Adventures at Anime NYC 2019

Just my ordinary, but insightful experience at this year’s Anime NYC convention (2019).

This is a review on my experience attending Anime NYC 2019 at the Jacob Javits Center. If you would like to read about my less than stellar experience last year, click here for my Anime NYC 2018 review.

So, this is the third year of the convention and it was my third year attending. I had a three day pass, but decided to only attend the last two days.

Let me explain.

FRIDAY

I entered three autograph ticket raffles for the entire weekend. If I received one that landed on a Friday, I planned on attending Day 1. If I did not receive an autograph session with Riichiro Inagaki and Boichi (creator/illustrator of Dr. Stone) but did receive another session, I planned on still attending the con. I intended to visit Kinokuniya book store and try to snag a ticket to the Dr. Stone signing there.

But alas, it was not so. I got zero out of six potential signings. Which honestly, I’m fine with. Over the years I’ve had so many life-changing experiences thanks to conventions that I would never had otherwise. Meeting Danny Choo for the first time, watching The Legend of Korra with Bryke in attendance, meeting Masashi Kishimoto at his first overseas event after the Naruto manga series ended…my life thus far has been good.

In addition to working at the cultural center, I’ve seen and done things I never dreamed I ever could. Whenever I get the chance to visit Japan, I know this good fortune will continue.

So I’m okay with not winning the autograph ticket raffles. If it’s someone else’s turn to have a life-changing experience at a convention, I say so be it. Everyone deserves a chance to create memories like that. Mine were years ago, but are still as vivid as if it had happened just yesterday. That’s important – to make memories that you can reflect on later in life and realize how those experiences shaped you into the person you are today.

I hope everyone gets to experience that at least once in their lives.

SATURDAY

I initially had a plan. Usually in anticipation of a convention, I write down a list of booths to check out and possible freebies. That way when I get there, I can circle the panels I’d like to attend in the programme booklet and keep it tucked in with my notes. Because of my experience last year, I refused to get my hopes up too high. So I lowered my expectations as much as humanly possible, making mental notes concerning certain booths and vendors here and there.

I ended up in Manhattan around 10:30 am.  I wanted to check out the Viz Media Dr. Stone panel, but I also wanted snacks. As you may have noticed if you’ve read any of my previous convention reviews, I am a bit of a germophobe. Flu season starts and increases in strength from the moment the temperatures drop. This year, it seems to be even earlier.  I don’t like eating things that aren’t sealed out in public during the cold months.

So although Go Go Curry (my favorite Japanese curry restaurant) was at the convention, the food is being made surrounded by the germs of others. I’m not saying the employees are dirty, but the center is filled with these airborne sicknesses that can land on open food even after it’s cooked. Is this scientifically reviewed and true? I don’t know, but that has always been my logic and I’ve never had the flu in the 27 years I’ve been on this earth. Hopefully never will, too.

With this in mind, I walked to the Café Zaiya located on the second floor within Kinokuniya. It was still early, and one of the store employees was stocking the snacks. I saw yakisoba pan. Something that despite frequenting conbini for the past three years, I have never encountered. I snuck a quick photo before grabbing one to buy.

I wandered around the café waiting for the employee to stock the anpan I craved. The café has these large windows where you can look down onto the street and people watch to pass the time. Moments later I was asked which version I wanted, accepting the cake adorned with kuro goma, or black sesame seeds. Grabbing a neko pan filled with jelly, I brought my trio of snacks to the register to pay.

The illustrious yakisoba pan from Cafe Zaiya
The illustrious yakisoba pan from Cafe Zaiya

Slowly walking to the venue, I arrived on the showroom floor around noon. I had missed the panel. Or rather, I knew it would be packed and didn’t bother walking across the entire building and down the stairs to the Special Events Hall. So instead, I walked around the convention and took photos.

There weren’t as many manga samplers around as in years past, but that was okay. The convention focused on more physical activities, and the hypemen of their respective booths did a great job of drawing crowds. The vendors and staff were all eager to explain their products and engage with attendees – regardless of whether they were in cosplay or not.

Hypemen putting in work and drawing massive crowds. So massive that my camera lens is blurry! wow
Hypemen putting in work and drawing massive crowds. So massive that my camera lens is blurry! wao!

This was a happy change in the attitudes I observed last year, where those cosplaying a booth or companies characters were given priority over those who weren’t.

Again, that was just my observation.

