Learning Japanese through Manga

With anime convention season almost around the corner, why not brush up on your foreign language skills? In this post we take a look at easy to read Japanese manga that will help boost vocabulary comprehension (kanji, katakana, and hiragana), grammar, and cultural understanding all from the comfort of your own home.

The warm rays of spring are almost upon us in America which means one thing: convention season is almost here!

Whether you’ve been neglecting your studies or have yet begun, this is a post for anyone who would like to study and improve their Japanese using manga. This takes into account that you have already taken formal classes while learning grammatical rules, the three writing systems of hiragana, katakana and kanji, and have the ability to formulate basic sentences.

If anybody is interested, I can make a post on textbooks and supplementary material recommended for beginners at a later date. Just let me know here or via social media (Twitter, Reddit, IG).

So, we’re looking at five books today and although it may seem overwhelming, I’ll show you how they tie into one another.

In one of my first posts on In Asian Spaces, I talked about religiously reading a manga after finishing an anime series I enjoyed. Or vice-versa.

One of my absolute all-time favorite manga series isAku no Hana [惡の華], or The Flowers of Evil by Oshimi Shuuzo. The work explores themes of deviance, isolation and mental illness surrounding a remote mountainous town in Japan. The characters would all eventually like to “go beyond the mountain” and escape the monotonous daily life of being surrounded by judgmental, close-minded individuals.

I first read the manga while it was still ongoing in 2009 – 2014 and then watched the (unjustly poorly rated) rotoscoped anime adaption in 2013.

In current news, there appears to be a live-action film in the works scheduled to premiere this fall that I’ll eventually have to watch.

Anyway, I go to my local Kinokuniya to purchase the manga in Japanese for a re-read with the show fresh in my mind. I’ve found that it’s easier that way since if you do stumble upon an unknown kanji, the context of the situation is still comprehensible.

Luckily, Aku no Hana uses furigana, or kana by kanji to indicate pronunciation. This is the first book we’ll examine.

The primary focus in this work is Kasuga Takao and Nakamura Sawa, both middle school students. Because of this, a high usage of informal, childish speech can be found coupled with advanced words related to school coursework and studies.

When reading a chapter, I like to circle a word in pencil that I do not understand. I continue on, but then come back after finishing to see if it makes sense. If I am still stuck, there are two options: either ignore it and keep going, or look the word up using a service.

Luckily in the digital age it is fairly simple to open the google translate app and snap a picture to find out what the word means. You could then input the word into an online dictionary such as Jisho and discern its meaning, see it used within a sentence and even learn the stroke order to practice writing.

Using a spaced repetition method, write the word down at least five times while saying it aloud along with its meaning. A sheet of notebook paper would be fine for this, but if you’d like to get fancy and are serious about your studies look for something called “Kanji Practice Sheets”. These are used in classroom settings to learn the writing systems or for personal study use.

Googling this phrase, you can find PDFs to download for free or you can even make your own. Simply go to the dollar store and purchase unlined paper, a ruler and bam – you have practice sheets! Or if large graph paper booklets are available in an office supply store near your home, that would be even better.

I don’t know what it is, but I just find the official practice sheets for sale often have inflated prices way beyond their usefulness. But, that’s just me.

Aku no Hana Vol 1 and 600 Basic Japanese Verbs
Aku no Hana Vol 1 and 600 Basic Japanese Verbs

One more option for learning kanji and building vocabulary would be investing in a study aid. I purchased 600 Basic Japanese Verbs almost two years ago in anticipation of the December JLPT. I am a terrible test taker, and since I learned Mandarin before studying Japanese I have a tendency to mix up the meaning of kanji characters.

This book is really useful for learning all forms of a verb to truly grasp its usage in written and spoken common speech.

You’re probably wondering where the other books come in, right?

Aku no Hana Vol 1 and Japanese the Manga Way
Aku no Hana Vol 1 and Japanese the Manga Way

In the photo, Saeki-san’s friend asks:

“ねー奈々子聞いて聞いて!”

