Seeing Manga for What It is

New York Anime Festival, much like the teenagers who attend it, is a fairly young convention especially when compared to other cons. This year saw it merged with its sister convention, the New York Comic Con, and while I did not attend, a number of reports have stated how the Comic Con side so dominated the Jacob Javits convention center that the Anime Festival became relegated to what has now been commonly referred to as the “anime ghetto.” There is no word as to why the ghetto formed, or whether the sharp delineation between comics (and everything else) and anime was a sign of disrespect towards anime fans, but regardless of intent, it is quite clear that things were Different. Dave over at Colony Drop writes:

Far from the exhibition floor, there was an invisible line in the Javits Center that weekend: one that denoted where the comic con ended and where the anime con began. I marked this line down in my mind late in the first day, when I stopped to make a phone call and saw my first pack of running, screaming Hetalia cosplayers. This display was immediately followed by a creepy girl who was going around the hallway alone and serially glomping any character she recognized. It had taken me all day to get there— NYCC offered me more as a gamer than NYAF offered me as an anime fan— but there was no mistaking that I was now in Anime Country.

That invisible line that Dave mentions is largely social; all the con did was greatly exaggerate it through the structure of the convention center itself. Anime fans want to be seen as anime fans. They want to be different and special. Others are glad to oblige, doing so by expressing their disdain for “those damn anime kids.” In either case, a division is formed, between “anime and manga” and “not-anime-and-manga.” Meanwhile, others are quick to step in and give the message that “it’s all just cartoons and comics anyway.”

The trouble with both the acknowledgment and disapproval of such categorizations is that each side has its own fair share of pitfalls. By regarding manga as special (and from here on out I’ll be sticking to manga for the sake of convenience), supporters can end up tying it down, obscuring (or even willfully ignoring) the fact that one of manga’s real strengths is its sheer diversity in style, content, and tone. Instances of this can be seen in the way that early iterations of the Morning International Comics Competition (back when it was called the Morning International Manga Competition) were less aesthetically diverse than the more recent ones. This is further compounded when its detractors regard manga as being narrowly defined by negative traits. And yet, while it is in no way disrespectful to refer to manga as “comics,” doing so becomes problematic when the traits that have developed as the result of a unique comics history are intentionally brushed aside for the sake of generalizations. A person who regards manga as being no different from other comics inadvertently disregards the histories of comics cultures the world over.

One mistake people commonly make when they talk about what separates one form of comics from another is that they start at the visuals first. Some never get beyond the surface, and they define a form of comics entirely by the look of characters and details. Others can look beyond the first layer and delve deeper, finding meaning behind those images. Now taking the top-down approach is actually perfectly valid, but it only provides half of the total picture. By also taking a bottom-up approach, you can begin to see how the various non-visual contents of stories in comics manifest themselves on the pictorial level. It is good to not only see how the river-like flow of panels in manga affects storytelling for instance, but also how the storytelling can influence the panel structure in manga. From there, you can really begin to see what makes manga special, and at the same time discover its connections with the greater category of “comics.”

It can seem like a complete contradiction to say that manga should be seen as both unique and like all other comics, but that’s only the case if you define it in black and white terms. Look carefully, and you’ll see that the actual lines which separate manga from other forms of comics are actually quite nebulous. Rather than having manga’s identity be frozen in time, forever unwavering and unchanging, it is important to see manga as the result of decisions made over the years, trends that ebb and flow, and the combined efforts of people who dared to pick up a pencil and merge words with images in sequential format. Even as comics creators increasingly take notes from their peers two continents away and the divisions begin to crumble, they do not automatically wipe out what has come before. Just the same however, manga is not beholden to its past, and can grow in unpredicted ways. The past provides a foundation for the unseen future.


The Brotherly Combination of New York Comic Con and New York Anime Festival is this weekend (Oct 8-10), and while I cannot go this year due to that pesky thing called the Atlantic Ocean, I still want to help out any way I know how. As of late, I’ve noticed that people planning on attending the con, especially those from outside of NYC, are concerned about where to go eat, and it just so happens that I love eating and eating in New York.