An improvement that filled me with joy was the bag check stations. In year two, Anime NYC security treated every single con-goer as if they were a criminal hoarding stolen goods. There were a revolving plethora of unnecessary check points where you had to stop and empty the contents of your bag out just to venture to another part of the con. Or, if you walked out past the check point and realized you made a mistake within security’s peripheral, you still had to get back in line, wait to be checked, and pull out everything in your bag once more just to get back in. It was tiring, and frankly annoying.

Thankfully, that practice was abolished this year. The metal detector wands were on the tables, but they were not used to my knowledge. No opening of bags, except the tote on my shoulder. And that was just at a certain checkpoint once the crowds increased. For the most part, only your badge was being checked…which has been the standard for every other convention I’ve attended in the past.

Tending the books, Anime NYC 2019
Tending the books, Anime NYC 2019

After the Fragtime Premiere, I realized how thoroughly drained I was. I guess sitting a while let all of the tiredness catch up with me. I walked the show room floor once more in search of a particular booth. Feeling myself dragging, I decided to find the last booth for a stamp quest tomorrow.

Scanning the convention floor I located the nearest exit to the main concourse to board the upward escalator. Usually in any convention I’ve attended at the Javits Center, the upper level is reversed for people eating food and just relaxing. This year was no different.

I found a nice spot and plopped down on the floor amongst countless others. I reached into my bag and noticed that my once pristine snacks from Kinokuniya were now smashed. So in a slight daze, I people watched while eating a smushed neko pan and drank water.

Moments later, someone sat beside me. He went to make a greeting, but I didn’t meet his gaze – I felt a bit dizzy. Finally after we both finished our meals, he introduced himself and we had a fun conversation in broken Japanese. We spoke about different types of Japanese swords, and I apologized for my earlier rudeness – explaining that I no longer felt well after sitting through an hour+ panel. He told me that my health was important, and that I should listen to my body. I agreed, and after a few minutes mentioned that I might go home.

That’s what I get for not eating or drinking any water for the entire day up until that point. I started to feel better, but decided it best I just leave and start back fresh the following day. After all, I had a weekend pass.

I bid goodbye to my new convention friend, and started back towards the train home. I don’t know if you would want your name shared, but if you do somehow read this review – I hope you had an awesome first convention. I hope you made many friends, and saw every panel you wished to. And I’m sorry we met when I didn’t feel well, it would have been great to go around the convention together for a bit.

With this, Day 2 of the convention ended on a good note.

SUNDAY

Day 3, Sunday, had to be the chilliest amongst all the days. I planned on attending early and staying until its end to catch the Weathering With You East Coast Premiere. Upon arrival, the first thing I did was find the booth I hadn’t been able to the day before. It was literally right there in front of my face! I spun the prize wheel and didn’t get the hoodie I wanted, but I had fun going around hunting for the booth stamps so that’s all that counts.

I wanted to catch the Anime News Network panel and did enter the room and got a good seat, but decided to leave before it started. Not wanting a repeat of yesterday, I thought it would be best to rest and eat a quick bite. Luckily, there were actual seats outside the room. I ate a brownie and drank water as a girl changed into her cosplay next to me. It was a corridor slightly isolated to itself, and she was with her brother or boyfriend.

The girl probably felt safe and comfortable to do so, but the act caught me off guard.

There was a male and female pair of friends who sat on the floor across from me to recharge. The girl fixed her makeup in a tiny compact mirror. The boy kept up the conversation, taking breaks to sneak a peek at the changing cosplay girl. I don’t think she noticed. I thought about telling her after the friends left, but decided to leave it be.

Heading out, I took one last sweep through the convention floor. I stopped beside the arcade section and watched people play rounds of DDR. Looping around, I viewed the Senpai Squad itasha [“painful car”] section and watched con-goers pose in front of the ornate vehicles. Feeling thoroughly satisfied with my convention experience thus far, I moseyed onto the Special Events Hall to get in line for the 3 pm premiere of Weathering With You.

It was only around 1:30 pm, how bad could it be? I mean – oh-

Oops.
Oops.
Insane crowds for the Weathering With You premiere at Anime NYC
Insane crowds for the Weathering With You premiere at Anime NYC

It appears I have played myself.

The whole convention was here
The whole convention was here

That was to be expected, although it was surprising to see the entire con in line. I walked down the stairs and around the bend hoping to find the end of the line. Only to realize the entire lower concourse was already waiting to get in the theatre. Pin pointing the Anime NYC staff member with the con infamous “End of Line” sign, I filed in and asked if the event had been capped. The crew member said no, and seemed hopeful that a good amount of people would get in to view the film.