「“ねーななこきいてきいて!”」

“ん?”

 “Hey Nanako – did you hear? Did you hear what happened?”

 “Huh?” or “No, not yet” could be her interpreted response.

Japanese the Manga Way is great at filling in the gaps that come with Japan’s honorific/hierarchy system from the perspective of an informed outsider. Males speak differently than females, adults differently than children, etc. This book highlights and focuses on patterns of informal speech that would be used by say, our middle school characters in The Flowers of Evil.

Japanese the Manga Way also explains situational differences and gives examples of when informal usage would be acceptable, or solutions of polite speech to use instead.

This book also acts as a great aid for manga that heavily uses katakana, or the Japanese writing system primarily used for foreign words. Shirokuma Café [しろくまカフェ] or Polar Bear Café takes place in Canada.

Shirokuma Cafe Manga Vol 1
Shirokuma Cafe Manga Vol 1

The story follows a group of talking animals in a world that co-exists peacefully with humans. After watching the 2012 anime adaptation, it was great to revisit the world and learn the corresponding characters for Japanese homonyms and homophones.

It also helps that the characters are simply names of animals, so if you ever go to a Japanese zoo you’d be a wizard traversing the different habitats!

Kirby! Star! Volume 1 Manga
Kirby! Star! Volume 1 Manga

The last manga to mention is Kirby. I’ve never really played the games or seen the anime, but this was recommended to me when I first started reading J-manga. I’ll be honest: all I know about the story is that a pink blobby creature has the power to inhale anything, and eats a lot of food.

(Kirby would also be the last survivor should an apocalypse ever happen, as evidenced by the last Super Smash Bros game storyline.)

The manga is simple to read, utilizes all of the writing systems referenced above and it just has a fun, silly story. It’s a stress-free read if you are just beginning your Japanese language journey.

So using these methods – should we call it the In Asian Spaces method? lol- you now know how to look up a new kanji, learn its stroke order, determine its contextual meaning, and how to learn all of the forms it can take during conjugation.

I may do a post that focuses on Netflix shows with colloquial Japanese and great apps you can download to keep your comprehension up to speed at a later date.

Hopefully someone found this information useful!

How do you learn Japanese with manga? What was your favorite Japanese book to read as a beginner? Do you have any recommendations to add to the list?

Leave your thoughts in the comment section below, I’d love to hear from you! Also be sure to follow us for more language learning strategies and skills!

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My Oddly Interesting Observations at Anime NYC 2018

Is Anime NYC worth it? Read about my strange experience and let’s find out.

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.

Note: Not the booth in question

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.

Wow.

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?

Absolutely not.

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.

Signing off,

In Asian Spaces

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Oh I forgot to mention, if you’re in the market for a face mask to keep you well this winter season, check out this for the brand I was using:  Pangda 4 Pack Anti-dust Cotton Mouth Face Masks Mouth Cover for Man and Woman (Black)

What is Going On with The Tokyo Ghoul: Re Anime?

I at least take comfort in the fact that I am not the only one confused.

Tokyo Ghoul, or Tokyo Kushu:re [東京喰種トーキョーグール:re] is an ongoing anime series that originally began airing in the summer of 2014. It is based on the popular manga by Sui Ishida that produced both TG and it’s continuation, :re.  I initially read a few chapters of the original story, but have yet to finish due to the personal preference of waiting until the anime ends to read and compare the key differences in an adaptation.

The first season adaption of the series remained consistent according to a general fandom consensus. Season two, however, veered off from this severely. The most memorable scene for me will always be Kaneki serving Jason (Yamori) some overdue justice while “Unravel” by TK from Ling Toshite Sigure played in the background.

Tokyo Ghoul √A [東京喰種√A] seemed to have Kaneki Ken join Aogiri Tree, the organization that had kidnapped and tortured him. In the manga, he sided with the Anti-Aogiri group that was set on escaping their imprisonment by the shady group. The underlying basis in this is that Kaneki wanted to protect his friends, while in the anime he did not.

