Anime NYC 2021: Panels Overview

Anime NYC 2021: Panels Overview

Yep, there's a lot of people at Anime NYC...
Attendees waiting to get into the main stage at Anime NYC

Social media has been the go-to for getting new licensing information from companies as the COVID-19 pandemic has continued. Since attending physically wasn’t an option, online conventions popped up to fill the void over the past year. But there is something about actually going to a convention, and a lot of panelists returned full force to give us some good information over the weekend.

So yes, this is mostly industry, but here’s overall coverage of the panels at Anime NYC. With something to note to start things off!

Poor Panel Placement?

On Saturday heading to J-Novel Club’s industry panel, attendees were being held back from entering the panel area.

Lots of people in one space at Anime NYC
The congestion…or potential congestion…

I was confused as to why this was the case, and it really wasn’t explained either. The only inference you can get is there would be too many people in the area. So what exactly was happening in the 5 to 7PM space? The events/panels:

  • New Japan Pro-Wrestling’s New Mobile Game panel (5, 1E09)
  • Orient Premiere panel (5:15, 1E15)
  • GeeksOUT presents panel (5:15, 1E01)
  • ANN panel (5:45, 1E04)
  • Remembering Kentaro Miura panel (6, 1E13)
  • Animal Arithmetic panel (6:30, 1E01)
  • Concert Film Screening: “Love Live! Nijigasaki High School Idol Club 2nd Live! Brand New Story” and “Love Live! Superstar!! Liella!: Release Event of Hajimari wa Kimi no Sora” (6:30, 1E16)
  • CrunchyCast LIVE (6:30, 1E09)
  • JNC panel (6:30, 1E15)

Hmm…do you spot the problem in the 6-6:30PM slot? I think you can spot multiple problems in the 6-6:30PM slot. A few of these could likely be in bigger rooms, but for this convention they’re in one general area. It might’ve made more sense to have a few of these on different days, and not at the same time. Simply put, there definitely was a concern about the amount of people in that one area: it’s not that big of a space, and I’m surprised this was scheduled in that manner.

So I can see why security had to hold people — even those who paid for Love Live! tickets — back from entering immediately. But there was really little communication about what was actually happening when I got there around 6, and the volunteers and security guard had to yell loud enough to make clear who could start entering first (Love Live!, then CrunchyCast, then JNC). By the time I got into JNC, it already started. Can’t say I’ve had that happen before. It was here where I realized I had to arrive to these panels even earlier than usual — if only to avoid unexpected delays.

Now, onto actual thoughts about the panels. Well, some of them.

Comikey panel: This one started at 2pm Friday, and yep, this was one I missed due to the line issues. Had some good announcements, but was bummed I wasn’t in person to see how they operate.

DENPA panel: Another panel that started at 3:15 and that I missed on Friday. From seeing enough tweets the Nana & Kaoru reception seemed pretty positive. It also sounded like Ed Chavez (Founder of DENPA) gave a timeframe on when their books will be out and how publishing anything in print right now is a huge struggle across the board from what I saw from Twitter and in talking to others. But again, unfortunate I couldn’t go.

A Yen Press editor discusses one of the new titles announced at Anime NYC Saturday

+ Anime Goes to Hollywood panel: This was overall a fun panel run by Evan about the very lengthy history with Japanese properties being turned into Hollywood films. Of course the major ones were mentioned (See: Dragonball Evolution and Ghost in the Shell), but also some incredibly obscure ones that I didn’t even know about (G-Saviour and two different versions of The Drifting Classroom). Evan also established not only the general mindset of why companies would want to adapt these properties, but why things took or are taking so long to be finalized. The crowd reaction to some of the works Hollywood is working on was funny, and the visible groans when Evan mentioned it’s incredibly likely Demon Slayer will get one too was hilarious.

The only thing is, I’ll have to mention that he tried to do a really interesting panel in 45 minutes. But he had to skip some stuff. Unfortunate, but maybe keep clips of the more interesting stuff (The Guyver clip was the exact cringe we all needed), and not what anyone needs a lesson on (see: Dragonball Evolution)

Yen Press panel: It was, on the whole, ok. They made 10 announcements in total, did their best to explain them, had a Q&A, and that’s just about it. Can’t say all of them were anything spectacular, but there were some noteworthy ones. Hi, I Am a Witch has a LN published by Cross Infinite World but YP will be publishing the manga; digital chapters of No Game No Life Volume 11 will begin on November 25. Personally, The Geek Ex-Hitman sounds like it’ll be up my alley. They timed their prize breaks well, and while I think everyone, including me, was jelly about someone taking home the Spice and Wolf Collector’s Edition, I’m glad I didn’t win it…I didn’t need to have something that heavy to carry all day.

