In its third year, Anime NYC 2019, held at New York City’s Javits Center November 15-17, expanded to fill all 410,000 sq. ft. of exhibition floor with booths from anime, game, and manga companies as well as vendors selling swords, plushies, collectible figures, and other paraphernalia.
What was evident at this show, more so than at comics conventions that include some Asian-pop, is the multi-platform nature of many Japanese properties: The same stories and characters appear as manga, novels, anime, games, and collectible figures, and all had a place at the show.
The most prominent Japanese guest was Yoshiyuki Tomino, the director and writer of the Mobile Suit Gundam anime, which spawned a huge multimedia franchise that includes spinoff and sequel anime as well as toys, collectible figures, and manga. Tomino was at AnimeNYC to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the original anime.
The three largest manga publishers in the U.S., Viz Media, Kodansha Comics/Vertical, and Yen Press, all had a presence at the show, as did newcomer Square Enix and indie publisher Denpa. Viz’s featured guests were Dr. Stone creators Riichiro Inagaki and Boichi, who appeared at several packed panels and signed autographs for fans, and the newest episode of the anime premiered at the show.
Viz announced two new manga licenses, Venus in the Blind Spot by horror master Junji Ito and Splatoon: Squid Kids Comedy Show, a collection of four-panel gag comics based on the Nintendo game. An American/Japanese production of his graphic novel Uzumaki is in the works for 2020. As a measure of the strength of the U.S. manga market, Viz senior director of publishing sales Kevin Hamric told PW Viz print sales in 2018 hit a record high and mark “six years in a row of growth.”
Denpa’s new manga licenses included one about the show’s special guest: The Men Who Created “Gundam” depicts Tomino and the character designer Yoshikazu Yasuhiko working on the original series. The manga combines history, biography, and comedy, and Denpa president Ed Chavez described it as a “hilarious take” on the story. Denpa also announced it will publish Li’l Leo, by the well known creator Moto Hagio. Although most of Hagio’s work in English has been serious and literary, Li’l Leo is the story of a cat that tries to do human things.
The Japanese publisher Square Enix, best known in North America for games such as Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts, announced earlier this year that they are setting set up U.S. offices in New York. Their first titles will be released in early 2020, and at their AnimeNYC panel they announced five new manga, all in the fantasy genre, as well as a novel based on the NieR: Automata game.
The increasing popularity of light novels was evident not only from the number of new licenses announced at the show but also the presence of J-Novel Club, which specializes in light novels but has recently branched into manga. Light novels, such as the Sword Art Online series, are often adapted into anime, manga, and games, and publishers are licensing them in increasing numbers.
At its panel, J-Novel Club announced a new imprint, Heart, which will focus on shoujo (teen girls) novels. J-Novel Club’s business model is digital-first, with novels released in installments on their streaming service, then collected into e-books, and then in some cases published in print. The publisher has recently added manga to its lineup.
US vs Japan, a panel about the differences between American and Japanese manga publishing, was one the best attended sessions at the show. The panel featured Gina Gagliano, publishing director of newly launched Random House Graphic, and Udon Entertainment publisher Erik Ko, among others. In Japan, panelists explained, publishers use reader surveys to decide which shorts to cancel, books are published quickly and promoted later (unlike iU.S. publishing), and the demands that manga’s long series put on artists can be debilitating.
At its panel, Yen Press announced six new light novel licenses, including High School DxD, which was the basis for the manga (also published by Yen), as well as seven new manga series. Indeed the show closed on Sunday with the premier of Weathering With You, a new romantic fantasy anime, directed by Makoto Shinkai, who also wrote a novelized version of the story, which is being published in the U.S. by Yen Press. Vertical devoted its entire booth to VOFAN, the Taiwanese artist who creates the covers of the Monogatari novels, and at their panel they announced three new novels, all by the author Nisioisin; two are in the Monogatari series and one is a stand-alone, Bishonen Tanteidan (Pretty Boy Detective Club).
Additional reporting by Drucilla Shultz and Gilcy Aquino