Saturday, October 17, 2009

NYAF: Not your average festival

We've had lots of convention talk this week, so it's only fitting to have a full-blown review of a real-life anime festival, courtesy of longtime reader neko-chan. Enjoy!


The NYAF (New York Anime Festival) is a midsized convention held every year in - you guessed it - New York City. This was my first time attending, as I usually try to make my way to Otakon instead; however, since NYAF is only a short train ride from my house, and Otakon is... well... not, financially I opted for the more local of the two.

Cosplay of Yomiko Readman from Read or DieNow, I always cosplay at conventions, and this year I went as Yomiko Readman ("The Paper") from R.O.D. I have tried to be more sensible in recent years about my choice in costume, and have this wisdom to impart:

1) Cosplaying as a character who naturally carries a large bag with her means you have plenty of space to store swag and still be in costume. You can also pack a change of clothes, or a baseball bat to thwart off over-zealous fanboys.

2) Wearing a benign costume means you won’t get overly-harassed if you plan to take public transportation or enter non-convention stores and restaurants.

3) The more you naturally look like who you are cosplaying as, the less costume pieces you have to deal with. After being a giant blue penguin for one con, and running around at another con in a wig and helmet during the height of summer, I can honestly say it was a pleasant surprise to not have to deal with elaborate accessorizing.

4) Dress for the season. It was late September, so I chose a character who dresses in layers and has a coat as part of her costume.

5) Consider the efficiency of your props. Is carrying around a 12-foot sword that does not fit inside a taxi really the way to go? Methinks not. My character had a book and a few scraps of paper that worked as bookmarks when I wasn’t using them. A simple and practical prop, especially because it gave me something to read on the train ride.

6) Wear comfortable shoes!!! I cannot stress this enough. You can forget your debit card, you can forget your hygiene, but for the love of Miyazaki do not forget comfortable shoes.

*ahem*

So I had my costume, I had my ticket that I pre-purchased online, and I was on my way to the Javits Center for day one of the convention. I knew it was a 15-minute walk from Port Authority, so I figured I would ask a friendly local for directions once I got there, and everything would be fine.

Javits Convention CenterNote: friendly locals are dumb.

After wandering around for a half hour, mostly in the wrong direction due to the influences of bad information, I gave up and called Nathaniel so he could MapQuest me there over the phone. Thus, I was a half-hour late to the con and missed the traditional building-wrapping queue of doom.

Actually, even though I was still grumping it worked out better that way. I managed to walk right in, grab my badge, and head down to the convention floor in all of 5 minutes. Not too shabby.


DAY ONE

The con felt more like a giant mall of vendors and artists that happened to have a few screening rooms in the back. It was all on one floor, which made navigation pretty simple, but Lupin help you if you got stuck on the wrong side of a developing queue.

When I arrived, I pulled out my handy-dandy program to plan the day’s activities. I was quite upset at the schedule, though, as my options were 1) see the promotional screening of 20th Century Boys parts I + II and do nothing else, or 2) try and catch a variety of shows and panels that were horribly overlapped and didn’t take fanbases into account.

I tried for option 2, wanting to see as much as possible, however the first thing I went to see was canceled without warning, so I spent more time wandering around the dealers' room and avoiding Haruhi dancers than I had initially planned. Not the best start to a convention, especially because I ended up buying way too much swag while waiting for the next round of screenings.

CencorollLuckily, the rest of the day went by without a hitch. I saw the first few episodes of Aria (female gondola operators drenched in sappiness), the first two episodes of the original Captain Harlock TV series (mmmm, space pirates), the entire AMV contest (which turned into “It’s so magical” yaoi vs. magical girls), and the US premiere of Cencoroll (an animated short involving shape-shifting cannibalistic monster-cars and the humans who feed them pudding).


DAY TWO

I managed to arrive an hour early, and got to chat with people in line about comics and anime as we waited to file in. A friendly Zero cosplayer helped me with directions, and in return I helped provide him with safety pins for emergency costume repair.

I wandered around the artists’ alley for a bit, and then got in line for the Yui Makino (Yuchi) concert. Although I didn’t know any of her songs, I always make a point of attending concerts at conventions, as it is likely the only chance I will ever have to see that performer on a US stage.

It was a fairly informal setting, but she proved a talented singer and piano player, and she was adorable – the very definition of kawaii. While I probably won’t run out and buy all of her CDs, as it was not generally the genre of music I would listen to on a regular basis, I did enjoy the concert and respect her as a performer.

