Ed Sizemore invited Erica (Okazu), Melinda (Manga BookShelf) and I to be guests on his Manga Out Loud podcast. It’s posted online now and is part two of his New York Comic Con podcasts. We had a good conversation about what we did at the convention, how we felt it was handled by staff and organizers and about the discussion of legal issues surrounding comics.
The podcast got my brain turning again on my thoughts on the convention. Overall I found other elements of my trip to New York more fulfilling than the convention itself (dinners with awesome people! Kinokuniya! Book-Off!) but from an organizational point of view, I thought NYCC/NYAF was much better handled this year than it was in 2010.
My thoughts and some accompanying photos can be read below:
One of the biggest complaints with last year’s event – which was the first time NYCC and NYAF were combined – was the ‘ghetto-izing’ of New York Anime Fest. This year the biggest split remains the Artist Alleys, where anime-styled artists are in a separate section than the rest of the exhibitors.
The segregation still exists for a reason, mind you, mainly that it allows an affordable place for artists to exhibit (Anime AA is far, far cheaper than the other section which is more professional-based), but this year was a huge improvement in placement. Last year the Anime AA was in the basement, far to the side of the convention centre. This year it was on a top floor in a wide, bright space. Lots of sunshine and a lot easier to get to. I found the entire atmosphere so much nicer and I heard the same from the artists I spoke to there as well.
There seemed to be good care taken to the anime/manga related scheduling as well. There was a lot of it on Friday but nothing really overlapped anything else. I was thankful to have no manga events happening at the same time as others which can be an unfortunate issue at multi-genre conventions. Most of the panels were also put in the same area as the rest – areas specially designated for panels. This varied from last there where anime/manga events were in rooms between the Artist Alley and the ‘anime stage’ where events like mini-concerts and karaoke were held. Not great for those who wanted to hear their panels in peace. I was really pleased with the way the panels were structured overall.
NYCC also put in place a door system where what badge you had determined what door you entered by. As someone with a press badge, I saw a huge improvement. Last year was chaos trying to figure out where (or sometimes even how) to get into the event, especially during the busy periods of the morning. This year knowing exactly what door to go to meant there were a lot fewer congested doors leading inside and I was always able to get in easily.
Into the show floor was still a different story though. It’s still a congested mess, even though at an event like this I know it can’t be helped all that much. That the large guaranteed-to-draw-a-crowd set-ups were clumped together at the front is a trend that always bothers me though, similar to SDCC. These places – like DC and Marvel’s booths – are areas where you ‘know’ people are going to go. They’re huge, they’re always crowded and they’re impossible to miss. So why do they need to be two feet from the front door? The whole floor was busy with the 105,000 people walking about and needing to get through the most dense crowds right at the entry points was frustrating both trying to get in and out. I’m sure this is likely a buying promise – they’re given those spaces as ‘prime retail’ – but I feel they hurt the flow of the place which can’t really afford to be anymore congested than that many people automatically make it.
The event also had an extra day this year – Thursday – where the show floor was open for several hours for 4-day badge holders, press and pros. It was great having a considerably less crowded chance to walk the floor and get oriented with where stuff was before trying to traverse the same space on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
What I always note the most at conventions, however, is the way companies choose to set-up and run their booths. I jotted down some thoughts on each anime/manga booth that I visited. Below are my thoughts on a few of them:
It was a pleasant surprise having Viz Media attend the convention. It’s about as far East on the US you can get for a business that’s run out of California. Unfortunately their far travel had an affect on their booth. It was devoid of books except for a small kids’ sampler. They had some cute free items, such as Viz Media anniversary bags, but I’m always disappointed to visit a book publishers’ booth and not be able to buy or look at any books.
Yen Press is a company based in New York so they had a lot more flexibility bringing things to the event. Their booth was eye-catching and well designed, plus sported a bunch of their new books to look at. Unfortunately that was all your could do was look. None of the books were for sale, which seems like such a huge waste. You’ve got our attention, we’ve seen the books, we want the books… then we can’t have them. I want to give you my money, why won’t you let me?