As a non-manga reader, I fully understood this season and even though finding it a bit dull, overall thought it was okay. “Glassy Sky” by Yamada Yutaka (やまだ豊) was an amazing song to listen to during certain scenes. I also really enjoyed the OP, or opening song for that season, even if I am seemingly alone in this. Say what you will about the series, but at least the OST, or official soundtrack is solid.

I caught the first cour of Tokyo Ghoul:re over the spring when it aired. I enjoyed it but was utterly confused with what I was seeing on screen. I had heard from manga readers that season two had pretty much veered off story wise and :re was supposed to essentially retcon it.

As with many things, I am very liberal with spoilers. You could “spoil” a show completely for me down to the last detail, and I would still be able to enjoy it. Sometimes with stories that have been ongoing for a considerable amount of time (ex: Naruto series, Shingeki no Kyojin, etc.) I’ll just look up certain things. Or if an extremely good episode was left on a cliffhanger, I will immediately resort to the manga before the next. I like to think of this practice in my head as ‘situational spoilers’. Plot details I normally would wait for, but just can’t seem to actually want to delay that knowledge.

After patiently sitting through the first cour of :re anticipating Sasaki Haise’s revert back to Kaneki Ken, it all paid off in the final episode. As an anime only watcher, the entire season had consisted of pointless slice of life-esque arcs with members of the CCG. Coming from past seasons, I did not care for any of these people and the anime did nothing to really humanize the bunch. The aura of cold sociopathy still exuded from these people who worked in this sterile desolate white building. The constant hidden and blatant ambitions of social climbing and backstabbing was such a turn off, especially when Kaneki or rather – Haise – would go home to more disrespect and antagonism from his team.

It really pissed me off watching Kaneki’s amnesia and how he was unknowingly interacting and working for those he considered enemies. It could be argued that was the point, but constantly shoving the organization in my face each episode did not allow me to soften to them as one would have hoped to while trying to enjoy the anime.

I especially hated all of the time spent with Quinx Squad. Yonebayashi Saiko and Shirazu Ginshi seemed like decent people, but I absolutely could not stand Urie Kuki. I also could not care much for Mutsuki Tooru, given the spoilers I read about their character.

But I powered through it, because moments with the ghouls of Anteiku made it worthwhile. The moment Haise unwittingly was drawn to the café with his old friends who silently just watched him was truly heartbreaking.

I was even excited to see Tsukiyama Shuu, despite him being a creep in previous seasons.

Then the first episode of the season’s second cour premiered, and it all went out the window once more.

Who is this guy in all black wearing glasses? Is this the Black Reaper character personality people were hype about? Why is he obsessed with arresting Takatsuki Sensei? Okay, why did Yoshimura Eto reveal her secret at the book release? Why can’t most ghouls read books without hiragana? I remember Hinami was really smart, and Touka disguised her true nature to attend high school normally. Why is Kaneki still working for the CCG, didn’t he want to die? Okay, Eto called him Kaneki so that really is Kaneki. Oh, Kaneki is going to free Hinami? Wait, where did his glasses go? Were the glasses just an act?

All jokes aside, episode one was extremely confusing. At least the op was good. TK from Ling Tosite Sigure was singing it again, and given my affection for post-hardcore I couldn’t help but bop my head to it.

Reddit user Gary4067 made a bullet point list of all things skipped in the episode, and it’s pretty tragic. Apparently, it adapted at least nine chapters from the source material.