First thing first however, there are some “harsh” truths I have to get out of the way. Namely, the Jacob Javits Center, located between 34th St and 39th St on 11th Ave by the Hudson River, is quite a ways away from everything else. Even 10th Ave can feel distant, and the closest trains, the A, C, and E (aka the “blue” trains), are as far as 8th Ave. So unless you want to pay those ridiculous convention center food prices, you’re going to have to walk, and you’ll need at the very least 10 minutes to even get to the closest place, a McDonald’s on 34th St and 10th Ave which undoubtedly be packed. Another thing to keep in mind is that, generally speaking, “avenues” are much longer than “streets” in New York. Remember that as you plan out where to go with the time you have.

Oh, and seeing as I’m not in NYC, I cannot verify everything will be as I say it is for the weekend. Food places open up and close all the time in New York, after all. My apologies!

The simplest method to obtaining food is to go along 34th and you’ll hit a number of other fast food places. There’s a Burger King, two Subways, a Wendy’s, and even a Chipotle’s by the time you reach 8th Ave. Of course if you take the food to go, you’ll save even more time.

But I hear you asking, what if we want to sit down and eat, maybe take our time? Well first, I would have to ask if you planned on going back to the con center, and second, I would have to once again point out the New York City subways. They may not be the most reliable, but they’re plentiful and they go to almost every nook and cranny in Manhattan, let alone the other New York City boroughs. At that point, I would say just find whatever, but I know that a lot of people are distinctly looking for places to eat near the Javits.

Once you understand that “near” is a relative term, you have quite a few options. There are multiple diners along 34th, such as the Tick Tock Diner and the Skylight Diner. All of them are decent enough, and good for holding a large crowd if you get there at the right time.

Also keep in mind that you’re in Hell’s Kitchen, and going north along 9th Ave (and to a lesser extent 10th Ave) is going to reward you with any number of restaurants of varying costs. As a general rule, the further up you go, the pricier the food will be, but you can still find places, like Burgers & Cupcakes on 9th Ave between 35th and 36th. According to a friend, there’s a couple of excellent bars as well, Pony Bar and Rudy’s. Don’t be scared by the appearance of smaller locations either, as they may very well serve good food. One such place is Tehuitzingo Deli Grocery on 47th St and 10th Ave, which serves the best tacos I’ve ever eaten. Try the cow tongue!

If you’re really unsure of how you want your dining experience to be, then my location of choice is 38th St between 7th and 8th Aves. Not only is this the street where you can get my beloved Go Go Curry, but if you’re looking for places that can hold more people, there’s Lazarra’s Pizza, a sit-down Balkan restaurant called Djerdan (if you’re a real anime fan you’ll get the Musaka and shout, “MASAKA?!”), Korean Fried Chicken at Bon Chon, and even a Chinese restaurant called simply 38th Street Restaurant and Bakery which serves food closer to the kind you’d find in Chinatown than your typical General Tso’s fare. Also along 8th Ave between 38th and 37th is 2 Bros Pizza, which has convenient $1 slices. There’s also a 42nd Times Square Yoshinoya, in case you want to quickly feed your desire for Japanese food and Go Go Curry is too full.

If you have a bit more time than that and a bit of cash to lay down, then I must recommend Tony’s Dinapoli, a family-style Italian restaurant located on 43rd St between 6th and 7th Aves. The place is popular so you’ll need a reservation, but the portions are big and the food is hearty, and they’re used to housing large crowds.

And if you’re vegetarian, you may want to check out some of the nearby Indian restaurants. While I haven’t been to it myself, the closest one appears to be Tawa Tandoor, on 34th St by 9th Ave.

So those are some basics to eating during your New York Anime Festival/Comic Con weekend. Happy dining! And if you want to find something specific to eat in NYC, even outside of the Javits range, don’t be afraid to ask me on Formspring or Twitter or even in the comments below.

