I Don’t Think I’ll Attend New York Comic Con Next Year | NYCC 2018 Review

After attending each year since 2011 religiously, it seems the East Coast convention’s magic has worn off on me.

It was a clear, cool day arriving to the Jacob Javits Center for Comic Con. I had a Friday badge, and had arrived later than previous years. Timing the trains correctly, I could leave home around 8 am and arrive an hour later in line with one of the doors in clear view. Despite not coming super early, I always had good luck with getting to the show floor first.

I remember in 2012, I left super early from home and missed tickets for the private signing with Danny Choo. I was heartbroken. So heartbroken, that despite fighting a con cold with a 3-Day badge I called out to him after his panel. I boldly asked for his autograph and despite the packed room, he came over and spoke to me. I didn’t want to go to College and before transferring to my dream university, I spent my downtime on campus viewing his website and watching anime using the school library’s crappy wifi.

It’s was the only thing that got me through those days.

That year I also received a map of Japan, which along with my signed badge and other mementos collected over the years hang on the walls of my computer room. I remember was so sick that I couldn’t finish out the remaining days of the convention that year, and on the way home I cried in happiness that I’d met him. It was something I never fathomed possible at that point in my life. Things were terrible all around, and I retreated to anime in the worst times as a crutch to cope with things. Danny Choo had always attended Anime Expo in Los Angeles and I never thought I’d attend that con, until 2015 when I did – but that is a story for another time.

Each year I was dazzled by the people, the costumes – the energy of the big city. Coming from the suburbs, it was a chance to see things that were not a part of my environment. My surroundings. Parts and facets of my life I desperately wanted to become main staples danced and mingled at this yearly con. I would later attend college in Manhattan, work in the city and have my dream job years later at a Japanese Cultural Center – but the me back then could not even realize that those were viable options.

My world was so small. Everything felt so hopeless. I was just so incredibly sad each day.

In 2014 The Legend of Korra came to New York Comic Con. I remember doing live updates on Tumblr for the fandom along with a core group of other users, sitting on the floor waiting for the panel, fans handing out “Thank You Bryke” pins. Just being in the same room as fans of the original show, Avatar: The Last Airbender and the precarious sequel series made me immensely happy. My fandom had come to life and was here, something tangible my senses could understand and soak in. We were no longer hidden behind our screens or gifs or lengthy discourses of the show – we were all here in one room together; and it was magical.

I attended an off-site event to promote an upcoming video game for the LOK series and made so many new friends. We ate pizza, drank beer and talked shit about the Asami – Mako – Korra love triangle. This was before Korrasami became endgame. It was a great time.

I also went to the Brooklyn Brewery Defend Beer parties in costume. Getting a lot of stares on the subway, I powered through it and met wonderful people at the party. It was my first time back then traveling to different boroughs alone and although I was scared, it was a new experience. The con also had these off-site cosplay parties where you could meet other fans and win the coveted 3-day and 4-day badges in a raffle. I never won, but I always met great people and the free food was delicious.  The parties were in random places (a gay bar downtown by the “gay” pier, the weird side of midtown no one goes to) but it was always a good time.

Sometime after that, I had my first internship in that area of town. After my day was done, I’d often pass that bar and smile to myself remembering the good times before sitting down to stare at the bay. Because of that experience, I learned the area and had a better time getting around when I needed to navigate the area during my time as an intern.

The following convention year, it all changed and really clicked into place. Kishimoto Masashi was coming to NYCC, his first time overseas at an event. The internet went wild. I was still on YouTube during that time, and I remember the power players like Sawyer7mage, Double4anime and Forneverworld to name a few flying to New York for a chance to meet him.

Viz Media was giving wristbands out for a private signing and held a raffle at three different times that day. I already snagged a wristband to his panel after literally running to the line and being counted in. A few minutes later, the line was capped as many other fans also did the same and ran for their lives to get a chance. I ended up entering the convention center that morning right by the place I had to go to, and asked Lance Fensterman if it was the correct place. I had seen him on TV just the hour before being interviewed by the news and thought it pretty neat to just run into him like that.

I silently thought maybe it was kismet, I would be able to meet Kishimoto.

In the raffle crowds, I made many line friends. My name was not called during the first round, and I wanted to stay close so I set up shop on the floor in an area where weary con goers were eating and looking at their merch. Around the time of the second round, I left, realized my name was not called and went back to the same spot. This took hours. The final round was being called, and only about two or three spots remained. The woman calling names would simply skip over your chance if you were not there and making noise that showed you were present. My name was called, and as I was in the back of the crowd – I hadn’t heard it. Suddenly, I heard a bunch of people shouting “wait, she’s here – she’s in the sheep costume back there, don’t continue!” My line friends from earlier were calling my name and rushing me up front for my wristband.

They were genuinely happy for me. It was the nicest thing that had ever happened to me. These complete strangers who shared the same passions helped me on my mission to meet Kishimoto, when they could have ignored my name to better their chances. Suddenly, sitting in the same spot alone and hungry for hours and wasting the rest of my convention time had been worth it. Even now, it makes me tear up a bit just thinking about it.

I wondered what the difference was between me and someone like Sawyer7mage, who was not chosen for the raffle or Kinokuniya signing. Someone who had reviewed the series for years consistently and was the most genuine of the reviewers in my opinion. He made a video saying that although he did not get a signature, he randomly met the mangaka in the restroom and Kishimoto told him he recognized him from watching his YouTube videos. He was happy with just that, and it was such a heartwarming story to watch him explain and describe.

I wondered why I got the ticket, and why he didn’t when I felt he deserved it more.

I stopped thinking so selfishly at conventions. No longer the first one to grab a poster, or shove someone out of the way for a freebie. I started going out of my way to help other con-goers in the way I had been helped. And of course, when I had that signed shikishi at home I looked at it and cried. That seems to be a common theme, me crying over silly things.

