My Experience at AnimeNYC 2018: From Me to You!!!
Once more I go into New York City, this time for an anime specific convention, one that I’d never been to before – AnimeNYC. The convention’s only in its second year, but after the weekend I had, I hope it continues on for many more. Let’s not mince any more words and get down to how things went, day by day.
FRIDAY: LET THE GAMES BEGIN!
For as much as I enjoyed AnimeNYC, it didn’t start out great. Thanks to a nasty snowstorm the evening prior, the air and ground were absolutely frigid, and the commute was affected by the still-persisting snow. When I arrived at the convention center, I waited outside for ten minutes in the cold, only to be told that I was in the wrong line. Twenty minutes after THAT, I finally got inside. Now, here’s where the biggest stumbling block for my con experience came into play. The public was let into the convention center at around 10:30 in the morning. Unfortunately, the panels, dealer’s hall and artist alley (AKA the entire convention) didn’t actually open until 1 or 2 pm, as stated on the schedule. So really, all there was to do for about 2 ½ hours was sit and play My Hero One’s Justice on my Nintendo Switch until things actually got rolling. Once things opened up, I began my day by meeting up with fellow Region99 writer Erik McRimmon, and attending a panel for the upcoming PS4/PC Game, Kill La Kill IF.
The panel was helmed by employees of Arc System Works, the company helping to publish and develop the game. Kill La Kill IF is a 3D arena style fighting game, based on the 2013 Studio TRIGGER anime Kill La Kill. The game is being developed with strict oversight by the original animation studio, and written by Kazuki Nakashima, one of the original writers of the anime. As the name suggests, Kill La Kill IF is a sort of “What If” take on the story of Kill La Kill, with its protagonist being initial antagonist Satsuki Kiryuin instead of Ryuko Matoi like in the anime. AnimeNYC featured the first playable builds of the newly announced characters Houka Inamuta and Nonon Jakuzure.
Arc System Works took questions on the game, which I have taken the liberty of transcribing below.
JB: How many more playable characters will there be? (Note: There are currently six playable characters – Ryuko Matoi, Satsuki Kiryuin, Uzu Sanageyama, Ira Gamagoori, Houka Inamuta and Nonon Jakuzure)
ASW: Well, we can’t tell you how many there are, but more are in development and will be revealed up until the end of the year.
JB: Will there be an English Dub of the game? With the original English cast from the anime?
ASW: We’re looking into that as we speak. Do you guys want an English dub? [audience cheers] Well all right then!
JB: I know you’ve announced the game for PS4 and Steam, are there any plans to bring the game to Nintendo Switch?
ASW: Currently, we don’t have any plans for a Nintendo Switch port, though it’s not an impossibility.
JB: Will there be an Xbox One version of the game?
ASW: No plans at this time. In fact, you’ll actually see a Nintendo Switch port before an Xbox One port. Sorry!
Arc System Works also confirmed that the Western release of Kill La Kill IF would not be censored, that there were no current plans for an Arcade Mode, and that there won’t be any guest characters from other Arc System Works properties like Guilty Gear. They also explained why Kill La Kill IF is a 3D fighter instead of a 2D one like the wildly popular Dragonball FighterZ, also made by Arc System Works: “We wanted to make the game as accessible as possible, so we chose to make the game a 3D fighter, because those have a lower bar of entry.” Speaking as someone who’s played both 2D and 3D fighters, I definitely see where they’re coming from.
Following the panel, Erik and I took to the Dealer’s Hall to look around, and to get our hands on the playable demo of Kill La Kill IF. I played the game twice, once as Nonon Jakuzure and the second time as Satsuki Kiryuin. The game feels like it has a solid foundation behind it, and everything truly does look like it was taken right from the series. Honestly the only thing that confuses me is why it took so long for a fighting game of this series to come out. The anime is tailor made for a fighting game, yet development only began about 18 months ago. Either way, the game is a ton of fun and I’m definitely looking forward to snagging it on PC when it releases sometime in 2019.
Another thing of note I happened to check out on day one of Anime NYC was Inti Creates’ newest game, Dragon Marked for Death, a side-scrolling action game where you control one of four members of a near extinct group of warriors who have made a pact with a dragon (and in doing so have gained a part of the Dragon’s power) in order to avenge their clan. The clan is made up of an Empress, a Warrior, a Shinobi and a Witch. I played as the first two of the four characters during my time at Anime NYC, and the time I spent playing was pretty enjoyable. That being said, the game is definitely not one conducive for a floor demo like Kill La Kill IF, at least not for me.