Soul Eater posterNext, I saw the US premiere of the Soul Eater dub. Now I am usually an elitist snob about subtitles, and there are very few things I will allow to be tainted with English voices, but I really wanted to see what all the hype was surrounding this show, so I took a chance.

I am so glad I did. Before the episodes started, they had a special performance. The entire English voice-acting cast was there and read aloud a Soul Eater fan-fiction as professional cosplayers (some wearing official costumes borrowed from FUNimation) acted out the ridiculous scenarios.

Even without knowing the characters I was ROFLing, and it made me appreciate the series (and the English voice cast) that much more. (gun. gunning. gun gun.) Also, everyone in the audience got a free Soul Eater iron-on patch. Yay for free swag.

After that I caught the first two episodes of Galaxy Express 999 (Trains... in... Spaaaaaaace), then rushed over to see the first few episodes of Aquarion. All I can say about Aquarion is that I’m not sure whether to be disturbed or amused by the transformation sequences.

Next, I met up with a few of the guys from college as we waited for the evening events to start. One of them was cosplaying as the main character from Hikkatsu! Strike a Blow to Vivify and was offering $10 to anyone who could guess his costume. He kept his money, but in the process was able to educate the populace about the series.

Hikkatsu! Strike a Blow to Vivify posterThey went off to see the cosplay masquerade, which is where fans dress up in costumes and perform fan-written skits involving popular anime characters. I, however, decided to sit in on a screening of the first episode of Guin Saga.

The show has not yet been licensed in the US, so we were able to get a sneak peek, and we also received a free poster for filling out a survey with our impressions and demographics. I enjoyed the premise: young heirs of a war-demolished country find themselves trapped in enemy territory, and are randomly saved by an amnesiac man with a leopard head who can punch people through trees and pile-drive them into the ground.

Irresponsible Captain Tylor posterI ended the day with an older comedy series I had been wanting to see, Irresponsible Captain Tylor. Imagine a young Jack Sparrow crossed with Lupin III, and then make him the captain of a spaceship who somehow manages to destroy an enemy fleet by accident.

I should also mention that this series has one of the most painfully bad theme songs of all time, which means we had a riot singing along and making fun of it. Because there was nothing scheduled after our screening, and because the facilitators had to stay until the masquerade wrapped up, they let us watch an extra two episodes. Epic win.


DAY THREE

Gurren Lagann posterI spent the entire morning watching Gurren Lagann: The Movie. Now I had been warned not to see it until I had seen the TV show, because it basically condenses the plot of the first half of the series, however I took a chance on it anyway. I loved it.

Yes, there were obvious spoilers, but the sheer amount of awesome overwhelmed. Take a post-apocalyptic-style world, and then add in scantily clad females with guns, ambiguous mechanics, and mecha pilots whose machines are powered by their manliness. Now have a combining mecha that can sprout drills at will and pummel enemies ten ways to Sunday. What’s not to like?

After that, I wandered over to World Cyber Games area. I have no idea what most people were playing, but everything looked shiny. I put my name in for a drawing to win a Samsung SSD (which I unfortunately did not win), and I spent a good half-hour watching some kids play Resident Evil 5 on the prettiest system set-up I have ever seen.

World Cyber Games room at the 2009 New York Anime FestivalAs I was walking back through the aisles, I passed a booth that was handing out free SoBe energy drinks if you posed with their flyer. Sweet.

I had planned on heading over to the FUNimation panel to see what they had upcoming for 2010, however I was waylaid by Jedi.

Yes, Jedi.

See, it’s generally an unspoken rule that Jedi will attend most anime conventions. We just try to ignore them and teach our children not to stare.

Lots of Jedi conventiongoers with lightsabersOkay, okay, I jest. I love Star Wars, but they were a touch out-of-place. Anysaber, they were doing a trick show of styles and techniques, and I couldn’t help stopping to watch. The performers were quite talented, but I think I was one of only two people clapping. Hopefully they had better luck garnering love at the NY Comic Con.

The rest of my day was comprised of doing a last round of shopping, and I think I left the convention center with a mere $2.80 in coins left in my pocket. I was tired, my feet were sore, but I had enjoyed my weekend and would definitely consider attending this con in the future.

1 comment:

tarepanda said...

One of the things that always weirded me out about anime conventions was how behind the times the official things were. I mean, yeah, they're as up-to-date as they can be, but at the same time, it's weird to see a lot of people getting into stuff that is, in some cases literally, "so last year".

I've always wished there were more fall/winter cons, if only because of the cooler weather.

Sousei no Aquarion has one of the best anime themes I've heard in a long time; I always make a point of singing it every single time I go to karaoke.