The GEN Manga booth definitely had the most enthusiastic staff. Every time I stopped by, those working there were cheery and eager to talk to anyone who would stop and listen. I enjoyed the time I got to spend speaking to them about the anthology’s production and how excited they were to be releasing the material (which is always free first on their site). I was able to buy copies of all their printed books and get discounts on their online versions as well. They had a tiny booth in comparison to the behemoths around them but they made very good use of it.
One Peace books had a small booth nearby to GEN Manga. I didn’t know until this convention that the two are headed by the same person, their Editor-in-Chief, Robert McGuire. I got to speak to Robert who was manning the One Peace booth. He was very personable and I learned a lot about both the publishers. The booth itself had lots of copies of their two manga books – Tenken, which was released last year, and Breathe Deeply, which they were debuting there at the event. I was surprised at the tactic of debuting a book before announcing it but the logic of having a book available when eagerness for it is logistically highest made sense. I was more than happy to buy a copy in support even knowing next to nothing about it.
Vertical Inc‘s booth was exactly what I’ve come to expect of it after seeing them at a few different events, and I’m pleased every time. It’s a no frills set-up – a sign with their name and a couple tables, manned predominantly by their Marketing Director, Ed Chavez. The tables are covered in stacks of their books though, almost everyone the company has put out, all for browsing and buying. I was able to get a volume of an older series I was missing and leave with a big stack of all the new titles they were releasing for the first time at the event. Early copies, yay! It’s always nice when there’s a perk to visiting a publisher’s booth, not to mention complete buying access to the books they publish.
Dark Horse‘s booth at last year’s NYCC had some copies of their manga available for viewing and buying but this year their booth was an almost entirely digital affair. They were heavily promoting their comics being available digitally and unfortunately promotion of their manga was worse than not present, it was barely present and hidden. There were no books anywhere to look at and two of the staffers I spoke to couldn’t tell me anything about Dark Horse’s manga titles. When I finally did spot their lone manga material, it was a single giant Gate 7 poster that – along with a poster for their newly announced Avatar the Last Airbender comic series – were placed facing inwards towards a garbage can against a support pillar. They were completely hidden from view unless you ducked your head into the little garbage cubby. Suffice to say, this made me very very sad.
It was exciting knowing Kodansha Comics would have a booth at the event, since the company itself is rather silent with communication compared to other manga publishers. Their booth had some nice posters promoting their titles and you could buy a few of their newer books there too. Notably they had a lot of copies of Sailor Moon and Sailor V, plus a free Sailor Moon poster. I wasn’t able to talk to the staff about their book publishing – I got apologies and “I can’t talk about the books” – from a young woman I asked, but they were very nice all the same. It was great seeing them there promoting, especially with a title as big as Sailor Moon in their hands.
ANN didn’t have a booth, per say, but they did have a spot hidden back near one of the show room floor corners. Once you found them, there was a backdrop with the ANN logo repeated on it and a sign saying that if you took a picture of yourself in front of it, and posted it online linking to them, you’d be entered in a draw to win a gift certificate. It didn’t tell you anything about ANN, or offer a chance to communicate with their staff, but it sure was some clever social media marketing that they just got to sit back and watch happen. I didn’t like it but I did respect it.
Media Blasters is another company who’s booth looks almost identical every time I see it but always in a good way. Their booth is large, made up of multiple tables in a large square, that are covered corner to corner in DVDs and books. I was able to find all their new releases and get some older boys’ love titles I didn’t own. My favourite part was getting to chat with the welcoming staff and purchase some signed material they were selling from Yayoi Neko, whose work they publish.
Overall, I thought New York Comic Con / New York Anime Fest had a lot of improvements this year over last. In fact one of my greatest complaints is, I presume, of little fault of the event itself and that was a distinctly lower amount of vendors selling manga. I found four, compared to the nine last year. Big drop. As a whole though, if you like multi-genre conventions and/or want to have the East Coast equivalent experience to SDCC, then NYCC is still the place to be.