The Kentaro Miura Memorial placed in the Exhibit Hall at Anime NYC

Dark Horse panel: Overall there was good information given by long time Dark Horse editor Carl Horn and Translator Zack Davisson about the history of the company, what it’s done over the decades, and them acknowledging the impact of Kentaro Miura and Berserk had to be noted. Them getting into comic publishing in both ways — Dark Horse licensing from Shogakukan, and in turn Shogakukan licensing from Dark Horse — was fascinating, and the Western artists influenced by certain manga is duly noted. The problem is if you wanted to know what would be happening with Dark Horse in the future, you wouldn’t. There was a general update on properties they have (Mob Psycho, the Vampire Hunter D Omnibus to name a few) and not much else beyond this year. So if you wanted to hear about The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, a brand new title, or ask any questions, you couldn’t.

+ Localize this! Secrets of Localization Revealed panel: Definitely one of the better panels at the convention despite this being not as good as the one back in 2019! One reason was because it wasn’t all localizers on the panel this time. Zack revealing the lineup was set up over drinks last night…definitely can tell from it was put together a bit on short notice.

Despite that, it was still really good. It’s still a strong lineup featuring Zack, Carl Horn, Mari Morimoto, Lynzee Loveridge, and Erica Friedman. Everyone gave great opinions on the aspects of localization that fans either don’t know or choose to ignore (like sometimes, the Japanese studio insists this is how it’s gotta be no matter what), and explain how translation in different hands can result in a totally different experience. It is fun to always remember that the “Spark Joy” and the “I Am Here” phrase were not actually coined by the original creators Marie Kondo and Kohei Horikoshi respectively — it was by the translators themselves, who translated what they said in a manner that’s clear, concise, and gets the intended Japanese meaning across.

The group also did get into bad localization, and one example was when it feels unnatural. Like if these are not words actual people would say in this setting, it’s bad. Zack even revealed he was told once by an editor to have an awkward translation because the fans would like it. Also one other point was made about media consumption and does media make a difference that I had to note. Overseas (I’ll just speak to my US perspective), the decision to cast Scarlett Johansson as Motoko Kusanagi was derided. But Mari Marimoto explained how a Japanese community group she interacted with noted how amazing it was that an actress with that prestige took this role. Definitely at least makes me curious the response was in Japan for GiTS.

A discussion on good localization takes place at Anime NYC

Crunchyroll panel: I wasn’t entirely sure if I wanted to go, and by the time I did (it was probably just under an hour), everyone was told the panel had enough people, maybe you can go in if people leave. Do have to note, it’s a very good get for them to have Spy x Family. If the anime does what it should, it will be a major hit for the service.

+ J-Novel Club panel: Despite missing the start of it (intro, one title announcement), they made 9 other announcements. Adding three more titles to the J-Novel Heart imprint (Housekeeping Mage, Forget Being the Villainess, I Want to Be an Adventurer, and Prison Life is Easy With a Villainess) is good. When Supernatural Battles Become Commonplace is a very strong announcement.

But the major announcement of them not only getting into audiobooks, but them doing Slayers is a big deal.

First of all, I really wish J-Novel Club had gotten someone to video tape that whole exchange. The President of JNC, Sam, was about to explain that the company was exploring audiobooks, that nothing was set in stone, then all of a sudden Lina Inverse, voiced by Lisa Ortiz, popped out on the speakers and essentially was coercing Sam to just start doing audiobooks now. He hemmed, he hawed, but Lina’s insistence was too much. She essentially bullied him into making the announcement that The Slayers will be an audiobook. If you’ve read or watched Slayers, that entire exchange was too beautiful for words.

But now second of all, there’s still more information needed outside of knowing who will be narrating, but this, out of a number of light novel audiobooks currently out on the market, makes perfect sense. Slayers is a classic title in the first-person perspective with a fanbase seemingly doing its darndest to support the series. This is very much a good launch title. I’m speculating, but since JNC didn’t announce it on their Twitter just yet could suggest, as they mentioned, there’s still more to work out on how to release it, the best date, etc. But I’m also wondering that when they do announce it, if it’ll be joined by a few other audiobooks…

Anyways, they did mention that while they’ll look to do a few themselves, expect them to do something similar to Yen Press and Cross Infinite World and mostly partner with an established audiobook company. Will be interested to see what will be the first ones.

Azuki Industry panel: In fear of essentially Kodansha’s panel getting booked, I had to skip this one. Unfortunate since this is a brand new service looking to make a mark in official manga reading. Sounds like it went well enough in regards to announcements and what updates will be happening though.

One of Oshimi’s “unique” titles was announced at Anime NYC.

