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New York Anime Festival 2007
Writen by Ciello
Posted on December 29, 2007 at 06:27:45 pm
Click [Here] to visit the gallery of pictures for the New York Anime Festival.

Overview:

    After the untimely, unseemly, and unexpected death of the Big Apple Anime Festival, I've been craving for an anime con to return to my native city of New York. After four sad years and several tiny college-based startups in the area, someone has finally taken it upon themselves to try again. And that someone happens to be the same folk who ran NewYork ComiCon. Aside from NYAF, the closest convention that local New Yorkers have is a New Jersey con called AnimeNext. We've reviewed it on the site here, and those reviews haven't been pretty. Luckily, the NYAF is the exact polar opposite of AnimeNext, in practically EVERY way.
    It was held in the spacious Javits Convention Center, and the layout of the convention was easy to navigate. It was small, but by no means cramped! I've never seen such wide alleys in a convention dealer's room, and the anime/panel rooms were in a noticeably quieter area of the con. The con staff was friendly and omnipresent, events were well organized, and the industry panels even had a healthy smattering of good news to share! There were a couple hiccups (see below) and a couple golden moments (also see below) and it was, by and large, a success. For any small-size con, that's wonderful news. For a first-year con in a city as expensive and tough to manage as New York, that's a block-busting achievement.

Staff:

    The company that ran the show this weekend is called Reed Exhibitions. They're a swell bunch of folk, or so it seems! But their involvement in the con made for a very different atmosphere than in any of the others reviewed on this site to date. For starters, they were highly professional and organized. Their bright orange T-shirts could be seen in any direction, and I spied several con staffers who were keeping a vigil while incognito. It's good to know they were keeping an eye on things so closely! The volunteers were really friendly, and the few crowded periods of the weekend were handled smoothly.
    From the get-go, it was pretty clear that this was a corporate con: the tone of the opening ceremonies and the kind of events on schedule were geared less towards fans than I was used to. The fan-centric workshops were pretty much nonexistent, and there were a lot of panels mixed in with the anime screenings. To drive the point home: the dealer's room probably accounted for more than 50% of the con's total floor space. but please, don't let the con's slightly more commercial nature scare you away! The con is still run by Otaku of varying sorts, and while they may not be as fanatical as other con staffers, they were highly professional. I can't stress enough how organized they were. I didn't see a single canceled panel, and the only canceled event I was aware of was a comedy routine by the hilarious host of our Masquerade.
    There's a tad big of bad news on the staff front, and it's the harsh security guards. This is a common complaint for all events held in the Javits Center, and it's not even something that the Con has total control over. They were nice enough to me, once I put on the tough act and flashed a press badge, but I saw more than one poor con-goer getting the verbal smackdown for what appeared to be a minor misunderstanding. I felt bad for those poor kids. Shame on you, mr rent-a-cop!


Game Room:

    The game room was pretty tiny. It was hosted by NewYork-Tokyo, a nifty group of asian-cultured people who host events all over the city. Sometimes its a free movie, sometimes it's a game night or a mini convention of their own. Naturally, they were the perfect fit to pick up the reins for a game room in the city con. They showed off a decent collection of next gen titles (see the above link for details) and they heavily promoted this DS puzzle game called Neves. Dare I say it, that game was a heck of a lot of fun. Unlike the rest of the con, the actual room for the game room was way too small to hold the number of people who wanted to get in. And it was a bit of a drag that two of the three major screens were shut down during tournaments. Next year, hopefully it will be bigger! And perhaps contain more new puzzle games to suck away all my free time.