I know that when I do get to Japan, I may just bawl my eyes out the minute that plane lands on the tarmac.

After that amazing experience, nothing could ever top it for me. The following convention years had been quite…dull from my perspective. I went, walked the convention floor, seen a few panels, snuck some food in to eat and went home while catching a gyro on the way.

The Gyro place has since closed. New York Comic Con stopped offering the free cosplay event parties. They stopped offering 3-Day and 4-Day badges. They stopped finalizing the talent list and putting it online before the purchase of tickets. They implemented fan verification. They implemented the virtual queue from hell. They got stricter on cosplayers and props. Security was beefed up. The generous freebies stopped. The lines were now long and convoluted.

The things I fell in love with at the con were gone and had changed.I’ve changed along the way, as well.

I have had so many wonderful memories at this convention over the years and I wish many other con goers the same camaraderie and happiness I experienced for generations to come.

For me, however, I think it’s time I branch out to see what else is out there. This convention used to be something I looked forward to all year. I planned costumes, saved money, and felt eternal happiness in everything I did.

I’ve since retired the costume I religiously wore. I now know Manhattan and a few other boroughs like the back of my hand. I know where to go for authentic anime merchandise and traditional Japanese cultural experiences in the city. I know where to find the best curry, the best ramen, and where to catch subtitled films in theatres. I’ve learned so much since the time I first attended New York Comic Con in 2011, that I feel like I’ve outgrown it in a way. I’ve graduated, and want to experience what else the world has to offer. I did attend Anime Expo in 2015 as a college graduation gift to myself, but as a now self-identified thoroughbred New Yorker I felt like I was in a different country while there. It was an atrocious time, but luckily there was a group of people next door to my hotel room that were from New Jersey. We hung out a bit and talked about how much we collectively hated California.

Next year I’d like to go back, as I made some new friends who stay in LA and attend that con. I should have a different experience with an open mind.

I’ve also learned how to read and write in Japanese since 2011 (although my spoken conversation skills are still a bit shaky and lacking confidence) I’d like to go to Comiket one year. Or the Tokyo Game Show. Or even AnimeJapan. Along with Sacred Anime Pilgrimages, there are so many things I’d like to do that I could not envision until now.

I’m no longer afraid to try. I’m no longer afraid that my dreams won’t come true.

I realized while writing this that the missing factor in my enjoyment of the con the last few years has been a tie to anime or a life-long fandom. That was also why I was so visibly angry when Anime Fest was announced and presented as some new convention when I remembered its previous incarnate. Especially on the heels of attending Anime NYC last year and receiving a special pin for its inauguration. It felt like such a slap in the face to my patronage of NYCC.

Which is why, along with other reasons stated and unstated, I most likely will not attend New York Comic Con next year.

That is, unless an earth-shattering guest is in attendance. Then I will buy a single day badge.

Otherwise, I’ll be home saving my money for new adventures.

I meant for this to be a review of the current con that indulged us all this weekend, but it seems that this somehow ended up being a review of all my past con at the Javits Center.

I’ve had fun, and that’s all I ever wanted. I hope in years to come they improve on some things, and continue to bring fans happiness with as little hassle as possible.

What is New York Comic Con like?

I don’t know how to end this, so I’ll leave it here.

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Madara, the Okuri-Inu| Natsume Yuujinchou | The Youkai of Anime

A new installment in the Sunday series – this week focusing on Madara from Natsume’s Book of Friends.

This series will explore yokai, their history, and prevalence in a series. Japan is a land where spirituality is prized over religion, and Shintoism is viewed more as tradition than a bind. The tradition of visiting temples on the New Year, adding yuzu fruit to baths during the Winter Solstice, Jizo statues and local shrines are so old that no one remembers its origin story.

See our previous post on Nyanko Sensei, the Maneki-Neko.

Series Name: Natsume Yuujincho [夏目友人帳]

Number of Seasons: Six

Original Air Date: July – September 2008

Manga: Yes (ongoing)

OVA/Movies: Yes

Character Name: Madara (Nyanko-sensei’s true form)

Yokai Name: Okuri-Inu [送り犬]

Association: Guardianship, banishment, protection.

Episode of Appearance: Episode 1, Natsume Yuujinchou (Season 1)

Description: A giant white wolf towering in height well beyond surrounding forest trees. Madara has red marking on his cheeks and a symbol on his forehead. He seems knowledgeable concerning purification rituals, binding of spirits and the local history of his area.

I came across really interesting information while learning more about this youkai. Wolves (日本狼) were abundant across Honshu until a strain of rabies infected the species.  Appearing first in Kyushu and Shikoku, it quickly spread throughout other islands in the nation. There is a dispute on whether the infection was brought to the island through domesticated dogs or human visitors. Others insist that the species was systematically killed off through government mandates. Either way, the last known wolf was killed near Yoshino (Kii peninsula) in the year 1905. However, that did not stop reports of the beast in rural areas of Japan well after the last official sighting.

Wolves, or ‘okami’, play a huge role in Shintoism. 狼 (おおかみ) takes the honorific ‘o’ that denotes reverence and the kami reserved for deities in its English translation. However, in Japan kami is a word that has other meanings.  It can also be interpreted as “superior”.  Norinaga Motoori is a celebrated scholar and philosopher known for his theological approach to Shinto. His practices are extremely detailed and I will elaborate on them another time once I have a fraction of understanding, but until then I’d like to cite a quote from Norinaga via an article from the Japan Times.

