AnimeNYC 2021, an annual event celebrating Asian popular culture, returned after a year’s hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic to the Javits Convention Center, November 19-21. The show attracted more than 53,000 attendees, according to Peter Tatara, v-p of aniime at Leftfield Media, the organizer of AnimeNYC. The 2021 attendance figure represents an impressive increase over the roughly 46,000 fans at the event in 2019.

This is the fifth AnimeNYC and Tatara said this year’s attendance had “amazed” the Leftfield organizers. “This was AnimeNYC's largest attendance year yet,” he said, adding, “I’m absolutely floored by the magnitude of the fans desire to come back together.” According to Tatara, three-day and Saturday tickets sold out weeks in advance, and Friday and Sunday tickets sold out in the last days before the convention. “Our goal has always been to make a community for fans and a platform for publishers,” he said.

The show also featured “our largest Artist Alley yet,” Tatara said, noting the show sold 448 tables in this year’s Artist Alley, which was moved to a dedicated space at the northern end of the main exhibition hall. Indeed, the show has spread out throughout the Javits Convention Center and now occupies the main exhibition floor, even though the floor was not completely filled with exhibitor booths. There were gaps and large open areas on the main floor, which were used as rest areas or hangouts and there were plenty of fans using them. The Artists Alley section at the north end was packed and its aisles overcrowded with fans every day of the show.

Although it’s a much smaller show than New York Comic-Con (which is held over four days in early October), the three-day AnimeNYC has scores of fans looking for events around anime, manga, cosplay, gaming of all kinds, and other Asian pop fan-favorites through the weekend. There were a few hiccups. Registration lines were long on the first day and fans that showed up early on Friday to pick up badges were forced to wait hours to be admitted. Tatara said the line issues were largely resolved by Saturday. All attendees were required to be vaccinated and fans were required to wear masks at all times inside the Javits venue, and overwhelmingly fans followed masking rules.

Tatara acknowledged that much like NYCC, most of the biggest manga publishers—Viz Media, Kodansha, Seven Seas, Dark Horse Manga, among them—did not exhibit on the floor, although they were all involved in panels and programming. Still, Hachette’s Yen Press, and such indie manga houses as Denpa, J-Novel Club, Noir Casesar, and Peach Flower House, were on the floor. Denpa cofounder Ed Chavez said sales were "doing really well." J-Novel, a print and digital-first publisher of manga and light novels, also noted that business was strong.

Despite the first day problems and lack of many of the biggest publishers, fans PW encountered were happy to be back at a Con and thrilled to see their favorite anime voice actors, manga authors, cosplayers, and take part in gaming and other fan activities.

Tartara said he “absolutely” expects the big manga houses to return to AnimeNYC in 2022. “I believe every publisher and exhibitor had an amazing show, with many selling out of books and other products before the event's end. I think this industry saw a tremendous jump in demand during the pandemic, and this increased appetite for manga and anime has continued into live events.”

“As we look to next year, our biggest focus is going to be around our own infrastructure with Anime NYC's now-larger scale,” he said. “We want to deliver an amazing experience for all our fans, and we need to begin looking at more ticket lotteries, reservation systems, offsite venues, technological solutions, etc. to meet this new demand.”