The owner of AnimeAlmanac.com described MangaNEXT, to be a “small, cute convention“. Having gone in 2008 as an Artist Alley attendee, I could agree to an extent. In my opinion though, this year’s 4th iteration proved to be a little more than just “small and cute”.
For me, the biggest pleasantry was the change in venue. Being there was an amazing experience to not only be a normal (albeit free) attendee, but discover I was in the same hotel that held the first con I ever attended 8 years ago. The pure nostalgia of remembering the space and sharing my time with so many wonderful people (and having internal connections) over the course of the weekend made this a particularly memorable convention for me.
I do believe that the focuses of print, publishing, and, obviously, manga, were achieved at this con. Despite my comrade boycotting the Artist Alley from not being accepted in the select few, I can understand why that was after hearing so many aligning sides of the story, even from the Artist Alley Head. I visited the A-A a few times & each time I saw a piece of art that caught my interest or had a great conversation with an artist or self-published individual that was beyond worthwhile. Already having a few friends in the A-A made it easier, but I sincerely hope to build foundations with those new artists I did speak with.
The size and layout of the con itself made it possible to run into the same people over and over again, while still leaving room for cosplayers to pose and areas for people to relax at tables. Reason being, all the important, most visited areas were all within reach on the same floor. Even the video game room [that I usually NEVER visit] was spacious and inviting in between panels and wandering. I really should mention that even things like having a Swap Meet every day and water tanks in every room were just really great ideas.
Attending the Concert, which I usually skip, was the best idea ever. The guest band, Uzuhi, was rockin’ and had a lot of friendliness, heart, and interacted well with the audience. They created an atmosphere that seemed like what I had seen underground Lives to be like. Plus, they’re native Japanese but hail from NYC. The “dance” following that was shorter than it should have been, but bigger than the year before last. Lots of people, great energy, and a quality, well-rounded dance club DJ that I also chatted with before AND after. Seriously, it was just plain awesome.
As much as I would like MangaNEXT to mature and flourish like its parent has, I wouldn’t mind capping it to a certain number each year so it retains that “homey,” spacious atmosphere that really does keep people way friendlier than at larger cons. Coming back after a year off with an even stronger attendance, MangaNEXT 2010 was a fantastic, well-run, relaxed con with a hard-working, candid staff overall. Despite a few noticeable hiccups with Panels, I found it really hard to complain at my first visit to a Con Feedback Session. The 6-7 people at that session seemed to have a similar dilemma, as most of what was said were compliments. There were honestly more shortcomings and miscommunication with the hotel itself than with the convention. Or so it seemed.
I highly recommend MangaNEXT to anyone looking to start off as a con-goer while getting a real flavor-filled taste of what anime cons are like over the course of three days. As someone who has gone to a good variety of local anicons, including Otakon, I also recommend this con to those who have an appreciation for art, storytelling in and outside of manga and [web]comics (both in fandom & business-wise) with a desire to network with others of the same passion.
My good friend Brooke, whom I introduced to the wider world of anime & cons, came to MNEXT for the first time on Saturday. She had asked me a good question before I left: “What makes AnimeNEXT and MangaNEXT different?” I didn’t have a clean-cut response since it had been two years since the last one, but now I do. At AnimeNEXT, someone could go, not be particularly passionate about anime fandom and still manage to be entertained and/or enticed one way or another if you have a passionate friend. MangaNEXT has a different aura. An expectation that almost demands you to be passionate for this form of creative expression and the people in it. Without that, unless you’re a cosplayer, you may find yourself wandering aimlessly, unable to truly engage.
Thank you MangaNEXT 2010 for showing me and my friends a great time! Despite a difference of opinion, I saw improvements & deliberate care put into this year’s con that supplied a pleasant balance of comfort, education, and entertainment. I am looking forward to hopefully seeing you (and those I met) again next year~!