“I do not yet understand the meaning of the term kami,” wrote Norinaga (in “The Spirit of the Gods,” 1771). “It is hardly necessary to say that it includes human beings. It also includes such objects as birds, beasts, trees, plants, seas, mountains and so forth. In ancient usage, anything whatsoever which was outside the ordinary, which possessed superior power or which was awe-inspiring, was called kami…Evil and mysterious things, if they are extraordinary and dreadful, are called kami…”

Even if you are not familiar with Japanese wolf spirits, I am sure you at least remember hearing about a video game called Ōkami circa 2006. I had this game for the WII and it took me literal years to complete. Not because it was difficult, I thought my save file had a game-breaking bug. I was so frustrated that I didn’t touch the thing until years later where I decided to start a new playthrough then realized…I was just being dumb. I completely missed a prompt to continue a cutscene, and that is why I could never progress in the game no matter what I tried. I don’t even know if that was some sort of wisdom on my part to figure it out later, or just ascribed to finally taking my time in the game.

Either way, this mention has merit.

Ōkami is an unbridled resource for anyone interested in Japanese folklore or its ancient times. A short summary would be that it tells the story of Amaterasu, the sun goddess, saving the lands from the evil influences of Orochi – an eight-headed serpent creature. The goddess is called forth to the human realm by a guardian of Kamiki Village named Sakuya. Amaterasu, or Ammy also gives the legendary hero Susano’o the courage to slay the beast while drunk on golden sake.

In the actual ancient legends, Amaterasu and Susano were siblings; created after Izanagi cleansed himself once he left his wife Izanami in the underworld. After a fight with her storm god brother, the sun goddess hid in a cave and the world fell into darkness –  with spirits running amok. The other deities assembled and tricked her into coming out of the cave, thus lighting the world once more. The gang fastened a sacred rope, or shimenawa (注連縄) [rice straw] purification rope across the cave so that her light would never be obstructed again. Susano was expelled and sent to wander the world as an outcast. On his journey, he found Kusa-nada-pime, the Rice Paddy Princess who was being attacked by an eight-headed dragon. He made the dragon drunk on sake and slew it with a sword…you get the picture.

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[If you still haven’t heard any of these names before, you have probably seen an episode of Naruto. In Naruto Shippuden, Sasuke has some sort of Sharingan eye jutsu named Susanoo that acts as a guardian taking a samurai-like form. Orochimaru is an arguably “evil” ninja who uses serpents as a summoning (Manda) and frankly for everything else. He’s pretty creepy, actually. It may be a stretch, however, to point to Sakura and Sakuya, as it seems Kishimoto never put that much thought into her character after admitting it difficult to write for women.]

The Legends

In the rural, mountainous regions of Nihon the wolves made their dens. From a spiritual perspective, they were seen as protectors of the forest and “patrons” of weary travelers. The mountains were viewed as dangerous, distrustful places where the spirits of the dead roamed freely. The rural dwellings for humans 里の世界 or Sato no Sekai were different from the 山の世界 or Yama no Sekai which were ruled by the mountain spirit – Yama no Kami (山の神 ).

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This concept is heavily touched upon in Natsume Yuujinchou and furthermore in Mushishi with Ginko always searching for a mountain’s spirit at the sight of trouble. If you remember, there were several instances where Nyanko-sensei and other Youkai would warn Natsume against travel to certain parts of the forest. Or Sensei would comment on “not knowing the forest” if the pair were traveling.

There were places that humans were just not allowed to dwell. Each forest had its own set of rules that the spirits, or yokai, were expected to follow.

The Episode

Upon the shimenawa breaking, Madara does a bunch of theatrics to intimidate Natsume and is released with an aura of dark energy. Natsume is “unfazed” and simply stares at him. Madara seems surprised that he is not quaking in fear. Nyanko-sensei mentions that he owes him for breaking the seal and that he will be his bodyguard in exchange for his gratitude. Outside of Shinto folklore, this seems to be a common arrangement amongst situational spirit – human contact. A sort of binding contract or ‘pact’ that dissolves at one party’s demise. In this case, it seems like Madara will willingly serve Natsume during his lifetime in exchange for The Book of Friends upon his death. Madara chases off problematic youkai who would bring harm to the boy, resembling a ferocious “guardian” canine or “guard dog” spirit.

A Deeper Interpretation

Madara’s surprise at Natsume’s reaction could denote his age. In this connotation, he may have been sealed during a time where these stories and legends may have been treated as fact and as such – common knowledge to travelers. Madara expected a reaction from his time period – given his manner of speech is noted to be archaic and attributed to an old man – I theorize he could have been birthed in the 1300s – 1700s at the earliest. I say this because other spirits seem to know and remember him, and youkai are said to have much longer lifespans than humans. This is also backed up by numerous yokai not recognizing gender and when Natsume corrects them on his identity (i.e. not being his grandmother, Reiko) they seem to remark on our appallingly short natural lives.

This brings us to the 番犬, or watchdog legends.

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In the mountains late at night, a wolf was said to sometimes trail a traveler.  The sending (off) wolf, or Okuri Okami [送り狼] would then disappear once the resident was near their home. If the traveler tripped or looked back while the wolf followed however, this could be taken as a sign of aggression and give reason for the wolf to attack. This begs the question: was Madara a guardian, or Okuri-Okami in his past? What happened along the way to ‘corrupt’ him and initially wish to control all the residents of his forest in Kyushu? Did he have a falling out with the mountain god, or was he just being his (usual) shady self? More questions than answers for now, but I hope the manga does allude to something like this in the future. Since it seems Madara knew Reiko better than he lets on – being able to take her form when he can only do that with “humans he gets a good look at” to paraphrase.

I may have to update or provide new entries for Madara with each season I cover of the show, otherwise this post could in theory go on forever. Maybe with more rewatches, I could come up with a theory on why exactly he is a divine being – as indicated by his markings and spiritual presence to effectively banish lower level or ‘purify’ intendedly evil ayakashi.

If this post got you interested in the series, feel free to check out Natsume’s Book of Friends, Vol. 1 and Natsume’s Book of Friends Seasons 1 & 2 Standard Edition by using these links. It supports the series and also helps out the site at no additional cost to yourself!