Dealer's Room / Artist Alley:

    the dealer's room was the crown jewel of this convention. It was huge, and was physically (and spiritually) the center of the weekend. The room itself was spaciously laid out, and there was plenty of space to maneuver around and browse for swag. And boy, was there swag. I saw all the usual wall scrolls, DVDs, costume supplies, box sets, wooden weapons, SLOs, music, merchandise, etc that you can usually find at cons. I also saw Chase Bank, New York University, The Daily Newspaper, and representatives from the a branch of the Japanese government responsible for exports. Holy Cow. I was glad to see the JETRO people there, since it can only be good that anime exports to America are catching the eye of the Japanese government. But the people at the bank and newspaper booths looked positively lost! It was pretty funny. Anyway, the dealer's room was good and I was able to find plenty of reasonably priced stuff. So much, in fact, that I'll be chowing down on Ramen or baked beans for the next couple weeks. Ahhh.. the joy of fandom.
    One interesting twist of the dealer's room was that the artist alley was sort of melded into the far side of the room. There was lots of nifty talent there, and I discovered a few new comics that I just devoured. One particular artist's work caught my eye, and after finding out how friendly this artist was, I simply had to give it a try. The "Templar, Arizona" book was probably my second best purchase of the night. The first, of course, was the latest edition of Robot. The brainchild of Renge Murata (of Last Exile fame) has been a favorite of mine since I discovered it, and now that Udon Entertainment (of Street Figher Manga and the Street Fighter HD Game fame) has picked it up, I am joy :D

"Maid Cafe":

    One of the unique things that NYAF had to its name was the prospect of a maid cafe. In their press release video, it's plastered on the title image along with anime and manga. At their advertising booth in other conventions, the maid cafe was invariably mentioned. Sometimes repeatedly. I could go on, but let's all accept that it was hyped up quite a bit. And then when the actual con arrived, well, it was a bit of a let down. I passed by the cafe area a bunch of times, what I saw could best be described as a food court with a maid outfit standing at the entrance.  After an afternoon of lugging delicious swag around the convention center, it would be a really nifty place to kick back and relax. They even had anime playing on TVs along the wall that the food-court-area was against. And nice big round tables. Nifty, it was. A maid cafe, it was not.

Anime Screenings:

    If you know your anime culture history, you'll know that these were the original reason and purpose behind events like NYAF. Cons have been slowly evolving into another creature entirely, but it still makes me glad to see a healthy showing of new shows at a convention. This weekend not only had a good variety of titles to appeal to all (pumpkin scissors to wallflower, Haruhi to Bleach), but several were repeated and staggered at different times over the three days. This gave people with conflicting schedules plenty of time to catch a show of their interest. I also saw a mix of both dubbed showings AND of subtitles. The dub versus sub debate is almost nonexistent among true fans, but I gotta say, I really liked the voice dub of Mushi-Shi. It's a nifty show, for those of you who like quieter, episodic mystery-type shows.
    The screening rooms also held a premiere for CATBLUE Dynamite and the Devil May Cry anime. The former is a 3D cell-shaded action flick that appears to contain a mix of 70's crime fighters and catgirls. And odd combination, but if you liked the animation for Appleseed this movie may be very much up your alley.
    All in all, the screenings were good. If you didn't have any events to be at, or if you were out of money for the dealer's room, you could likely find something here to catch your interest.

Location, food, and other vitals:

    New York is an impossible place to have a convention. It's massively expensive to get a big meeting space in this city. Just renting a 2 bedroom apt in this town is enough to buy you a full-sized house in other states. And believe me folks, I am not exaggerating. So while I'm not very fond of the location of this con, I also realize that there's nowhere better in the city to hold a large gathering like this.
    The bad side is that the con center isn't near any subways. So you've either got to wait for a bus near New York's Penn Station or walk about half a mile. Now a half mile isn't bad, by city standards. I walk longer than that to pick up groceries, it's like 4 blocks. But for folk who are used to driving everywhere, this might be a bit of a system shock. The neighborhood is not filled with food joints, unlike many other nearby neighborhoods. There's a diner, a couple delis, and maybe a restaurant or two. To add more icing on the cake, the Javits Center isn't in a nice part of town. It's not bad, for sure. But when you've got a vacant lot, a construction zone, and a bunch of nondescript buildings between you and your con, you might get a little wierded.
    The good side is that the venue is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly hugely mind-bogglingly big it is. Even Douglas Adams would be impressed! But seriously, it's huge and there was a very large and reasonably priced food court in the middle of the building. So you didn't even have to leave to get a decent lunch. And although the immediate neighborhood might not have very much to offer, you're in New York! There's an excellent 24 hour subway system that will take you to any one of a thousand delicious destinations elsewhere in Manhattan.
   