The game is very difficult and mechanic intensive – each enemy is best dispatched with a certain attack, and if you don’t use the right one then you’re bound to be punished by taking more damage than you should with one enemy, which will leave you at a disadvantage for the rest of the level. Additionally, after killing an enemy they may drop an item, which can be good and restore your health or magic bar, but can also be bad. I picked up items in the game that poisoned me with constant damage, and another that reversed my movement controls. These status effects persisted even after I had died! Whether that was a glitch or not I have no idea, but it seems bizarre that status effects wouldn’t go away after death. I played the game a total of three times and didn’t once get past the first level.
Given enough time, I’m sure I could work my way through the level and learn how to beat it, but that’s hard to do when you’re at a convention and there’s a line of people waiting to play behind you. Not to mention, the developers weren’t really that helpful in giving pointers on how to clear the level. When I asked how best to approach the boss, all they said was I had to “get good”. That’s funny and all, but it doesn’t endear me to your game, especially when that same person gave out actual advice to someone else who was clearly struggling with the game, advice that I cribbed to TRY and beat the first boss, but to no avail. The gameplay is tight and I can definitely see myself enjoying the game, especially since the final build of the game will have local and online multiplayer, but I don’t know if it’s a day one purchase for me. The game was initially slated to be released next month, but got delayed just a bit as at Anime NYC, Inti Creates announced a physical version of the game would be released, and that the digital version would now be released January 31st, 2019.
Additionally, the game is being sold in an odd way. The physical version will have all four characters playable, but the digital version will be sold for $15.99 and only have Empress and Warrior playable, with the other two as DLC. This is nice as a cost saving measure for consumers, I guess, but I’d personally just have them all ready right out the gate. So I guess what I’m saying is I’ll be getting the physical version.
As Erik and I walked the halls of the convention center, I came upon the booth for Yen Press, the publisher of my absolute favorite manga series Delicious in Dungeon – a series about a man named Laius and his adventuring party who travel through a deep dungeon to find and rescue his sister Falin, who was eaten by a dragon and only has a month before she is digested by the beast. Because Laius and his friends have little money, they feed themselves by killing and cooking the dungeon monsters into delectable dishes. It’s fun, sometimes dark, but often a hilarious read and I highly recommend it to anyone who’s a fan of fantasy stories. While at the booth I picked up Volume 6 of the series, and found out from one of the employees that Delicious in Dungeon is actually very popular here in America! I can only hope that it gets an anime adaptation soon.
The final notable thing that Erik and I did while in the Dealer’s Hall on Friday was something I’d never done at a convention before – participate in a scavenger hunt! The Crunchyroll booth was hosting an event called The Golden Kamuy Treasure Hunt. Based on the currently airing anime Golden Kamuy, the treasure hunt had us going around the Dealer’s Hall searching for four people with special T-Shirts, reminiscent of the map tattoos that the characters in Golden Kamuy were searching for to find a huge trove of gold. When you find someone wearing the shirt, they’ll stamp your card. Get all four stamps and you win a prize! The treasure hunt made walking around the Dealer’s Hall a real adventure, and had me and Erik scouring the crowds for the people wearing the shirt, just like Sugimoto and Asirpa search for the tattooed folk in the anime! It’s a shame that the reward was just a simple pin, but the experience was in and of itself a prize, I think .
After a quick lunch, Erik and I made our way to the Artist’s Alley, where we saw many fantastic pieces of art, but at the time I was only concerned with one artist: Mike Luckas. I found his artwork one day through Twitter, and I absolutely adored it. It’s hard to put into words, but his particular style is just so cool and so to my enjoyment that I honestly couldn’t articulate myself when I met him. Something that translated really well when I actually met the man in person and bought a TON of his art was, “I follow you on Twitter… your art is amazing!” Maybe next year I’ll be able to compose myself better. Oh well. One great surprise I encountered shortly after was running into ASunnyDisposish (ASD), a multimedia artist I’d never met in person before, but whose art I adore. As a matter of fact, last Christmas I received one of her Zarya Bicep Mousepads as a Christmas gift, and I still use it to this day! Needless to say, I HAD to support her in person, buying one of her cute character pillows, one of Himiko Toga for myself, and one of Tsuyu Asui for Erik McRimmon. It was truly a joy to meet her in person, and I even got to ask her a question or two!
JB: I love your artwork! What made you want to put it on pillows like these?
ASD: Well, I just remember really wanting my art on something soft, so I made the pillows!
JB: And what inspired you to put your art on mousepads, notebooks and other stuff like that?
ASD: Well, a lot of people were telling me that they loved my art, but were running out of wall space for posters, so they asked if I could put my art on something more practical.