What do you think of Madara’s character? Is he a scorned yokai, or just an old spirit who has been through some things? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below, I’d love to hear from you! Also be sure to follow us on WordPress, Twitter and Instagram for more #YokaiSpiritSundays!

List of Known Freebies at New York Comic Con | NYCC2018

A list compiled by Reddit and personal finds of freebies at NYCC this year.

In no particular order or booth numbers because that is essentially how the con rolled this year…

SyFy Fan Lounge (up the escalator in the circular area. You know you’re there when you see crayons and coloring books randomly, spot overworked slightly demure staff and a line wrapping in a circle like some great angry serpent) – free t-shirts also may find the elusive bags here.

Heather Bus (towards the right hand side of the Geico booth if you’re standing in a wrap-around line. Literally a gratified yellow school bus) – Go inside the bus and a bunch of Heathers’ in character will take your photo on a bus seat, and then tell you if you tag it on social media they “might give you something…or whatever.” Upon exiting you get a nifty Heathers pin promoting the reboot.

Geico (Just look towards the Javits Center ceiling to see the judgmental reptile staring at you with glee in anticipation of your personal info. Which by the way, say something to the effect of “I only have my badge, not my license” and staff will waive scanning your ID.) – You get a big blue bag out of it that holds a good amount of weight. Go into the semi-sturdy van set up before leaving and play a game to win different prizes. I got a Geico plushie with a different cape than last year. I think playing the memory game on the screens also give prizes, but I’ve never seen anyone win that yet. Don’t forget to get some hand sanitizer on the way out. There is also a 360 photo/video booth before exit you might want to pop in.

Fandom – You get a cute little pin with their logo on it.

Crunchyroll – A huge pit filled with some sort of bananacat animal plushies. You put shoe covers on your sneakers, hand your cell phone to one of the staff and literally just flop down into the pool of stuffed goodies. You receive some sort of card and red wrapper for partaking. I’ve heard inside the wrapper was an enamel pin. I was in line for this but the person I attended the con with kept incessantly going on about the amount of germs at the con and how I already felt ill, so I skipped out a few moments later.

Outlander/American Gods (towards the green entrance con-goers with tickets were funneled through.  It is outside of the convention center with an American cowboy get up.) – Show the Starz app on your cell phone and I believe you also may have to go through some inside store to get the goodies.  American Gods give out t-shirts, character buttons and you can take a photo. Outlander gives out a tote bag, and reportedly a perfume vial along with “a personalized leather luggage tag.” The line was a bit long when I arrived and I was still fruitlessly searching for a program booklet, so I skipped this altogether.

Stranger Things – Can receive a replica of Mike’s bike when signing up for a Hawkins Library Card. In addition to a few other little gifts.

Sideshow – Stop by the booth and ask for a card. Go to the smaller comic book vendors and receive stamps from each. Return back to Sideshow and receive a free Marvel Thanos pin that is engraved with ‘NYCC 2018’ and its booth’s namesake. Try to complete this task early if possible.

Loot Crate – Pay with a MasterCard and get a go at their UFO catcher….They may draw you in under the false pretense of scanning your badge to enter a raffle and then ask “have you used your MasterCard today at our booth? If so, you can play our claw machine to try and win mediocre prizes!” Unbridled fun for the masses!

Good Omens – Take an elevator and after a bit receive an enamel pin and a “Nice and Accurate Prophesies of Agnes Nutter” book for your time.

Mood Fabrics – These folks are giving out a little booklet with cosplay patterns and some information. You can scan your badge and be entered into a drawing for a sewing machine to…you know, finally complete all of those backlist cosplay costume ideas.

DC Universe – Receive a gift bag with Titan pins, comics promoting Aquaman, Shazam and Titans. May have to sign up for the service trial to receive these, just remember to cancel before the week is out unless you want to be billed.

Adding onto DC Universe, I received a set of four pins in plastic near the Publishing area but I can’t remember from whom.

Marvel – You may have to fill something out on social media to receive a box with pins, character figures and two masks. Can enter a drawing to win an xbox.

Square Enix/KH3 Demo – Tickets are given out each morning when the convention floor ends, so get there early. After the demo receive a themed popsocket with the logo. Apparently, they are also giving these to people who are in the right place at the right time, so don’t be afraid to ask about it!

YuGiOh – Take a photo and be a part of a children’s card game for all of eternity.

Imgur – Free pins at their booth.

Overwatch – Cosplayers allegedly can wait in a shorter line. The special pin is the Reinhardt character. Can you tell I don’t know much about the game?

She-Ra – A huge statue towards the concourse of the Javits Center. When I passed by I just seen people taking photos with prop swords, and someone asked about freebies but the staff said they were out. Apparently, you can get a headband and a set of buttons. Not sure if the statue and the ‘She-Ra experience’ are two different things. Again had no clue of the layout because of no show program and didn’t want to eat my battery life using the website. Or app.

Penguin Random House – Giving away items associated with the promotion of Anne Rice’s newest book (Blood Communion: A Tale of Prince Lestat). Pins, posters, a cool red feather pen, and some other goodies were available. Basically just travel along all of their different offset booths (graphics, etc) and grab posters and chat with the delightful staff. They are also giving out full on free signed books in drawings every few hours, be sure to check out their booth early to see what’s going on for the day.

Chevrolet – No detailed license scanning this year, thankfully. Complete a survey and have a choice of a few goodies including blue or silver drawstring backpacks that high schoolers wear on field trips and t-shirts.

SmartyPants Vitamins – T-shirts for winners of a quick game, vitamins for all who want them. Towards the entrance of the convention center.

Stranger Comics – Free comics if you follow their social media. Not sure which series or issues.