Coming off the first cour and referencing the wiki, we left off at the Tsukiyama Family Extermination Operation arc. We then are just thrown into the Third Cochlea Raid without (from a manga standpoint) understanding why Kaneki is randomly going rouge. Yes, he did want to die – but the anime showed us him still faithfully working for the CCG even if he did get a little saucy by throwing things during an interrogation. I have no clue what happened to Tsukiyama or the ghouls who came to rescue him during the last cour’s end. No clue why Ayato is also coincidentally trying to raid the Cochlea. Rize is supposedly dead in the series and a figment of Kaneki’s imagination but apparently, she’s alive being held somewhere against her will.  No clue why Eto revealed her true identity to the world. Don’t know why I should care about the causal connections between the Washu clan, Organization V or the CCG but I’m sure it’s something important.

Manga wise, apparently: Eto revealed her identity as the popular author and the One-Eyed Owl at an Aogori Tree meeting or something but was overheard, so decided to reveal it to the public.  Rushima Island was being raided by the CCG, so Ayato (kinda?) decided to ambush the Cochlea along with AT members. Kaneki’s memories of being held prisoner in the facility after his defeat by Arima were not touched upon. Some background on Rize’s childhood was also missing.

If this was confusing to read, it is because even with explanations and spoilers I am still a bit jumbled as to what is going on in the series.

Animators in Japan are notoriously overworked, and Studio Pierrot has a history of questionable quality when it comes to their shows. Certain episodes of Naruto Shippuden and The Legend of Korra come to mind.  There seems to be a new director in charge of this season who lots of fans don’t seem to have a lot of faith in.

I am not sure if the production team is channeling the mangaka’s urge to be finished with the series, but for whatever reason, they are rushing it to the point of complete incoherence. Maybe it is budgeting issues, maybe there is a lack of leadership – we as watchers will never really know the true issue unless an insider spills the beans. But whatever the problems are, I wish the pacing would slow down just a bit in order to make sense and properly introduce characters. When a key character to the manga plot is introduced but on screen watchers are not given nor shown context as to why they should care, they tend to lose interest. I did not give a single damn about the man who was possibly killed while trying to defend Rize. I say possibly because the fight’s conclusion was too vague to show us his fate. Almost as vague as to why he was introduced randomly in the first place.

Either the studio needed to order more episodes to explain certain plot points, or it should have been adapted and condensed more fairly. I just wish I knew why Tokyo Ghoul Re is really this bad. Actually, Re and Root A both seemed to be a complete mess in retrospect.

I will continue to watch because frankly, I seem to enjoy scraps at this point, but I will be sure to read the manga once this season ends. For those of you also interested in reading it, Tokyo Ghoul, Vol. 1 can be purchased legally using the link at no additional cost to yourself.

How do you feel about the series adaptation as a whole? Are you a manga reader, anime watcher only, or a mixture of both? Do you think the Tokyo Ghoul:re “Call to Exist” video game will be better than the entire tv show?

Leave your thoughts in the comment section below, we’d love to hear from you! Also be sure to follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Reddit for more anime reviews and updates!

Was AFNYCC Worth It?| Anime Fest @ NYCC | Convention Review

Covering the controversial convention one photo at a time.

So to start this review off, let me just say that I was not enthused to attend on Sunday. I made one two three separate posts about this con’s inception in anticipation for what might be experienced. I was still hopeful that it would be an enjoyable experience.

And then I looked at Social Media.

anime fest nycc acoustics

anime fest 1

anime fest 2

I’ll be damned. There were sad and disappointed threads detailing the lack of programming, events, exhibitors or even attendees for that matter.

This morning upon waking, I was struggling to find a reason to go. The weather had turned and it was now overcast and drizzling. People were saying the shuttle bus wasn’t exactly on time or picking up many people.

I googled AFNYCC to try and pull up the convention twitter handle to view the shuttle bus pick up locations again.

My blog came up.

I googled the entire festival’s name, my blog came up again…before the con’s actual info or media links.

Since I wrote about it so much prior to its debut, I thought it was my civic duty to attend and document what I saw and experienced there. This is my sole reason for not just letting the con keep my $20.