JB: That makes a lot of sense! So, on the off chance any of these pillows get dirty, what’s the best way to clean them?
ASD: Well, all you need to do is unzip them, take the stuffing out and then put the cover in the washer/dryer on “Delicate”, and it’ll be good as new!
Finally, I ended the day by getting the autograph of a prominent voice actor – Kari Wahlgren (KW), voice of Haruko Haruhara on FLCL, Fuu in Samurai Champloo, as well as a huge amount of voices for western cartoons, like Jessica from Rick and Morty and Chloe from The Fairly Oddparents. She was one of the few people at Anime NYC who charged for her autograph, but all of the proceeds were donated to aid the victims of the Woolsey Wildfire in California, which made me happy to pay to speak to her, and ask her a few questions.
JB: I loved your work in Samurai Champloo! It’s one of my favorite anime!
KW: Mine too!
JB: So how was it returning to playing Haruko for season 2 and 3 of FLCL this past year?
KW: Oh… emotional… Haruko was my very first role, so she means a lot to me.
JB: I never knew that! So, is recording for anime any different than recording for western animation?
KW: Oh, way different. In anime, the finished product is right in front of us and we have to match the movement of the characters’ mouths and body language, but with Western animation, we perform the script and the show is animated after that, around our performances.
Kari Wahlgren is absolutely a kind, wonderful person, and I’m thrilled to have met her! I hope that next time I see her I remember to actually get a picture with her!
SATURDAY: FROM DAWN ‘TIL DUSK
The second day of Anime NYC marked a number of new experiences for me. Chief among them was my second time cosplaying as My Hero Academia’s All For One. Unlike New York Comic Con, I found it much easier to wear the costume this time around. This could be due to a number of different factors, whether it was the smaller amount of people at the convention, the smaller amount of items I carried with me or perhaps just my being used to wearing the mask, cosplaying as All For One was a lot more fun this time around! Not to mention I finally managed to find several All Might cosplayers to take photos with, and I participated in an official Anime NYC photoshoot for My Hero Academia! The shoot was long and I wasn’t really able to get good photos of other cosplayers from where I was standing, but I did get some nice photos of myself taken!
After the photo shoot, I and fellow Region99 writer Maya Hanks were unfortunately shut out of attending the Mob Psycho 100 II panel, so we stepped away to eat and then returned to the convention center, where the next big landmark of the day occurred – meeting voice actors!
The first voice actor I met was John Swasey, voice of Hoenheim in Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood, an innumerable amount of smaller roles in anime, and most recently All For One in My Hero Academia! So naturally, I had to meet him dressed as the character. He was a very quiet, kind and unassuming man, and was impressed with my costume! While he was autographing my copy of My Hero: One’s Justice, I took the liberty of asking him some questions.
JB: So, is being a character actor in anime tough? What sort of challenges do you face as someone who’s played so many different roles?
JS: Well, there will be times when I’m playing one character and the director will stop me and say “you’re sounding a little too much like this character”, so I’ll have to do the line over again. It can be a little confusing. [laughs]
JB: So, what’s been your favorite role to play in an anime?
JS: [points to an image on his table of the character] Kumatetsu. No question about it. That role, that movie was just so emotional…
JB: Oh yeah, from The Boy and The Beast! I’ve seen that movie around a bunch of times, I keep meaning to pick it up!
JS: You should, it’s fantastic.
And at the advice of Mr. Swasey himself, I picked up a copy of The Boy and The Beast on the Anime NYC show floor, and he signed it for free! John Swasey is a reserved, but very kind man, and I wish him nothing but the best.
The next person I met right after John Swasey was Brittney Karbowski (BK), a voice actress who’s seen a huge boom in roles lately, from landmark roles like Wendy Marvell in Fairy Tail, to characters from recent hits like Rimuru Tempest from That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime. To me though, two roles of hers stand out above all else: Chaika Bohdan (AKA Red Chaika) from Chaika: The Coffin Princess, and Momoe Okonogi from Dusk Maiden of Amnesia, two lesser known series that I love very much. And apparently I’m not the only one:
BK: Oh my god! These?! You brought me these?! Oh wow, I am not worthy! [laughs] No one’s ever brought me these before!
JB: Really? No one at all? But Chaika’s awesome!
BK: I KNOW! These two shows actually mean a lot to me because they were directed by Chris Ayres. You know him, the voice of Frieza.
JB: Oh yeah! From Dragonball Z!
BK: Well, these were some of the last shows he directed, and that meant a lot to me because he’s kinda the reason I’m a voice actor. He discovered me when I was fourteen and helped me get to be where I am today, so working with him was just a dream!
