I attended the New York Anime Festival as a deeply privileged man: the holder of both press and, courtesy of my website partner Ray, VIP passes. I was also deeply privileged to meet so many of you, my colleagues on the East Coast in anime blogging, and to spend time eating with you all. All of you made this a wonderful con experience for me and some of the best footage and coverage for Anime Diet ever. Thanks.
Now that the Oscar speech is over, let’s expand on the experience a bit. (No pics yet; I can’t get them off my camera until I go back home. As I write this, I’m still stuck in New York because I missed my bus.)
I never expected to go to NYAF. I only go back to the East Coast now a few times a year, to visit family and friends. For the past several years, that has never coincided with a major anime convention, and the first NYAF’s December time was undoable for me. When it turned out that it would in fact coincide with my schedule this season, and Ray saw that Rie Tanaka was a guest–it was him, not me, who eventually in his wonderful fanboyness decided to pony up the money for me to get a VIP pass. After learning that only 50 free signing tickets would be distributed on one morning, I had warned him that his chances of getting a Rie signing without that VIP pass were slim to none, that the 50 slots would get filled hours before the actual distribution at 10 AM. (I was right; 7:30 AM is the time I’m told the 50th person appeared. Given my and many others’ experience in AX 2007 for Hirano Aya signings, I should know.) He got the hint, I think. :) Any thanks–and envy >:)–for everything related to my VIPness should ultimately go to him. I, honestly, would not have ponied up the cash. Seiyuus are not my bag.
So I ordered a VIP pass around the same time I ordered a press badge for myself and my cameraman, Young. I saw an advantage to me going in that I would get to use Young’s HD camera for footage–a first for Anime Diet–and potentially a start to a documentary project I’ve begun planning for, a feature-length film about anime conventions and the community they inspire among fans. I planned somewhat more probing questions for my trademark “man/woman-on-the-street” interviews that feature prominently in all our video diaries. I figured that the VIP + press pass would be like my previous con experiences, plus Rie’s signature, and no more, and it would mainly be a chance to work on those videos.
I had not counted on just the degree that the VIP and Press pass together would be such dynamite for me as an amateur reporter. It was, in effect, the dream press pass, the thing that press passes are supposed to do.
Not that I could tell on the first day I arrived.
It took a while for Young and I to get our bearings and our badges, so I ended up missing the Bandai panel and the liveblog opportunity–though, I’m increasingly getting the feeling that most industry panels at cons are no longer going to contain tons of licensing announcements. Those days, it seems, are over for the anime industry in the US. Not even the current behemoth, Funimation, eked out anything except to announce the live action Mushi-shi movie. I’m probably not going to liveblog industry panels from this point forward; having to pay expensive charges for wireless ($5/hour) just for that privilege is too much and is bearing less fruit than is worthwhile. I remember fondly scooping announcements from ADV and Geneon at AX 2007, but that seems like an entirely world away for the industry at this point.
Friday was mostly wandering about the hallway and the dealer hall. School apparently kept the crowds out; I noted in my initial video that this must be a mid-sized, not a big, con, because it simply felt…spacious. Anime cons are not supposed to feel spacious; they are supposed to be sweaty, squirming-between-smelly-armpits (“con stank,” as Hinano would call it later) affairs as one pushes through the crowds around the Bandai booth or the girls surrounding the guys who are playacting at yaoi. Saturday offered all that, it would turn out, but on Friday, we had free rein to interview people with plenty of space, and enough time to leisurely look at booths with little interference. It was pleasant to the point of being sedate.
No celebrities; no big events, other than the mc chris concert at the end. I went because my VIP pass gave me a free ticket, and it was there that I received the first glimpse of the privileges that the VIP ticket would hold, being ushered into the front rows and being allowed, as press, to put my camera on a tripod and actually, well, shoot. I remember being told specifically “no tripods” at this year’s AX, and it felt like a little victory when no one hassled me about the tripod. As for mc chris himself, I am not the person to judge him: I don’t listen to rap, and so I couldn’t understand most of his lyrics, geeky as they were on occasion (I caught the “Robotussin” clearly enough). To be brutally honest, though, I didn’t really care; I wasn’t at this con to see him, and so I probably didn’t realize that what I got at his concert would be a harbinger of what I’d be able to do on the big days ahead–the days with Rie Tanaka.
I was also eager, so eager, to meet JP, Hinano, DS, omo, moy, and any other bloggers who would be in attendance. Day 1 felt like waiting for that moment more than anything else. If you thought Day 1’s video was a bit dry and boring…well, everything I just said was why. I have to admit, that was the main reason I wanted to be at this con. Ray has his Rie. I have my colleagues.
Tomorrow: Days 2 and 3, and some thoughts on VIP status: fair or unfair?