Masquerade (and World Cosplay Summit):

    The masquerade was held on Friday evening, and had the distinct honor of being the final testing grounds to see which American cosplay team would be flown over to Japan to compete in what amounts to the international cosplay olympics. It was a good show, and did a bunch of things that made it much more enjoyable than many of the other cosplay masquerades I've seen so far.
    For starters, there was a culling process. The MC told us of some of the acts that were removed from the list of shows, and believe me, it's a good thing they did. The 20 skits that remained were well performed, enjoyable, and almost completely devoid of those quiet awkward moments when a poorly planned skit falls apart on stage.
    The MC was "Uncle Yo," a stand-up act who tailors his wit around otaku culture. He was a funny guy, and at some points I was enjoying his reactions to the skits as much as I was the skits themselves. This poor guy had to stall for nearly 45 minutes at the end of the show, while the judges deliberated on the final prizes. He kept us all laughing and entertained the whole time. 
    The Masquerade seating area was separated from the rest of the dealer's room by a large fabric divider. At first, I cringed when I saw that. The very same technique was used at Anime Next, with disastrous results. However, my fears were unjustified! The actual show was held after the rest of the con had pretty much closed down. This made sure the masquerade had plenty of audience to watch the show, and it also meant that there would be no bad acoustics and background noise to battle with during the performance. The show itself didn't allow for any fancy video feeds or live mic setups, but they didn't have a single technical problem during the show. The con staff even ran a full dress rehearsal beforehand, and it showed.
    Here's the rundown of what actually went down:
The MC Started with an Ode to Glomping. It was a hilarious Dr. Seuss style poem. Then it was on with the skits!
  1. 'It's a Small World' Skit. This one won a judges award, and second place in the journeyman category. It was cute, a short dancing skit that involved signs I couldn't see.
  2. 2-Two was missing!
  3. "Deathmate" This was a difficult to follow (very muddy audio) story about breeding pets? Or something? I dunno, death was involved somehow.
  4. 4-Saitou Stand-up act. I'm not sure, but I'm almost positive I've seen this guy before at another masquerade. It was a stand-up act that was pre-recorded, and it was very not funny. His stage presence consisted of walking back and forth on stage making one of two hand gestures, over and over, while the audio progressed.
  5. "When We Know We Need Each Other" This was the winner of the World Cosplay Summit trials. They're being sent to Japan, and with good reason! This is a smaller section of a large cosplay group that usually performs some kind of interpretive dance number, and this followed their trend. It was a Magic Knight Rayearth skit. I could describe it, but you should just check out the video I have linked. Much like their other acts, the dancing told a story, the music was catchy, and the dancers really looked like they were enjoying themselves. They deserved the win, as well as the judges choice award they also received.
  6. "Battle of the Pink Haired SuperStars" This won second-place in the novice category. It was also the 'Robot Chicken' of cosplay dancing skits. It featured two characters with pink hair that were effectively dancing at each other in short bursts. The girl came out first, and didn't appear very happy to be there. I don't know if that was intentional or not, but then her partner jumped onto stage and awesomeness ensued. See the link above, it was pretty amusing. The guy dancer had so much energy that the people in the audience around me were getting into it by the end. Very well done!
  7. "Roxas Doesn't Feel Like Dancing" This was first place in the journeyman category, and also won a judge's choice award. The costumes were excellent, and the red wig this girl had was ten kinds of awesome. They picked a really appropriate song to make Roxas dance, and their timing was spot on. Really fun to watch!
  8. "Bankai Ichigo vs 10th Squad Captain" The audio was a little muddy on this one, but it was a stage-fighting skit, so audio wasn't as important. You could tell they practiced this one. There was none of that useless flailing that accompanies stage fighting skits. We could even hear their props making contact. Pretty sweet.
  9. "Rei And Asuka" I'm not sure if that's the title or not, but it won second place for craftsmanship and a judge's award. Their costumes were shiny, pleathered to the max, and looked really good. It was a choreographed and somewhat sensual kind of dance, but the dancers didn't look like they were having fun at all. A good show, but the frowns detract from it.
  10. "Nerima Daikon Brothers" I think I'm the only person in the audience who got this joke. Their skit was an excellent lip-synced rendition of the first episode of the series that goes by the same name. It's a musical anime, and a funny (if slightly perverted) show. The actors played their characters perfectly, but I think the reference was lost on the judges.
  11. "The Keyblade War" This was a skit about Sora gaining courage. The costumes were beautiful, though one of the actors had to resort to power-ranger style movements to show that he was talking.
  12. "Slipping Through My Fingers" This was a nice castlevania skit that was full of coordinated dancing. The movements were good, though the singer was a little harsh at some points.
  13. "Roxas Feels Bad Being a Nobody" This one won first place in the novice category, and a judge's award. It was basically an emo rant that swings into an angry rant about how Roxas gets the shaft in his game. It was pretty funny, and the girl playing the part definitely added to the humor with her expressions and delivery. I wonder, why is Roxas always cosplayed by girls?
  14. Fourteen is a mystery! I think they dropped out.
  15. "Ninjas Dancing- Believe it" this was a skit about how every time you say 'believe it,' a ninja dies. This is another skit I'm almost positive I've seen before, by the same folk. It ended with a bunch of disjointed flail dancing. C'mon guys, if there's no need to dance, find a different way to end your skit!
  16. "Dilemma #48" This was some kind of puppet skit that had a pinky-and-the-brain kind of story. I can stand behind anything related to pinky and the brain.
  17. "Puni Puni Parody" This won a judge's choice award. It was Shikamaru and Tsunade from Naruto in an amusing story that was created solely so that the skit could work in a "this is sparta!" reference. I rolled my eyes at first, and then the guy from Sparta throws off his cloak and puts on a sailor moon costume. Hilarity ensued!
  18. "The Last Love Song" This was a very brief skit that deviated from the norm, and won a judge's choice award. It wasn't trying to be a comedy routine or dance number, it was just trying to show one of the more dramatic moments from the anime, Saikano. That is an excellent anime, and it's also the most depressing thing I've ever voluntarily watched. The actors did a good job conveying the scene, and had a huge number of props to help. There was even a smog machine! They get props for the effort.
  19. "Royal Exchange Program" I don't know, something about Midna getting jealous on Zelda and being mistaken for a vampire by someone else. I didn't quite understand the vampire thing, but the costumes were really nice. Now, if they had chosen to make a vampire skit out of the anime Gankutsuo, that would be another story entirely!
  20. "Keep it Simple, Keep it Uniform" This was my other favorite skit of the night. The judges' too, apparently, since they won first place in craftsman, Best Performance, Best in Show, and a Judge's Choice Award. Wow. Theirs was a funny self-referencing skit that had lip-syncing, energetic dancing, and a dialog that kept me chuckling. Check out the link to see more. They definitely deserved all those accolades.