JB: Oh wow, I bet! I loved you as Momoe in Dusk Maiden of Amnesia too, every time you were on screen you were just so full of life and energy! How did you prepare for that?
BK: Oh, she’s what I call “A 2-Coffee Character.” I would literally just down two cups of coffee before we started recording. People say that’s unhealthy but…[shrugs]
JB: Well thank you so much for everything! And I’m really loving your performance in the Slime anime!
BK: I am too! I got to say “Come at me, bruh!” in an anime! My career’s basically peaked. [laughs]
Brittney Karbowski was one of the kindest, most energetic folks I’ve ever met at a convention, and it’s wonderful to know she has just as much love for the series I love her in as I do. After meeting those wonderful voice actors, I milled around until it was time for me to attend that evening’s panels.
The first panel I attended on Saturday was TRIGGER Presents PROMARE and SSSS. GRIDMAN, a panel hosted by members of the Japanese animation company TRIGGER, who are responsible for the creation of Kill La Kill, Little Witch Academia and most recently, Darling In The FRANXX and SSSS. GRIDMAN. The panel was there to discuss their newest show (GRIDMAN) as well as their upcoming feature film, PROMARE. Unfortunately, when the panel began the audience was asked to refrain from taking any pictures or video, so I will do my best to recount what happened there. There was some discussion on Darling In The FRANXX, in particular its controversial ending (which I personally have still not seen).
More information was given out about Kill La Kill IF, namely that new information (presumably new playable characters) would be revealed at ArcREVO 2018 in Japan, which will be broadcast on Twitch worldwide on November 24th. (NOTE: The information revealed at the event was that both Nui Harime and Ragyo Kiryuin would be joining the roster of playable characters, and that the game would ALSO be coming to Nintendo Switch!) Additionally, it was revealed that Satsuki Kiryuin would acquire a new form in the game, similar to Ryuko Matoi’s final form in the series, entitled Junketsu Shinzui Mode, which has demonic, princess like elements to it and looked very impressive. Again, REALLY wish I could have gotten a picture of it, but I didn’t want to risk being thrown out.
TRIGGER then showed off another thing they’d been working on – the opening cinematic for the IndieGoGo funded game, Indivisible. I personally backed this game a few years ago and I’m very much looking forward to its release, so it was great to get more information on it. Yoh Yoshinari, the creator and director of Little Witch Academia was brought on to create Indivisible’s opening cinematic, and we were treated to a preview of it. Unfortunately for me, this was the same preview I and the rest of the backers for the project saw a few months ago, so it was nothing new. What was new however, was the knowledge that the opening animation had been fully completed and sent back to Lab Zero Games, which hopefully means we’ll be seeing the game’s proper release in Early 2019.
Next, TRIGGER discussed their newest, currently airing anime, SSSS. GRIDMAN. The four S’s are apparently short for “Superhuman Samurai Syber Squad”, which is also the name of the original Gridman series, back when it was a live action Tokusatsu Series. Tokusatsu being the Japanese word for “Special Effects”, and refers to live action Japanese programming that heavily uses special effects, like Ultraman and Super Sentai, the latter known to us as Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. Interestingly enough, it was revealed at the panel that the creature designers who worked on Ultraman were also brought in to design the monsters that GRIDMAN would fight in his anime!
After that, we got down to the meat of the panel – TRIGGER’s new feature film, PROMARE. We were treated to what I’m told was an exclusive trailer for the film, and I was very impressed. The visuals were absolutely stunning, almost beyond description. The film is clearly in 3D, but everything looks 2D. TRIGGER was vague on the story details for the film, only giving us character designs and setting images. Though from what I could gather, it seems like the film centers around a man named Galo and his squad mates Aina, Remy and Luccia, who have to combat a pyromaniac villain named Mad Burnish by using a robot. So essentially, a fire fighting mecha movie. Which, if that’s right, sounds pretty cool to me! Hiroyuki Sawano will be doing the music for PROMARE, and with him having also composed the music for Kill La Kill and Attack on Titan, I’m confident the music will be fantastic. Finally, the setting of PROMARE seems extremely similar to New York City, so it was appropriate that it be revealed here. PROMARE is set for theatrical release in Japan in 2019, with an American one to follow. I know I personally can’t wait to see this movie!
