Anime NYC Bounces Back With Fifth Outing
Anime NYC 2022, the convention’s fifth (in-person) outing, was held this past weekend at the Javits Center in New York City. I was there all three days and had a fantastic time, as significant logistical changes made it an overall more enjoyable experience than last year. Let’s look at some of the highlights of the weekend!
To start off, in a move that drew plenty of grumbles online, Anime NYC followed New York Comic Con and required reservations for many of its major panels. All panels in the Special Events Hall and panel room #1 (the two biggest rooms), plus a few other notable panels, had their seats allocated prior to the convention. It was originally supposed to be a first-come, first-served reservation system (like NYCC has done the past two years), but technical difficulties had them abandoning that quickly. They moved instead to a lottery, with people either winning a reserved seat or a spot on the waitlist.
There were some uneasy feelings about this system prior to the event. Some unlucky fans didn’t get any of the panels they put in for, and with no standby line, there was no way for them to even attempt to get inside the room. (And not all of the panels filled.) Many were upset that this wasn’t announced until after tickets had mostly sold out. There is always a contingent of people who would rather put in the effort of waiting in line, particularly if they consider it to be worth it.
Despite the legitimate concerns, I actually felt that this was a pretty wise move on Anime NYC’s part. The panel lines last year were a disaster, which caused a lot of issues for popular panels like One Piece. The lottery system eliminated the chaos and confusion of the lines, and allowed people to better plan for the event because they knew in advance whether or not they would get in.
The one major issue with this system is that, at least in panel room #1, they did not allow enough time between panels to clear, reset, and load up the room. Every panel started late, even the first panel of the day. And there was no real good area for the waitlist line, although it was better managed than last year.
I put in for 11 panels and got 8 confirmed seats and one waitlist. On Saturday, I had six panels in the same room, so I basically went back and forth between the panel room and the queue room all day. But because they would not allow people to line up for a panel earlier than 30 minutes in advance, I managed to have a decent seat for every one. I’m not opposed to them continuing with this, although I don’t think every panel needs to have reserved seats. And I do hope they continue with the lottery rather than doing reservations; although if they do use reservations, I would recommend they have a standby line.
And the panels this year were fantastic. Last year, because of the pandemic, the guests skewed more towards the English side of things. There were a lot of fan panels and screenings, and only a few Japanese guests. 2022, on the other hand, seemed a return to form, with more industry panels and some pretty high-profile Japanese guests, including WIT Studio President George Wada.
The biggest draw, though, was undoubtedly Hajime Isayama, creator of Attack on Titan. Anime NYC 2022 was his first-ever appearance in North America. His spotlight panel was the one I most wanted to attend, and naturally one of the only panels that I did not get (not even waitlist!). But I had a great time at the panels that I was able to attend, primarily the Promare “cheer screening” (with Studio TRIGGER), the WIT Studio 10th-anniversary panel, and the High Card premiere.
Other panels included BLEACH: Thousand-Year Blood War, Mob Psycho 100, a 10th-anniversary celebration for Sword Art Online, premieres for Giant Beasts of Ars and Lupin Zero, industry panels for Crunchyroll and Aniplex (among others), and a concert from the Japanese rock band Alexandros. Something that was an improvement on last year is that the screens (at least in panel room #1) were higher this year, so you could actually read the subtitles at the screenings.
Even getting into the convention was so much easier this year. They had a vaccination and mask requirement again, which a lot of people complained about (almost no venues in NYC currently require vaccinations or masks). But instead of having it at the door like last year, the health check was offsite, with more volunteers. This kept the line – which last year got ridiculously out of hand – from being too insane.
A major plus this year was that press, pros, etc., had a separate entrance. I spent exactly zero time waiting out in the cold this year. Another major plus? The entrance plan only had one bag check location (well, technically two, because there were two entrances) right at the entrance. No more having to have my bag checked multiple times per day!
One of my problems last year was that the show floor felt extremely claustrophobic. This year, even though they once again had autographing, Artist Alley, and the exhibitors all on the floor, it felt emptier. I felt like I could move and breathe this year. (Although, to be fair, I was barely on the floor on Saturday, which is typically the busiest day of any convention.) Allegedly they sold fewer tickets, because they didn’t utilize the full length of the newly-expanded show floor.
This year saw more studios and publishers back on the show floor after many of them sat out last year. Crunchyroll, as usual, was the standout, with two booths and six photo ops – Attack on Titan, Chainsaw Man, SPY x FAMILY, That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime, Quintessential Quintuplets, and Mob Psycho 100. The Tokyo Attack arcade returned for another year, with popular Japanese arcade games available to play for free. There didn’t seem to be as many game demos this year, although Crunchyroll brilliantly had its ’90s-themed mobile game Hime’s Quest demo playable on a giant Game Boy. I was disappointed that Good Smile was absent this year, although with my limited budget, I wouldn’t have been able to buy anything anyway.
Something else that I would like to see is more interactivity! In my 2019 recap, I mentioned that there were a couple of experiences that involved more than just getting your photo taken. I would love to see more things like that, because while the photo ops were neat (and a very streamlined process), I did the floor so quickly, and there was little reason to return to it after I did it once. Even just more, like, roulette wheels to win prizes would be great. Make the floor more fun!
I did see some complaints that there weren’t that many places to buy manga on the floor this year. Smaller vendors had some volumes, and Kinokuniya and Book Off (the two best places to buy manga in the city) were there, but the publishers themselves did not have much available. (Only Yen Press actually sold anything.) VIZ had some exclusives for sale, while Kodansha’s booth setup was entirely devoted to Attack on Titan. The photo op inserted attendees into a special drawing Isayama did just for the convention – and they actually printed you a copy! a novelty nowadays – and the rear wall of the booth was left open for fans to leave messages for Isayama.
I do still think that Anime NYC should utilize all of the Javits. They should use the full length of the show floor. There should be more stuff in the Crystal Palace. This year there were two halls on the lower level that weren’t used and absolutely could have been. I recognize that some of this might be because they don’t have the content to fill all of the space (particularly in the Crystal Palace), but even if using the full show floor just means wider aisles, I’m not going to complain.
I think they should split the panels into multiple halls (plus the Special Events Stage); this would allow more space for waitlist or standby lines. It could also allow for more panel rooms. Last year there were seven panel rooms. This year there were only five rooms, plus the Community Stage.
The Community Stage is a nice idea, but I have always found that panels not in rooms don’t work quite as well; it’s harder to hear the speakers, and because it’s a bunch of chairs out in the open, people are often just sitting there because it’s a seat. I would honestly rather have one or two smaller rooms for fan panels than shove them on a stage.
I do like how they use the River Pavilion for things like the tabletop gaming lounge and cosplay repair. Something that was really cool at this year’s NYCC was cosplay backdrops; this is absolutely something that Anime NYC should adopt for next year. The River Pavilion in general was pretty empty. If they add more panel rooms on the lower level, they can take out the Community Stage and put in some more cosplay-related things.
Basically, while there are still some things that I would change about the convention, I do appreciate the steps they took this year to avoid the same issues as last year. As Anime NYC continues to grow, I do hope that they can expand and provide more content and more opportunities for a unique con-going experience.
I hope to see some of you next year at Anime NYC 2023!
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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