Good SEO practices on my part aside, this convention needs to be documented. Someone on Twitter likened it to Dashcon. I associate it in my head with The Last Airbender film. Did the fandom wipe it from their collective memory? Yes. But it also served as a basis for not forgetting what happened the first time a remake was carelessly done, and spread awareness for the new live-action ATLA Netflix series coming soon.

I feel the same way about this. I will bite the bullet along with other con goers, and will immortalize it here on the internet.

Will they shape up next year? Who knows. But this will be here for anyone who wanted a detailed peek at what actually went down during Anime Fest @ NYCC x Anime Expo.

(Also some of these photos were edited on a potatoe, so excuse the quality of some shots.)

On an unrelated note, I’ll be purchasing my weekend pass for Anime NYC this coming week.

If you enjoy this convention review and would like to help me get to other cons, visit the About page to donate. Thanks and let’s begin!

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I arrived to the Jacob Javits Center around 9:30 am. I looked around for the shuttle buses, but seen none in sight. A man on a bullhorn was shouting directions to the comic con crowds on where to line up if they already had tickets. Once he paused for breath, I asked where the shuttle bus pick up was. I was directed to an area behind where we both stood. I waited five minutes and got antsy, as the day was overcast and there was a humid drizzle falling.  I walked over to the front entrance of the convention and asked a woman donning an earpiece connected to a walkie-talkie if she knew when the shuttle bus would be coming. She had no clue what I was talking about so I explained it was for the Anime Festival. She pointed me in the direction the man had and told me it should be coming eventually, as the 9:30 am pick up had just passed.

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Fifteen minutes later I was tired of standing in the elements and began walking. Around 9:53 I saw a bus for the Javits Center pass me by, but I was already ten blocks away. So the bus was a thing at least on Sunday, despite what I saw on Twitter for days earlier. Even with Midtown traffic, might I make a suggestion for if this convention continues next year?

Maybe it would be best to have a staff person sit on the bus to check passes and they could update the app on when they are in transit, and close to certain pickup points. It would take away a lot of the mystery of when the bus would come.

Before I left, I asked those surrounding me if they knew when the bus would come and everyone had unsure or confused answers. I also took photos of the incoming crowds.

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I planned to mention in the NYCC post my troubles finding a show program that Friday. I spoke to security/ReedPop staff and asked if there were program booklets for that day. They directed me to a place inside. I explained that I did not have a ticket for that day and that I went Friday and got no definitive answers on where to find one. In my head, I came to the conclusion that they were a myth and simply did not exist. Aside from one or two people, the entire convention nobody had one out.

A staff man was kind enough to reach into his own backpack and give me a booklet. I am extremely grateful for that act of kindness.

I can proudly say I now have eight years’ worth of NYCC program booklets to remember my experiences. I know that is not what is most important, but it’s been something fun for me to do over my years of attendance.

The walk to Pier 94 wasn’t completely terrible. It was just desolate and it reminded me of my walk there for Tech Day over the summer. Although I must admit, it was a bit depressing walking one way with a red colored Anime Fest pass and watching all of the green colored New York Comic Con passes continue on in the opposite direction.

As I got closer to the pier, I saw about five people going to the same place as me.

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Security was simple to get through, and I’m not even going to lie I snagged an extra lanyard from comic con on Friday because I didn’t expect there to be any at Anime Fest. The lanyards were red promoting Dark Horse Comics. So I guess there was a bit of color coordination with each events badges – red lanyard and ticket for AFNYCC, green badge and Line Webtoon lanyard for NYCC. One of the security staff from earlier had mentioned my badge looked totally different from everyone else’s, and I didn’t understand what he meant until now.

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Walking into the event space, you are greeted by the smiles of the staff. Unlike comic con, it was very easy to find someone working. I had a lot of casual conversations with them along with a lot of the vendors and exhibitors.