It came down to a very close call when it came to the final decision of the award for the trip to the World Cosplay Summit. I honestly wasn't sure which group the judges would choose in the end. Now, I don't disagree with the choice for the champions. I think those girls will represent us very well over in the land of the rising fun. But if two teams could have been chosen to tie for 1st place, I would have sent the last act over to the WCS 2008, as well. Both groups must have put in a huge amount of work, and it was a pleasure to watch each of their performances.

Final Thoughts:

    It's great to have a city convention back. Many of my own friends were unable to join me at this convention, and I have to say that they really missed out. In only its first year, NYAF has provided an excellent show that outshines many other established events. I think the future is bright for this one. And it's a good thing, too. I've been waiting for these guys to show up since 2003.

Location: [7/10]
New York is expensive, truly! And the con center isn't as easy to get to as we'd probably like. But hey, the place itself was nice.
Cosplay: [4/10]
I saw very few people in costume over the weekend. There were a bunch (see our gallery pictures) but casual outfits outnumbered costumes nearly three to one.
Masquerade: [10/10]
If I could give this show more than 10 points, I would.
Events: [8/10]
The panels and events were good. I didn't come across any cancellations, and everything ran smoothly. My only question, where were the fan workshops?
Con Organization: [10/10]
Reed Exhibitions was on top of things, couldn't ask much more.



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