"How was the con?"
My co-workers, parents and friends all asked this question. And time and time again, I'd tell the stories about the showroom floor, working at the butler and maid cafe and attending panels. Just recounting those experiences made me exhausted -- in fact, the only time I was having fun was when I was outside of the convention, eating and shopping in New York City.
There was a huge change in the atmosphere at New York Anime Fest from last year to this year -- some for the better, I must admit -- but it certainly was a huge shift. The show needs a lot of tweaking, and Reed had best think hard before deciding how to run NYAF 2011.
Follow me after the jump to get some idea of what I mean.
Pro: There were things to do
It sounds silly to say this, but in previous years, I always felt as though there was a dimension missing. You'd go to panels, take some cosplay photos, and shop in the dealer's room. That was about it. After about two or three hours, the show got boring, seeing as there wasn't much "down space," and the Butler and Maid cafe didn't have the same level of performance and organization as it did this year.
With the combined NYCC and NYAF, the show floor expanded dramatically, bringing in all sorts of talent (Capcom, AMC, etc) that would never show at NYAF alone and providing endless hours of entertainment for everyone.
Con: The show floor was all NYCC
The show floor offered endless opportunities to buy things: classic Star Wars figures, Golden and Silver Age comics, the latest volumes of The Walking Dead and Scott Pilgrim paraphernalia, as well as endless artist's supplies. But as for the typical NYAF fare? Practically non-existent.
Booths for Bandai and FUNimation sat near the entrance, Netcomics had an impressive manhwa booth set up somewhere in the middle, and The Anime Network's booth was a ninja within the trees. Beyond the industry booths, a handful of big name dealers (Kinokuniya, Hen Da Ne, Anime Castle) were set up, but that was about the end of it.
I don't know if the cost of space on the show floor was significantly higher, but it was clear who was the main focus of the weekend.
And what made matters worse was that the show floor had so many choke points. Capcom had a two-hour-plus wait to play Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 with the arcade stick, which created a number of obstacles for people trying to pass by the booth. Time and again, the crowd would come to a near halt for any number of reasons -- people chatting, taking photos, touching themselves -- and put a stop to the traffic in the show's relatively narrow aisles.
Pro/Con: NYAF was in the ghetto
I'm not sure how to categorize this. The NYAF section of things -- the separate artist's alley, the panels and the Apple Maid Kissa -- were all located on the far end of the convention center, away from the prying eyes of the Comic Con crowd.
In a sense, it was good because it was easy to access all the things I needed to in a relatively unobstructed space. I was amongst friends in this section, with no need to hear cries of horror at the yaoi fanart that existed within the spartan artist's alley.
On the other hand, it was bad because you had to traipse past all the Comic Con stuff, past the food court, past registration, in order to get there. My team and others often referred to it as the ghetto of the con -- where you sent all the costumed folks.
Con: The content was really bad
From my perspective, I'm looking for things to talk about. This isn't a slight against the NYAF folks, but the cosplay was really poor at the convention. In talking with Jake, there was next to no eye-popping cosplay, save for Steampunk Iron Man. It was either decent or sub-par, to the point where I'm not even sure how many good photos we got out of it.
Industry panels didn't have much to announce, either. Chalk it up to timing on the licensing agreements or the fact that this is the last major con of the year, but there was very little to get excited about (16 episodes of K-ON! on four discs!).
Similarly, trying to find out what to do was a nightmare. The NYCC/NYAF app worked very slow, and unless you plotted out your events beforehand, there was little chance of finding all you wanted to do. After dealing with too much frustration trying to use their web panel, I eschewed on the side of minimalism and only went to industry panels and the Crispin Freeman panel that I hosted.
Pro: The Apple Maid Kissaten was totally awesome
Sure, Jake and I worked there, so I may be a little biased, but I was truly blown away by the amount of content and the crowd the Apple Kissa drew in. Rather than being a service to chat with customers, it quickly turned into a performance stage with a place for people to rest their feet or meet up with friends. It really was a great time-sink for many people.
The show will need some re-tooling for next year, but I'd call it one of the biggest successes of the convention. It definitely will require some more outgoing personalities than me, though.
What could be done better for next year? I'd like to say that mixing the conventions would be a better way to promote interaction between the two conventions, and it may behoove them to split up where they keep some of the booths. The show floor needs some major redesign, that's for sure.
The convention was ambitious in its designs, and it certainly improved the show by utilizing all the space in the Javit's Center, but there were a lot of holes that put this towards the bottom of my "cons to do" list. I enjoyed the weekend, but every good memory comes from outside of the convention.