NYAF/NYCC ’10 Recap: The Hybrid Behemoth Strikes! Can it be Tamed?
It would’ve been hard to’ve topped my peak experience of my first NYAF (The New York Anime Festival), last year. And much has changed in the past year, since I’ve become co-chair of Animinicon SoHo and president of the SoHo Host Club and am working with various colleagues on playing and promoting Japanese music here in the States (from rock to jazz and latin) and collaborating with other Japanese musicians. So my perspective is…different. But I’m still a Philosopher.
Recalling the crammed chaos that’d been Saturday of the con last year, I anticipated with terror what a combined NYAF/NYCC would be like for someone with mild claustrophobia like me. With nearly 100K in attendance at peak, covering the full convention center, it was daunting. My single corner booth with the Host Club on the dealer’s floor 3100 aisle with Mar Creation was on the far Uptown end of Javits and the Anime/Manga ghetto was on the farthest Downtown end. It took you about 30 minutes to walk anywhere and finding your way amidst the crowds and roped-off habitrails of certain areas was a feat, in itself. The staff worked very hard under combat conditions and, with few exceptions, were competent and cheerful, including both the NYAF/NYCC/Reed Expo people and the Javits people. The fans, too, took things in stride and with good nature. But with such crowds and every room and event filled, lines were long, tech glitches were numerous, especially for credit card machines and cell phones, and few extra courtesies were given to press—rarely any reserved seating or moving to the front of the line. That meant getting to anything you wanted to see about an hour early…which meant you got to see/cover much less but there was more than twice as much to cover! Impossible task. More triage. I never got to Artists’ Alley. Blew by the Cosplay Café. Didn’t cover one whole dealer’s room and only selectively covered the one I was ensconced in. Didn’t make any screenings. Kept missing people I was trying to meet up with. It was frustrating. It did feel as though NYCC got the lion’s share of space and attention and that NYAF was encapsulated, though Lance Fensterman and Peter Tatara gave stats that support that NYAF had the same coverage and space it had last year and I believe them. But it didn’t FEEL that way.
There were hints of the happy community I’d experienced last year, but they were harder to discern amidst the crush of Stuff and Humanity. Some of the cosplay was, indeed, awesome and some, as usual, was…unfortunate. There was less room for dancing and singing and spontaneity, but it did, indeed, happen.
Evidence of the lagging economy was nearly non-existent on the dealers’
rooms floors. Techno companies like Square Ennix and other gaming and
media concerns had huge areas of interactive madness that were always
hopping. Book signings and other autographings were jammed and artists
ran out of their supplies quickly (see Michele Lang’s Lazarus from
Tor). Aisles were constantly full of shoppers and merchants were
offering fewer last-minute bargain sell-offs and yet people were biting.
This was the NYAF of big-name stars in J-Rock and so I concentrated on
that, in large part. The Q&A for FETES with Boom Boom Satellites
and Echostream, among others, was amazing fun. The Q&A for
supergroup VAMPS (Hyde, KAZ) was ridiculous in both the good and bad
sense of that word—the fangirls were just losing it and the questions
were often beyond silly…but Hyde’s and KAZ’s answers were amusing and
charming, even when Hyde was repeatedly asked questions about him and
his fellow superstar best friend Gackt (Ga-chan). The Q&A for
Yoshiki of XJapan was like something out of ’60s Beatlemania with
crazed housewives rushing the stage. But he was utterly charming and
arch, as well. It’s a J-Rock thing, especially in the rarified air of
Visual Kei and Yoshi-san is the granddaddy of the genre (there would be
no Gackt without him). All these were lead-ins to the evening concerts
around town that I’ll cover in a separate review round-up.
There were also the ever-present GothLolis in all their glory, from the
super-kawaii to the edgier bits of horror and punk influences. Their
Never-ending Closet fashion show did not disappoint. High-end level
local designers showed high-end designs and they covered the full
spectrum of all the sub-styles in the genre, including pieces for men.
My fav designers, by far, were O So Wrong O So Right (Sugar Plum Faerie
Heavy Metal) and I Do Declare (the rare designs for Western figures –
Alice in Wonderland in our land!). What they had in common were
impeccable work, sophistication, elaboration, a sense of whimsy even in
the dark, that Victorian flare that still caters to adorning the body
first and not some abstract aesthetic ideal. Breathtaking. Twinbee’s
black/mustard-yellow namesake colourscheme and level of sophistication
and fine tailoring details were admirable and eye-catching, but they did
not move me as I’d hoped. Perianth’s country Hansel & Gretel take
on things came across as dowdy and drab, sadly, though terribly well
made of fine fabrics. Artificial Intrigue’s work was like Tim Burton on
crack, sometimes disturbing, but their skirts and flouncing were just
stunning and the flow of the garments was magic! Heartless Revival’s
aesthetic was scary, save for one feathered gown that was just
transcendent. The soundtracks ran from industrial to string quartets
and the event generally ran smoothly and professionally. The
well-dressed audience certainly was appreciative and a guest appearance
by Japan’s Loli ambassador, Takamasa Sakurai gave evidence to his
delight and grand style.
Next year’s events will be combined, too. There is a fan movement to
“save” NYAF and have the events be separate, again, in ’12. I’d prefer
that, but don’t expect it. This expansion, once managed, is probably
very financially advantageous for all involved and if they’re
financially healthy, then we get to keep these events, whatever their
form, and that’s good community and Utilitarian Philosophy—the greatest
good for the greatest number of people. Bentham would be proud.
Kudos and good luck to Lance and Peter in domesticating this behemoth. I
look forward to next year where maybe I, too, will learn better how to
tame this beast.