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Aside from Good Smile Company, however, it doesn’t seem like any of the other power players bothered to set up additional shops at Pier 94.IMG_5161

The Official Merchandise Shop and several vendors looked bored and were trying to commune with anyone passing by. I don’t think they did well on business due to the low foot traffic. It was a huge contrast from the main convention’s crowds.IMG_5096IMG_5041IMG_5087IMG_5122IMG_5134There was a well-sized gathering when I attended on Sunday, and the Autograph Signing for Cowboy Bebop even had a looping line. One of the two English translators with the production staff was Dr. Mari Morimoto, a veterinarian and real power player in the Japanese translation game. I’ve crossed paths with her at past con events (Kishimoto at NYCC) and at my old place of work. She recently had a lecture at The Japan Foundation’s The Nippon Club earlier this October that I tried RSVP’ing for but never heard back.

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As for the convention floor, I took a few photos of the infamous “Aladdin Rug”, bamboo tatami mats, parachute game, and a few other things.IMG_4944IMG_4995IMG_5016IMG_5135

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I think this is where the problem lies with many con-goers who went to this event.

Eavesdropping on conversations, some people were really excited about it. They had never been to Comic Con or an actual dedicated anime convention.  Many had brought small children or tweens who seemed to really enjoy the activities there.

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However, they are unaware of how anime conventions are ‘supposed’ to go. Given the names attached to this poorly and hastily thrown together convention (New York Comic Con, Anime Expo, a good handful of the major Exhibitors like Funimation, Viz Media, Crunchyroll, Vertical/Kodansha, etc. attending the main con) it was a complete fail.

It seemed like a small town non-profit convention that had no access to any Japanese culture or talent nearby. Only thing is, this is Manhattan. I worked in Midtown East for a while where all of the Japanese businesses and companies reside. I know firsthand just how strong and alive the Japanese and Japanese-American community is in this city. That’s not even factoring in other boroughs.

In its haste, the convention didn’t seem to partner with any of the smaller or local facets like Anime NYC has successfully done.

This is why we saw Chinese animation vendors, random tiered merchandise, and other things you would not normally expect at a for-profit convention with status associated with it.

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Then again, NYCC has never done anime well. A fact I’m glad no one has forgotten, again consoling me when I overheard conversations about this as I perused the convention.

But it was not all bad. A lot of talented Artist Alley residents were gypped, and deserve a bit of spotlight.

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The Elven Caravan was selling really cool custom painted elf ears.

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Jenovasilver has something saucy for you all with her “good wholesome cute things and sin!” (also lots of Voltron)

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YUKIPRI is a digital illustrator and webcomic artist who has some really great Yuri!!! on Ice art.

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A lot of the normal vendors were really nice people just trying to manage a badly dealt hand. No one seemed outwardly bitter.

The Taiwanese Cultural Center in New York was in attendance promoting some cool animated content they had coming up. I spoke about one event they were associated with earlier this year.

All in all, it wasn’t a completely bad experience. Would I pay to attend again next year? Absolutely not. Is it worth the $20 price tag as-is right now? No.

But don’t take my opinions to heart, as everyone will have their own interpretations of things and events. What sells me on any event is quality, effort, and people.

The people were really nice, however, there was no effort put into this “con” and because of that, the quality of what could have been a blast off the first year ultimately failed. This is especially true since the fanbase is literally there, but for some reason, the convention couldn’t cater to them even with all of those feedback surveys Comic-Con regularly does. It’s amazing.

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Let’s hope ReedPop takes the general consensus’ feedback and shapes it into something malleable that everyone can one day enjoy.

Did you attend Anime Fest @ NYCC? How did you feel about the buzz online surrounding this event? Can they do better next year? How?

Leave your thoughts in the comment section below, I’d love to hear from you! Also be sure to follow us on Twitter, Reddit and Instagram for more convention reviews and news!

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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!

Character Log: Yoshizaki, Mari | NEET in Manga

A new installment in the NEET in Manga series! This time we’ll take a look at Boku wa Mari no Naka character Mari Yoshizaki.

