New York Anime Festival 2008 Overview
Posted by Omega on October 6, 2008
Manhattan traffic and unforgiving rain wasn’t enough to keep thousands of sailor scouts, ninjas, artists, and anime devotees from missing out on one of the biggest events in anime fandom. New York Anime Festival 2008 exceeded my expectations with their fantastic venue space, amazing guests of honor, and the best masquerade/cosplay contest I’ve ever witnessed in all my time spent at conventions.
After collecting my badge, I went to the main convention floor where I was greeted by a perky girl from the maid cafe bowing while saying “irashaimasu!” If that isn’t a good first impression, I don’t know what is. You gotta admire the organizers for their attention to detail in trying to make NYAF08 truly a celebration of Japanese pop culture.
The amount of space in the exhibition hall (or dealer’s room if you prefer) is nothing I’ve experienced at a con since Otakon. FUNImation, Tokyopop, Viz, and Anime News Network all had a very strong presence there from the industry side. However, it was Bandai entertainment who stole the show as promoted two of the biggest anime titles of the year: Code Geass and Gurren Lagaan.
They also have the official right to shamelessly play the Haruhi ED dance music on loop.
Their booth was very impressive and inviting, and their Gurren Lagann promotion was very nice. Even better for fans are the star voice actors giving autographs; including Brad Swaile (Quatre from Gundam Wing, Light from Death Note, Setsuna from Gundam 00), and Spike Spiegal himself – Steven Blum (Leeron from Gurren Lagann, Orochimaru from Naruto).
The exhibition hall was filled with plenty of industry booths, dealers, promoters – just about anything you would want in your showcase exhibition room. What is particulary interesting is seeing the exhibition hall sharing the same space as the artists’ alley – located near the back end of the hall — where talented fans rent a table to showcase and sell their work. Artists get a lot more traffic this way, so many many kudos to the organizers.
The akihabara stage is very cool. Located near all the panel rooms, this stage attracts a lot of attention from the passer-bys on their way to a panel or the exhibition hall whenever a performance is showing. The Akihabara stage had a variety of musical guests and performances that always drew a nice sized crowd. Love Etc. and HAPPY FUN SMILE are New York based J-Pop bands performed nice little concerts. I really liked Love Etc. for their jazzy pop sound very reminiscent of Shina Ringo’s band Tokyo Jiihen.
They also dedicated a three hour slot to a “Pirates vs. Ninjas Dance Off.” However, there actually weren’t enough pirates there, so it just degenerated into a ninjas vs. whatever dork-wants-to-jump-on-stage-and-do-handstands dance off. Oddly enough, it was still kind of fun to watch.
Uncle Yo also graced the stage with his stand-up comedy act, where he took the chance to ridicule Death Note, Naruto, World of Warcraft, Tetris, and other icons of Otaku culture. An otaku stand-up comedian is a first for me in my time going to anime conventions, so I admire NYAF for bringing us something so unique and fun. Uncle Yo is an eccentric personality on stage, and he was a perfect choice for hosting cosplay contest.
And speaking of which, be sure to check out next post about the World Cosplay Summit Masquerade, which was so incredible that I had to dedicate for it a separate post.
If there is one reason and one reason only to go next year’s NYAF, that reason would be the World Cosplay Summit Masquerade. The masquerade opened brilliantly with the lovely Rie Tanaka performing a few songs from some of her anime. Who can really resist her adorable Chi speak?
After the concert, the masquerade got rolling and showed why this is considered to be the best cosplay contest in the U.S. anime convention community. Much of the reason for that is NYAF offering a trip to Japan to represent Team USA at the World Cosplay Summit Championships – an international gathering of a dozen countries in a competition to show who has the best cosplay in the world.
It sounds very dorky I know, but it’s completely awesome to witness a qualifier even for serious high-tier cosplay competition. That’s exactly what separates NYAF’s cosplay contest from other convention giants like Anime Expo and Otakon. The chance to win a trip to Japan to compete in the Championships meant you were going to see the best performances with true dramatic display of emotion that bordered on real performance art and the most immaculate hand-crafted costumes.
Yui and Mino of Team Osaka were invited from Japan to perform at this masquerade. They won third place at the World Cosplay Summit gathering this past summer in Japan.
Here they demonstrate everything I was talking about above. It is the greatest performance I’ve seen at an anime con masquerade.
I will talk about the NYAF08 masquerade next time in more detail.
Now to wrap things up: The number of guests of honor NYAF was able to gather — Rie Tanaka, Vampire Hunter D creater Hideuki Kikuchi and illustrator Yoshitaka Amano, and Iron Chef Morimoto to name a few — is absolutely great. The panel rooms were plentiful and amazing, the support from the industry – particulary FUNImation and Bandai – was very strong, and the exhibition hall plus the masquerade are among the best I’ve experienced at an anime con.
I will post more details in the future. In the meantime: A cosplay picture round-up!