I’ve been watching anime ever since I was 4 years old. I loved the bright colors, the story lines and reading the subtitles since everything was in Japanese. It was much different than my other favorite cartoons at the time, like Tom & Jerry, Bugs Bunny or the superhero genres I was used to. At the time, that’s just what I thought they were, cartoons. At the time, I was not familiar with the term Anime. Fast forward years into the future and I’m at my very first ANIME convention.
I’ve been to Comic Cons and Star Trek conventions, but ANIME NYC was something different. While the vendor booths and artist areas were similar to the aforementioned, something stood out like a sore thumb. The attendees were much younger and outwardly expressed bubbled over excitement. Everyone spoke like being there was the BEST THING EVER! And THAT is what I felt. I had so much fun!
First, I must add that ANIME NYC is only in its second year (not to be confused Anime Fest). It’s an Asian pop culture convention devoted to Anime and Manga. This years event easily boasted 36,000 attendees, up from last year’s 15,000; their maiden event.
So let’s start with the younger crowd, because there were other notable differences. At most of the conventions I’ve attended, the average attendees were probably 25 to 40 years of age. Maybe this is because comic books date WAAAAY back when. Well, I bet you did not know that the first comic book published in the United States was in 1842 (The Adventures of Obadiah Oldbuck). Imagine what a convention would be like back then! But comics are even older than that! The world’s earliest comic book industry didn’t start in America or Europe, but in Japan. In 1775, Koikawa Harumachi published 'Kinkin Sensei Eiga No Yume' (Master Flashgold's Splendiferous Dream).
Fast forward a few centuries to the 1920s, 40s and 50s and you have a boom in comics and animation. So older comic books may mean an older crowd. Not to say that there are people from the 1700s still around, but it could be that since comics are very much collectable items that great-grandfathers, grandfathers, uncles and dads, not to mention grandmothers too, passed on (or their fascination with them) as heirlooms and/or the idea just caught on as a pass time. I’m interested in the “how and why” and may actually do more research to confirm my theory about ANIME and Comic Cons based on this.
Visually it is obvious that ANIME NYC attracts a much younger crowd. Each time I saw someone in great cosplay, I had to ask if they were 18 or older before I took a picture. My guestimation based on the visuals, and me actually asking, is that ANIME NYC attracts a large number of 16 to 28 year olds.
ANIME NYC 2018
There were even a group of ladies at a double-take I had to ask if they were all above 18 years of age, with one of them responding that she was in her late 30’s. So being in a crowd like this seems to also attract a lot of young at heart attendees. I asked the first two ladies I met, “Peggy and The Adventure Zone Lolita” what they thought about this convention compared to ones they’ve gone to in the past and their thought was that it attracted a much younger crowd (Uh-huh! My thoughts were confirmed!).
The other difference I must note were the groups dancing to JPop or Idol Pop. For those of you who don’t know what this is google it! Watch the videos on YouTube! They’re fun! Wikipedia has its definition of Japanese Idols who perform Idol Pop music as, “a term typically used to refer to young manufactured stars/starlets marketed to be admired for their cuteness. Idols are intended to be role models. They are supposed to maintain a good public image and be good examples for young people.” (Backhand compliment I’d say, “manufactured” LOL!). But in a nutshell, THEY ARE CUTE, and THEY ARE FUN! The dancers and followers of Idol Pop at ANIME NYC adored the “star and starlets” so much that they dressed up like them and mimicked their every step, gyration and fist-pumps, throwing contagious smiles at their audience. Audience participation is strongly encouraged.
One group in particular, “μnite” (pronounced mew-nite - with the Greek small letter) caught my attention. There was loud cheering coming from one corner of the convention center on the lower level. I immediately noticed the enthusiastic audience participation. I stood mesmerized and curious wondering if maybe the flash-mobs of the early 2000s were back. I didn’t realize that an hour had almost passed as I watched them perform dance routines and lip-sync popular JPop songs. Yes, I had a very big goofy smile on my face mimicking their moves until I caught myself!
Out of curiosity I walked up to a young lady standing on the sidelines, dancing in step with the performance before us. Turns out that she was part of the group. Her name is Nye. She was shy at first but the pride in her group immediately shined through as she doted on their performance stats. I also spoke to Harmonia, who seemed to be one of the main organizers of their group. She told me that they travel to various Anime conventions to perform. I let her know that I immediately noticed that they also have quite the fan base, which she agreed and was extremely proud of. It was like everyone there, dancers and audience, were just a huge group of best friends. There was no shyness in performance and it came across that everyone and anyone belongs. I said hello to a few other members like Viola, Kasumi? and the twins, Kaiju and Cherry Melody. They gave me a parting gift to remember them.
There were plenty of Anime cosplayers there performing right along with μnite. Unfortunately many if not all of them were under 18 so I was limited on the amount of photos I could take.
On the other side of the convention center there was another group of performers I watched. So these type of performances are popular at Anime conventions. So much fun!
Inside the convention hall, there were panel discussions, pictures with popular industry personalities, tons of merch to buy and spectacular performances just like any other large scaled convention but I felt this crowd was much more excited and were very open to expressing it.
One thing that I was surprised to see was an area designated for travelers and their luggage. There were also several coat check stations. I’ve never been to San Diego Comic Con but maybe they have the same thing? DM me on my Instagram to let us know at either @officialsabmg or @space_aliens_bad_mothers_guns.
I know, you’re asking how I could be so excited about luggage. It’s more about how accommodating ANIME NYCs organizers are. I spoke with some of the people standing on line waiting for their luggage as well as the attendants and it turns out that a lot of people fly in for this event, A LOT! It makes sense as this is now the largest event of it’s kind in the United States.
There were also a variety of food stations everywhere and coffee on hand for the busy vendors and exhibitors. Sure, it was your typical pizza, hotdogs, chicken nuggets and burgers, but the lines were not long, as a matter of fact, if there were any lines they moved quickly like a well oiled machine.
I know, I know, I’m getting to excited into the weeds here reporting on basic things that are ancillary to the event, but the smallest details count. The convention circuit can be routine, one vendor confessed.
I’m super excited about ANIME NYC 2019 and I am back to being a huge fan of Anime (especially since I’ve been watching a lot of reruns of “Attack On Titan”). It has changed quite a bit from when I remembered watching my first Anime, but I can totally get into this new wave of Anime (for me anyway and maybe some of you).
I am also super stoked about introducing our followers to some of our own Anime characters. As a matter of fact, if you check out “Society” in Volume 2 of Space Aliens, Bad Mothers and Guns! (our book series), I modeled my characters after basic Anime drawings. I’m sure with more time and practice I'll get better and by no means am I trying to say that my work is “Anime”.
I hope that Space Aliens, Bad Mothers and Guns! will get to participate next year at ANIME NYC 2019, especially since we are planning to introduce our own Anime. Sonise has been working on a few character and story lines that we’re super excited about.
Since this was my first Anime convention I decided to focus on my personal experience, the attendees, participants and the atmosphere. These are a few things that stood out to me that I felt worth mentioning especially since many of our followers tend to frequent Comic Cons. If you have not ever attended an Anime convention, you may want to check one out. Again, the idea is almost identical to Comic Cons, but Anime is a niche in the convention world. Until next time!