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Having grown in numbers during the pandemic, New York City otakus, a slang word for rabid fans of Japanese animation and comics, descended on the Javits Center this weekend for a convention that reified the genre’s growing popularity.
On Saturday morning, enthusiastic fans took to the convention center donning robot costumes, kimonos and animal ear costumes to witness Anime NYC, a three-day sold-out anime gathering, sponsored by Crunchyroll, a company that claims the mantle of the world’s largest anime streaming platform.
“Something happened during the pandemic – I don’t know what it was – but the anime just took off. It has always been popular among the niche crowds, but it sells out every day. It’s wild! said William Champion, a fan who fashioned a Bain-type black gas mask to dress as All for One, a disturbing villain from a popular anime superhero series “My Hero Academia”.
Many fans have told amNY that they are attending an anime convention for the first time, or con for short, after being inspired by the growing popularity and dominant cultural acceptance of their favorite medium through its proliferation. in the age of streaming.
The pandemic gave fans plenty of free time to design elaborate cosplays, a word and concept for making handmade costumes that originated in Japan in the 1980s. Javits’ lobby was full of fans who came to mingle and present their costumes, which often involved crafting intricate props like chainsaw hands, plasticine tentacles, or custom armor.
As well as being the first in-person anime gathering of its size in New York City since the pandemic, the convention gave fans a taste of the industry, with presentations including panels with famous voice actors, previews of new series and insider conversations about the future of the business.
Importantly, it also attracted hundreds of artist booths to the exhibition floor, which sold original anime prints, toys, plush doll key chains, and even video game fan art. suggestive that sold out within two hours of opening.
The anime is now reaching new heights in popularity around the world, said Justin Leach, US host and CEO of Qubic Productions, a new independent anime production company and convention sponsor.
“There are companies like Netflix, Disney + and HBOMax – they’re all starting to invest in these projects, so I think there will be more opportunities for creators,” Leach said, adding that most of the studios of Japanese anime are complete with potential plans for the years to come.
Leach, who had been working in a Japanese animation since the late 1990s, told an audience how he was able to start a production company designed to launch independent anime projects by collaborating with veteran Japanese animators he met. during his periods of work. on anime like “Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence”.
The companies represented at the convention varied in size, from disheveled newcomers like Leach’s to Crunchyroll, the genre’s streaming giant and banner sponsor of the convention.
Sony’s recent acquisition of Crunchyroll for nearly $ 1.2 billion is an indication that commercial players have recognized anime as a significant asset in the streaming wars.
In a presentation on the state of the business, Crunchyroll announced a few new shows like Shenmue, a martial arts series based on a cult video game from the early 2000s; and Teen Freaks, the story of a young group of heroes with psychic powers in an apocalyptic future, after detailing their global trading position with over 5 million subscribers and 120 million registered users in over 200 countries .
But the popularization of anime has not only provided opportunities for the greats.
Grave Weaver, one of hundreds of independent artists selling prints at a stand on the exhibition floor, said she was happy to come back to the scammer circuit to sell her products.
“It’s like the first wind of [cons] that open again. I came here just to meet the fans and so far it’s been great, ”said Weaver, who has left his home in California.
Weaver writes a gothic anime webcomic titled “I Am the Grim Reaper,” which was picked up by a platform called Web Tune which bundles cartoons together. Working as a solo content creator, she produces a new story every week to display on the platform and in return she gets paid based on a revenue sharing model based on the number of paid subscribers. .
“Once you’re on the original Web Tune, it’s very easy to gain an audience,” said Weaver, whose audience has catapulted to 1.5 million subscribers during the pandemic.