Waiting in line...for Weathering With You
Waiting in line…for Weathering With You

I waited in line until around 2:30-ish. They had started seating soon after I joined the line, and I now had a vantage point toward the hall. I saw a staff member usher in two or three more people, then signal his hands to stop until they assessed the population in the room.

From what I could tell, it was packed solid. Want to avoid the impending stampede, I walked back upstairs and found a bench to situate my belongings. As I was putting on my coat, a tall, loud man came up to a group of girl cosplayers. They greeted him warmly, and he asked nicely if he could take their photo. They agreed, and everything was fine – until he started shouting and demanding certain poses.

The girls were clearly uncomfortable, and in his unawareness the man failed to notice the area had fallen silent. People had eyes on him, directly or indirectly. Between my own glances, the man seated next to me gave me a look that suggested “are you seeing this as well?”

I nodded my head in agreement. He looked at the scene unfolding once more before shaking his head to himself.

Once the ordeal had ended, the formerly happy cosplay group now looked sullenly at one another. People started talking again in hushed tones, regaining a normal octave once that man left the area. I had to wonder – were we all cowards?

We all witnessed the verbal harassment, all of us in the vicinity, but chose to do nothing. Should the ladies have reacted differently? Ultimately, who was in the wrong? What could have realistically been done? I pose these questions in a rhetorical sense, as I don’t have the answers myself.

I am very hesitant to use pejoratives, but I can’t think of any other way to describe that individual. There is always one, (or even sometime two individuals) who attend conventions with no self-awareness. I don’t know if this is attributed to poor upbringing, or if they seriously have something wrong with them. If the latter is the case, nothing can be done with that. But if it’s the former, I often wonder how these people go through life.

All of us collectively sent out nonverbal social cues, expecting him to take the hint. But he could not understand them. Or I imagine, he did not want to. It’s not like the convention could screen for these people, as everyone is welcome. That would be illegal, and it’s not the convention’s fault that happened. It wasn’t the girl cosplay group’s fault, and I would understand in the future if they were now hesitant toward taking photos.

If that individual was truly unaware and has mental incapacities, it wasn’t his fault either.

It was terrible, but it happened. I wonder, how at any convention across the globe these transgressions could be avoided. How can we understand each other more?

By the way, I never mentioned it, but the pejorative I had in mind was weeaboo. One who sees Japan as a fabled land of milk and honey, believing the experiences depicted in anime are real. Don’t get me wrong, anime does depict a vast number of Japanese cultural norms, unspoken social rules, and sometimes even everyday life, as the case with the aptly named ‘Slice of Life’ genre.

But to believe that these things exist to please your world view, and that real life people (no matter the country) are just objects to play out your sick fantasy is unacceptable to me.

But again, this only applies if that individual was really un-self-aware. It’s great to be excited and passionate about your hobbies, but you should also be mindful and exercise self-restraint to be a considerate con-goer. Especially if you have the mental capacity to do so. And that’s all I have to say on that matter. ☺

Tossing glowballs into the crowd, ANYC 2019
Tossing glowballs into the crowd, ANYC 2019

I’ll think of this glowball as a metaphor for my experience this year at Anime NYC. Someone saw I couldn’t catch one at the mini dance event, and gave it to me. I squeezed it and it turned a beautiful lime-neon-green color. Everyone else had different colors, but they were beautiful all the same.

I put the little glowball in my bag, and walked all the way home with it lit. I remembered the experiences I had those past two days, and it made me very happy. When I got home, I put it on my vanity dresser just below the mirror. In the dark, the glowball was the last thing I saw, the last thing I thought about before bed.

The green glowball in complete darkness
The green glowball in complete darkness

Come morning, only a small portion was still lit. Fading, but still lovely.

I remember what it looked like at full glow. And I’ll still keep it, even if it won’t light up again all the same.

Anime NYC, like most conventions, will only come once a year. You hang onto those memories until the next time to venture out and make new ones comes around. You take home mementos to cement this trip into reality forever.

I don’t have many posters, but I do have a lot of refrigerator magnets – which are totally confusing to my mom, but I put them up anyway. She didn’t ask who the little redhead girl in the all-white prison jumpsuit is, I don’t expect she will. But I’m sure she’s curious.

But I know. And that’s what counts. Our collective memories keep these conventions alive. And for that I am thankful.

☆ In Asian Spaces

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Author: In Asian Spaces

I write in my personal time and I haven't published much at all. I don't know if that qualifies me as a writer or not, but I'd like to change that. I have a deep passion for travel, cinema and (mainly) East Asian things, but I plan on writing various things to keep it spicy. Let's prosper together ~ よろしくおねがいします。

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