Last weekend I attended Anime Boston–just Saturday (for the first time ever), which turned out to be the perfect way to go. AB is notoriously thin on manga content, and attending just for one day allowed me to take in most of what was there without becoming frustrated by what was not.
My day began in the best way possible: lunch with my favorite con buddies, Brigid Alverson and Robin Brenner, after which we headed over to see Roland Kelts talk about “Anime, Manga, and More,” in a panel sponsored by the Japanese consulate.
Despite its generic title, Kelts gave a riveting lecture on what makes Japanese comics unique, including a discussion on “superflat” technique (simple enough even for artistically impaired types like me to understand) and a philosophical look at the mouthless persona of Hello Kitty (“she should feel like you do”). Kelts’ take on how photorealistic animation and comics art hampers our ability to suspend disbelief (we’re expecting realism instead of “entering into the dream”) especially rang true to me.
Kelts is the author of Japanamerica: How Japanese Pop Culture Has Invaded the U.S. After hearing his lecture, I’m anxious to pick up a copy.
From Kelts’ panel, we moved on to Vertical, Inc., the only panel presented by a manga publisher at this year’s con (which makes one more than last year), and clearly the place to be for all the manga-loving press. Here we caught up with PopCultureShock’s Ken Haley and Sam Kusek, and AICN’s Scott Green, among others.
Vertical’s Marketing Manager Ed Chavez took us through upcoming releases, including highly anticipated new manga titles like Twin Spica, Chi’s Sweet Home, and Ayako, and teased us with a yet-to-be-announced “Manga Series ‘R’,” (from a mangaka previously published by Viz) offering $100 to anyone in the room who could guess what the series might be. (To my knowledge, nobody did.)
Saturday evening’s panel highlight was “Manga Mania,” a blogger panel also hosted by Ed Chavez, covering deep topics ranging from the future of digital distribution to “What is a manga fan?”
Panelists included Brigid Alverson, Scott Green, Anime World Order’s Clarissa G., Michael Toole, former Vertical intern Ko Ransom, and ANN critic Erin Finnegan, who offers the entire panel via podcast at The Ninja Consultant.
The questions posed by Chavez were thoroughly thought-provoking and could have inspired entire panels each on their own, which made me wish it could have been a two-hour panel, or at least an hour and a half.
One that particularly interested me was, “What manga published here is still going to be read in 30 years?” I thought it was interesting that the titles brought up by panelists (aside from Tezuka classics which have already stood the test of time) were mainly best-selling (and long-lasting) shonen series like Naruto. While I agree that those are likely to remain in circulation for generations to come, what I was surprised to see left out were best-selling shojo series like Fruits Basket, because when I think about who reads, I think of teen and pre-teen girls.
When I was that age, picking through the YA titles in the library for anything I hadn’t read, I was checking out not just new series but also YA classics from every generation previous, as far back as my library could go, and often it was the older stuff that struck me most. I’d choose Betsy Ray over the Wakefield twins any day, and thirty years from now, I suspect there will be manga-loving girls going for Tohru Honda over whatever is new in 2040 too. YA fiction lasts, and I’d be really surprised if that didn’t include manga thirty years down the line.
I’d also put my money on universal humor. Just as readers are still enjoying old Peanuts anthologies, I’d expect simple, funny series like Yotsuba&! (regardless of its potentially skeevy origins) to stand the test of time in English translation. Childlike wonder will always be engaging (and comforting) to readers of all ages, and can be re-read over the years with a shifting perspective.
Just a note to the folks at AB: I know that anime is your thing, but when I think about the location/size of your convention and your proximity to much of the east-coast manga-blogging community, it breaks my *heart* that there is not more consistent manga content (particularly industry presence) at your con. When I see the audience response to guests like Roland Kelts (who mainly discussed manga, despite his panel’s inclusive title) and Ed Chavez (people did not want to *leave* these panels, even when they were kicked out) it really feels to me like you’re missing out on something. Maybe you don’t think you need us, and maybe that’s actually true, considering the huge numbers you pull in every year. Still, it really seems like a shame.
Continuing on… we ended Saturday with a quick trip through Artist’s Alley, where I picked up the first volume of Dirk Tiede’s Paradigm Shift and admired the art of quite a few original artists, though I’ve lost the card of my favorite of these! (*regret*)
All in all, it was a fantastic day of thought-provoking content and good conversation.
See you again in 2011!
Grant saysApril 11, 2010 at 8:13 pm
I, for one, would love to sit down at a panel focused on the many aspects of translation, production, printing, and distribution. It’s a little more business-like, which I imagine wouldn’t fly too well with the expected demographics of a convention.
That’s the other thing: it seems to me that many of the people who want to sit in for manga discussions are past the median age of the rest of the conventioneers.
Melinda Beasi saysApril 12, 2010 at 1:15 pm
Yes, I expect you’re right. I think manga fans who attend conventions are probably older in general than anime fans who attend conventions. Though my evidence for that may just be anecdotal, based on manga fans I personally know. It depends on the con, though, whether a lot of those people attend. NYAF typically has quite a bit of manga-centric content (and therefore attracts a large manga crowd), while AB has almost none. Granted, AB is fan-run, so that probably has something to do with it. My point to the AB folks is just that because they are so well-located, they could attract a large manga crowd if there was more for them to do.
Zoe Alexander saysApril 13, 2010 at 12:17 pm
I love Kelts’ book, and if his panel was even half as interesting, I’m sorry I missed it. I definitely recommend it.