Rilakkuma (Pop up shop just on the cusp of Artist Alley.) Walk through the cutesy little alcove and the staff can take your picture if you are alone. It was really nice that they tried keeping the stragglers moving in a polite manner so everyone had the chance for nice photos. –  Receive a cool deco pen for your time.

Kodansha – Sign up for the newsletter beforehand (I literally just showed them an email from a week ago) and receive a character pin. I believe they also had posters.

Oni Press – Pins and posters. If the pins are not out just ask one of the staff and they should have some, as they were tucked away until I said something.  Really nice people working that booth.

In general, everyone was really nice that I encountered.

Dark Horse – The elusive yellow bags. Get there early, because they do go super-fast and you will be haunted every time you see someone go by with one in tow.

Viz Media – Posters, manga sampler, fighting a stampede.

GKIDS – Posters and little character pins. I also think you could get a special Mirai film promotion poster with a purchase.

Vertical Comics – Posters and a very cool shojo manga sampler.

Note: Remember to try your best to go to booths with free bags as early in your con day as possible. They usually run out within ten minutes in some cases (looking at you, Dark Horse…three years running and I still haven’t secured a new bag).

Check out the Reddit thread here and add your freebie haul to the list! Also be sure to check your favorite exhibitor’s actual website or social media for more info on possible exclusives!

Did you get a good haul? How was your con? Are you excited for next year? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below, we’d love to hear from you! Also be sure to follow us for more convention news! NYCC and AFNYCC con reviews coming soon!

Nyanko-sensei, the Maneki-Neko | The Youkai of Anime | Natsume Yuujinchou

Kicking off the #YokaiSpiritSunday series on the official first day of fall, today we will take a look at Nyanko Sensei from Natsume’s Book of Friends!

Of late I’ve found myself writing a lot about yokai, or Japanese spirits. I have always had an interest in them, and read books pertaining to all types of ghosts and supernatural phenomena.

Years ago when the last local Borders Bookstore went out of business, I stocked up on a hodgepodge of encyclopedia on mythical creatures and universal folklores. Since I spoke of strange things so often, a friend in high school gifted me a book on youkai one year. I tried channeling this passion into the now-defunct YouTube channel I often reference in older posts. It was not doing well, and since I loved the channel so much I didn’t want to also see a series I put my heart into go down.

So it’s been here, in my head and heart for about five years. More ideas are stored here as well, ideas I would like to share on this blog. Eventually, I’d like this WordPress to be more than a blog, more than a website, more than a well-known name. I want it to be a community, a tangible place where people can feel safe. A place where people can discover that there is more substance in anime then they previously believed. People, especially Westerners, have this cognitive tendency to associate animation with childhood. They truly don’t believe animation is just another medium to explore stories, themes, and cultural consensus. In film school, I tried my best to cover animated films or shovel in a bit of discourse on why they matter. It was appreciated, which is one positive thing I can say about my ‘liberal’ compadres and professors.

This series will explore yokai, their history, and prevalence in a series. Japan is a land where spirituality is prized over religion, and Shintoism is viewed more as tradition than a bind. The tradition of visiting temples on the New Year, adding yuzu fruit to baths during the Winter Solstice, Jizo statues and local shrines so old that no one remembers its origin story.

These beliefs are shown in anime, either in the literal sense or the symbolic metaphysical. I am not Japanese, nor will I ever be. I do not attempt to be Japanese, I merely love the richness of the culture and accept the good and the bad. I try to be objective in my writing, and I will try to do so as this series goes on. I am an American at heart and although there will be some things I will never understand, that does not mean that we cannot try – together.

So I bring to you all, a new series to the blog that is near and dear to my heart: The Youkai of Anime series.

This time, we will take a look at Nyanko-sensei from the anime Natsume Yuujinchou, or Natsume’s Book of Friends. I will be rewatching all six seasons of the series and writing about the various yokai (and yurei) in each episode. Naturally, this will take a while. I don’t want to spam any one subject on In Asian Spaces, so it will be updated most likely each Sunday. I will also cover other shows, mixing them in so that one show or one subject is not the central focus.

Think of this as a yokai catalog, detailing folklore spirits in Japanese anime.

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Series Name: Natsume Yuujincho [夏目友人帳]

Number of Seasons: Six

Season 1 Original Air Date: July 8th – September 30th 2008

Manga: Yes (ongoing)

OVA/Movies: Yes

Related Media: Hotarubi no Mori E [蛍火の杜へ] or Into the Forest of Fireflies Light

Character Name: Nyanko-sensei

Yokai Name: Maneki-Neko [招き猫]

Association: “The Lucky Cat” “The Beckoning Cat” “The Waving Cat”

Episode of Appearance: Episode 1, Natsume Yuujinchou (S1)

Description: A plump, reservedly “ugly” calico cat with stumpy legs and beady eyes. Red markings on his cheeks that hint at his true ‘majestic’ form.

In episode one of the series, Natsume is being chased by a spirit. He runs into a shrine and passes onto purified sacred grounds. Accidentally knocking over a lucky cat statue, he releases Madara from his long imprisonment. As of season six of the anime, we have yet to find out who sealed Nyanko sensei.

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Are you all familiar with the tales of the maneki-neko?

A maneki neko, is usually a calico cat figure holding a koban in one paw with the other outstretched. A koban was a form of Japanese currency in the Edo, or Tokugawa Period (1603-1868). Edo was the former name of what we know today as Tokyo.

There is a lot of debate on whether the mankei neko is Chinese or Japanese in origin, which I cannot fully say. I came across a few articles that speculated the relationship of the figures to sex work and hinted at a changed or hidden meaning. Then again, theories exist on whether or not Spirited Away is about the sex industry, so anything could be interpreted as such. Meaning this is not to deny that it may have existed, this post simply won’t discuss that possibility any further.

