A Portable Disneyland: Otaku Take Manhattan at This Year's Anime Fest

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I know, I know . . . lately you can barely swing a dead cat without hitting another comics convention. But the 2nd New York Anime Fest ain't just another cartoon jamboree. Manga (meaning Japanese paperback comics) outsell almost all other books or magazines in Japan; in 2006 the industry got its Godzilla on in translation by invading and swallowing up entire sections of North American bookstores. Multiple-volume manga titles now gross around $200 million per year. Cartoons in Japan not only imitate life (incidentally exposing a super-libidinous national id), they inspire lifestyle, thereby moving tons of manga-related merchandise. Such comprehensive cross-marketing is what separates Japan's comics industry from its American counterpart.

So expect to see even casual visitors to the Anime Fest role-playing and merchandized to the extreme, swarming the Jacob Javits Center alongside robot-loving, Pokemon-playing, para-para dancing, Go Nagai-worshipping otaku. But even if you can't tell Akira from Astro Boy or don't know yaoi manga from yuri, the NYAF showcases many other Japanese cultural attractions, guaranteed to excite even the cartoon-challenged-among us. Serious foodies should interrogate "Iron" Chef Masaharu Morimoto or sake expert Timothy Sullivan, then sample Japanese snacks served by the gleefully fetishized waitstaff at the Maid Cafe. Fashion junkies can study Gothic Lolita style at a mini-version of Tokyo's legendary "Baby, the Stars Shine Bright" boutique. Martial-arts nerds will find fencing demos by Byakokan Dojo, and Samurai Sword Soul; punk, hip-hop, and electronica fans get seven anime-inspired bands (and three are all female!) during Saturday's all-ages KarateRice concert at the Knitting Factory.

Each day's panels and film screenings showcase the key artists, animators, translators, and voice talent that make this industry tick, inspiring ambitious wannabes to enter contests and auditions for jobs. It's a pretty solid bang for $55 bucks admission: but supervise your kids if you got 'em, because not everything is "G" rated. —Carol Cooper

From noon this Friday until 4 p.m. this Sunday, at the Jacob Javits Center. Find the full schedule of events here.


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