Uwa…! New York Anime Festival 2009

New York Anime Festival ran on my home turf of NYC this weekend, and I was there once more to experience anime, Jacob Javits-style. The most significant parts of this convention were the fact that this would be the last year that NYAF stood on its own apart from New York Comic Con (a merged con will stand in its place next year), and that the creator of Gundam Tomino Yoshiyuki would be there. As a long-time Gundam fan, I could not ignore the fact that he was set to appear in my city. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity (unless you were at Big Apple Anime Fest years ago; then it’s a twice-in-a-lifetime opportunity).

Friday morning, I got an official NYAF tweet telling me that people were already lining up for autograph tickets, and so with a somewhat mad dash and a long train ride, I and others managed to get to the autograph line on time and obtain our golden passes. Secure in the knowledge that I would get to meet Tomino in person, I continued on through the con.

I helped run a couple of panels this year, namely the Anime Bloggers Roundtable, and Anime Recruitment. For the latter, I was mainly a tech guy, but I managed to chime in on a few subjects, and when asked about why I was a fan of anime more than other forms of media, I gave an answer that I felt satisfied the question. My response, to sum it up, was that anime and manga are capable of addressing and portraying an incredibly diverse number of topics in a way that is appealing on both a basic surface level as well as a deeper and more emotional one. Feel free to disagree.

As for the Bloggers Roundtable, it was great fun and I got to learn quite a bit from my fellow bloggers, but I hope to learn even more and really see the differences in our blogging styles come to the forefront. Ed Chavez, who came onto the stage like a surprise pro wrestler, as well as others, mentioned that he would like to see more direct interaction between bloggers and I am inclined to agree.

I also attended panels such as the Central Park Media retrospective, where I learned that John O’Donnell is a fiercely honest businessman and speed-reader, and saw representatives of Del Rey, Funimation, Vertical Inc, Bandai Entertainment, and Harmony Gold discuss the status of the anime and manga industry, ultimately coming up with the conclusion that while the industries were in trouble, this was old territory despite being on a new frontier. I also saw the US premiere of Cencoroll, a 30-minute short vaguely reminiscent of Pokemon and Alien Nine, created by just one man a la Shinkai Makoto and his first major work, Voices of a Distant Star. It was a fine work to be sure, the animation was beautiful, and the story was simple and stylish.

But I know you’re all here to learn about Tomino, or at least my own experiences with Tomino, as all the actual news aspects have been covered in spades by various news sites. In other words, I expect you to be here for the Ogiue Maniax Tomino Experience, and I assure you that it was something.

I first saw Tomino at the opening ceremonies, where he came out with the intent to cut the red ribbon and officially open the New York Anime Festival. With a big smile on his face, and a propensity for throwing peace signs, Tomino appeared and disappeared in an instant. I knew he’d be back though.

Tomino’s keynote, despite its questionable translator, addressed a number of topics, but what it mainly focused on that I found significant was the idea that movies, film as it were, could not succeed with only one person behind the wheel. Tomino emphasized again and again that making movies, making anime, was a team effort, and that one cannot suffice on emotion and desire alone. He further explained how while he did not agree with everything that Mecha Designer Ookawara Kunio and Animation Director and Character Designer Yasuhiko Yoshikazu’s philosophies entirely, it was their combined effort which made the original Mobile Suit Gundam so successful. In addition to having it contrast with the very existence of Cencoroll, what was amazing to me was seeing Tomino embrace his status as Gundam’s creator, something he was extremely hesitant to do in the past. My personal theory is that years back Tomino was bitter that he could not escape the ominous shadow that Gundam cast upon his career in animation, but when the 30-year mark hit, he came to an epiphany that made him realize that having a work you created survive and evolve for three decades is more than most creators could ever hope for. Some might say that Gundam today is a corruption of what it was, but to have something so influential to corrupt in the first place is in itself an achievement.

