I’ve been waiting for this.
After the rather lacking experience of Anime Fest @ NYCC, I was ready to shake it off and be surrounded by nothing but fandom.
I woke up super early, arriving at the Jacob Javits Center at 9:30am. There were a bunch of autograph tickets being raffled at 8 am and out of curiosity, I decided to see if any were left.
Coming to the con, I didn’t really have much of a plan. See a few specific booths, stop by some vendors, go to industry panels and try to stay long enough for the masquerade.
I accomplished half of this list.
It’d snowed the Thursday before the convention, turning Manhattan into what felt like early January depending on the time of day. I ordered my ticket late and went up to the will call area upon arrival. There were a ton of red ribbons everywhere for the queue and corresponding signage. I barely waited five minutes before getting the Black Clover inspired badge, a lanyard and show programme booklet.
After a quick walk through security I ventured downstairs to find the autograph hall queue.
Many fans were casually lounging around the food court area and the atmosphere was super relaxed. It was refreshing. Hours earlier, an email had been sent out from the convention letting everyone know the game plan for the day and that “You can also walk around the building, sit down, get coffee, and visit the Merch Store.”
I decided to take advantage of the good vibes and take off my coat, rearrange my bag and gather my bearings. Heading even further downstairs I asked security where the ticket signing area would be and was pointed in the right direction. Getting there, however, one staff member was already closing the area off with the red tape I’d seen earlier. I asked if there were any more tickets and he apologized and said no. I asked where would be a good place to wait for the Exhibition Hall to open and found my way back to the lounge area with the other fans.
The escalators were now blocked off and no one could go up to where I initially entered the building. Venturing up to the area two staff members were standing guarding the section and only let other staff members cross.
A crowd assembled and one fan (for whatever reason) decided to argue with one of the men for a few minutes. When she paused for breath, I asked where I should wait for the Exhibition Hall and was directed back to the now taped off section I had just previously come from. I mentioned that I was sent over here by another staff member and received a confused look in response. I suggested that maybe I should just hang out in the area and he agreed. The fan from earlier then continued her pointless argument with the same staff member.
I’m honestly not sure what her goal was. It’s a new convention, only in its second year and it has upscaled greatly from its inauguration. She kept repeating that it made no sense to close off both exits and someone else chimed in that it was a fire hazard. The worker reluctantly agreed but there was literally nothing he could do about it.
I worked in customer-facing roles for about six years and learned that sometimes, people really do just want to argue with you for no apparent reason.
I scanned around and found a seat as the crowds formed from a mob into a somewhat thick line. I sat down at a table with some guys who seemed to have been saving a seat for late arriving friends, but didn’t protest when I asked if it was taken. I took photos and people watched to pass the time. There was a huge line for the Mega and Crunchyroll Premium Fans to get on the showroom floor first. Some people found creative ways to get around this and join their line, and I tip my hat to them.
An hour later at 10:30 am the other line had successfully entered the floor and we were allowed to finally go up the escalator.
I had heard that the convention took up half of the Javits Center, the other half dedicated to “Pet Con”. It’s a bit funny in a sick sort of way that the convention center stuck the anime fans with the animals, but c’est la vie.
Walking around there was so much to see and do. I wrote a list beforehand of booths to check out and made a beeline to the first on my list.
I was an email subscriber and explained that I read you could get a poster by showing the newsletter on your phone. The woman in the booth looked back at me dumbfounded and suggested I go to the booth in back of her. I looked at the posters in front of her and she covered them with her arms. Another fan approached and the woman looked at me, looked at the other woman and then back at me as to ask “why are you still here?”
I asked if I could have a poster and she reluctantly agreed.
Weird. Maybe I was bothering her.
I visited the other booth and mentioned that the other woman said to come here for a poster. She gave me one with a smile and I went on my way. I decided to do a sweep of the area with my camera to get some photos before it got super crowded.
There was a little stage that was playing music. Later returning to the area two men were teaching people the Wotagei dance. Wotagei [ヲタ芸] or Otagei [オタ芸] is the synchronized glowstick dance done at Japanese Idol concerts by (otaku) enthusiasts.
Everyone was jamming and then a baton flew into the group of on-lookers.
No one was harmed, and it continued without a hitch.
One of my favorite mangaka’s works are becoming more popular in the West and I spotted one of his serializations at a booth. I wanted to ask questions, but it was pretty crowded. It seemed like if you didn’t have a credit card out or look like a devoted sycophant – you were pretty much ignored. Which is fine I guess, people came to make money. Nothing wrong with that.
I decided to swing back around to that table in a few hours.
I went down the list of things I wanted to see and finally found myself in front of the last booth. A girl working it was in cosplay speaking to two con-goers. They were having a very passionate conversation and I wanted to ask questions about their streaming service so I decided to wait.
There were posters on the table and a lot of booths went the route of having a “Freebie” sign out encouraging people to take the designated items. About five minutes passed and it didn’t seem like they were letting up anytime soon, so I decided to grab one of each poster. There was a boy standing beside me who was also waiting and followed my lead. The cosplayer broke off mid-conversation and glared at me before saying it was only one poster per person. I apologized and she rolled her eyes before finishing her conversation like nothing had happened. I put one of the posters back and walked away, noticing the boy beside me had done the same.
Right. Well, at least that saved me some money. I’d rather people show their asses before I support their lifestyle.
Also just to note, while going through my camera I found pictures I’d taken of this booth earlier. The girls were blocking the “freebie” sign, and different employees were handing people multiple posters. So maybe this was at their own discretion?
Moving on, I decided it was time to rest so I caught a few panels. The first one was a bit dry and they had slight technical difficulties which was fine – as it is a new con. The dull tone was made up for however by the great information being delivered.
