Anime Rocks the City

New York plays host to the country's biggest celebration of the Japanese animation art form

18 Nov 2019 | 02:46

What do City Council Member Ben Kallos, Japanese Ambassador to the U.N. Kanji Yamanouchi and an estimated 40,000 fans of the Japanese animation art form known as anime have in common? They were all at the Javits Convention Center last weekend for the third annual Anime NYC convention, the largest such event in the U.S.

It turns out the Kallos is a fan of Gundam, a science fiction franchise featuring giant militaristic robots, and he was at the gathering to declare November 15th as Gundam Day, in honor of the 40th anniversary of the classic anime series.

“I actually don’t know the nitty-gritty details of how the making of Gundam Day happened,” said Yoshiyuki Tomino, the creator of Gundam. “But as Councilman Ben Kallos mentioned in his speech, he is a Gundam fan. In fact, I had the chance to chat with him for a little bit afterward, and I came to realize that he has probably seen more Gundam than I have. Not only has he seen it, but he remembers it better than I do.”

Vibrant and Exotic

Anime is an episodic and dramatic form of animation with signature Japanese features. It often consists of big, vibrant and exotic character designs, with limited animation for tense panning, and the conveyance of strong facial and body expressions.

The best way to experience anime, to appreciate its demanding standards for story and character development (and to avoid spoilers), is to watch episodes in chronological order.

The anime industry today is being supported by a generation of tech-savvy users willing to binge their favorite shows and buy official merchandise. And Anime NYC’s success correlates with the popularity of video-on-demand services.

An Authentic Japanese Experience

Previous anime conventions in New York City have been relatively local or have a history of failing. Big Apple Anime Fest (2001), Anime Expo New York (2002) and New York Anime Festival (2007), and have all been discontinued, having lasted three, one and four years respectively.

Some attendees at this year's Anime NYC, who have been coming to the convention since 2017, as well as attending other anime-related conventions, say Anime NYC is the most authentic Japanese experience.

“Before, a lot of conventions they don’t have enough Japanese guests," said Li Chang Shuang, a cosplayer. "Anime NYC does have authentic Japanese guests. That’s what people want, and there are more and more people every year.”

Comic-Con is the biggest and best-known comic-based convention in New York, but some people who attended both events, said that Anime NYC was more diverse in terms of people wearing costumes and fashion accessories to represent specific characters.

Another factor contributing to Anime NYC's success is the way it acknowledges minority communities. The convention center had plenty of inclusive activities that focused on African-Americans and LGBT fans of anime, something previous conventions did not have or did not focus on enough.