Monday, April 21, 2008

ニューヨーク IS ゴー!

The New York Comic Con

In the spirit of getting stuff out there, I do feel obliged to write a bit about the New York Comic Con, and what the developments that we see at this event may mean for the fandom.

When looking at the fandom, we must remember that it’s a business. Try as they might, the “true otaku” who have such love for anime, manga, music, and art, never seem to be able to out-reason the fact that what they love live and breathe is a essentially a consumer product, and so for more to be made business has to get done. The NYCC is a place for those business interests to show off their creation to the ever growing crowd of people who are interested in buying them. But enough of me sounding like a broken record, let’s talk about the con.

There was a serious amount of anime at this show, and Stan Lee announcing the fruit of his labor with VIZ, and TM Revolution a part of the headline programming, it was a bit difficult to tell if anime itself had arrived as one of three legs that keep up mainstream commercial American popculture. What those three legs are in fact is entirely debatable, so I’m not going to try to define them here.

Anime news consisted of some serious announcements from Viz and Yen Press. But conspicuously absent was the soon to be dead ADVision or Media Blasters, and now that CPM is just a ghost while AnimEigo stays cryogenically frozen next to the dead carcass of Geneon, there are few of the old guard left to represent the home media market. Home media used to be the only dependable anime could make some decent money in international markets, but no more. The new generation who think of fansubs an some sort of indelible “right” have made sure that the Japanese companies that work so hard to make the anime that they love, won’t make a dime in the international market. So the first to fall are of course the home media companies that have no big parents to lean on, or no other divisions bringing in sales to the point where DVD can be looked at as a loss leader (which in anime, that’s all it can be).

One of the major things to avoid this from happening to them in the publishing world, Viz is going to publish Shonen Jump in English and Japanese to avoid the dreaded “lag time” in which crappy scanlations are made by people who honestly and mistakenly think they know enough Japanese to accurately get the point across as good as a professional translator, with an editorial staff. Will this work? Probably not. The age of the target is such that it may be hard to get them to regularly buy something that doesn’t contain high fructose corn syrup. The trick will be to get the thing out on time, every time, and not quit after the first 18 months of sales are abysmal. Then there’s the price point, which will have to hit the bull’s-eye right off the bat. Too high and even a price drop won’t get readers to pick it up again, and too low will have your sales numbers in a nice place, while revenue is nonexistent. Let’s not kid ourselves, Viz is a Japanese company and the old notion of the Japanese doing things for the long haul will need to come into play here or we’re looking at epic fail.

Of course Stan Lee was there with Viz to talk about Ultimo, their new collab with an American creativity but done in the much nicer and more appealing manga style that younger readers almost demand when looking for new illustrated media. I'm pretty sure I was in the room when the idea for this thing came about back in 2004 during the TAF Preview show in LA where Stan was a major guest and schmoozed the room talking to people. Funny how sometimes you know what's going to happen but circumstances (or one idiot in particular) keep you outside looking in.

Also Yen Press is doing something. But I wasn’t paying much attention.

The NYCC is a hybrid of modern entertainment, and the old type of convention, but much more of it is that modern part. The actual comic dealers (you know the ones that give you dirty looks and aren’t nice to talk to and look shady) were thankfully relegated to a small corner of the massive floor, which could be avoided. The thing is that the comic companies (even the smaller ones) were there to promote brands, not sell stock, and that’s what a modern show has become. Not a place where you get some washed up scifi actor to sign an old toy or something, but a place where masses of people would be exposed to sneak peaks of upcoming massive projects. What’s good about this? The younger crowd shows up. And that’s the only way a show is going to survive is if it reaches the younger crowd that wouldn’t be caught dead at an old style “comic convention” in some dank hotel ballroom where you come and go in less than one day.

That’s not to say the little guy was squeezed out of this one. For one thing, there was a podcast area that was free for podcasters if you got in your request fast enough (it was in an unsellable corner of the floor anyway). This gives an air of fan legitimacy to the con by being able to allow for independent perspectives to come in and do their thing unhindered. There was an artist alley that would rival Otakon’s in size, and surpass it a million fold in quality of art, especially original art, which is what an artist’s alley should be in my opinion, and not a stunt double for the dealer’s room where you can order a pencil sketch of gender swapped Harry Potter characters make out with Naruto and Sasuke and half the cast of Fruits Basket or whatever you sick little freaks who have DA accounts do. No, this artist’s alley was actually worth it, as it had a much nicer mix of style and art, being that this was a more general show.

Of course TM Revolution was there. He’s nice, and very friendly. We talked with him a bit, and hopefully SONY Music is going to let us play what we recorded (audio only). They can be guarded about that since TMR is kinda old but he still has to impress teenyboppers, and when we talked he was fine, but he did look like he just crossed half the world on 15 cups of coffee. I really like him tho. He’s not like some rock star full of himself, and to go through all of that and still be in a good mood, there’s a better man than I.

In the end, ticket sales were in a happy place, dealers sold plenty of goods (except for those old comic guys… they must be kicking themselves for going to this thing), I got to see the Shaw Brothers action figures which are coming out soon, and I told the people who make the costumes for Hellboy 2 that it was a crappy first movie and looks like it’s going to be an even more crappy second, “now get the hell out from behind the Ninja Consultant’s booth.” And yeah, I had a golden ticket this time too, but I gave it to a guy from Kodansha I wanted to impress.