AnimeNYC ’19 has come and gone over this past weekend, with most of the highlights coming from hardworking cosplayers and an eclectic exhibitor selection and artists alley. However, as a member of the press, I found this convention disappointing when it came to the information given out and the few announcements that were made. Certain panels banned cell phones entirely, which some of us use to take our detailed notes, while others were more of a trailer show for already announced, or even worse, already released anime.
Perhaps the more specialized, fan-run panels were more interesting; however, the industry panels seemed to be a bust, for this reporter. Which is too bad, because, at a high-profile venue like the Javits Center, known well for exclusives that break at conventions like New York Comic Con, it seems like a wasted opportunity. Indeed, AnimeNYC seemed more aimed at cosplayers, with an entire section of the convention center dedicated to massive cosplay photo opportunities. While, say, NYCC also has a cosplay center, it’s not a major focus of the con. The cosplay photo opportunities even clogged the mobile schedule on the Guidebook app the con used. (This, despite their website making it sound as if they had their own app.)
Because of this, AnimeNYC feels like a homegrown, fan-focused minor convention. Which is never a bad thing — in a world where conventions are increasingly run by corporations and exploding in size, having smaller conventions feels nice. AnimeNYC is run in part by LeftField Media and funded by a lot of the anime and manga companies on display, so it makes sense that it’s so much smaller in scale and feel, and that the companies don’t feel obligated to make any big announcements. AnimeNYC, for many of these companies, is just an advertising opportunity to already locked-in fans to watch more of their content.
The real treat of the convention, however, was a diverse exhibition floor and Artists Alley. It wasn’t just dedicated to anime and manga. A lot of fandoms were on display, and it was much less crowded and more organized that NYCC’s floor was this year. The con was busy, but because there were less vendors, the floor’s massive amount of available space was utilized better. In the Artists Alley, I saw a lot of different anime and manga represented; but I also saw fandoms like Hamilton and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse represented. There was even some Harry Potter represented, which is always pleasant to see. Overwatch was a big winner for merchandise and fan art alike at AnimeNYC — for a video game that’s been around since 2016, it’s nice to see there’s still so much interest.
Good Omens had great representation as well, but with its hearty slash community, perhaps that was a forgone conclusion. Surprisingly, my favorite piece of fan art I saw at the con came from Good Omens: an Aziraphale and Crowley paper doll set — with costumes from both Michael Sheen‘s and David Tennant‘s long genre careers also represented. Team RWBY was also represented in the form of both fan art and plushie versions of our favorite Huntresses.
The exhibition floor itself was a mixture of merchandise vendors and displays from the anime and manga companies. One of my favorites was manga and graphic novel publisher One Peace Books, which sold books all weekend for only $5 each. They were nearly sold out by the time I saw them again on Sunday. There were lots of vendors selling fandom umbrellas, which seemed surprising given that it didn’t rain all weekend (thankfully, as it would have compounded already freezing weather).
Cosplayers were plentiful, with lots of anime and manga characters represented — but also Disney Princesses, DC and RWBY. There were still some of the standard issues these cons have with cosplayers and other fans wanting photos — lots of stopping in aisles or in front of escalators. That’s unfortunate, but it doesn’t take away from the delight I saw in a lot of people’s faces at seeing some of their favorite characters, both popular and obscure, being represented.
But, as mentioned above, there were some notable issues that I’d like to point out. The panels were oddly scheduled, with small rooms for high-interest panels (think voice actors), and panels seemingly dedicated to merely marketing already released content, with no Q&As or new information. This was notorious at the Aniplex of America panel, where the only big release news was release dates for some Blu-Ray sets of already streaming material. In our new media consumption era, is it really big news that an already streaming series is getting a physical media release? It’s akin to Netflix trying to drum up excitement for House of Cards DVD sets (which they did release once upon a time). What gives?
Sentai Filmworks also made the baffling decision to ban cell phones from its industry panel, which while it would cut down on spoiler releases (I guess), made it impossible to cover for a reporter in this digital age who can barely read her own handwriting and had no hard copy materials in the first place.
Still, from the cheers I heard on Friday as I arrived at the Javits just as the con opened for the weekend, it would appear attendees had a great time — and it was certainly a more notable anime and manga fan experience than NYCC’s disastrous AnimeFest. Hopefully, as AnimeNYC becomes more and more popular (and it already feels pretty popular), anime and manga companies will become more comfortable releasing new information and exclusives. Until then, AnimeNYC is best for fans, not press.