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New York Comic-Con 2014

by Katriel Paige,

If conventions are like giant fandom pilgrimages, then New York Comic Con is near the pinnacle- the one that people go to either out of a sense of obligation, because it is their one convention of the year, or because unlike much smaller fare, NYCC allows the attendee sample multiple fandoms simultaneously, like a filling multimedia buffet. Anime, video games, television, comics – it's all there, from AMC promoting more of The Walking Dead, to NBC's Constantine, to even the Video Game High School project on YouTube. Despite having the word “comic” in the title, this is the type of massive, multimedia event that grabs the attention of every major and periphery fandom, and manages to cater to them all over the course of four long, eventful days. It is an oasis of fandom celebration, minus the kitchen sink (unless some brave cosplayer decided to get in on that old joke).

But is it for fans of anime and manga? Is New York Comic-Con worth it? From an anime and manga view, it was hit or miss.

The exhibitors hall did have a presence with such anime and manga standbys as Yen Press, Viz Media, Vertical Inc., and more – but they were swamped by everything else. Continuing a trend that began with the massive merge of NYCC and NYAF in 2010, the visible side of NYCC has absorbed and almost rendered anime's presence invisible to the casual fan. There were cosmetic brands such as Nyx Cosmetics alongside booths for Ubisoft, Twitch.tv, Good Smile, and art schools recruiting students eager to create their own works. Cosplayers seemed like a small fraction of the attendees, though by no means were they absent, as the cosplays ranged from steampunk Wonder Woman onward to Sailor Moon and Kiki.

While the anime focused panels were happily full, a problem quickly arose with both room capacity and lines: it became apparent that to get a “good seat”, either attendees had to “camp” a previous panel or two (there were no room clears) or wait in line. Even if the attendee got to the location and proper line an hour in advance, that was no guarantee they would be able to find a seat. Good luck if the panel in question was about Star Wars or Doctor Who- lines for both franchises were hours long, with prepared fans bringing snacks and doing restroom breaks if they had someone to hold their place in line. Only Main Events had room clears- everyone else had to wait, or camp. While some panels had some value to manga fans, value for anime fans seemed low in relation to the lines and other media represented at the event. There simply was not much to see for anime fans, and while there were cosplays, a smattering of panels, and opportunities for the exhibitors’ hall, anime fans would be better served at an anime convention.

Manga seemed to have a greater presence at this convention, but greater is a relative term. Crunchyroll had never been to New York Comic-con before, but they showed up in force with some announcements and a presence that felt natural among all the pop culture on display. Aside from this, though, it seemed that the companies represented at New York Comic-Con were centered around New York's publishing industry. Yen Press, Kodansha, and Vertical announced new acquisitions (along with west coast-based Viz Media), while Funimation had no new announcements. Yen Press had fun giveaways for a Pandora Hearts art book - and while chances to win a prize relied on being amusing or knowing Yen Press trivia, it was still something fun for those in the panel. If, of course, the fans were willing to brave the lines.

The huge lines for just about everything (restrooms included), combined with the inconvenience of obtaining enough food and drink to make it through the day, once people left the convention they seemed to simply leave for the day. Exhaustion was a major consequence of this convention, and it could be seen in the many people sitting down on stairs, in the hallways, in the foyer to the Artists Alley, and in the ever-present lines.

New York Comic-Con was high-energy, but somehow with none of the fun and soul that one associates with conventions like Otakon or even Anime Expo; it felt like it was trying too hard, or trying to do too much, therefore spreading itself too thin to do any one aspect with spectacular excellence. It was like a little brother who idolizes their older brother, trying to copy the older one's mannerisms and style but forgetting that the best way to be noticed, is to be oneself to the best of one's ability. New York Comic-Con is not San Diego Comic-Con, or Otakon, and nor should it be. But as a convention, New York Comic-Con feels like it is still trying to figure out what it is.

If you are a manga fan, and want a convention to go to with a family or with relatives, this may be a good convention for you to save up for - bearing in mind that 3-day passes sell out within minutes and tickets aside from that are hard to come by unless you're really on top of it. Hotel space is an uphill battle too - but it could be worth it if your relationship with manga fandom has you wanting personal access to NYC's manga publishers. Barring that? Try setting your eyes on Anime Expo or Otakon.

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