With that, the panel ended and I went on to my final activity of the day, attending a screening of the anime film, Eureka Seven: Hi-Evolution 1, which I had never seen before. I’m a huge fan of the anime Eureka Seven, but I didn’t enjoy the film that was produced earlier for it, Eureka Seven: Good Night, Sleep Tight, Young Lovers. That film deviated from the anime’s original story and told a new one that was very rushed. Yet, I went into Hi-Evolution 1 with an open mind, wanting to love Eureka Seven again. Yet, as the film progressed, I realized that that wasn’t going to happen.
Hi-Evolution 1 is a jumbled mess that I hesitate to even call a film. It starts out with the main character Renton’s father, Adroc Thurston, fighting off these aliens and causing a mass extinction event, which was cool, but the film never stops to tell us why he’s doing this, or why he thinks it’s wrong halfway through and tries to stop it. The film then focuses on Renton running away from some dogs, but jumps around all over the place as he tells the story of how he got there, but the film doesn’t even do this linearly. Not only that, but after the opening sequence, the aspect ratio of the film visibly changes from widescreen to full screen. That may sound like a nitpick, and on the surface it is, but what it really means is that the majority of the film is stock footage, reused from the series. Which shows not only how low effort the film is, but how unnecessary it is.
I spent practically the entire time watching the movie desperately trying to figure out who this movie was for, since I had no idea who would enjoy such a jumbled mess that seemed to add so little to the already existing story that was the anime. After the movie finished, I spoke to the fans behind me, and asked them what they thought of the movie. The people behind me actually enjoyed it a lot, and explained that this film expanded upon certain things that were glossed over in the series, such as Adroc’s death, how Holland and Talho first met, and a bunch of other minor things. That’s when I realized that this movie wasn’t for me – it was for them. Super fans of Eureka Seven who were desperate for even just a little bit more time in the world they loved. As I said, I love the Eureka Seven anime and I believe it did an absolutely excellent job on its own of telling a complete story. So, I’ll stick with that, but it’s nice to know that more diehard fans have other bits of the universe to explore. Day two of Anime NYC was the longest I’ve ever attended a con, from the moment it opened to the instant it closed. And yet, the weekend still wasn’t over!
DAY THREE: HEART AND ART
The final day of Anime NYC was a simpler one, with me and my best friend Maya Hanks touring the Artist Alley to find more wonderful independent artists like the aforementioned Mike Luckas and ASunnyDisposish. And find them we did! I’ll be highlighting just a few of the magnificent artists I found, spoke to and supported during Anime NYC .
Firstly was the Tenafly Anime Club, a booth dedicated to displaying and selling artwork members of an Anime Club from Tenafly, NJ had created. Having run an anime club myself both in middle school and in college, I was surprised and proud to see it have representation here at Anime NYC. In particular, the booth featured a young artist by the name of Mofuyu (@mofuyuki on Instagram) who produced some lovely Laid-Back Camp art that I just had to get for myself! I wish that I had the opportunity they did, and I can only hope that these young artists continue to nurture their creative spirit so that they may flourish in the future.
Another artist I’d like to spotlight is Emily Ree (@ree_emily on Instagram). She’s the author of an independent web-comic series called Anarchy Dreamers, a series that follows a group of teenagers resurrected after being killed in a school shooting that had no gunman. These kids are tasked with destroying Nightmares, the anthropomorphized fears and problems in modern society by the God of Dreams, who tells them he will reveal how they died if they succeed. It’s an interesting concept, and the art really drew me in! I actually managed to snag the last copy of Volume 1, and I look forward to giving it and Volume 2 a read!
Next, I’d like to tell you about Mikey Toney (@mikeytoneydesign on Instagram). He’s an illustrator who takes African Folklore and turns it into beautiful works of art. It’s always fascinating to me to see other cultures brought to life through artwork, and Mikey Toney definitely makes his mark. I look forward to seeing what he does next!
Another artist, or rather, group of artists I’d like to spotlight is Fuwaffy (@fuwaffie on Instagram) and Subhuman Hours (subhumanhours.tumblr.com), a collection of artists all sharing one booth. Though I’m regrettably unsure of who created the Spice & Wolf artwork I purchased from them, since the table was manned by a representative of the group and not one of the artists, I can say that every single one of them is talented and I can’t wait to see what else they produce.
Last, but certainly not least, I’d like to highlight John Bellotti Jr. (found at robo7.com). I spotted him in the far corner of the Artist Alley, selling absolutely beautiful pop art style Godzilla, Gamera, and other giant monster movie posters. Anyone who knows me, or who’s even been reading my articles knows that this EXACT THING really hits me in my soul. His artwork is amazing and I am so glad that he was there, so that I may beautify my walls with even more Godzilla memorabilia.
Thank you John, and thank you to every single person at Anime NYC, for making this a convention I won’t ever forget! See you next year!