A NEET could be defined as a young person between the ages of 15-29 who is Not in Education, Employment or Training. The age range can go as high as the mid-thirties in some studies. Social anxiety, lack of ambition, depression, and exhaustion are all conditions which could factor into one’s decision to choose the ‘NEET lifestyle’. Sometimes these individuals hold a part-time employment status for income (with the intention to save up before quitting), but often times they are supported by relatives or immediate family members.

Family members support the individual in question out of shame and/or guilt perceived as a failure on their own part. Due to negative connotations and stigma surrounding mental health in Japan, many families would rather “enable” the situation than seek help – which could translate to judgment from outside society. Women are more likely to become NEETS than men, as men are more likely to become hikikomori, or shut-ins.

In recent years, the Japanese government has made strides toward combating this epidemic. Regional Youth Support Stations, New Start’s Rental Sisters and Brothers, as well as Agricultural Initiatives targeting NEETs seem to be trying to change the tide. The inclusion of many individuals suffering this disorder in manga and anime is something I would like to catalog here at In Asian Spaces. If you can think of any characters that may fit these profiles, please leave their names or the series in the comment section below.

Be sure to check out our previous character profile log on Tokyo Ghoul’s Saiko Yonebayashi.

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Name: Yoshizaki, Mari [吉崎 麻理]

Age: 16

Manga: Boku wa Mari no Naka, Inside Mari, I’m in Mari [ぼくは麻理のなか]

First Appearance: Chapter 1

Published: March 2012 – September 2016

Length: 80 Chapters, 9 Volumes

Employment Status: Education, Employment or Training

Description: An “angel-like” beauty with long dark brown hair, wide eyes and a slim figure. She is very popular in high school and has reputedly turned down every male who has asked her out.

Semi-Complete Plot Spoilers Ahead.

Details of Note: Some of you may be confused as to why I’ve listed Mari as NEET rather than hikikomori. Mari chooses to escape her life by believing she has switched bodies with an actual shut-in, Isao Komori.

She stalks the college dropout and tries to emulate his behaviors. However, in reality, she misses school, is given prescription pills by her mother, and frequently goes out on ‘missions’ with friend and somewhat lover Yori. The two girls seem to have an intimate relationship implied in flashbacks to be initiated by Mari one day in the nurse’s office at school. Other indicators of Mari’s sexuality may reside in her hobby of buying female erotica during her nightly walks away from home (evidenced in Isao’s true memories).

Since she is a minor, she is supported by her family monetarily. The character also chooses not to attend school (although mainly it is due to incapacitation) and still socializes a bit. We can contrast this to Isao, who has absolutely no contact with other human beings throughout his day except late at night when he goes for snack runs at the local convenience store.

When offered video games by her younger brother, Mari declines and would rather avoid family members. Despite this, her brother remains a solid support system as her parents seem to ignore and trivialize her illness. They want to make it “go away” with pills so that it does not inconvenience their daily lives or ruin her ‘perfect’ image at school. There is also the whole “Fumiko” thing and some sort of memory-induced dissociation….

Mangaka Oshimi Shuuzo often writes about mental illness, these being heavy themes in prior works such as Aku no Hana and the ongoing Happiness. There are also strong themes of societal deviance and isolation in the central core characters, which we will cover in later posts…

 

Have You Picked Up Your Copy Yet? |Free Comic Book Day Haul 2018

Saturday, May 5th is Free Comic Book Day! Have you had a chance to pick up your favorite title?

Last year a new comic book shop opened up a few blocks away from my home, so I decided to make the trek down there to check out their selection. A three comic per person limit was enforced, and I saw at least twenty-five available series in the offer. Some of these were titles from Halloween Comic Fest.

The full selection offered can be viewed on the official Free Comic Book Day website here.

The store also had a discount sale, but a few of their figurines seemed to be of a questionable quality so I kept it moving after picking out my lot. To explain, some merchandise was sitting bare on top of book stacks out-of-box serving as decorations, which no doubt are now collecting dust and scuff marks; sticky bright orange manual retail price gun tags stuck onto the objects directly. Others were in banged up boxes that seemed to have fingerprints on the inside plastic that should have been unopened. It was as if someone had opened them and placed them back in, or they are hameydowns being passed off as quality merch.