I ventured into another panel that I had been looking forward to. They also had technical difficulties and initially did the presentation without visual aid until the problem had been fixed. It was the same people who had serialized that mangaka’s work, and they were focused on indie works. I started taking notes of when titles would be released and photos every now and again. After the panel, they invited the audience to come up to their table and take some promos. I spoke to the man closest to me and told him it was a really great panel. He dryly said “right” and just turned away.
Maybe he thought I was being sarcastic?
I brought a mask to wear at the convention due to the germs. Being flu season, I didn’t want to catch anything – least of all a con cold. It made my voice a bit muffled and you couldn’t tell my facial expression. I am wondering if this factored into the way he responded. Or maybe he was just stressed and I shouldn’t have even bothered.
Either way, upon leaving I found myself no longer interested in their work.
There was another panel I wanted to see, but first I wanted to try and find the bathroom on that floor level. The manga library caught my eye and I took out my camera to try to get a photo. As I moved to get closer, another girl with a camera also decided to do the same. She was in my shot, so I moved closer and she walked in front of me and into the foyer area to snap a few shots. After a few seconds, she quickly came out of the room and walked away. I decided to go in as well, not passing the table checkpoint as she had. I snapped two photos and walked a few feet out of the room before stopping to look around for the bathroom. I hear someone yelling “Ma’am wait” and see one of the people at the table sprinting after me. He tells me he has to check my bag, and confused all I said was “I didn’t”. I meant to say “I didn’t even go in”, but I assume he thought I meant “I didn’t steal anything” because he then replied “Well good, because we have a lot of great manga.”
After he checked my bag I looked ahead and seen the other girl already at the top of the escalator.
I’d be lying if I told you that this didn’t pissed me off.
I was completely pissed that I was accused of stealing, and that I watched someone else also walk in and they weren’t even checked. In fact, I wanted to write this article Saturday when I got home but purposefully held off until I cooled down. It’s 11 pm on Thanksgiving Eve my time of writing and I am still angry at that exchange. Hopefully, that bit of negativity isn’t coloring the review and causing bias. That is not my intention at all but I need to share these experiences so I can move on to other things.
Following that incident, I said screw the panel and the bathroom and the cosplay meetups – deciding to take one last loop around the convention floor. I went up two escalators to find Artist Alley and stood on the huge line for a security check before getting annoyed, walking up to the table barrier, snapping a quick picture and going back downstairs. I had to go through the main security checkpoint again to get back to the hall and almost just walked out and left. I forced myself to stand in line and thankfully it went quick enough.
After taking some pictures and uploading them to social media for treats, I stumbled upon the far side of the con I hadn’t noticed earlier. People were huddled around cute plushies, novelty merch, and the sparse gashapon machines. One station had some particularly interesting toys inside and upon asking how much a spin was, I was informed it was five dollars. I internally wished I had come to this section earlier when my mood was better and thanked the woman before walking away.
I decided to stop on a lower concourse by a water fountain to sit down and re-arrange my bag. The crowds had really come out and it was hard to find space. There was a group of teenagers sitting next to me in a circle joking and having a good time.
An Undertale cosplayer had walked over and they took pictures with the character. One of their friends had been eating and missed her photo op. A young male from the group got up, followed the cosplayer wherever they went and stood over their shoulder repeatedly asking for a picture until they returned to the group together. After the photo the girl just sat down and spoke to her friends, leaving the cosplayer standing there awkwardly.
I thought about saying something to the kids about harassing people, but decided that I should just go home if I’m in this sort of mood.
I had seen all I cared to see and left to find Jollibee before catching the train home.
Walking to the store from the center there was, unfortunately, a really long line, so I just turned back around and headed home.
So what does this all mean?
Full disclosure: I don’t care about the anime posters. I don’t care about the buttons. I don’t care about the stickers. I don’t care about much of the freebies offered at anime or comic conventions nowadays.
As I mentioned before, I care about experiences. I know where to find most of the merchandise offered at this con here in the city, online or even where to look in Japan. Because of this knowledge, I am generally very laid back and will not fight another fan or anybody for that matter over merch. I’m not one to join a crowd bum rushing a certain area just to claim something before someone else can or does.
I’ve been going to conventions since 2011 where I learned early on that sometimes just grabbing something on a table has consequences. I’ve grabbed posters before and been told that they cost money and had to put them back. With situations like this in mind, I like having a conversation with the person behind the counter or even just saying hello and asking what is alright to take. I go to conventions to feel a part of the collective fandom, meet new people and make friends (even if they are just line friends!).
But for some reason, that was very difficult this year at the convention. I attended last year on a Sunday, and had an average experience based on the con’s new status. This year, I went Saturday and was having the time of my life until (what I perceive to be) bad events happened in quick succession of one another.
Does this reflect badly on Anime NYC?
It’s a great convention for what it’s worth. Solid. It’s grown tremendously from its inauguration last year, and I expect it to grow even further for next year’s installment.
What happened is a reflection on those individuals.
It’s a small industry and I have an impeccable memory, so I’ll leave it at that.
Go to the convention next year if you are able to. If you are local, even better!
The general consensus is one of great excitement and enjoyment, and I am in the minority with the ever odd situational stories to tell.
Your experience will not be my experience, and everyone has their own subjective reality.
Also I hate to beat a dead horse or make this comparison, but between Anime NYC vs New York Comic Con, come to this convention for all of your otaku needs. It is for the fans and they truly do care. You’ll have a lot of fun and hopefully, make a ton of new friends (=
I have nothing against this con and look forward to what they have in store for next year.
In Asian Spaces