New York City is a tough town. Most ventures have trouble succeeding in this concrete jungle. Sometimes this is in spite of good marketing, advertisement and a promising start. This town is tougher on the complicated business of anime. This metropolis has provided a plethora of challenges that has doomed some of these potentially great anime conventions. Obstacles ranging from high rental for space, location, travel access and badge prices just to name a few. Since 2001, there have only been three anime conventions that have come to the grand stage of New York City/Tri-State area.
First there was the Big Apple Anime Fest. Despite having a prime location in mid-town Manhattan in the Time Square Marriott Marquis, perished in just three years. The Republican National Convention 2004 scheduled at the same venue and slotted time triggered its countdown to oblivion. Ultimately, organizational issues was the nail in the coffin for this convention. The Big Apple Fest was organized and supported by the very consortium of anime/manga companies featured there. The biggest supporter among these companies was Central Park Media. Central Park Media is the stain/scar on the art and industry of anime. Much like a wayward child from a good family. For years this company was on the decline. What made Central Park Media collapse was years of poor business acumen by its top handlers. So who’s bright idea it was to let this company bound for epic fail to spearhead the running of what could have been one of the greatest anime conventions in New York City? Central Park Media’s malaise was the death of the Big Apple Anime Fest.
The third anime convention to come to New York City was The New York Anime Festival (NYAF). Like its predecessor Big Apple Anime Fest, also folded in three years. The New York Anime Festival brought new hope and became the gem for all otakus across the metro area. It was held at the famous (or infamous to some) Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. A convention at a convention center, one would think “how can this possibly fail”. But fail it did despite having the space, all the trappings otakus love and increasing number of attendees. The New York Anime Festival was organized and run by Reed Productions. The same company that also does The New York Comic Con (NYCC). So you would have the NYCC in the spring and the NYAF in the winter. The NYCC drew in comic book fans and otakus alike. So a fan would think they got it made going to both conventions. The big wigs of Reed Productions figured they could maximize profit and save time by merging the two conventions together. And they would save on rental fees in the overly priced Javits Center. Many of us were sold on the idea of two conventions for the price of one. But it was anything but. After the first year of the merger, NYAF began its slippage into the Abyss. Reed Productions seem to have gotten Alzheimer’s about the anime component of this grand convention. Because otakus are dwarfed by the comic book fans, Reed Productions felt they can maximize profit by solely catering to the comic book fans. Anime screenings are virtually non existent at the NYCC. The expo hall of the Javits center is also an unfriendly environment for most anime vendors who can’t afford the astronomical prices to secure a booth. We otakus have a tombstone ready, it says “R.I.P. New York Anime Festival”. All we’re missing is the date. Its just a matter of time.
Between these two fallen anime cons, one shines brightly like a beacon above the shadows of death. AnimeNEXT! Organized by Universal Animation, Inc. The name really should be AnimeNOW! AnimeNEXT has been around for thirteen conventions starting in the fall of 2oo2. The inaugural convention started in the Meadowlands and subsequent years in Secaucus. The last six years AnimeNEXT has been held at the Doubletree Hilton Hotel in Somerset, New Jersey. When AnimeNEXT began in 2002 at the Crowne Plaza, it took up a modest space with turn out of barely over 1,000 attendees. Over the years AnimeNEXT grew in size, activity and popularity. Now at the Doubletree, AnimeNEXT is so big that all of the activities and attendees can’t be contained in that one hotel any longer. As far as my experience, the crowdedness is of AnimeNEXT is second to NYCC. Not even the NYAF drew in so many people. The turn out of otakus not only occupy the Doubletree but 4 other neighboring hotels as well. The Holiday Inn, Bridgewater Hotel (formerly the Crowne Plaza), The Comfort Inn & Suites (formerly the Hampton Inn) and The Marriott Courtyard. AnimeNEXT activities take the whole first two floors and all the special event rooms of the Doubletree (for more details of events and activities, check the following article AnimeNEXT Part 2, http://staging01.theouterhaven.net/2014/07/08/animenext-part-2-oh-fun-time/). Unlike the Big Apple Anime Fest and New York Anime Festival, AnimeNEXT requires travel and hotel accommodations. Added expenses of car fare, food, room & board and other necessities. But otakus come far and wide and are more than willing to pay the additional expenses. That is the power and the draw of a really great convention! AnimeNEXT is the perfect convention for otakus who feel the absence of Big Apple Anime Fest and New York Anime Festival. But who have yet to reach Otakon. AnimeNEXT is one of the bigger, better more popular anime conventions in the east coast somewhere behind Otakon. AnimeNEXT has already opened it’s registration for next years convention. That pretty much guarantees AnimeNEXT 2015! AnimeNEXT continues to grow and thrive in spite of the struggling anime industry and the economy. Perhaps one day AnimeNEXT may achieve the status of Otakon. It certainly is the best anime Convention in the New York City/Tri-State area!
Perhaps one of the keys to having a successful anime convention for New York City is to literally not have it in New York City! Standing on the edges of New Jersey. Shining brightly while sitting in the shadows of New York City!