Anime Boston, held last weekend, May 22-24, at the Hynes Convention Center and the Boston Sheraton, is not only the largest anime convention in the Northeast, it is one of the top ten largest anime events in the U.S. This year more than 15,000 people attended the event, up from last year's 14,339 attendees.
Despite being billed as an anime convention, anime is getting harder to find at Anime Boston. Instead, manga dealers are taking up more floor space. All weekend attendees crowded the manga booths, taking advantage of sales to fill holes in their collections. Media Blasters was the only manga publisher with a dealer's room presence, and only Funimation had an anime industry booth and a panel. And at the Media Blasters booth, yaoi titles Crimson Spell and I Want to Be Naughty were top sellers.
PWCW spoke to Shannon Outlaw (her real name), a manager of Comicopia, a comic book store in Boston. Comicopia occupied eight booths at the convention, the maximum allowed. Outlaw said that her sales at the convention have gone up every year since she began attending, but this year sales were the same as last year.
"We're missing the 20 to 30-something age demographic this year," Outlaw said. Most of her customers at the convention were teenagers. Outlaw blamed the recession. She is certain that younger working adults who have a financial cushion have cut out expenses like anime conventions just in case they lose their jobs. "They don't want to lose that cushion," Outlaw said. Teen shoppers, she speculated, were likely spending their parents' money.
Outlaw mentioned that she had seen an increase in much older adults. Grandparents at the convention were buying comics for themselves and for their grandkids. Compicopia has added 250 feet of manga in their retail store in the last four months. According to Outlaw, half the store is manga and the store has more graphic novels than any other store in the Northeast. Bleach was a hot seller at the Comicopia booth, as well as all the yaoi titles (25% off yaoi). Outlaw and her staff made a large neon posterboard sign recommending Viz Media’s Ikigami: "Ikigami = Awesomesauce. You are a fool if you don't buy this." By no small coincidence, Ikigami was a best seller for Comicopia over the weekend.
PWCW also had a chance to chat with attendees in the hall about their manga buying and reading habits. Dan Gaspari, a 25 year-old software engineer living in Boston, bought some manga at Comicopia's booth. Gaspari said he works for a stable company and has some disposable income. He was picking up a few volumes of Del Rey’s Parasite, which he first read in Tokyopop's Smile magazine. "I'm more into older titles, not the new stuff," Gaspari said. He doesn't usually read manga scanlations online—he prefers print—but he makes an exception for Vinland Saga by Makoto Yukimura, an historical manga series published in Japan by Kodansha. One of Gaspari's twenty-something friends also reads the Vinland Saga online, but both said they would buy the book if it were to be published in North America.
A Masters student of classical Japanese literature who said her name was Li Izumi was selling off part of her manga collection at her booth in Artist Alley in an impromptu moving sale. The economy has not effected Izumi's buying habits, but the reduced number of releases from publishers has. "I used to buy 10-12 books from Tokyopop each month," Izumi said, "but now there's nothing new of interest to me." Izumi complained specifically about delays between volumes in the Dragon Voice series.
Coner Harrington, a high school student, was wearing cat ears and reading manga in the convention center hallway on Sunday. Harrington said he reads a lot of manga online and then collects the series he likes. "There are a lot of things I don't have money for," Harrington said in regards to the slow economy, "so I read more online lately." Harrington's favorite series are Loveless (thus the cat ears) and Gravitation.
As Artist Alley closed on Sunday, one young attendee was overheard saying, "I can't wait until next year, when we can buy our own badges!"