The next day, Tomino Q&A was in session. First the panel began with a video summary of Tomino’s greatest works, including Triton of the Sea, Space Runaway Ideon, and Overman King Gainer. The attendees, including me, sang along with as many songs as we could. It shouldn’t surprise you that I knew a lot of them (I could hear myself being the only one singing along to “Come Here! Daitarn 3”). Also, much to Patz’s chagrin, Garzey’s Wing was missing. With that over, Tomino was introduced once more and the Q&A was in full swing. Despite the plans to ask a number of questions from the ANN forums, Tomino decided to give priority to those who were in the room. You can find out the answers to all of the questions here, though I should point out that the person asking the One Year War question was asking for an “alternate” conclusion and not an “ultimate” one.

The answer that surprised and intrigued me the most was the fact that Mobile Suit Gundam’s original fanbase was actually teenage girls. In retrospect it is very easy to see why this would be the case, and I mean that in the best possible way. Next were his answers that one of the main themes in Gundam is that adults are the enemy because they’re too set in their ways, and that as an old man he is a “super enemy,” and that to get anything done in anime you need sponsors and investors. Everyone could sense the cynical Tomino, and it turns out he’s the same as the pleasant Tomino.

What was especially great though was that I managed to ask my own question, to which I received a most satisfying answer.

Q: You had worked with the late director Tadao Nagahama. Is there anything you can relate about your personal experiences with him?

TOMINO: I worked with director Nagahama for several years before Gundam, and what I learned from him was the sense of right in stories aimed towards children. When creating works for children, it should not be biased in one way or another or leaning more in a political sense, but to provide a very pure and good story.

It’s different from the response Ishiguro gave at Otakon 2009, but I expected that and I learned a lot from that brief statement.

The panel then ended with a showing of a 5-minute clip from Tomino’s Ring of Gundam. Overall, the Q&A was a rousing success, though I wish there were more non-Gundam questions asked.

Outside of the actual con itself, a number of friends and I did some con-esque activities that made the weekend more fun as a whole. On the Thursday prior to NYAF, we watched the Eureka Seven movie, and learned that half the dub cast has trouble sounding convincing or serious. We also learned that the voice director tries his best to avoid calling E7 a “cartoon.” On Friday, we had the most Japanese of foods, Go Go Curry, and then spent the evening laying out some Most Serious Karaoke along with the likes of the Reverse Thieves, One Great Turtle, and others. Sub and I discovered that they actually had “Kanjite Knight,” and it rocked so hard we had to sing it twice. This will easily be a part of our karaoke repertoire from now on. A few trips to the Japanese bookstores of NYC were also made, where I rediscovered the Hulk Hogan manga I gave away years ago. This time, it’s definitely getting scanned.

New York Anime Festival is very unique in terms of its panel and events scheduling, in that there tends to be very few panel rooms and opportunities to see someone speak, but what is there is definitely a big hit and immensely enjoyable. I did not attend the AKB48 or Makino Yui concerts, for example, but I’m sure fans of each had a good time. What ends up happening as a result is that you get these long periods of having nothing to do except maybe go around the dealer’s room, or just sit around with friends (and luckily the Jacob Javits Center has plenty of places to sit), and actually recommend this as a way to just enjoy the con without enjoying the con. In my case, I also watched Starcraft matches as part of the World Cyber Games USA finals to pass the time (congratulations to Greg “Idra” Fields for winning WCG USA, and getting a chance to play some of the most fierce Korean pros in Starcraft history). Overall though, the panel situation is quite different from Otakon, where you feel compelled to run around to get to the next panel and have to decide on what not to attend. Things will be different next year of course.

And what of my autograph session? When I handed my DVD box to Tomino, he looked at it for a second, and as if his mental dissonance was correcting himself, he suddenly exclaimed, “Uwa…!” Then he inscribed his name, and handed me one of my most valuable possessions ever.

I can see the good times.

The Fierce Battle for NYAF Autographs Has Begun

This morning I got a tweet from New York Anime Festival, telling us that the line for Tomino autographs was already forming as early as 7am. Now, the NYAF policy is that you have to pick up your autograph tickets in the morning, but for Friday this isn’t until 11:30am.

