Anime NYC 2023 Recap: A Little Underwhelming

Anime NYC 2019

New York City’s premiere anime convention, Anime NYC, was held last weekend at the Javits Center in Manhattan. While the panel schedule continued to offer a variety of programming and featured some notable guests from Japan, after last year’s event – and New York Comic Con, held last month in the same space – this year felt a little underwhelming.

Anime NYC has taken over the New York City convention center (mostly) every third weekend in November since 2017, barring the year-that-never-really-was when basically every in-person event was forced to become virtual. While I always enjoy myself, the event itself can be inconsistent from year-to-year. As with any event, it’s going to be largely dependent on the programming, the guests, and the featured exhibitors. And 2023 had a few gaps on the schedule and was missing some notable vendors.

As a perennial attendee of both NYCC and Anime NYC, it’s been hard not to notice how much more of a presence anime has had at NYCC in the past few years. And this year, it definitely felt like there was more anime on the NYCC show floor than at Anime NYC, which seems ridiculous to me. But that’s probably because Bandai Namco and Toei Animation had massive booth displays at NYCC, featuring multiple statues and a gigantic Gear 5 Luffy that hung above the floor.

Toei Animation was absent from Anime NYC this year, and while Bandai did have a presence, it was the film division only. I saw multiple people lament the lack of Gundam merchandise (Bandai normally has an entire Gundam section), and I was surprised that Bandai didn’t have any of their merch divisions there at all. This could be because with San Diego Comic-Con in July, Toy Fair New York in September, and NYCC in October, there just wasn’t the money to have a very big presence.

Other notable absences included studios like Sentai and GKIDS and publishers like Seven Seas, TOKYOPOP, and Kodansha. A criticism last year was that there was very little manga to be bought on the floor, and honestly, this year felt like even less. Yen Press and Ize Press were selling volumes at their booth, and as usual, VIZ had some volumes available for purchase at their booth as well. But in general, aside from Kinokuniya and one or two other vendors, there wasn’t manga on the floor. Honestly, I didn’t even notice that many places to buy anime at an anime convention.

One of the main complaints that I saw this year was that it felt like a purchase con. While there was some variety among the vendors, it felt like much of the merchandise was the same. This is often true of most show floors – I am legitimately sick of Funko POPs at this point (less Funkos, more Nendoroids, please) – but it felt particularly glaring at Anime NYC this year. I was trying to find t-shirts and only found them on sale at a few booths, but there were seven or eight booths selling prop weapons including two build-your-own lightsaber booths.

Also, the Army, the Marines, and the FBI all had a presence on the show floor. Are you kidding me with this? I thought it was bad that GEICO and Ford have booths at NYCC, but this is something else.

Several of the booths that were there did try, though. VIZ had its Zom 100 photo op that I have now taken a photo with at three separate conventions. There was an entire booth for JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure that included multiple photo ops and a giant wheel you could spin for the chance to win prizes. Fate/Grand Order had their annual booth with its own programming and multiple photo ops (complete with props!), including being able to sit on a motorcycle. Even Hulu was there promoting “animayhem”, which at SDCC meant its animated properties like Futurama and Family Guy and at Anime NYC referred specifically to anime (Bleach: Thousand Year Blood War, Tokyo Revengers, Undead Unluck, and SandLand).

This shark and I are besties now.

But with so few actual companies represented, it honestly felt like there was not much to do this year. Photo ops are fun, but a lot of them can just be cardboard standees in front of a backdrop. I like the ones where there are props or a set, and it’s hard to beat last year when Crunchyroll had Eren’s basement from Attack on Titan. (Side note to exhibitors who have photo ops: please have someone from the booth on standby to take photos for people who are alone. There were a couple I wanted to do but couldn’t because I had no one to take my picture.)

The gaming area was back, but it felt smaller this year. And almost no exhibitors had experiences, just photo ops. Crunchyroll had their Jujutsu Kaisen experience again, as well as a few arcade games that were free for members. But of course, the lines were fairly long, because, again, there wasn’t much else to do.

I’m hoping that some of these issues will be resolved when Anime NYC returns next year, as they’ll be taking over the entire Javits for the first time since the event’s inception with plans to expand things like the gaming and cosplay areas. (Anime NYC needs to do what NYCC did this year and have little scenes set up for people to take cosplay photos!) There were cosplay meetups, but annoyingly they were “outside”, meaning that anyone attending had to go back through security to return to the convention. I had planned on popping by some of the meetups to take photos, but I didn’t want to have to keep going through security.

My favorite part of almost any convention is the programming. The issue now, of course, is that there is so much out there, and the odds that you’ll like everything on the schedule are very slim. I am almost always able to find something that I’ll enjoy, though, and this year was no exception. I really enjoyed the IDOLiSH7 concert screening, even springing for a reserved seat. The “secret project” that was actually the Great Pretender panel was a lot of fun and has inspired me to move the series up on my watchlist.

Reservations were still a thing this year, but thankfully not for as many panels as last year. (I got my badge late and missed some of the reservation slots.) It helped that Crunchyroll took over the River Pavilion and had its own stage, freeing up the rooms for other panels. Of course, as I mentioned earlier, there were still gaps in the schedule. Many slots still said “coming soon” even a few days before the event. I don’t know if they ever got filled.

I was glad to see that there were a lot of fan panels on the schedule, as those tend to be some of my favorites. But the room was in a weird place, right by the Special Events Stage, and not near any of the other panel rooms. I never ended up making it to any of the panels in that room (there was one I really wanted to attend, but it was at 8 pm on Saturday and I was exhausted by 6:30), so I don’t know if the location caused any issues.

And of course, next year, with access to the entire Javits, they have expressed the desire to add more panel rooms. Whether this means more screenings, more industry panels, or more fan panels, this can only be a good thing. I don’t like having nothing to do at a convention.

Also, I feel obligated to mention the poor Wi-Fi. A few of the artists in Artist Alley mentioned it to me when they saw my press badge, but also because I was paying with a card, and they warned me that they were having issues collecting payment because of the Wi-Fi. At least one booth hung a sign that they were now only accepting cash because the cost of even getting access to the Wi-Fi was too much.

Basically, I enjoyed myself, but it was a little underwhelming. I had long stretches of nothing in my schedule because there weren’t panels that I was interested in and I’d done almost everything I could on the show floor. And I barely took any photos, which is unheard of for me. I have misgivings about the event moving to August in 2024, but I am looking forward to an expanded convention.

Author: Jamie Sugah

Jamie has a BA in English with a focus in creative writing from The Ohio State University. She self-published her first novel, The Perils of Long Hair on a Windy Day, which is available through Amazon. She is currently an archivist and lives in New York City with her demon ninja vampire cat. She covers television, books, movies, anime, and conventions in the NYC area.

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