AnimeNYC returned to the Javits Center November 18-20 with a slightly larger crowd than last year, a bigger manga presence, and even bigger plans for the future.
Attendance at this year’s show was about 55,000 fans, up from last year’s gate of 53,000. Peter Tatara, v-p of anime at Leftfield Media, the show organizer, told PW the only limitation on further growth for the show is space, and that’s a problem he’s working on. The show is held principally on the main exhibition floor of the Javits Center.
“If we were able to grow into the full Javits, in a few years we could be an event with over 100,000 attendees,” Tatara said. However, he sees that as difficult in the near term, so instead, he and his team are working on expanding the show to venues outside the center, much as other shows such as Anime Expo and Comic-Con in San Diego do. “We are, thankfully, in a city that has an absolute richness of other venue sites that we can incorporate as satellite spaces.”
While the footprint of this year’s show was the same as last year’s, there were more booths in the exhibit hall, including the Big Three of manga print publishing: Viz Media, Kodansha, and Yen Press. Last year, only Yen maintained a booth on the exhibit hall floor. Independent publishers Udon, Denpa, Fakku, and One Peace Books were there as well, along with the digital manga service Azuki and the manga and light novel publisher J-Novel Club. In addition, the Artists Alley hosted almost 300 individual creators.
The biggest guest artist at the show was Attack on Titan creator Hajime Isayama. The blockbuster manga series finally concluded in April after 34 volumes, with an ending that left some readers unhappy; the anime adaptation of the series has not yet concluded. Before the show, Isayama sent a message to his fans via his publisher, Kodansha, that said: “I am aware that the ending of Attack on Titan was quite controversial. I am open to receiving people's honest opinions. However, I would appreciate it if you'd be kind to me.” The fans who filled the 2,300-seat Special Events Hall to capacity for his panel did just that, cheering and shouting their support as Isayama answered questions from his editors. Those who could not attend the panel wrote notes to Isayama and attached them to the wall of the Kodansha booth.
Yen Press had a special guest as well: The Korean American writer TurtleMe, whose web novel The Beginning After the End was adapted into a webtoon that runs on the Tapas platform and is published in print by Yen. The publisher announced over two dozen new titles at the show, including new manhwa (Korean comics) in their Ize Press imprint (which focuses on print editions of Korean webcomics) as well as manga and light novels. They also unveiled a bathroom-themed boxed set of their best-selling series Toilet-Bound Hanako-Kun, the story of spirit that allegedly haunts a stall in a school bathroom.
J-Novel Club, which publishes manga and light novels in print and digitally both as a subscription service and as e-books, had not only new titles but also a new initiative to announce: They will partner with Yen Press on their print editions, with J-Novel Club continuing to provide translation and editing and Yen handling print production and distribution. J-Novel Club currently publishes some of its catalog in print and is distributed to bookstores via Ingram. Yen Press, which is distributed by Hachette, will launch a new J-Novel Club imprint for those print titles in May 2023. The Japanese publisher Kadokawa, which holds a majority stake in Yen Press (which is a joint venture held between Hachette and Kadokawa), acquired J-Novel Club in 2021. J-Novel Club also announced that it has partnered with RBmedia and Podium Audio to produce audiobooks its titles.
One notable departure from previous years was the small but growing presence of non-Japanese content. Although the Gundam Expo booth dominated its section of the show floor, the South Korean-owned webtoon mobile comics platform Tapas Media had a much smaller booth just a few feet away, and Yen Press was displaying its Ize Press manhwa titles alongside its manga from Japan. Two Chinese-developed RPGs, the massively popular Genshin Impact and the newer Tower of Fantasy, were both there as well, and Chinese costumes were a popular choice among cosplayers.
While AnimeNYC is primarily a platform for Japanese content, Tatara said, it’s clear that content from Korea, China, and other countries is popular within the fan community as well. “When a publisher or company is presenting content not directly from Japan, but in line with the fandom, it's certainly something that we will talk about and see how we can incorporate it,” he said.
In terms of logistics, this year’s show seemed to flow more smoothly than last. While AnimeNYC, unlike New York Comic Con, required attendees to provide proof of Covid vaccination or a recent negative test, the checks were done outside the building, eliminating the backups that occurred last year. The schedule had also been reformatted, with fewer panels but bigger panel rooms and a lottery for the most popular panels.
Last year’s AnimeNYC was the first big anime convention since the beginning of the pandemic, Tatara pointed out. “I think a lot of publishers then were just dipping their toe in the water,” he said. Not so this year: “The manga and anime industries are back and doing live events, and we saw dramatic growth in terms of who was there and what they were doing,” he said. And with less than 364 days left until AnimeNYC 2023, he’s already looking for ways to make next year’s show even bigger and better.