This is a far cry from the general Otakon system of autographs which is “everybody lines up and whoever happens to unfortunately be past the cutting point is out of luck.” Both systems have their strengths and faults, giving to varying degrees a sense of hope (however false it may be), and a sense of confirmation that yes today you will get an autograph. The Otakon system says maybe you’ll be that ONE LAST person who squeezes in, whereas the NYAF system says simply, “this is how it is and you’re gonna like it.”

I of course will be trying to get my Zambot 3 box signed, but at this rate I’m not sure if it’ll be possible. WAIT AND SEE.

New York Anime Festival 2009 Preparations

New York Anime Festival 2009 is this Friday-Sunday, September 25-27, and it’s going to be the final NYAF before the thing merges with New York Comic Con to form a nerd Vegetto (or Chouryuujin, depending on your tastes). The advantage/disadvantage of NYAF is that there isn’t a whole lot to do all the time, but when there is it’s really, really worth it.

These are the events I’ll be trying to attend, as per the schedule.

Yoshiyuki Tomino Keynote @ Panel Room 4 (1A21) 5:15pm – 6:15pm
Aniplex @ Panel Room 4 (1A21) 6:30pm – 7:30pm
Cencoroll @ ANA Theater (1A08-12) 9:00pm – 9:30pm

Del Rey Manga @ Panel Room1 (1A24) 11:00am-12:00pm
Yoshiyuki Tomino Q&A @ Panel Room 4 (1A21) 1:45pm-2:45pm
Blogger Roundtable @ Panel Room 4 (1A21) 8:00pm-9:00pm

State of the Anime and Manga Industries @ Panel Room 1(1A24) 1:30pm-2:30pm
CPM Retrospective @ Panel Room 4 (1A21) 3:00pm-4:00pm
Anime Recruitment @ Panel Room 3 (1A22) 4:00pm-5:00pm

I’ll also be trying to catch any Starcraft matches during the WCG USA finals.

Also don’t forget to catch me on the Anime Bloggers Roundtable panel on Saturday from 8pm-9pm. I’ll be there along with Ani-Gamers, Reverse Thieves, Comics Worth Reading, Anime Vice, Subatomic Brainfreeze, Anime Almanac, The Gaming Dungeon, Manga, and Super Amazing Number One, there to discuss this fine art we call anime blogging. There’s a structure to the whole thing, but it’ll still probably be fairly free-form.

Look forward to it!

So I Don’t Know About You, But My Questions to Tomino are Pretty Awesome

‘s all I’m sayin’.

Let’s Talk WCG USA Starcraft Finals Again (They’re at an Anime Con!)

A few months back I made a post mentioning the fact that the World Cyber Games USA finals would be held at the New York Anime Festival from September 25-27. A few weeks ago, the finalists were all decided via online tournaments, and there’s quite a few recognizable names. I’ll be there to watch for sure (unless it interferes with, say, a Tomino interview or press conference), as not only am I interested in seeing who gets to fly to the WCG finals, but also because this is a rare opportunity to combine two interests into one exciting event.

Anyway, the finalists.

Jacob “LzGaMeR” Winstead
Made it to the Valor Tournament Round of 16.

Adrian “KawaiiRice” Kwong
First-time WCG USA finalist.

David “Louder” Fells
3rd Place Winner at WCG USA 2008.

Geoff “iNcontroL” Robinson
WCG USA 2007 champion and moderator for Team Liquid, iNcontroL also appeared as a contestant on WCG Ultimate Gamer.

Greg “IdrA” Fields
The ESWC Asia Masters of Cheonan 2009 Champion, Idra is the only active Non-Korean professional Starcraft player in Korea and is known for his strong Terran vs Zerg.

Daniel “Nyoken” Eidson
WCG USA 2007 2nd place finisher.

Sean “Day[9]” Plott
2005 WCG USA champion and considered by many to be the best Zerg in the United States, as well as the younger brother of Nick “Tasteless” Plott, the English caster for Gom TV.

Bryce “Machine” Bates
Former WCG USA Finalist.

