Huge crowds flocked to the Javits Center for New York Comic-Con 2018 to see what’s cool and fun in comics, games, movies and TV. Japanese pop culture also had a big presence throughout the exhibit hall. There were massive displays for the upcoming Dragon Ball Super: Broly movie, game companies Konami and Capcom showcased video and card games, and manga publishers Viz Media, Kodansha Comics and Yen Press showed off newly published and upcoming manga titles.
Meanwhile, 20 blocks uptown at Pier 94, Anime Fest @ NYCC, a new addition to the ReedPop show lineup offered anime and manga fans an alternate venue for fun. Created with the support of the crew behind Anime Expo, the annual Japanese pop culture convention held every July in Los Angeles, Anime Fest x NYCC debuted to mixed reviews from attendees and exhibitors.
But the scene at the dark and cavernous Pier 94 space was a far cry from the bustling sea of fans at the Javits Center. It didn’t help that Thursday and Friday were school/work days, which depressed attendance of a key anime/manga demographic: teens and college-age fans.
NYCC event director Mike Armstrong reported that Anime Fest @ NYCC sold about 18,000 tickets, which is within range of their initial goal of attracting 20,000 fans. Armstrong said that ReedPop was “thrilled” with the beginnings of the show. Nevertheless, there were some complaints from fans and exhibitors.
The most obvious shortcoming of the festival was its distance from the main show at the Javits Center and other NYCC venues nearby. Anime Fest also required that NYCC badge holders buy a separate badge, at a cost of up to $25 per day for those without a NYCC badge.
Because the show was announced late, most manga publishers had already committed to exhibiting in the main hall at Javits. Only a few companies attempted to support promotions and events in both venues, among them toy company Good Smile and animation network Crunchyroll. The rest of the space was filled by a modest Artist Alley, and activity areas that invited fans to draw and take photos of themselves.
ReedPOP global director of business development Kuo-Yu Liang, told PW the goal of launching the show was “to build an event that’s dedicated to our fans, a place where they can hang out with their friends and participate in what they love. Overall I think we pulled it off.”
Liang said that while Thursday attendance was slow, Friday’s was “twice as big. Saturday we sold out and reached capacity, and by Sunday things were going strong & smoothly.” Liang acknowledged that show had “first-year show growing pains. But the team did a fantastic job in listening to the fans, exhibitors and guests and made improvements every day. In the end I hope we did our job well to give the fans a great experience.”
There were notable panels held at the Anime Fest @ NYCC venue. Viz Media’s spotlight panel featured French comics artist Tony Valente, the creator of Radiant, a new fantasy adventure manga series that is debuting as an anime on the NHK network in Japan and streaming on Crunchyroll in North America. The duo manga creative team Akira Himekawa (The Legend of Zelda) also debuted their latest manga project, Marin, based on a popular pachinko game, Umi Monogatari (Sea Story).
Most manga-related panels were held as part of NYCC’s programming at the Javits Center and venues close by. Panels announcing new titles, including Viz Media’s announcement of a new Neon Genesis Evangelion artbook, new manga based on anime/manga production house Rooster Teeth’s RWBY animated series, and upcoming titles from Kodansha Comics and its Vertical Comics imprint were all held at Javits Center. Yen Press held off on announcements of new titles and plans to reveal them for AnimeNYC, an Asian Pop show launched last year that opens at the Javits Center in November.
The Voltron panel at the nearby Hammerstein Ballroom and the Dragon Ball Super and RWBY panels at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden were packed with excited fans. There were panels featuring the cast and creators of Cowboy BeBop celebrating the 20th anniversary of the beloved anime series. Kodansha Comics hosted a panel featuring the creators of the new Ghost in the Shell: Global Neural Network manga anthology; and digital comics vendor ComiXology co-hosted a panel with acclaimed Japanese manga artist Harold Sakuishi (Beck and The Seven Shakespeares) which were both big draws at the Javits Center. Sakuishi was also presented with the International Spotlight Award at the Harvey Awards ceremony on Friday night.
Despite the initial startup problems at Anime Fest @ NYCC, ReedPOP remains bullish on growing the show into an annual New York City pop culture event. Will it continue to be at Pier 94, or will it be revamped and relocated? Anime and manga companies and the fans will just have to wait until next year to find out.