The Legends

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During the Edo period, a lord of a surrounding district took shelter under a tree. A cat from afar beckoned him into a nearby temple. Upon leaving, the tree was struck by lightning. Thinking it was a divine act, the lord decided to patron the temple in gratitude.

It is a good time to note that riches historically were tied to how much rice one had. I remember a favorite Japanese teacher explaining a great way to remember the word for rich person. お金持ち(おかねもち)takes the words 金(かね)(o)kane, which is gold and 餠(もち)mochi, for sticky rice. The “o” is used to denote honor or show respect, making it sound less harsh.

Therefore, a person who has a lot of rice becomes a wealthy person in Japanese society. One koku of rice was thought to be the amount needed to feed one person for a year in this society. One koku in terms of currency was thought to hold equivalency to one ryô and in turn, one koban.

Another legend states that a feline beckoned wandering samurai into an adjacent temple. The group dwelled in the haven until the end of a storm. Long after, one samurai continued to frequent the temple and offered patronage. He revealed himself to be feudal lord Naotaka Li, the temple in question Gotokuji in Tokyo, Japan.  Li donated crops and rice fields to the struggling monk who dwelled there.

This temple’s lucky cats differ in appearance than the rest in that they have a bib-like collar and bell in place of koban. The site reportedly has a high count of deceased neko buried on the premises.

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I have read further legends that combine these two stories to some degree. One even suggests the cat was a Japanese deity in disguise – Bodhisattva Kannon, a goddess of mercy. The common factor seems to be a temple near ruin that is saved by a chance encounter with a wealthy benefactor.

Aside from this information, there doesn’t seem to be much else on the English speaking side of the web. The same archaic books, ukiyo-e, and sculptures are referenced and offered up as evidence but never a true…definitive answer as to how this begun.

When I do travel to Japan next spring, I will be sure to visit the Gotokuji shrine. It seems like a good place to buy maneki neko in Tokyo, given the legends surrounding it. I’ll even write on an Ema board, or wish board to pray to the benevolent spirits.

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Despite his initial shady nature, I’d like to think Madara is Natsume’s lucky cat. Throughout the series, he serves as a protector and ‘teacher’ or sensei.

“The association between karma and merit is highly significant for my discussion of the Japanese notion of luck. During my fieldwork I was frequently told that misfortune could be averted by taking appropriate spiritual precautions. One way in which this can be achieved is through establishing a relationship with certain deities.” – Inge Maria Daniels, Anthropologist.

Note: Anthropology has a problematic historic association with eugenics. However, I found this textual quote of interest pertaining to this discussion.

Given the tone of the series, (in my own interpretation) Natsume Takashi is slowly paid back good karma in the form of friendships and as an orphan, his family’s history.  Instead of running from or fighting spirits he encounters, Natsume would rather try and speak to them first. With Nyanko-sensei’s instruction, he learns to protect himself and engages youkai only when necessary. Sensei could be interpreted as his special protection deity, particularly considering Madara’s true yokai identity.

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Next week we will discuss Madara/Nyanko sensei and his true form.

(It is really majestic!)

If you enjoyed this post, why not check out another ongoing series, such as NEET in Anime. I have a few more shows in mind to draw from, but tell me about any series I should definitely cover! At me on Twitter and use the hashtag #YokaiSpiritSunday!

If this post got you interested in the series, feel free to check out Natsume’s Book of Friends, Vol. 1 and Natsume’s Book of Friends Seasons 1 & 2 Standard Edition by using these links. It supports the series and also helps out the site at no additional cost to yourself!

Are you a fan of Natsume Yuujinchou? Which anime series will you watch during the fall season? Do you think sensei isめっちゃかわいい?

Leave your thoughts in the comment section below, and be sure to follow our growing community on Twitter, Reddit, WordPress and Instagram!

[Quote on karma sourced from “Scooping, Ranking, Beckoning Luck: Luck, Agency and the Interdependence of people and Things in Japan” by Inge Maria Daniels.]

One More AFNYCC 2018 Update Before the Con| New York Comic Con

Ugh.

I know what you are all thinking

“In Asian Spaces, are you really writing about the doomed Anime Expo x NYCC Collab that is AFNYCC 2018? Even when you specifically said you would not in your last post until convention time?”

Yes, I absolutely am. As a concerned citizen who has made up their mind to no longer attend NYCC after this year, I may as well give it my all on critiquing this hastily-thrown together sham of a festival.

So, I am not sure about everyone else, but I am subscribed to Comic Con’s newsletter. I am not sure if the Anime Festival has its own newsletter yet. Aside from emails begging me to purchase a Thursday ticket or raising awareness about pre-festival events to attend I really haven’t received much concerning AFNYCC. I haven’t even received my ticket yet.

Except…one email I opened which detailed the lineup…that I hope will actualize more talent as we creep closer to October.

Aside from lamenting the delay of my Book 3 Earth Kingdom Korra ‘Alone’ cosplay once again (it seems to be a yearly ritual at this point), I am still kind of ticked off that I was never able to contact New York Comic Con’s support team concerning the ticket glitch I received when purchasing for Saturday. I just cannot seem to get through to the email address, and I feel deep within me that Sunday might be a wasteland in terms of worthwhile events and activities.

Anime Guests of Honor for the Main Con include:

NYCC 2018 Anime Guest of Honor

Kawamoto Toshihiro, Nobumoto Keiko, Yamane Kimitoshi and Sato Dai for a Cowboy Bebop panel on Thursday.

This should come as no surprise, Cowboy Bebop: The Movie rescreened in movie theatres this summer and the 20-year-old classic series has garnered contemporary buzz once again.

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We then have Nozawa Masako and Nagamine Tatsuya for a Friday Dragon Ball Super: Broly panel. I am not a personal DBZ fan (could never get into it and heard various nerd debates about characters growing up. This also applies to Yu Yu Hakusho) but I recognize its importance and it should be a treat for the fans.