David “KingDino” Kent
Former WCG USA Finalist. A former hacker who has since managed to redeem himself.

Dan “Artosis” Stemkoski
WCG 2007 3rd Place Winner and frequent WCG USA finalist, Artosis runs  SCforALL, a site dedicated to bridging the gap between American and Korean Starcraft fanbases. Known for his strong Terran vs Terran and Terran v Protoss.

I know that watching Starcraft is not every anime nerd’s cup of tea, but I hope at least some of you take the chance to watch some high-level gaming in one of the most intense games ever. And for those of you cosplaying, I will implore you to take a look, just so that when they film the audience pans will be that much more interesting.

Don’t forget to cover your faces.

Tomino vs Imagawa, NYC vs Atlanta

Anime Weekend Atlanta has announced that one of their guests of honor will be Imagawa Yasuhiro, acclaimed director of the Giant Robo OVA and the currently-running Shin Mazinger TV series. AWA is running this year from September 18-20.

Meanwhile, New York Anime Festival, running September 25-27, has already announced famed Gundam creator and director Tomino Yoshiyuki as its guest of honor. If you’re a fan of giant robots and you don’t have the time or resources to go to both, this can be a very painful decision to make.

To help you with your dilemma, try asking yourself the following two questions.

Question 1: Do you love Gundam?

Question 2: Do you love G Gundam even more?

Hey You Got Your Starcraft in My New York Anime Festival

New York Anime Festival has announced that it will be the proving grounds of the WCG USA finals. As someone who enjoys watching Starcraft AND enjoys watching anime, this feels like the most wonderful kind of Peanut Butter Cup.

While the Starcraft scene in America pales in comparison to South Korea’s, where it’s treated as a legitimate sport full of pride and rivalries and an official Air Force Starcraft team and most importantly fangirls, it is still full of good players who are always seeking to push their game and the game in general forward. The winner here gets to fly to Chengdu, China for this year’s World Finals.

I know sometimes people, including myself, will say, “Hey get your irrelevant topics out of my anime convention!” and Starcraft is an AMERICAN game played mostly by Koreans (I know how racist that SOUNDS, but what I mean is that you can’t even use the IT’S A PART OF JAPANESE CULTURE angle with it). However, I am willing to make an exception. Really.

I hope they get some announcers to liven up the event, and I hope they’re good announcers of course, even if they’re not Tasteless.

Oh, and don’t forget there are other games too. I know some will be more interested in the Virtua Fighter USA finals.

New York Anime Festival 2009 is September 25-27 at the Jacob Javits Center in Manhattan.

This Has Nothing to Do with Nissan

So after  submitting my entry for NYAF’s mascot competition, I’ve been looking around at the other entries. Regardless of age, talent, creativity, whatever, I can really feel that everybody who submitted a design put effort into their creations.

I don’t think anybody plagiarized or stole from anyone else (though there’s a few questionable designs copyright-wise), so I find it interesting to see what recurring themes there are among the entries. I mean, there’s only so many things you can positively associate with New York, and I’m certainly not the only one who decided to approach it from the subway angle. What I find particularly interesting though is the large number of entries that somehow incorporated the Manhattan Skyline into their mascots, especially in the clothes. The reason I find it interesting is that it had not occurred to me at all to associate New York with the skyline.

I’m a native New Yorker, born and raised in Brooklyn and Queens, and have spent much of my years in Manhattan, be it for school or to be with friends. With that in mind, I have to wonder if maybe growing up in NYC I’ve simply gotten too used to the number of tall buildings around. It’s easy to forget that there are places that aren’t like this, or that this feature of NYC would stand out in people’s minds.

As someone who grew up in New York, as someone who used the subway daily for years on end, I felt a more tangible connection to the underground than to the skies above, and it was something I could embrace and appreciate more, hence Chika’s design and the vague hints at her personality I gave in her information.

Second place for interesting recurring themes was taxis, which I also did not associate with NYC for similar reason to the skylines, but I’ve been told by certain people that NYC is apparently the only place you can just wave down a taxi. You learn something every day!