Usually from what I’ve seen in the past, any display is enclosed in a specialty glass box. Collectors would not go for the sorts of items I witnessed today. Although I do not collect much myself, I’ve had to brush up on shady selling practices to not get scammed at conventions.

*cough* New York Comic Con *cough*

The store owner also had a plethora of (I’m sorry but) worthless Funko Vinyl pop figures with inflated prices.

I usually wait until Cons or visit Kinokuniya for my figma needs. Those last-minute I-need-to-get-rid-of-this-stock deals are what dreams are made of.

Dark Horse released a The Legend of Korra comic, as they always had in years prior.  I believe I own issues from 2013 & 2015. For those of you who don’t know, there is also a graphic novel series for Korra as well as Avatar: The Last Airbender. Gene Yang is the writer for the novel series and the last issue I picked up was the ending of The Rift arc. So as of now, the full titles in the saga for ATLA are:

The Promise, The Search (which answers the eternal question of what really happened to Zuko’s mother), The Rift, Smoke and Shadow and North and South.

For now, The Legend of Korra only has Turf Wars.

In the free issue I just picked up for LOK, Michael Dante DiMartino is directly involved – which is nice to see. I haven’t heard much from Bryke after the main series ended, although they gave Yang guidance on the overarching plot points for the stories.

I also picked up a comic from Shadow Roads (which I hadn’t previously heard of – I’m not hugely into comics – but rather manga) and Archie’s Betty & Veronica. I’d watched the first season of The CW’s Riverdale on Netflix in conjunction with catching up on past seasons of The 100 and it kind of grew on me. I mean of course it’s cheesy; everything on that network is somewhat cheesy to a degree – I think my lowest life moment was being chest deep entrenched in Reign – but the core plot is interesting.

This book, however, seems to be focusing on the actual comic strip story between the two ladies. I have a crush on the actress who plays Veronica Lodge in the TV show, so this may have subconsciously influenced my decision as well.

Comixology doesn’t seem to have as broad a selection displayed as years passed. Based on my own search results, I only found single issues from long ago. The website now has an obnoxious “An Amazon Company” logo underneath their own, so I suspect this to be the culprit. The only new comic I came across through google and internal site searches seemed to be for DC Super Hero Girls 2018. So if that’s your cup of tea, head on over for a digital download. I’ve also heard rumors of an issue of Doctor Who floating around somewhere.

I was hoping free comic book day would include manga.

If you are in Manhattan, Forbidden Planet NYC and Midtown Comics should have a hefty in-store selection. Online Kodansha doesn’t seem to be doing much, but Viz Media is offering manga samplers for My Hero Academia, Pokemon Sun & Moon, and I did flip through a book with equal parts Sailor Moon and Akira in it – but I cannot for the life of me remember its title.

Did you pick up your comics yet? What series would you love to see offer issues for FCBD? Did you luck out and receive a bigger haul than me? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below, I’d love to hear from you! Also be sure to follow for more updates on upcoming events! We may also do a review of the Korra comic soon!

In Asian Spaces Site Update:

Life seems to have picked up for me, which is very strange. Things had been very uneventful for months and suddenly amazing opportunities and events are falling into my lap. This has changed my intended upload frequency, but I hope to get back on track. I tend to write many articles at once and then most of my time is spent editing and fact-checking before I upload. Lately, however, I’ve mainly just been writing and researching interesting topics without editing – hence my slight lulls in content.

I hope to get back on track soon to continue putting out thoughtful, unshallow content. I don’t fault other people for posting for the sake of just getting something out there, but that has never been my prerogative. Currently things have also changed (in the past two days) and I may not be able to attend Japan Day 2018 at Central Park, one of the target events on In Asian Spaces list. Things could change, but for now I may not be covering that event.