I have no problem with this lineup, even if it is a bit thin.

Other guests at the main con include a handful of combined English Dub voice actors for My Hero Academia, Dragon Ball, Naruto, Boruto, and Sailor Moon. The author of Radiant will also be in attendance, to presumably discuss the October premiering anime adaptation of his work.

As of right now, this is the lineup for announced guests.

Turning our attention to Anime Fest @ NYCC….our Guests of Honor for Friday are as followed:

Kawamoto Toshihiro, Nobumoto Keiko, Yamane Kimitoshi and Sato Dai.

Yes, this is the Main Con’s Thursday lineup a day later. I understand that since the talent is still here from Japan they could make another appearance, but as this is literally the same as the main con…it offers no value to a purchased AFNYCC ticket.

Again, it is early and the festival could end up being a lot of fun.

Let’s continue to look at the other Anime Guests, shall we?

A few VA’s for Overwatch, tired but seemingly obligatory appearances by Rooster Teeth for RWBY & gen:LOCK, More VA by way of The Dragon Prince, a reprise of Boruto, Sailor Moon and Radiant.

Something of personal interest is the appearance of VA and production staff for Avatar: The Last Airbender.

Jack De Sena (Sokka), Giancarlo Volpe (Writer/Director) and Aaron Ehasz (Head Writer/Exec Producer/Fellow Zutara Shipper).

Janet Varney (Korra, LOK) and Grey DeLisle (Azula, ATLA) will be holding separate autograph sessions.

This has to be said: I do not care that it has been over ten years. I still support and ship Zutara in the deepest crevices of my heart.

It didn’t happen in ATLA or American Dragon: Jake Long, but one of these days Dante Basco and Mae Whitman will have lead characters who end up together. Even if it takes an eternity.

I am rooting for them!

Aaron Ehasz and Elizabeth Welch Ehasz deserve more credit concerning the success of the original show. Not to bring up age-old resentment and bitterness, but they really were great in steering the story down its most…’natural’ paths concerning characters and their motives.

These expressed opinions arose from years of being extremely active on Tumblr and hearing stories directly from production on their accounts, offsite blogs and fandom gossip that proved true over the years.

Actually, I may now check out The Dragon Prince on Netflix because of Ehasz and Volpe’s involvement.

Aside from this Saturday silver lining that I most likely will not see, it doesn’t seem that there will be an abundance of unique guests attending the festivities.

Just one more interesting tidbit before wrapping this post up, I urge all attending to keep checking out the Anime Fest at NYCC homepage via the comic con website.

NYCC 2018 Anime Fest Access

As of right now, there are three offsite venue panels your pass gives you access to. If you have a valid AFNYCC Friday badge, you can attend the DreamWorks Voltron Legendary Defender panel that is accessible to NYCC attendees with that day’s pass. In similar fashion, Dragon Ball Super: Broly is on Friday and RWBY & gen:LOCK Mega have a panel on Sunday.

I don’t remember seeing this in an email, but I simply could have missed this information.

In conclusion, as if I’m writing some sort of thesis paper, Anime Fest is looking quite grim.

Hopefully, the quality of the creators, guests and industry panels make up for this.

NYCC 2018 the party starts soon

Also, I am really still upset about my Sunday ticket but I’ll be damned if I try to contact the Con again.

Signing off on this topic, you’ll hear more about this from me in sixteen days when the convention starts.

Are you attending the Anime Festival? What enjoyable anime conventions have you attended in the past? Any recommendations for guests you would like to see? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below, we’d love to hear from you! Also be sure to follow us on WordPress and email to receive updates in the future regarding this topic!

Anime NYC Responds to NYCC x Anime Expo Collab | Anime Fest@ NYCC 2018

If you haven’t already heard, New York Comic Con recently did something extremely messy. After a pre-sale event months ago and the literal night before the general sale of tickets, the con decided it was the best time to announce a new anime festival in collaboration with AX Con in LA. I wrote a short article that detailed why this was a problem and why it is most likely the last straw for many fans – myself included. To add insult to injury, in their newsletter today NYCC announced high profile Black Panther guest Danai Gurira. The actress will be doing photo ops and autograph sessions on Saturday and Sunday. Underneath the announcement in a bold highlighted white is a plea to purchase the remaining Sunday badges still available.

Naturally, I rolled my eyes at this.

I half-heartedly hope something interesting happens on the Friday I purchased a ticket for. I know Jason Momoa will be in attendance but I believe on another day. I’m a really big fan of his works, especially Sundance TV’s The Red Road and Netflix’s Frontier.

I did not specifically plan to go on his day because sometimes conflicts arise and celebrities and guests pull out last minute. Also, in past years’ experience there seemed to be a theme of having anime talent on this chosen day – for whatever reason.

I am subscribed to the Anime NYC newsletter and it’s always a treat to open it. The con has partnered with many local Japanese establishments and organizations around New York and the newsletter is always filled with fun events to attend. Today’s email in particular detailed some con news and a header link teasing “So What Does Anime NYC Think of Anime Fest @ NYCC?”

Clicking on the link brings you to a very thoughtful Facebook post written by Peter Tatara, the Event Director for the con. Paraphrasing – Tatara mentions his love for and experience within the anime community and how much the con meant to him. He continues to talk about the attention the convention received anticipating its inauguration last year stating:

“We got a lot of attention around NYC, across the US, and as far away as Tokyo. It seems we got New York Comic Con and Anime Expo’s attention, too, and I’m pretty shocked about Anime Fest @ NYCC x Anime Expo. But I’m not going to comment on their motives. They’re plain to see.”

Tatara ends by thanking the community for their support and states that “Anime NYC’s goal remains the same…to support the anime industry, and build a festival focused on its fans.”

You can read the entire post on FB here and purchase tickets to Anime NYC from their official website here.

