announced books and authors, there were some projects announced. L.A.-based manga indie Go! Comi had six new licenses to announce and brought creators Aimee Major Steinberger (Japan Ai: A Tall Girl’s Adventures In Japan); and Wendy Pini (Masque of the Red Death) to do presentations. New titles include Ultimate Venus, a modern day My Fair Lady from the creator of Shigematsu Takako, creator of Tenshi Ja Nai!!, the manga adaptation of Kurogane Communication anime and shojo mystery series Bogle byTaira Shino and Ichiju Yuko.

Tokyopop was hard to miss: The company showed off its new magazine/book project, The Gothic & Lolita Bible, with a flower-draped swing and kept attendees entertained with special events, book signings, and a tea party. The Gothic & Lolita Bible will include both translated content from Japan and original content from the U.S. including interviews, fashion news and sources for Goth-Loli (gosurori) clothing. And fans were invited to be extras in a "mock-umentary" live action film, being shot at the show and based on Tokyopop’s global manga, Van Von Hunter. The L.A. publisher announced two new titles, Kyo Kara Maoh, based on an anime which has reached over 100 episodes in Japan (Light novels based on the series are also being considered), and Fate/Stay Night, based on a game and anime. The company has also licensed Genei Muso, an early manga by Fruits Basket creator Natsuki Takaya.

Tokyopop also plugged their forthcoming sex manual, Manga Sutra, which will be offered as a two-volume combined edition that will include an "Ask Dr. Manga Sutra" column written by sex expert Ian Kerner. The manga will be cross-promoted with Kimono condoms, with a chapter of the manga bound together with condoms and offered in sex shops throughout the country. Barnes & Noble will not carry the book, which is rated Mature.

Jeremy Ross, Tokyopop director of new product development, demonstrated several different media that the company is experimenting with, including cell phone manga, iManga (partially animated versions of Tokyopop manga), full CG animation, and a mobile phone game based on Becky Cloonan's East Coast Rising.

In addition to a blockbuster copublishing project with Marvel (see separate story), Del Rey and its manga partner Kodansha were on hand to present Faust magazine, a Japanese literary anthology featuring excerpts from “light novels,” illustrated novellas popular among young Japanese and beginning to show up in the U.S. market. Faust editor-in-chief Katsushi Ota was on hand to announced the Del Rey/Faust publication of two light novel prose series: Dark Wars: A Tale of Meiji Dracula by Hideyuki Kikuchi (author of popular Vampire Hunter D prose series) which will be published starting in spring 2008, and Maid Machinegun by Aaliya, a fictional first hand account of life as maid in a Japanese maid café, due in summer 2008

Vertical, inc. promoted their two 2008 Osamu Tezuka licenses, Dororo and Black Jack. Dororo will be Vertical's first example of a more comical, shonen pre-1970's Tezuka. The series is expected to attract a younger demographic, so Vertical will release this series unflipped (the right to left Japanese format) in three volumes starting in March 08. Tezuka's legendary mercenary surgeon Black Jack will be published in a 15 volume seres starting in September 2008. Vertical editorial director Ionaanis Mentzas noted that Tezuka Productions actually prefers his English language translation to be flipped, in hopes of attracting a wider Western audience. Vertical will be releasing the Black Jack volumes in hardcover editions and is still debating whether to flip the series or not. Vertical will also be re-releasing the first arc of the Guin Saga novel series in paperback; in addition to the Guin Saga manga series. The Guin Saga is an epic heroic fantasy by author Hayakawa Shobo that runs about 117 volumes in the prose series. The three volume manga series, Guin Saga: the Seven Magi, is based on a side story originally written in 1981 but released in manga format by Media Factory in 2001 and is penned by Yanagizawa Kazuaki.

Yen Press generated buzz with the announcement of their forthcoming manga adaptation of James Patterson’s young adult prose series, Maximum Ride, which will be serialized in their monthly anthology, Yen+. Starting in summer 2008, the 460-page anthology will feature both original and licensed material, and cost $8.99 per issue. Yen+ will feature both Japanese and Korean works, including manhwa titles like Jin-Ho Ko's Jack Frost and Kook-Hwa Huh and Su-Jin Kim's Pig Bride. Co-publisher Kurt Hassler described Maximum Ride as the "anchor" of the Yen+ anthology, and also mentioned that film plans are currently in the works. He predicts that the series will bring manga readership "to a whole new level."

While the convention went smoothly, some vendors did find the timing of the event to be challenging: competition for hotel rooms at this time of year could have made the convention price prohibitive for the younger fans. However, most vendors praised the level of professionalism of the convention. “Reed always puts on a good show,”one exhibitor said. “With other fan run conventions [Otakon, Anime Expo] there are always some glitches. This convention was really smooth.”

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