+ Kodansha’s Attack on Titan & New Licenses Manga Celebration panel: On the whole I’d say this was a weirdish panel. It did bill itself as an Attack on Titan and New Licenses panel, but there wasn’t anything new for Titan. That’s probably for the best since there’s already enough Titan out there and forthcoming, but it felt a bit weird. Then we still have this weird Kodansha/formerly Vertical dichotomy where Ben (Director of Publishing Services at PRHPS, Kodansha) announced a bunch of titles, then announced older titles in new formats, and then Kodansha went back to announcing new titles but this time Tomo (Marketing Director at Kodansha, formerly Vertical) was talking about them.

It’s clear there’s a distinction, but they should consider making that clearer. An example of this is in Ciguatera, where it has Kodansha listed where you’d expect, but in the back it is billed as a Vertical book. I can only guess until further notice Vertical will be treated like an imprint of Kodansha.

But weirdness aside, they killed it with announcements. They first did their December digital debuts (My Master Has No Tail, SHAMAN KING & a Garden, My Darling, the Company President, and Her Majesty’s Swarm) then went into Fall 2022 announcements, which were a lot. The only real fault is how long it’ll take, but considering the state of printing right now, it’s understandable. What went from digital-first to print was what fascinated me the most:

  1. The Iceblade Sorcerer Shall Rule the World. Volume 1 is coming out next week on Tuesday digitally. This is probably the one shocker unless they’re projecting this series will grow in the next few years.
  2. Mika Yamamori’s In the Clear Moonlit Dusk. As soon this was announced and they mentioned the creator (Daytime Shooting Star), I immediately said this is definitely gonna printed, it’s just a matter of when since at the time it was announced for digital release, only two volumes were out in Japan. And well, they found Fall 2022 as the window for it to begin. Not a surprise.
  3. I Was Reincarnated as the 7th Prince so I Can Take My Time Perfecting My Magical Ability. An isekai that, interestingly enough, was selling and rating well since its start in August, so I could actually see why they are printing this. Now I’m curious if someone will be publishing the LN in this span.
  4. Shangri-La Frontier. Another not surprise digital-to-print title. This has been doing well in Japan and Kodansha is simulpubbing it here. So needless to say, they’re expecting big things from this manga.
  5. PTSD Radio. This may seem surprising on the surface but over the past year this was a big seller for Kodansha, and now they can essentially reward those who wanted it in their hands by making this announcement. It’ll also be in 2-on-1 omnibus format!

Otherwise, the only other intrigue was someone broached the Tokyo Revengers in print in the Q&A, and yes, Kodansha simply can’t say anything about it. There was lots of Tokyo Revengers cosplays at the con. While I suspect the concerns are justified (questionable imagery and its long length, Kodansha has yet to go digital-first to print with a title over 20+ volumes. SHAMAN KING would be closest but not the same situation as say, Chihayafuru or Domestic Girlfriend), internally I do wonder if they’re kicking themselves for not being able to have that title in print.

[Of course, days later after filing this article, Seven Seas announced they will print Tokyo Revengers. So I’m right, but then I’m also kind of wrong…]

+ The Current State of the Manga Industry Panel: I was only able to stay for around 15-20 minutes before heading to the Yen Audio panel, but there was more than enough information that qualified it as one of the better panels at the convention. First of all, a panel like this should be required attending for anyone purchasing manga at the moment. We all know manga sales are at an all-time high, but issues remain for a number of reasons. From what Kevin Hamric (VP of Publishing Sales at VIZ) and Kurt Hassler (Publisher/Managing Director at Yen Press) discussed, too many issues outside of their industry (Paper running out, shipping slowdowns, boats being stuck, a lack of workers across the board in those industries as people have been let go due to the pandemic, etc) are making a major effect on them.

One example given was Kurt Hassler talking about the usual lead time for books to be ready go to stores. It’s usually six to eight weeks. Now some titles can take six months. With every printer at capacity, lack of reprints for titles and frequent release date shifts are now just the norm due to these issues…and lots of people buying titles. The two did talk a bit about how COVID-19 affected them (across the board for publishers April 2020 was incredibly dismal), but by Q4 2020 they exceeded expectations. Kevin has already gone out and said their numbers for last year, which were fairly amazing, has already been surpassed now.

I would’ve loved to have stayed to hear what they said after I left (was told they had a Q&A portion), but I kinda hope this was recorded. If you’re buying manga, it’s a worthwhile watch.

Yen Audio: This was a bit better than the Yen Press panel, but it was just all right. Having Bryce Papenbrook (the voice of Kirito from Sword Art Online) stop by even briefly was neat, they played clips from the various audiobooks, and they even had some good announcements! I think knowing who would be narrating each might’ve put them over the top, so definitely curious who they’ll get in the future. Otherwise, if you didn’t quite know what Yen Audio was, this was an ok panel to find out.

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