Which reminds me, speaking of tickets…

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I tweeted about the glitch I encountered buying AFNYCC 2018 Saturday tickets. I received an error message from what I assume to be New York Comic Con’s servers. I then received a full denial and decided to re-submit the email and I am now experiencing the same dilemma once more. Either someone has DDoS’d their servers – or they really have sunken deeper unto another circle of hell.

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The official website shows that the availability for the anime fest event is wide open, but simply the pre-sale tickets are sold out. Which again, begs the question of why there was no option to pick general priced tickets in the first place instead of having to repeat the virtual queue process once more. I refuse to purchase another ticket, especially since I should receive the advertised discount I believed to be guaranteed for supporting the con – but honestly, it’s a moot point. I’m completely over it.

As I mentioned in my last post, I hope NYCC 2018 and AFNYCC 18 will be worth all of the trouble they have caused the dedicated fans. I think this topic has now run its course, and unless something ridiculous happens – like legitimately ridiculous and not just eye-roll worthy ridiculous – I will not update on this topic until the conventions roll around simultaneously in October.

Which cons do you plan on attending in the fall? Do you enjoy attending anime-related events around New York City? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below, I’d love to hear from you! Also be sure to follow us for more updates on con news!

 

Everything You Need To Know About AFNYCC 2018 | Anime Expo x NYCC Collab

Increasing each year it has felt more like a chore than tradition to attend NYCC. It’s something I attend with a family member and I occasionally cosplay at the tiny events that anticipated the con’s arrival.

As I have gone on a small tangent – which I completely scrapped from this blog post – I was stationed eagerly in the virtual queue for an hour and a half this morning. I used my presale link intended to purchase tickets.

I already have one Friday NYCC ticket and thought to buy a Saturday NYCC ticket during the general sale. Then late last night, “Anime Fest” was announced. I read the email, sighed, and went to bed.

This morning I decided to give it a go – scraping my idea for a Saturday ticket and deciding to try out the Anime Festival; hence my current situation as I typed a three-page rant.

Why didn’t they advertise this sooner? Why couldn’t I have purchased the tickets along with my original NYCC tickets back in practically May?

Here are the facts we know so far:

  • NYCC Literally forgot that they had New York Anime Festival – which ran from 2007 – 2011.

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After it ended, the anime merchandise was regaled to the upper right corner of the convention center – the polar opposite direction of Artist Alley. You had to weed through Chinese vendors with bootleg merchandise (I remember a lady selling a knock-off Nyanko Sensei plushie for $40) and cycle between the cosplay booths, cutesy Japanese character inspired plushies, and the same three booths that sold T-shirts and wall scrolls of the same characters for varying prices.

  • Want to plan out who you will see during Anime Fest? Too bad, regular con rules apply. Meaning, you won’t know jack until closer to the con. You are expected to pay upfront and just cross your fingers something cool happens on the day of your choosing.

 

  • Did I mention these events are concurrent? Either choose to attend comic con (like some of us who already purchased tickets) or choose AF. Will there still be events and vendors related to Japanese Culture in the regular convention? Who knows, it’s a mystery.
  • Can you purchase a 3-day or 4-day ticket to both events? No. Can you purchase a 3-day or 4-day ticket for NYCC? No. Since the renovations that one year in the Jacob K. Javits Center during the con, NYCC has decided to do away with those money saving options. Then last year, as many of you may remember, the prices were upped for funsies. Still no scheduled guest announcements sooner, however, just pay and wait.
  • Wait, so In Asian Spaces, you say that the Anime Festival event is away from the Javits Center? Well, where is that event being held? NYCC has events spaced out to different ventures, it couldn’t be that far – right?

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Oh, you sweet summer child.
  • But…there will at least be a free shuttle bus for the ticket holders’ right?? Right?? Pier 94 is at least a twenty-minute walk. What if you cosplay a difficult character? You’d have to walk back and forth between both events on the same day!? Clearly, they wouldn’t do that – right?? Oh, you sweet summer child.
  • Wait a minute…you said NYAF was unceremoniously bumped off back in 2011 and has almost but dissolved since 2012 – aside from fandom remnants and bones thrown by high profile anime culture guests such as Danny Choo and Naruto Creator Masashi Kishimoto. Anime NYC premiered last year and was a smash hit. Do you think Anime Expo teamed up with New York Comic Con to try to dwindle their sales and carve back out a market they never really catered to in the first place? Hmmmm….

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  • Well, at least there’s fan verification – right? Surely we’ll all get our tickets in a timely fashion? Wait, what? In Asian Spaces – you say you waited an hour and a half in the virtual queue and had a fabled 75% sold out Saturday Anime Fest ticket only to add it to your cart and have the website tell you it was sold out? And you have receipts?

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Amazing!

  • Then you found out it was a possible glitch?

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  • So if I have a NYCC ticket and want to refund it for simply AFNYCC – can I do that? –Good question

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So at least as of right now…yes. Subject to change. High probability this information is subject to change.

  • Should I attend other smaller anime conventions around NYC such as Liberty City Anime Con, Anime NYC or even AnimeNEXT in Atlantic City, NJ? – Sure, why not? Be liberal with your hard earned spending money and shop around, since con loyalty gets you nowhere once a con gets too big for itself and decides you are expendable – even if you’ve been attending for seven years faithfully. #noanimedlc – too much?

Regardless, this was a disappointing experience that is all too often now becoming synonymous with New York Comic Con. I hope that when fall rolls around, the convention will have been worth all of this trouble. I also hope the con realizes that its competitors will win out because they have heart – something they haven’t had in years.

Are you attending any conventions this year? Let us know in the comment section below, we’d love to hear from you! Also be sure to follow us on WordPress, Twitter, Reddit and Instagram for more news and updates revolving around Japanese Culture and conventions!